It’s a safe bet that if Huma Abedin can survive being married to scandal-marred Anthony Weiner, she can certainly weather a drive-by smearing from the likes of Michele Bachmann.
We hadn’t heard much from Bachmann in the six and a half months since her crackpot presidential candidacy crashed on liftoff in Iowa. But alas she’s back in the news now, defying the wise advice that, in politics, it’s best not to speak unless you can improve the silence. In the sordid tradition of Joe McCarthy, she has charged in a letter to the State Department that Abedin, the long-time adviser to Hillary Clinton, might be a cog in a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the government and wreck it from within.Bachmann, and four House Republican back-benchers, asserted (without any proof) that Abedin’s late father, mother, her brother were all connected in some unspecified way to the Muslim Brotherhood operatives or organizations. Therefore, Abedin, who serves as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, might be some sort of secret agent.The term “McCarthyism” first surfaced in dictionaries during the ’50s, when it was defined as “the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.” Such is obviously the case here, in the smearing of an accomplished Muslim-American. As former Republican congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite said yesterday – and this was supposed to be a comment sympathetic to Bachmann – “Michele means well, but she sometimes doesn’t let proven facts get in the way of a possibility of having national television coverage.”Bachmann, of course, has long been a notorious fact-free zone. It take a special talent to publicly name John Quincy Adams as one of the founding fathers, and to contend that the successful HPV vaccine, which has immunized 35 million young people against a cancer-causing virus, is really a menace that causes “mental retardation.” She invented that one during the GOP primary season, whereas, in reality, not a single case of mental retardation has ever surfaced in the national vaccine tracking program sponsored by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control.Unfortunately, she also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, which gives her a forum to stoke Islamophobia, especially at the behest of her favorite think tank, the Center for Security Policy. The guy who runs that shop, Frank Gaffney, is infamous for maligning Muslim-Americans. He even attacked Ed Meese, the Reagan attorney general, for endorsing a Muslim-American who recently got himself elected – as a Republican – to the Virginia legislature. Gaffney was an informal Bachmann adviser during her failed presidential campaign. Her baseless attack on Huma Abedin, inspired by a CSP report, is further proof that she has guzzled his Kool-aid.There’s an upside to this tawdry episode, however. Several years went by before anyone with a spine denounced Joe McCarthy; the denunciation of Bachmann came within a matter of hours. John McCain got most of the attention for his remarks this week on the Senate floor – “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 emodies so fully” – but the list of Republicans and conservatives is admirably long.It includes John Boehner (“Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous”), Marco Rubio (I’m careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that”), Scott Brown (“This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse”), Christine Todd Whitman (“The unfounded attack…brings back painful memories of a low point in our history”), ex-Bachmann strategist Ed Rollins (“She sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level”), and Grover Norquist (“The long discredited series of attacks on Muslims working in first the Bush and now Obama administration all flow from conspiracy theories spun by Frank Gaffney…Bachmann and company are guilty of plagiarism as well as wrong-headedness”).But the prize goes to lobbyist Jeffrey Taylor, who told Politico: “As a conservative Republican, I’m finished with Michele Bachmann…her unquenched need and lust to get on the Sean Hannity show and in front of any TV camera seems to know no ends.” We do need to track the Muslim Brotherhood, he rightfully pointed out, “but it must proceed without innuendo or hint that an American citizen is somehow disqualified from serving her country.”Has Bachmann tried to substantiate her charge? Not a chance. That’s not how she rolls. I’m reminded of the episode, last September, when Sean Hannity gently requested that she substantiate her charge that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. “Is that one of the side effects?” he asked her. “Because I’ve not heard that.”Her reply: “I have no idea.”I have no idea….Apt words for her political epitaph.——-I’ve received some triumphalist emails from conservatives who are giddy about the latest New York Times-CBS poll which shows Mitt Romney topping President Obama by a percentage point. These are the same people, of course, who have routinely denounced the Times-CBS poll as a tool of Duh Liberal Media whenever the horse race results have favored Obama.Meanwhile, the latest Fox News poll has Obama topping Romney by four points, so you know what the lesson is? Don’t live or die by the summer numbers. Mike Allen, the sagacious Washington reporter, had the best advice yesterday:”Get real about who’s up and who’s down in these polls. Nobody’s up or down. Every single result is in the margin of error. And that will probably be the case in every single poll, at least until after the conventions.” So can we all please lighten up?——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1