Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Huma Abedin accusations continue to draw criticism

July 24, 2012

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R) conspiracy accusations that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin could be tied to a Muslim Brotherhood attempt to infiltrate the U.S. government have continued to draw criticism, even from within Bachmann’s own party.

The Fix’s Aaron Blake reported some possible reason’s why these accusations finally went too far for her colleagues, while past controversial statements didn’t:

1. She’s got a profile now

Bachmann is now in the illustrious company of the winners of the Iowa Straw Poll (a group that includes Mitt RomneyGeorge W. BushBob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Her presidential campaign fizzled shortly thereafter, but the fact is that a politician who largely flew under the mainstream’s radar now has a little more heft.

With that heft comes more attention, and suddenly the things she says are not just the musings of some back-bench member of Congress but a Republican who actually got some real traction with the GOP base against the likes of Romney. That makes the things she says potentially more harmful to her party.

Which leads us to ...

2. The GOP’s reaction

Bachmann’s letter, which was co-signed by four other House members, wasn’t big news until McCain took to the Senate floor and eviscerated her.

“These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now,” McCain said, according to prepared remarks.

Suddenly, members of her own party were no longer standing idly by and (to borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox/Manny Ramirez) let Bachmann be Bachmann. McCain, one of the biggest voices in the GOP today and the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, took time to publicly and starkly criticize one of his fellow Republicans. Soon, Boehner and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which Bachmann serves on, joined McCain in denouncing Bachmann.

Democrats can attack Bachmann all day; the moment that Republicans with such stature enter the fray against their GOP colleague, it becomes big news.

3. The target

Put simply, Bachmann picked the wrong person to mess with, and her allegations probably wouldn’t have made big news if she didn’t name Abedin.

Abedin is very close to the Clintons and has a great reputation in Washington, even among Republicans and the media. Also, perhaps just as importantly, she was turned into a sympathetic character when her husband, then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), was caught sending lewd messages to women on Twitter last year.

All of that means Abedin has lots of friends, McCain being one of them, who aren’t going to stand idly by when someone levies charges against her. Unlike her previous brushes with controversy, Bachmann is suddenly outmanned.

4. The severity of the charge

All of the above aside, what Bachmann is alleging is on a whole new level from her previous allegations. While she alleged in 2007 that Iran had plans to turn parts of Iraq into a terrorist haven, accusing U.S. government officials of being involved in a terrorist conspiracy is different.

The former charge may not pass the smell test or be based on any public evidence, but it’s not too far afield that many would disbelieve it. After all, Iran is the bad guy.

The latter would be a scandal the likes of which this country has rarely — if ever — seen. And Bachmann is making the allegation against American citizens.

She The People’s Suzi Parker reported that Bachmann may stand to benefit from the attention that the controversy has received:

Such ganging up on Bachmann, though, only fuels her faithful supporters and those who think the Obama administration harbors a pro-Islamist agenda.

Several conservative sites have launched campaigns in support of Bachmann’s call for an investigation, and one called her a “Romney VP prospect.”

She’s incredibly savvy at appealing to conspiracy theorists.

She once said that President Obama wanted Medicare to go bankrupt so that the elderly would have to enroll in Obamacare.

Bachmann has often talked about a one-world currency and criticized national community-service camps, which she calls “re-education camps,” in which those involved get “trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.”

Since Obama was elected in 2008, she has sounded an alarm about the nonexistent threat of sharia law in the United States and supported the birther movement.

“I’ll tell you one thing, if I was ever to run for president of the United States, I think the first thing I would do in the first debate is offer my birth certificate, so we can get that off the table,” she said before throwing her hat into the presidential ring.

So far, her rhetoric has only helped her career.

Bachmann’s allegations came shortly after Mitt Romney's former Chief of Staff John Sununu’s comment that he wished “this president would learn how to be an American.” She The People’s Mary C. Curtis argued that this sort of attacks, which have been recurring, could represent a sort of “new McCarthyism”:

This year, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) echoed the language of senator Joe McCarthy when he said, “I believe there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” and he didn’t back down.

It’s troubling when Sununu, Bachmann, West and so many others are only too willing to take on the un-American job of deciding who belongs in America, the first and only one rule being, agree with us on matters of politics and policy or — as West instructed liberals — get out.

Where are all the voices of reason to pull them back, to ask, as the Army’s lawyer Joseph Welch once asked of McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency?” McCain has stepped up; who’s in line behind him?

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