Michele Bachmann's newest bout of extreme, er, what was the word...stupidity?
In the past several days, the certified zany Republican congresswoman has been leading a charge, together with four other equally deluded House of Representatives members, against one of secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s closest and longest-standing aides, Huma Abedin. The charge? Abedin is a highly placed mole inside Clinton’s office and, on behalf of a secret cabal, is working to take over Egypt and implement a Sharia law dictatorship under the Muslim Brotherhood. By J. BROOKS SPECTOR.
Abedin has in fact worked for Hillary Clinton since Bill was president. And for over a decade, she has constantly been at Clinton’s side - through two Senate campaigns, the 2008 presidential race and on Clinton’s travels around the world as secretary of state. Besides being a long-time, trusted and therefore visible Clinton aide, Abedin is also the wife of former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner and a new mother. (Observant readers may just recall Weiner became a little too friendly with some strangers via his social media postings and quickly became a former congressman.)
Bachmann and her four colleagues, Arizona congressman Trent Franks, Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, jointly wrote to the inspectors-general of the departments of homeland security, justice and state, as well as the FBI and CIA. In these letters, the gang of five asked the respective IGs to investigate the US government’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood - in the person of Huma Abedin.
Fortunately, a bit of common sense may have now prevailed – at least among a few of Bachmann’s fellow Republicans. Once the charges surfaced, Arizona senator John McCain spoke publicly on the floor of the Senate chamber on behalf of the alleged plotter, Abedin.
Rather than even having a direct Egyptian connection, Abedin’s family origins are actually in Pakistan. But the storyline in Bachmann et al’s conspiracy theory (are these guys Hollywood scriptwriter wannabes or what?) is that the state department has been conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to take over Egypt and deliver it to Sharia’s mavens. As weird as the story may be, it seems to have helped generate protests in Alexandria, Egypt, over the weekend when protestors threw tomatoes and shoes (that traditional Middle Eastern sign of disrespect) at Clinton's motorcade, as they chanted “Monica, Monica”.
The reports now are that protestors actually got their information about this story from US rightwing blog posts and news reports about Bachmann writing to the IGs. In her letter, she wrote: “It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
She further mentions Abedin by name and says she “has three family members — her late father, mother and her brother — connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organisations. Her position affords her routine access to the secretary and to policymaking.” The letter cites the website maintained by the Centre for Security Policy that in turn called Abedin one of “six Islamist sympathisers” who have “achieved positions within or advisory roles serving Team Obama.” Even Tom Clancy or John Grisham might have had a bit of trouble with this scenario.
The right-out-there-on-the-edge-of-the-known-world Centre for Security Policy and its leader, Frank Gaffney, argues Saleha Abedin, Huma's mother, is a leader of the Muslim Sisterhood, although her reputation is that she is a leading voice for women's rights in the Muslim world. And her day job is director of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs at the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a body that advocates dialogue and co-operation among women of various religions.
In his rejoinder to Bachmann and her clique, in a tone that recalls his chastisement of a woman who called Barack Obama a Moslem terrorist back in the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain said: “I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests.” He went on to mention Bachmann’s letter and CSP’s charges, but added there is absolutely no evidence Abedin or any of her family members have ever done anything to counter American interests or ideals.
McCain went on to say “that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer, to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better, and more accurate, to talk straight: These allegations about Huma, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.” (McCain, of course, has had had his own brushes with racially tinged slander in his own political campaigns when he was maligned by the charge of having had a secret, out-of-wedlock, racially mixed child - when in fact he and his wife had adopted a Bangladeshi orphan some years before.)
In his remarks, McCain went on to say, “Our reputations, our character, are the only things we leave behind when we depart this Earth, and unjust attacks that malign the good name of a decent and honorable person is not only wrong; it is contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans. I have every confidence in Huma's loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well.” Meanwhile, even Bachmann's former presidential campaign chief, Ed Rollins, said she was being extreme and dishonest. There, that’s clear.
Except that Bachmann and her posse haven’t backed down - yet. She issued a rejoinder that read: “The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups’ access to top Obama administration officials. I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
One just has to wonder how Mitt Romney is going to respond to the inevitable press questioning about this intra-Republican Party mud wrestling – will he support the gang of five, or John McCain, or fudge it?
Meanwhile, Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim Americans in Congress, told the media: “Our country has gone through a McCarthy period. We cannot allow America to go back to another one.” And specifically on the letter, Ellison added, “It's like a bizarre game of six degrees of separation. She mentions that her father, who has been dead for two decades, knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in some unspecified way!”
Weird stuff like this character assassination and overlapping charges about Muslim fundamentalism, terror and appeasement point to a paucity of a sophisticated understanding of the forces shaping the modern world by far too many members of America’s national legislature. This should be remedied by reading, listening to experts and some first-hand observation. In fact, congressional travel should be an important part of finding out what the real story is – as long as the trips are planned carefully and carried out with professional attention to detail.
Despite the bad publicity that flows from congressional delegation boondoggles to foreign climes to attend important international conferences at Cannes, Pattaya, Tahiti or on the Algarve Coast, the truth is that only about a third to a half of Congress’s members even have passports. Some critics argue that many members choose not even to have a passport or do any international travel so as to be safe from charges that they are more interested in foreigners than they are about domestic – read constituency - affairs. Mix that sensibility with a frequent feeling that the interests of the parochial transcend the national interest – “all politics is local” – and one arrives at a point where some congressmen and women are willing to nod their heads in agreement at patently ridiculous charges like the one Bachmann and her allies have just made.
Or maybe it was concocted as yet another way to wound or distract the president as he tries for a second term in the November election. DM
- Statement by Sen. John McCain on the matter of recent attacks made on Huma Abedin, July 18, 2012, a media statement from McCain’s office
- McCain defends Clinton aide from conservative attacks at Foreign Policy
- McCain defends Clinton aide against accusations of Muslim conspiracy at the Washington Post
- Michelle Bachmann refuses to back down on claims about Huma Abedin at CBS News’ website
- Michele Bachmann vs. Huma Abedin: “The Ramadan Conspiracy”, a guest column in the Washington Post by human rights campaigner and attorney, Arsalan Iftikhar
Photo: Michele Bachmann (Reuters)