Michele Bachmann’s attempt at playing Joe McCarthy didn’t go so well. It backfired in her face, to be perfectly blunt, culminating in a call by People for the American Way for Boehner to remove Bachmann from her position on the Intelligence Committee. And now she’s playing the victim.
Bachmann’s problems all began when she and four other Republican House members, perhaps emboldened by Homeland Security chairman Peter King’s own McCarthyesque tactics (cheer-led by Fox News), decided to launch a witch hunt against Huma Abedin, who has been an aide to Hilary Clinton for years and whom you might remember as the wife of former Representative Anthony Weiner.
Abedin must not have seemed like much of a challenge to the bully in Bachmann. After all, Bachmann likes to call Obama himself “un-American” so what did she have to fear from an openly Muslim woman? Never mind that the Muslim woman is an American citizen, born not in the Middle East, but in Michigan.
What Bachmann did, along with Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) is back in June send letters to the Justice Department, Homeland Security and officials in both the Department of Defense and National Intelligence urging an investigation of Abedin’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
As People for the American Way has pointed out, “The letter relied largely on phony information peddled by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney.” Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan official, is a professed Islamophobe. You might remember Gaffney for accusing CIA Director David Petraeus last year of “submitting” to Islamic law. You might keep in mind that Gaffney even accused Tea Party hero Grover Norquist of working on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is telling that Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the House Intelligence Committee on which Bachmann sits, has refuted her claim. The Muslim Brotherhood has not infiltrated the U.S. government. He told USA Today, “That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record. I have no information in my committee that would indicate that Huma (Abedin) is anything other than an American patriot.”
And Bachmann, the Tea Party darling, suddenly found herself criticized by her fellow Republicans.
“From everything I do know of [Huma Abedin], she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous,” House Speaker John Boehner said.
Senator Lindsay Graham told Politico the charges were “ridiculous” and that Ms Abedin “is about as far away from the Muslim Brotherhood view of women and ideology as you possibly could get”.
Marco Rubio (R-FL) is another Bachmann critic. Salon reports Rubio saying on NPR, “I can tell you that I don’t share the feelings that are in that letter. And in fact, I’m very very careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that about anyone.” Rubio said of Abedin herself: “”Everyone I talk to who has dealt with her, [says she is] a professional and hardworking and patriotic American who loves her country and in the service of her country is serving it.”
Bachmann’s former campaign manager Ed Rollins lambasted Bachmann on Fox News’ website. He said that Bachmann “sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level”. Saying “shame on you, Michele” he lays waste to her claims and her integrity: “Her unsubstantiated charge against Abedin, a widely respected top aide to Secretary Hillary Clinton, accusing her of some sort of far-fetched connection to the Muslim brotherhood, is extreme and dishonest. ”
John McCain was Abedin’s most notable defender: “When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance for what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer because of it.”
McCain minced no words: “This report is scurrilous,” he said. “To say that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it.” (For the full text of McCain’s defense of Huma Abedin see the Washington Post 2Chambers blog)
Grover Norquist himself told Politico yesterday: ”It’s completely indefensible, there’s nothing else to say.”
In response to all this Republican criticism, Bachmann has no response. But she is standing by her original accusations and just a few days ago claimed in the National Review that “Obama’s friends are America’s enemies”. She even wrote a second letter, 16 pages long, to Keith Ellison in response to his letter to her, expanding on her original allegations.
Muslim Keith Ellison, himself a target of Islamophobic attacks, said “Instead of doubling down and claiming to be distorted, just admit that you’re wrong,” Of course that won’t happen; in response to Ellison’s criticism, she accused him of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood as well.
Well, we all know how this goes. She accuses, you defend the accused, she attacks you and so on and so forth until everyone has been accused of plotting against her and she runs out of enemies.
Ellison correctly pointed out that “She has a pattern of making allegations and then being called upon to prove them. She either switches the subject or says she didn’t say that or claims to having been distorted.”
Which is exactly what she has done in this instance. She is claiming the media is distorted her letter, (read her letter here and see what you think) a strange claim to make while at the same time she expands on her original allegations to accuse even more people of un-American activities.
Both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, have refused to investigate Abedin in response to Bachmann’s allegations.
Bachmann, not entirely without Republican allies, including Gaffney, is now playing the victim, but the true victim is Huma Abedin, who is now under police protection thanks to Bachmann’s recklessness. According to the New York Post, “Police and federal officials have placed security around ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, after a New Jersey man threatened her, law-enforcement sources said.
Republicans will continue to insist that their hate-filled rhetoric is not responsible for attacks on innocent Americans but the laws of causation say otherwise. When will Americans say they have had enough?
Bachmann seems to have exposed herself politically but The Atlantic warns liberals not to celebrate prematurely, that her position remains strong. Boehner, despise PFAW’s call, is unlikely to remove her from the House Intelligence Committee (he said in response to questions of that sort, “I don’t know that that’s related at all.”). She is still in a strong position, says The Atlantic, because she is still popular, has plenty of money, and redistricting. They do warn, however, that Bachmann is playing with fire in going against the State Department and the powerful Clintons.
It will be interesting to see if she survives that encounter.
Meanwhile, it is indicative of the shrill and ill-thought out and gaffe-prone nature of Bachmann’s politics that the Muslim Brotherhood seems more reasonable than her. Responding to Bachmann’s allegations, Ahmed Al Nahhas, “a long-time Brotherhood activist and leader in Egypt’s second-largest city, Alexandria,” according to the Global Post had this to say: ”I haven’t heard these rumors, but they strike me as ridiculous. Surely the United States government selects its employees very carefully.” Muslim Brotherhood mockery of Bachmann’s claims include a bit of self-mockery: ”‘The Muslim Brotherhood can’t even penetrate the Egyptian government,’ said a Brotherhood leader in Egypt’s Daqheleya province, Ibrahim Ali Iraqi, in response to the accusations his group had infiltrated top US agencies.”
If only we selected our House members as carefully.