Michele Bachmann, the paranoid Republican representative from Minnesota, is now in trouble with same more rational leaders in her own party because of her despicable attempt, without a shred of supporting evidence, to link Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, to a supposed "conspiracy" by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the State Department. Huma Abedin, a Muslim, was born in America to immigrant parents and is married to a Jewish husband, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. No sane person has ever questioned her loyalty to the US.
Bachmann's accusations (joined in by a few other Republican Congressmen on the extreme right lunatic fringe) have been justly compared to the tactics of the late Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, but some people who are not old enough to remember that era personally may not fully realize what this means. This writer was a high school student during the height of the McCarthy era in the first half of the1950's, personally met some people whose careers were destroyed or set back by his appeals to fear and falsehood, or at least had good reason to fear that they would be, and can remember hearing McCarthy's sneering voice on the radio or television saying things such as: "There is no such thing as being a little bit disloyal - or only partly a traitor".(This quote is as close as I can remember.)
Bachmann has been justly condemned for her vicious smear against Huma Abedin, a loyal American, by leaders in her own party such as Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehnor, and by all decent Americans, represented by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who is not known for taking partisan sides on any issue. However, the smear can never be completely undone, which is the very nature of a smear.
From now on, anyone who hears the name of Huma Abedin will automatically think of her as someone who was once accused of being part of an Islamist conspiracy, no matter how blameless she actually is. Ms. Abedin has reportedly already received at least one death threat. Her life will never be the same. It should also not be forgotten that Michele Bachmann is also notorious for having accused unnamed members of Congress for being un-American. McCarthy would definitely recognize her as a kindred spirit.
However, there is are at least two differences between Bachmann and Joseph McCarthy, both of which show how far to the right America has moved in the past 60 years. The first is that McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate, effectively ending his political career. The second is that McCarthy focused his attacks on his fantasy of "Communists" allegedly taking over the State Department.
He was not known for venturing out into other areas of bigotry and hate, even though there were ample opportunities to do so in that era of racial segregation and widespread anti-semitism. (Indeed, two of McCarthy's most notorious assistants, Roy Cohn and David Shine, were Jewish.)
In contrast, while, as mentioned above, House Speaker Boehnor has spoken out against Michele Bachmann, I would not advise any ID readers to hold their breath waiting for her to be censured by that chamber. Second, Michele Bachmann's poison is not limited to bigotry against Muslims. Instead, she is an equal opportunity hater who leaves no one out of her net. Her hatred of gays, for example, is just as paranoid as her hatred of Muslims. However, when is comes to bigotry, immigrants are second to none in Bachmann's universe.
No one has been an earlier or more consistent supporter of Arizona's storm-trooper inspired Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Hand over your papers!") anti-immigrant law than Michele Bachmann. As a presidential candidate, she also rushed out to meet with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix to seek his endorsement. But her hostility to brown immigrants goes even beyond this. Here is one of her quotes about immigration, as reported by columnist Ian Millhiser of thinkprogress.org:
"The immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960's when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws."
In other words, the 1924 immigration law, which imposed the infamous "national origins" quotas designed to keep Italians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and most other "non-Nordics" out of America, and similar laws excluding Asians and barring them from ever becoming US citizens, are Michele Bachmann's ideal of how America's immigration system should work. However, she is not alone in trying to take America back to the days of overt anti-immigrant racism. She is not the only Republican who has called for a return to the pre-1965 era of immigration..
Many Republicans also support the favorite proposal of anti-immigrant hate groups to take away 14th Amendment birthright citizenship from US-born children whose parents are neither permanent residents nor US citizens (including the children of parents with legal, but temporary visas).
Where does Mitt Romney stand on these blatant appeals to anti-immigrant bigotry and hate in his own party? We need to find out, but our chances of doing so are no greater than the likelihood of discovering what is in his tax returns.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.