A couple of stipulations up front before we cut to the chase:
- I’m not going to say Michele Bachmann hasn’t occasionally observed a “Ready! Fire! Aim!” approach to some of the things she’s commented on over the years. She’s tightened up her messaging a lot, of course, since deciding to run for President – but whenever I see a chorus of leftybloggers bleating “did you see what teh crazee Mishele Bachmannn said?”, I still occasionally take a deep breath and brace myself. Of course, it’s more and more an automatic rather than a reasoned thing. But we’ll come back to that.
- I do think many American conservatives are way too exercised about the Muslim Brotherhood. They are a big, loosely-knit movement with a lot of different histories in a lot of different nations. Some parts were radicalized by being pushed underground – think the IRA. Other parts, in other nations, less so, or at least in different ways. It remains to be seen what their majority in Egypt will turn out like – and they are far from the only force in Egypt that could drag that mess into the toilet – but they’ve been a broadly good influence in Libya, and neutral at worst in Tunisia.
- Some decry the fact that some Muslim Brotherhood national parties would re-institute Sharia law if they get their way in their various nations. So don’t move there! They’re sovereign countries and making – for the moment – democratic decisions. They get to do that. At best, the Brotherhood will bring Islam, and Sharia, out into the open, where it can bump up against the 21st century and, with a little luck, the motives and desires and political demands of people with more exposure to the modern world than, say, Afghans. Am I being a pollyanna? Perhaps. Or maybe just tired of fighting unneeded battles.
With that out of the way, it’s hard to miss the cascade of caterwauling that’s greeted Michele Bachmann’s statements (along with those of four other House Republicans – Louie Gohmert (TX), Trent Franks (AZ), Tom Rooney (FL), and Lynn Westmorland (GA). ”Why, even John McCain is bagging on her!”, the liberals, and not a few Republicans, phumpher – as if that were news. McCain even throws out the dreaded “M” word, “McCarthy”, which Democrats have turned into a rhetorical nuclear option over the decades (ignorant of the irony; McCarthy was right, there were communist infiltrators, although as his hunt went on it became both too broad and way too easily caricatured.
Speaking of McCarthy, the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy – presumably no relation – unloads on McCain, and Bachmann’s critics, with an excellent, moderately lengthy piece that documents both Huma Abedin’s real, honest-to-pete links to the Muslim Brotherhood (read the article), and shreds the notion that Bachmann et al were “witchhunting”, but rather…:
The five House conservatives, instead, are asking questions that adults responsible for national security should feel obliged to ask: In light of Ms. Abedin’s family history, is she someone who ought to have a security clearance, particularly one that would give her access to top-secret information about the Brotherhood? Is she, furthermore, someone who may be sympathetic to aspects of the Brotherhood’s agenda, such that Americans ought to be concerned that she is helping shape American foreign policy?
Now, Senator McCain is no stranger to smear. No need to confirm that with Mr. ElBaradei; we’ve watched for years as he has slandered, for example, critics of his advocacy for illegal aliens as “nativists” seeking to reprise Jim Crow laws. Nevertheless, since McCain purports to be a tireless guardian of our security, one would think he’d appreciate the distinction between a smear, on the one hand, and a routine application of security-clearance standards, on the other
…as well as illuminates some of McCain’s own flip-floppery on the issue:
So, the reporter asked him, does Obama’s tolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood “concern you”?
Senator Maverick shot back without hesitation: “It concerns me so much that I am unalterably opposed to it. I think it would be a mistake of historic proportions.”
Senator McCain elaborated that he was “deeply, deeply concerned that this whole movement [toward democracy] could be hijacked by radical Islamic extremists.” And what, he was specifically asked, “is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood”? McCain pulled no punches:
“I think they are a radical group that, first of all, supports sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government”
In fact, so apprehensive was he over the Brotherhood and its sharia agenda that McCain was quick to brand Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, as a Brotherhood tool.
By the way, Rep. Bachmann has claimed – with some considerable justification – that her words have been distorted and wrenched out of context, and she’s released all her communications on the subject to prove it. You be the judge.
So the flap isn’t about “witchhunting” Muslims in government. It’s about transparency and honesty about influence at the highest levels (as Rep. Bachmann’s letter to Rep. Ellison, whose has denied any knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood, although his 2008 trip to Mecca was largely bankrolled by a group that, court documents indicate, is affiliated with the Brotherhood) makes clear. It’s about transparency.
Lessons from this incident? Simple: When the media sounds off on conservatives, distrust, verify, and almost always distrust some more.
Personally? I’m not sure that the Brotherhood is the suffocating danger that some conservatives claim, and even if it were, those are sovereign nations. And I suspect Huma Abedin’s connections to the Georgetown Political Science Elite and Keith Ellison’s membership in the DFL are of more immediate danger to this nation and state, to be honest.
But since the subject is honesty – the flap about Bachmann seems to be little more than Dems trying to draw attention away from the real issue; Hillary Clinton and Keith Ellison’s disingenuity.