U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is no longer just a political oddity. She now has drifted into the dangerous, malicious waters of character assassination that conjures up the specter of another reckless, power-mad U.S senator of old, Joseph McCarthy. And she is using the same tactics.
Bachmann, a member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, last week made the unsubstantiated claim that fellow congressman Keith Ellison has a long record of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, today’s equivalent of being called a member of the Communist Party during McCarthy’s days.
Bachmann offered no evidence of such ties, although her spokesman pointed to a Fox News report of 2009 that said Ellison had a trip paid for by the Muslin American Society, which some have suggested is a front for the Brotherhood. Ellison, who is an American Muslim, laughingly denied such ties. Unfortunately, this is no laughing matter.
The latest assault comes after a round of allegations starting with Bachmann claiming the Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government. She later claimed a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, was tied to the Brotherhood.
In a letter sent in June to intelligence and security agencies, she and others claimed Abedin’s late father, brother and mother were affiliated to the organization and suggested she may be a terrorist sympathizer. There was no evidence of such sympathy, but the mere extension was enough to warrant such an attack on their reputation.
Ellison was among the first to call out Bachmann to substantiate her claims and he was joined by House Speaker John Boehner and Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, all Republicans. Sen. John McCain condemned her “sinister accusations” against Abedin.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said “Rep. Bachmann’s accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out of line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.”
This character assassination — along with her earlier claim the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, causing a serious public health setback — would strongly suggest Bachmann is taking lessons from McCarthy, another political artist at character assassination.
That Wisconsin senator gained national attention in 1950 by alleging hundreds of Communists had infiltrated the State Department and other federal agencies. He conducted a series of congressional public hearings, calling forward hundreds of witnesses who were relentlessly attacked by McCarthy.
That despicable period in American history was finally put to an end when a Boston lawyer, Joseph Welch, defending a scurrilous attack on Welch’s aide on live television said, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
It is time for all Americans to collectively ask Bachmann the same question. After all, she is our representative and therefore is a reflection of our values. If there is evidence of corruption, influence-peddling or policy changes made because of direct influence from the Brotherhood, prove it. Character assassination and guilt by association is not proof.
There have been no repercussions for Bachmann’s recklessness. She remains on the House Intelligence Committee and is one of the top fundraisers in the House. That must stop now. Congress is in dire need of repairing its image, and it should start with all members repudiating these kinds of tactics.
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