There are frequent bouts of McCarthyism in the capital, but the latest version has the special touch of being delivered by a guy named McCarthy.
This McCarthy isn’t your average Joe: Andrew McCarthy’s work is providing the intellectual underpinnings — such as they are — for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s outrageous suggestion that Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
McCarthy gave a 90-minute talk at the National Press Club on Wednesday morning sponsored by the conservative Center for Security Policy, which was the source cited by Bachmann (R-Minn.) in her letter challenging Abedin’s loyalty. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and other top Republicans justifiably blasted Bachmann, but McCarthy defended the congresswoman and went her allegation one further — drawing a twisted line from Abedin all the way to al-Qaeda.
“I don’t understand why more people in Washington from both parties have not rallied in support of Congresswoman Bachmann” and her fellow signatories on the letter, McCarthy lamented, “at a time when government policy is being radically harmonized with the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, meaning policy has shifted in the direction of avowed enemies of the United States.”
In fact, the accuser went on, Bachmann “actually understated the case” against the Clinton aide. “Ms. Abedin had a very lengthy affiliation with an institute founded by a top figure at the nexus between Saudi terror funding, Brotherhood ideology and al-Qaeda’s jihad against the United States.”
If Abedin is in fact a Muslim Brotherhood plant spreading sharia law in the United States, she’s using unorthodox methods: posing provocatively for a Vogue spread, then marrying and having the child of a Jewish congressman who sent out a photo of his genitals on Twitter. As Clinton’s personal aide, helping her boss with suits and handbags and logistics, she has not been in an ideal position to advance the alleged cause. Even McCarthy admits that she’s “not a policymaker.”
Then why go after her? It’s hard to escape the suspicion that it has something to do with the way she looks and how she worships.
Events of the past few days make that happy chatter four years ago about a “post-racial” America seem especially naive. On Sunday, a white supremacist killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney began to attack President Obama as soft on welfare, an issue charged with race. On Wednesday, the Romney campaign hosted a conference call in which Newt Gingrich, who once leveled the racially loaded accusation that Obama was the “food-stamp president,” perpetuated the welfare accusations. And, at about the same time, Abedin’s accusers were getting to work at the press club.
McCarthy is a serious man who once prosecuted Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind sheik. He may have valid points to make about the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence. But going after Abedin with a cockamamie case discredits him.
The core of McCarthy’s charge is guilt by association: Abedin’s mother, brother and late father, all academics, were active in the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, which McCarthy alleges was created by Abdullah Omar Naseef, “a major Muslim Brotherhood figure involved in the financing of al-Qaeda.” To that, he adds the charge that “Abedin is directly connected” to Naseef because her mother, the editor of the institute’s quarterly journal, listed her as an “assistant editor” between 1996 (when she was 20) and 2008.
Abedin worked for the Clinton White House, Hillary Clinton’s Senate office and the Clinton campaign during that time, so it’s unlikely that she was doing much editing. It’s also difficult to see how affiliation with the journal — which publishes articles such as “The North African Heritage of the Hui Chinese” and “Muslim Mudejar Women in Thirteenth-Century Spain” — gives Abedin conflicted loyalties.
I pressed McCarthy about how Abedin might exert the Brotherhood’s influence over Clinton other than by, say, selecting for her an ugly pantsuit.
“She managed to get Mrs. Clinton to appear at a college that her mother founded in Egypt,” he answered.
I pointed out that George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes also spoke there. Was she, too, doing the Brotherhood’s bidding?
“Yeah, I think she did her share, too,” McCarthy replied.
The prosecutor’s case was crumbling. Moments later, he likened Egypt’s new government to Hitler’s Germany. He had difficulty when Mother Jones reporter Adam Serwer challenged him to explain how Obama was advancing sharia at the same time he was supporting same-sex marriage. Serwer also asked McCarthy about his 2010 suggestion that Obama was free to kill Osama bin Laden because “the Islamists [Obama] wants to engage have decided al-Qaeda is expendable” and counter to their peaceful takeover of American institutions.
Replied McCarthy: “I’m a whack job, I guess.”
If he says so.
For previous Washington Sketch columns by Dana Milbank, go to washingtonpost.com/danamilbank.