McCain Channels Joseph Welch: Decimates Bachmann for Attack on Muslim Clinton Aide

Arizona Senator John McCain is one of American politics’ most complex political figures After becoming a political and cultural hero in the late 1990s into 2000 due to the story of his incredible bravery while in the military, in recent years as he ran for President in an ill-fated campaign and faced a potentially tough challenger for re-election to the Senate he seemingly good-bye to his former constituency of moderates who admired him for being somewhat unpredictable in politics — as someone who could transcend partisanship. But yesterday he returned to old form, channeling the late Joseph Welch, the head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities.

The issue: Republican Tea Party icon Rep. Michele Bachmann’s McCarthy-like phoney charges against a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, who happens to be a Muslim. And in doing so several things happened:

  • McCain slipped back into his old identity of the former Prisoner of War who seem to not quite fit into the cookie-cutter mold of making partisan pronouncements aimed at blasting the other side and defending his own but speaking forcefully on issues to try and further define his vision of what America really is and should be.
  • He pushed Bachmann back into her old pre-Republican primary status: as a far right Republican on the fringe of mainstream party thought and, instead, one who deserves to be in the political Twlight — or shun — Zone.
  • His comments gave at least one prominent GOPer a chance to back up McCain in no uncertain terms, further cementing her status as someone who in past times would be labelled by people in BOTH parties with this word: “extremist.”
  • It gave Bachmann a chance to redefine her position — which she eventually refused to do. This means she’ll be out of the maintream but perhaps could get a spot as a provocative paid Fox News commentator or get a nationally syndicated talk show of her own when her district’s voters tire of her.
  • It ended her viability as a credible Republican presidential candidate in the future since there will be Republicans (including many thoughtful conservatives) who’ll consider her too extreme.
  • Here’s the LA Time’s account of McCain’s comments:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came to an unexpected and impassioned defense of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying that “sinister accusations” by congressional conservatives about her alleged connection to the Muslim Brotherhood must end.

    The attacks have been led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the tea party caucus in the House, and four other lawmakers, who have asked federal officials to investigate whether Abedin, a Muslim American who is deputy chief of staff at the State Department, is influencing U.S. policy in ways beneficial to the pan-Arab Islamic group.

    Abedin is one of Clinton’s closest aides, and former President Clinton presided at her wedding. The lawmakers cite an online report that alleges Abedin’s relatives, including her deceased father, have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.

    “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now,” said McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and its top voice on defense policy. “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.”

    McCain acknowledged the unusual nature of his decision to come to the Senate floor to speak about a particular individual. But he said he was compelled to do so to protect her character and reputation in the face of attacks being made “without concern for fact or fairness.”

    “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,” said McCain, who said he had seen Abedin in action overseas, at Clinton’s side. “I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend.”

    Bachmann and the other lawmakers singled out various individuals for scrutiny in a series of letters late last week to the inspectors general at several departments, including State, Defense and Homeland Security. They are seeking investigations into the alleged ties of these individuals, who work for or advise the agencies, to the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Here’s the video of his comments in full:

    From Wikipedia, this account of Welch finally saying for all to hear who McCarthy really was:

    Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.

    When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:

    Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

    McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:

    Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.

    The gallery erupted in applause.

    Part of the commentary by Bachmann’s former consultant Ed Rollins on the Fox News website, titled: Bachmann’s former campaign chief — shame on you, Michele. (Rollins’ reaction proves “great minds think alike”):

    I have been a practitioner of tough politics for many decades. There is little that amazes me and even less that shocks me. 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. (Joe McCarthy falsely made claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies inside the State Department in the early 1950’s. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to “condemn” McCarthy on two counts.)

    Senator John McCain, an American hero, stood on the floor of the Senate Wednesday and condemned Mrs. Bachmann, if not by name then by her actions:

    In that sentence, Rollins removed any political figleaf Bachmann or her supporters on the political moon had that McCain really wasn’t talking about here. Rollins recounts McCain’s speech, then ends:

    The Republican Party, which John McCain led as our nominee in 2008, is going to become irrelevant if we become the party of intolerance and hate. The party founded by Abraham Lincoln was a party that fought slavery and intolerance at every level.

    I can assure Mrs. Bachmann, that Ms. Abedin has been thru every top clearance available and would never have been given her position with any questions of her loyalty to this country.

    As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hard working,loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges. As a devoted Christian, you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior.

    And Bachmann’s response? She refuses to back down. Here’s part of the CBS News account, which includes their putting it into a larger context.:

    But Bachmann and the others wrote, “Huma Abedin has three family members — her late father, her mother and her brother — connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.”

    Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim congressman, says, “Our country has gone through a McCarthy period. We cannot allow America to go back to another one.”

    He said the letters reminded him of the 1950s-era witch hunt for Communists in the government, and called Bachmann’s evidence misleading and fake.

    “It’s like a bizarre game of six degrees of separation. She mentions that her father, who has been dead for two decades, knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was connected to the Muslim brotherhood in some unspecified way!” Ellison said.

    Abedin is a 37-year-old new mother who has graced the pages of Vogue. She is married to former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish and a fierce defender of Israel.

    Weiner resigned in disgrace last year after his provocative texts to female supporters were made public.

