Every so often idiocy joins forces with intolerance and phony patriotism to form a particularly ugly and toxic trifecta. Whenever that happens, such incidences deserve nothing less than a complete exposure to the light of day.
Last month, Michele Bachmann, along with a few other Republicans and virtually all of the far Right, went after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin for having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Bachmann, the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government and is “destroying the Western civilization from within” by imposing Sharia law through a jihad.
Religious intolerance is nothing new in America. Anti-Semitism has had a long and rather ugly past in this country going all the way back to the turn of the last century. But, while prejudice against Jews is certainly detestable, the Islamophobia that has sprung up over the last decade in the post 9/11 era is particularly disconcerting, because its proponents aim not just to discriminate against Muslims, but to outlaw the practice of their religion altogether under some ridiculous notion that it poses a threat to the very existence of the United States.
Thankfully, Bachmann’s stunt has backfired on her. Some of her colleagues had some rather choice words for her. Senator John McCain read her out on the floor of the Senate, calling her charges “sinister.”
“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.”
Ed Rollins, Bachmann’s former campaign director, went a bit further in his rebuke:
“I have been a practitioner of tough politics for many decades. There is little that amazes me and even less that shocks me. I have to say that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s outrageous and false charges against a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin reaches that threshold.
“The Republican Party, which John McCain led as our nominee in 2008, is going to become irrelevant if we become the party of intolerance and hate. As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hard working, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges.”
It’s one thing when the opposition party calls you out; it’s quite another when members of your own party do it. Bachmann didn’t just cross a line, she leap-frogged over it. Good for McCain and Rollins for speaking out against her bigotry.
This is not the first time that Bachmann has invoked the ghost of McCarthyism. In 2008, on Chris Matthews’ Hardball, she referred to certain liberals as being unpatriotic and called for an “expose” from the media to determine who was pro or anti-American.
Calling Michele Bachmann an idiot is like calling the Atlantic ocean wet; it goes without saying. But Bachmann’s actions and stances portend something far more ominous than mere stupidity. They reveal the real threat to America, and it is not from without; it’s from within. What makes Bachmann and her ilk so reprehensible and dangerous is that they hide their bigotry behind a supposed love of country that is as phony as a $2 bill to make it seem as though they are more patriotic than those they attack.
But, rather than strengthen the country they so earnestly purport to love, they unwittingly undermine it. The words of Edward R. Murrow are worth repeating here. Where appropriate, I have changed certain words to bring it up to date; e.g. Bachmann for McCarthy, Islam for Communism, etc…
No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the Congresswoman from Minnesota has stepped over it repeatedly. Her primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Islam. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose Congresswoman Bachmann’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the Congresswoman from Minnesota have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really hers. She didn't create this situation of fear; she merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Good night, and good luck.