Rep. Michele Bachmann’s former campaign manager has joined the bipartisan chorus criticizing the Minnesota Republican for questioning the loyalty of State Department aide Huma Abedin and alleging she has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And in an unusually direct speech aimed at members of his own party, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor to defend a longtime aide and confidant of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Is this a form of McCarthyism on the part of Bachmann and four House colleagues? Or are they raising legitimate issues about national security threats?
I (and most of the other contributors) did not have kind things to say about Bachmann - I don't love being on the same side of an issue as James Zogby. I wrote:
Given the scale and needs of the U.S. government, infiltration by foreign agents is a legitimate concern. But it is an issue best handled quietly through the existing security procedures. Tightening those procedures is a security risk in its own right, as it could deny the nation the services of talented immigrants who have much to offer. The fact that the State Department and other agencies - over a decade after 9/11 - still do not have adequate speakers of strategically critical languages suggest the security checks remain onerous, rather then lax.
In the case of Ms. Abedin, publicly naming and shaming individuals is offensive and not how things are done in the United States. Different policy preferences are not the sign of a conspiracy. The State Department's moves towards engaging the Muslim Brotherhood is a policy option, dictated in great part by the reality of events in Egypt. It may be unwise (although it is tough to see other options) but it is not the result of secret cabals. Similarly, that many Muslim-Americans do not share the warm feelings of a majority of Americans about Israel does not make them unpatriotic - these are legitimate political beliefs. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and organization - even of ideas with which I do not agree.
Finally, historically new immigrants and their offspring - grateful for the blessings of American society - have demonstrated tremendous patriotism and served this country courageously. Changing this dynamic, which has been such a source of strength to the United States, would be a grievous blow to national security.
I take the Muslim Brotherhood seriously as bad guys - in fact in terms of organization and strategy (although emphatically not ideology) they were modeled on the Bolshevik Party as an organizational weapon intended to advance ideology into the public sphere (as opposed to a political party that seeks to turn preferences of the general public into policy.) But, accusations that individuals are Muslim Brotherhood agents need to be made with some care - no "I have here in my hand a list..." gambits. If, completely hypothetically, it were true there are non-public ways to manage pressing someone to resign. If an aide were that toxic, undoubtedly the politically sensitive antennae of Madam Secretary would detect it very quickly and resolve the problem (probably through a political decapitation).
Geopolitically, the Muslim Brotherhood does not have a super-power behind it like the Communists did. Wariness is appropriate, but the idea that Sharia is going to sneak up on us is an insult to the resilience and strength of American society. Further, a high-ranking aide at State may play a significant role (I study bureaucratic politics so I do believe this) but there are limits. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and American dealings with it go far behind anything at a single desk in Foggy Bottom.