    In this week’s People magazine, the two said they have worked hard to repair their marriage. “I’m proud to be married to him,” Abedin said.

    This isn’t the first time that Bachmann has let her suspicions outpace the facts.

    Last year, she suggested, falsely, that HPV vaccines might cause mental retardation.

    And in 2009, she urged the media to look into the loyalties of her congressional colleagues. “Are they pro-America or anti-America?” she asked. “I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.”

    CBS News asked all five House members for an interview about the letters they sent, but none agreed.

    In a statement, Bachmann did not back down, saying she would “not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies” and saying she wants a full investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood.


    Bachmann triggers memories of this song:


    And McCain triggers memories of this other patriot, who also defended the “real” America:

    Joseph Welch

             

    15 Comments

    1. That’s the McCain I voted for, not the one that picked Palin.

    2. It’s good to see Sen. McCain back in form. Waiting with bated breath for other Republicans to denounce this travesty.

      All this is based on a report(mentioning Ms. Abedin by name) by noted Islamaphobe Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Gaffney and his organization are listed on the SPLC hate group list.

      Ms. Bachmann has responded to Mr. Ellison’s remarks (surprise?) with another 16 page letter signed only by herself, this time.

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/1002.....to-Ellison

      Needless to say, all but one of the signatories of the original letter are members of the Tea Party Caucus.

    3. DDuck: That’s the McCain I voted for, not the one that picked Palin.

      I thought McCain’s 2008 bid destroyed his “superpower” to ascend political scorekeeping.

      While I am not surprised to see Bachmann spewing hate garbage, I was surprised to see McCain so passionately set the record straight in his own party.

      In retrospect, McCain should have waited until 2012 to run, and the “tea party” should have done their dance in the leadup to 2008. The GOP could have run whoever, it was a throwaway election anyway, no one could have defeated obama’s energy. This is when they should have run their crazy candidate — maybe even a tea party candidate just to get that done and over with.

      A real 2012 presidential campaign to run — McCain the cross party ascender vs the Obama incumbent — that would have been a much better national dialog. Obama won on “hope” and things not yet seen. McCain could not touch him then, now he could had the 2008 palin disaster never happened.

      Always fun to replay history under different circumstances.

    4. I think McCain is not enough of a “politician” and too much of a mensch, to win the presidency.

    5. That’s not really fair to McCain. He would have been great in 2000. But in 2008, there was the huge drift of his party to the right, in addition he was following up Bush. And let’s be honest, the voters were going to be sending the GOP to the woodshed in 2008 so I really don’t think McCain losing in 2008 is his fault. I honestly think this country couldn’t do too bad in 2008 either way.

    6. hyp

      It took the Obama win to launch the Tea Party into a major movement. They were around as Ron Paul supporters in 2007 but it took a “foreign” president and Dick Armey to really organize them nationwide. Anyone who is still a Ron Paul fan should understand that.

      If Mr. McCain was going to run in 2008, as you say an exercise in futility, he could have chosen almost anyone else, even his favorite Lieberman, and come out undamaged. I suppose he could be VP material, but probably not.

    7. Every time McCain says something useful to the Democrats, he is hailed as a moderate. Every time he says something the disagree with he has swung back to being a troglodyte conservative. (And of course it was useful to demonize him when he ran against Obama). Maybe instead of trying to paint a picture of McCain swinging wildly back an forth, we just accept that he is an independent, but that people will independent views can can actually agree with the Republicans on things?

    8. The Bachmanns and the McCarthys of the world never back down and they don’t respond to requests for decency because they don’t know what decency is. Good for John McCain. And thank god for the Joseph Welchs of the world, they are too far and few in between.

    9. DS, well said.

    10. McCain is NOT an independent. Yes, he can surprise us more than the average lockstep republican, but he IS conservative.

      “The American Conservative Union awarded McCain a lifetime rating of 83 percent through 2010, while McCain has an average lifetime 12 percent “Liberal Quotient” from Americans for Democratic Action through 2010.” – wiki

      In any case, basic decency (the response to Bachmann for ex.) shouldn’t be beholden to any partisan BS.

    11. She would look cute in one of those tight little black outfits.

    12. Is there any chance that Bachmann might actually lose this November?

    13. McCain is NOT an independent. Yes, he can surprise us more than the average lockstep republican, but he IS conservative.

      I would call him a moderate conservative (and regard him as pretty moderate, given there are almost not true centrists in Congress).

      Note, as I mentioned on an article on Rise of the Center (http://riseofthecenter.com/201.....dent/8056/) “independent” doesn’t mean centrist or even moderate. It means, IMO, independent of the major parties and McCain can be that.

    14. MCCain may be a conservative, but at least he found his integrity.

      There used to be a time when conservatives were simply conservatives & not mean spirited bigots and anti-science buffoons. That changed in the late 90′s with the rise of Gingrich in the House and continues unabated this day, accelerated by the usurpation of the tea party.

      McCain, for this brief moment, is standing up against it. There are very few high-profile leaders of the GOP with such character. He will be retiring, as so many before him have retired, and all that will be left is the malicious and the ignorant.

    15. It is sadly telling that only those who are retiring from Congress have the courage to stand up to the Tea Party– but good for him. I think its always refreshing to see someone who speaks their mind instead of cowering in fear. We need more men and women to do the same. Its our only hope.

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