John McCain gave a pretty forceful floor speech Wednesday morning in defense of Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff (and Anthony Weiner's wife), whom a few House Republicans have suggested is part of a Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the American government. Five Republican congressmen, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, sent letters to various government departments asking about the U.S. involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, and suggesting Abedin, a Muslim-American daughter of immigrants, should not have received security clearance because some of her family members are allegedly affiliated with the group. That's obviously a pretty easy target for rational-thinking people, but McCain's furious speech is still a pretty memorable shut-down and a reminder why McCain was considered a "mavericky" statesman (especially after he didn't follow through with a vote on one of his signature maverick issues, campaign finance reform). He speaks of a personal friendship with Abedin:

Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully

But here's a money quote:

Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal, and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.

Yowza. You can watch the speech, via Mediaite:

Update 5:20 p.m.: Bachmann released a statement ceding no ground on the issue in response, alleging that her intent had been "distorted." She said, in part:

The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group's access to top Obama administration officials.

Meanwhile, Abedin's husband, Anthony Weiner thanked the Senator in an e-mail to the Post.

 

"My family and I are grateful to Senator McCain," Weiner said. "I think he spoke for many Americans in expressing his disgust for the charge against my wife."

Correction: The article previously stated that Huma Abedin is Secretary Clinton's chief of staff. She is her deputy chief of staff. We apologize for the error.