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Michele Bachmann's Plot To Defame Huma Abedin

July 19, 2012 Topic: Congress Blog Brand: Jacob Heilbrunn

Michele Bachmann's Plot To Defame Huma Abedin

The congresswoman and her conspiracy-theorist confreres are fighting phantasms. 

Michele Bachmann is at it again. She's been alleging that Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, may be an agent for the Muslim Brotherhood. She's joined by several Republican legislators who have signed and sent a letter to various inspectors general warning them, among other things, of the dangerous risks Clinton is running by employing Abedin (who is also the wife of former congressman Anthony Weiner).

Bachmann's evidence? An obscure article from 2002 contending that Abedin's father—who has been dead for several decades—once received financial assistance from a group with ties, the New York Times reports, to the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Senator John McCain, to widespread commendations, has condemned the smearing of Abedin, observing that she represents everything that is good about America. She's the child of immigrants who has risen by dint of her hard work to the highest councils of government. As McCain put it, she is "an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant."

Does the matter end there? No, it does not. These allegations were ventilated by Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, an outfit that has specialized in identifying what it sees as American-Muslim agents of influence who are engaging in sedition. This year, it released a series called "The Muslim Brotherhood In America: The Enemy Within" that it terms a course in ten parts presented by Gaffney. It says, "America faces in addition to the threat of violent jihad another, even more toxic danger—a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime-mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls 'civilization jihad.'" Gaffney sees President Obama as a nefarious exponent of Islamic law, subverting the American military. In a July 9 op-ed in the Washington Times, he wrote that American soldiers

are ordered to honor their hosts in visits with local elders by consuming foods offered, despite the fact that doing so can subject them to lifelong affliction by parasites and diseases. They must observe rules of engagement that restrict use of their firearms and deny them air cover and artillery support in circumstances where it can mean the difference between living and dying. Worse yet, our troops are seen by the enemy in these and other ways to be submitting to the latter’s doctrine of Shariah. According to that supremacist code, its adherents are compelled, when confronted with evidence they are winning, to redouble their efforts to make us feel subdued.

The letter sent by Bachmann and her confreres refers to Gaffney's work as pointing to a dire threat. The current character assassination of Abedin is remarkably similar to the venomous assault that Gaffney has also mounted against Suhail Khan, a member of the board of the American Conservative Union and a former George W. Bush administration official. The accusation was the same almost down to the letter: Khan's father, we were told, was a bad egg, someone who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Along with Grover Norquist, the allegation continued, the son, Suhail, was trying to infiltrate and subvert the conservative movement. Both accusations are too ridiculous to even merit refutation.

Now conspiracy thinking is focusing on Abedin. Here is what Gaffney writes on his website:

While it cannot be confirmed at this writing, presumably Mrs. Clinton was accompanied on her travels as usual—particularly in the Middle East—by her Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin. That would be all the more probable given that Ms. Abedin has myriad family ties to the Brotherhood. For example, her mother, Saleha Abedin, is a leader of the organization's secretive women's auxiliary, the Muslim Sisterhood, in which she serves along with Mohammed Morsi's wife, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud.

The presence of an individual with such associations in the seniormost ranks of the State Department at a moment when the Obama administration is assiduously "engaging" with the Muslim Brotherhood has raised concerns on Capitol Hill. To their credit, five legislators, led by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, have asked for a formal inquiry into the role Ms. Abedin and perhaps others have played in the adoption of problematic policies favorable to the Islamists.

The idea, in other words, is that Obama, himself a not-so-covert Muslim, is trying to install his Muslim buddies into power in Egypt. And Abedin is part of the conspiracy. Already Gaffney's wild contentions about an allegedly pro-Islamic Obama—which fly in the face of his reluctance to embrace the Arab spring—have caused mischief in Egypt, helping prompt anti-Islamic activists to try and bombard Clinton with tomatoes when she visited Egypt. And why would Abedin have married a Jewish congressman? The answer, at least for those who like to engage in fevered thinking on the Right, is simple: What if he secretly converted to Islam? So maybe Weiner, who has always been staunchly pro-Israel, was just using that as a cover? Welcome to the world of the right-wing conspiracist.

Nothing is too loopy for Bachmann, who is standing by her allegations about Abedin. She sees a Muslim American threat everywhere. Here she is speaking a few weeks ago to a radio talk-show host:

It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood. It appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency.

Potentially? Anything is potential. The sun might not rise tomorrow. The surprising thing is not how ubiquitous a threat exists from Muslim Americans but how little danger they pose. Bachmann and her ilk would be ecstatic if a serious one really existed. Instead, they are reduced to fighting phantasms. Along the way they are engaging in the very kind of conspiratorial thinking they claim they are exposing.

Image: Gage Skidmore