Gaffney/Bachmann v. Norquist

Michelle Bachmann, in adopting Frank Gaffney’s assault on Huma Abedin, effectively endorsed Gaffney’s much longer-standing jihad against Grover Norquist. Can you say “wedge issue”? Let’s make Republicans in the House offend either the bigots or the anti-taxers. A resolution of censure against Bachmann would do it.

It’s an elementary rule of political courtesy that if your enemies want to fight one another you should offer to hold their coats.

It turns out that there are big intra-wingnut differences over Michelle Bachmann’s attempt to assassinate the character of Huma Abedin, with Limbaugh and Gingrich on Bachmann’s side [She’s not making any accusations, just asking questions. Why is it bad to ask questions? Shouldn’t we be concerned about the security of the country? What are you afraid of learning?] and McCain and Boehner (!), supported by Rubio and Scott Brown, speaking up for elementary decency

It’s possible that McCain and Boehner and Rubio and Brown genuinely disapprove of McCarthyism or of religious bigotry, or alternatively that they know Abedin personally and aren’t willing to participate in her Acorning. In Brown’s case, he may be looking for a way to appeal to Massachusetts voters.

But there’s another factor at work.

It turns out that Bachmann (and her four fellow Teahadi Congresscritters) didn’t invent the smear against Abedin. Its part of the much bigger Muslims-under-the-bed fantasy invented just after 9/11 by a washed-up Reaganoid named Frank Gaffney. And one of Gaffney’s early (and continuing) targets was none other than the Godfather of the anti-taxers,  Grover Norquist.

Now it happens to be true that, in the early days of the W usurpation, Norquist identified Muslim-Americans as a potentially Republican-leaning voting (and contributor) bloc, and pushed his fellow-GOPers to reach out to them. I’m not sure whether any of the outreach was supposed to involve Middle East policy as opposed to patriarchy, though it’s worth remembering that, pre-9/11, W himself treated the Saudi Ambassador as virtually a member of his family, and after 9/11 did everything he could to cover up Saudi complicity in planning the attack.

In any case, Norquist clearly wanted to add Muslims to the Big Tent the GOP was trying to build before it settled down to become the Party of Straight White Christians. Gaffney disagreed, and was more than willing to get ink and raise money by questioning Norquist’s loyalty, with frequent references to Norquist’s Muslim wife. And Gaffney hasn’t given up on Norquist as a target; Grover the Untaxable is prominently mentioned in the same “documentation” Bachmann cited in her attack on Abedin.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to make Republicans vote on this, thus annoying either the bigots or the Norquist crowd? A resolution expressing confidence in Abedin’s loyalty and apologizing to her for the insult would be fine, but Boehner could simply refuse to bring it to the floor. One way of forcing a vote would be to offer a Resolution of Censure directed at Bachmann and her accomplices. That’s a privileged motion.

Footnote Note that Gingrich and Norquist are old comrades-in-arms. In backing Bachmann Gingrich was throwing his friend under the bus. By now you’d think the set of things beneath Gingrich’s moral standards would be pretty near empty. But like a great artist or athlete, a truly superb villain keeps surprising you.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

4 thoughts on “Gaffney/Bachmann v. Norquist”

  1. Have you even considered the possibility that Gingrich is sincerely concerned about undue Muslim influence in government, and that it pains him to be on the opposite side of his old comrade?

    Well, okay, that never occurred to me, either.

  2. Lots of Washington cocktail parties have trays of scallops wrapped in bacon, and shrimp platters passed around. I have been to some of these, and have observed People in High Places refusing the former and noshing on the latter. What kind of person eats shrimp but not pork? I’m just asking questions about these People in High Places, mind you…

  3. The economy is right where any challenger would want it, and what are the Republicans about to do? Change the subject to the incumbent’s strength.

    Ain’t nobody worried about a terrorist attack, let alone Muslim terrorists in the government. All this is going to do is remind Americans that POTUS is the greatest ninja assassin to ever sit in the Oval Office.

    Now Romney can’t be Goldwatered to the point where his electoral map looks like George Wallace’s (or Adlai Stevenson’s for that matter…Ha!) but we can at least take a few swing states…with a nice updated Daisy Ad.

    Is there anyway to encourage this development?

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