I must cop to the guilty pleasure of often reading David Broder's annual dispatch from his Lake Michigan hideaway, and not just for the snicker-rific name. Like a post card from a distant relative, Broder's overly familiar, yet self-absorbed, and ultimately baffling vacation notes remind you why you usually keep your distance. The conceit that readers would remotely care what David Broder does up on Beaver Island, the high-arching assumption that op-ed pages the world over could not bear to go Broderless an extra day, the Beltway-honed sifting of routine events for the Big Idea—well, that sets up some fine comedy. Except this year. A menace stalks Broder's prized Beaver. It goes by the name of harsh reality:
This summer it is homeland security that has laid its clammy hand on us. When you step off the car ferry in St. James, instead of the familiar line of storefronts, what you first see is an 8-foot-tall steel fence whose sharp-pointed spears bend outward at the top, completely surrounding the dock area to thwart any intruders.
The fence and its twin in Charlevoix, the port city on the mainland that is the other terminus of the Beaver Island Boat Co., were built this spring at a cost of $127,000, divided between the debt-ridden federal government and the dead-broke state of Michigan.
Yes, it took an 8-foot-tall steel fence right in front of him, but David Broder is finally aware of the awful waste and casual mendacity of what passes as America's War on Terror. Broder is on the case of "those homeland security bureaucrats in Washington," the very ones Broder brayed for back in 2003 when a Homeland Security cabinet post could not be created fast enough or money spent quickly enough. Money for things like an 8-foot-tall steel fence on Beaver Island smack in the middle of Lake Michigan.
Broder never connects these two rather huge dots, swerving as he does to channel his inner Abe Simpson and vent about a stuck drawbridge, a charity dinner at the Holy Cross Parish Hall "$10 for adults, $5 for children," and a highway technician from Lansing. The only thing missing is an onion on his belt:
The bridge problem in Charlevoix discouraged some people from making the trip and delayed others. As a result, the last return trip, which should have left Beaver Island at 5:30 p.m., did not go until 10 p.m. And when it reached Charlevoix, damned if the bridge didn't balk again, refusing to lift and forcing the ferry to circle out beyond the channel.
This time, the problem was solved more quickly, but it was still 12:23 a.m., Harbormaster Marks said, when the ship docked and the weary passengers disembarked.
Now, I ask you, is it just a coincidence that things went haywire around the time the fence went up…
The whole thing is priceless and actually ends with Broder invoking Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall in hopes of getting the Beaver-spoiling fence torn down. Welcome to the fight, David. We need all the help we can get.