Questions about Huma Abedin
By Andrew C. McCarthy
Der Spiegel pointed out the obvious: “A certain role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the transition process [to ‘democracy’] in Egypt seems acceptable to the Obama White House.” It was early February 2011, the moment when the uprising that would oust Hosni Mubarak was bubbling over in Tahrir Square. The prominent German newsmagazine figured, who better to ask about the Muslim Brotherhood than the American political establishment’s resident foreign-policy genius, John McCain?
So, the reporter asked him, does Obama’s tolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood “concern you”?
Senator Maverick shot back without hesitation: “It concerns me so much that I am unalterably opposed to it. I think it would be a mistake of historic proportions.”
Senator McCain elaborated that he was “deeply, deeply concerned that this whole movement [toward democracy] could be hijacked by radical Islamic extremists.” And what, he was specifically asked, “is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood”? McCain pulled no punches:
I think they are a radical group that, first of all, supports sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.
In fact, so apprehensive was he over the Brotherhood and its sharia agenda that McCain was quick to brand Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, as a Brotherhood tool. Many of us watching developments at the time noted the apparent collusion between ElBaradei and the Brothers. McCain went farther: “Oh yeah, I think it’s very clear that the scenario is very likely he could be their front man.”
Senator Straight Talk reasoned that since ElBaradei appeared to be on the same page as the Brotherhood, and was being hailed as a potential Mubarak successor despite having “no following nor political influence in Egypt,” we should assume that he must be in cahoots with the Brotherhood. It did not matter that ElBaradei was a renowned international figure and an important leftist ally of President Obama’s. So pernicious was the threat posed by the Brotherhood that, in McCain’s considered opinion, you just had to assume the worst.
The Spiegel interview was classic McCain; the senator is never at a loss for bloviation. His professed anxiety, only a year ago, over the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as his blithe willingness to assume that ElBaradei must be an Islamist coconspirator, are worth remembering today. For the sage has suddenly decided that the Brothers — unapologetic Islamic supremacists who say outright that they are on a “grand jihad” to destroy America and the West — are a pretty swell lot, after all. Instead, McCain reserves his signature “shoot first, think later” ire for the target he has always preferred: conservatives.
The Arizonan took to the Senate floor this week to lambaste five conservative members of the House who, unlike McCain, are actually serious about addressing threats the Brotherhood poses to American interests. McCain’s bipartisan “Islamic democracy” promoters seem content to keep burning through taxpayer trillions until the Brotherhood is finally running every government in the Middle East. To the contrary, the House conservatives — Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), and Lynn Westmorland (Ga.) — have concluded that the Brotherhood needs to be regarded as the serious anti-American business that it is.
Toward that end, the quintet is justifiably concerned that the Brotherhood’s sharia agenda — the one to which McCain used to be “unalterably opposed” — is being abetted not just by some Nobel-toting Egyptian progressive, but by officials in highly sensitive positions inside the United States government.
One official about whom they raise questions is Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms. Abedin has been an aide since she interned at the White House in 1996 and was assigned to the then–first lady’s staff. The family tie for which she is best known is her husband, Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat who resigned from Congress in disgrace last year. But it is Ms. Abedin’s parents and brother who have drawn the attention of the five House GOPmembers. They all have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood — the organization itself or prominent members thereof.
For pointing this out and merely asking the State Department’s inspector general to look into it and report back to Congress — which is part of the IG’s duties under the statute that created his position — McCain & Co. (i.e., his fans in the left-wing media and his admirers in the Republican establishment) are screaming “smear” and “McCarthyism.” McCain’s antipathy toward conservatives (except during election years) is an old story. And it is no secret that he has long been smitten by Mrs. Clinton, whose transnational-progressive leanings mirror his own.
The Maverick is also a man about town — towns like Tripoli. Back in 2009, you may recall, he was an honored guest in the compound of Libya’s dictator, Moammar Qaddafi — celebrating the former master terrorist as an important American ally against jihadist terror, helping to grease the wheels so the Obama administration could increase American aid that would bolster Qaddafi’s military. Yet in the blink of an eye, it seemed, McCain would later be railing that Qaddafi was a died-in-the-wool terrorist monster whose military had to be smashed by the United States — in an undeclared, unauthorized, unprovoked war, if necessary — so Libyans could be “free” to elect the Muslim Brotherhood and other assorted Islamic supremacists to their new Parliament.
But the point is that McCain gets around. And when he does, the State Department is often his escort. Between his globetrotting and his case of Hillary hauteur, the senator has gotten friendly over the years with Ms. Abedin, who is said to be smart, able, and quite charming. Ever the Maverick — chivalrous to a fault . . . at least when the damsel in distress is an exotic, progressive sharia-democracy devotee rather than a conservative national-security worrywart from Minnesota. McCain has leapt to Ms. Abedin’s defense against these vicious House troglodytes.
The senator’s tirade featured his trademark indignation, incoherence, and infatuation with immigrant success stories. (Ms. Abedin was born in Michigan, but no reason to let that get in the way of “what is best about America.”) McCain blasted Representative Bachmann and the others, falsely accusing them of doing to his friend Huma what he had actually done to ElBaradei, namely, implicating her as “part of a nefarious conspiracy.”
To the contrary, the House members have drawn no such conclusions. Instead, they have pointed out the State Department’s dramatic, Brotherhood-friendly policy shifts during Ms. Abedin’s tenure as a top adviser to the State Department’s boss. They have asked — completely consistent with national-security guidelines, to which I’ll come shortly — that an investigation into those policy shifts be undertaken.
That investigation would include an inquiry into whether Ms. Abedin’s family ties render her unsuitable for a position that involves access to classified information about the Brotherhood. The shrieks aside, this is not remotely unreasonable, nor is it an inquisition into Ms. Abedin’s decency and rectitude. When I was a prosecutor, the Justice Department would not have let me take a case that involved friends of my family. It’s not that they didn’t trust me; it’s that government is supposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety — legitimacy hinges on the public’s belief that actions are taken on merit, not burdened by palpable conflicts of interest.
Regarding Ms. Abedin’s family ties, McCain rebukes his House colleagues for alleging “that three members of Huma’s family are ‘connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.’” “These sinister accusations,” he insisted, “rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family.”
Now, I’m perfectly willing to believe that McCain may not know what the words “unspecified” and “unsubstantiated” mean. That, however, would not excuse his use of them in this context. The ties of Ms. Abedine’s father, mother, and brother to the Muslim Brotherhood are both specific and substantiated.
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