Michele Bachmann's Vicious Smear Campaign

Even other Republicans recognize the absurdity of Michele Bachmann's theory that State Department staffer Huma Abedin is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. speaks in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Was the birther conspiracy just not working anymore?

That would be one explanation as to why a cadre of House Republicans, led by former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, has smeared a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The group of congressmen has written letters to various inspectors general asking for an investigation—including the bizarre accusation that State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin has some connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.

It's bad enough when such unsubstantiated and hateful allegations are made against a candidate. Those individuals, at least, are somewhat used to navigating lies and rumors and distortions of their views and backgrounds. To go after a widely respected and hard-working State Department staffer is unconscionable.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Donald Trump.]

Abedin, not incidentally, is married to a Jewish man, former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York. Do the accusing members of Congress believe Weiner is part of the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration as well?

Unfortunately, in the Age of Misinformation, the actual facts may not have an impact. Startling numbers of people still believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, or that he was not born in the United States. When people want to justify their bigotry, they'll assemble any "facts" they can.

Abedin is the most unfairly victimized person here, but she is not the only victim. The other would be the members of the Republican Party—the real Republican Party, the one which believes in keeping government out of people's lives, of keeping budgets and spending low, the party of the president who freed the slaves. There are still dedicated and honorable Republicans like that in Congress. Unfortunately, they have been largely cowed—particularly in the House—by a vocal and embarrassingly misinformed fringe.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Just ask Ed Rollins, Bachmann's former presidential campaign chief, who penned a blunt and honest assessment of his former boss's attack on Abedin:

I have to say that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's outrageous and  false charges against a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, reaches that threshold. Her unsubstantiated charge against Abedin, a widely respected top aide to Secretary Hillary Clinton, accusing her of some sort of far-fetched connection to the Muslim brotherhood, is extreme and dishonest.

Having worked for Congressman Bachman's campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

And Sen. John McCain—who is looking more and more like the old, pre-2008 campaign McCain these days, calling out his own party for bad behavior—delivered a passionate and commendable defense of Abedin on the Senate floor:

These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now. I have every confidence in Huma's loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well. All Americans owe Huma a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.

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. I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend.

And with friends like McCain, perhaps Abedin can ignore her enemies.

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