U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's McCarthy-like questions about a top State Department aide's "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood have been largely dismissed by those in her party and the Brotherhood itself, but she's got some defenders, including Newt Gingrich and Slate columnist Dave Weigel. Both Gingrich and Weigel made the point that Bachmann wasn't outright accusing Huma Abedin, the deputy chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, of having ties to the religious group in a letter last week. Rather, she was just asking a lot of questions. Gingrich came to his former Republican party nomination opponent's defense on Tuesday morning, in an appearance with Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen on Politico Live, the gist of which Maggie Haberman documented if you don't feel like watching the video:
"There weren’t allegations, there was a question," Gingrich told VandeHei and Allen, adding, "the question ought to be asked across the board" about the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship with and goals in the U.S. are.
When it was pointed out to him that other Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner, have hit Bachmann for a form of a witch hunt, he said, "I think those folks are wrong...what is it they're afraid of learning?"
Slate's Weigel made his point on Monday night, but unlike Gingrich he's a much more lukewarm defender of Bachmann. ("Damning with faint defense" is how Santa Cruz community radio host Nicholas Mitchell put it.) Questioning why we should take the Muslim Brotherhood's representatives at their word, Weigel took issue with the Global Post story that reported they didn't know anything about Abedin. The story referred to Bachmann "claiming" that Abedin had ties to the Brotherhood. Weigel writes:
She didn't "claim" that. She engaged in a lot of question-begging, sure, but she was asking several branches of the government to investigate whether "brotherhood operatives" had snowed the government, and what kind of security checks were being done before radical Muslims entered the U.S. Her complaint about Huma Abedin, ironically, undermined her whole argument, because the State Department aide had well-known family connections to the Brotherhood but had made it therough a security clearance. Still, this is written to make Bachmann sound extra-crazy.
Bachmann doesn't really need help in that department. Her vocal suspicions about Abedin have already alienated her from members of her party such as John McCain, John Boehner, and Marco Rubio. Yes, she has every right to ask whatever questions she wants, and in doing so to get branded a McCarthy clone everywhere from CNN to USA Today.