I gave a speech yesterday morning at the National Press Club on the Muslim Brotherhood and why we need to worry about our government’s growing coziness with it. I spoke for almost an hour and then there was an extensive Q&A. C-SPAN covered it, and you can watch here. (The text of my speech is here.)
Dana Milbank, the leftist columnist of the Washington Post, covered the event — though you can judge for yourself whether his account of it in the paper today accurately reflects what I actually said. It would take too long, and is not worth the time, to react all of Mr. Milbank’s meanderings. I do want to address two contentions he makes, however:
1. Ms. Abedin is an inconsequential official being subjected to “guilt by association.”
I guess we’ve come a long way since John McCain first claimed that the concerns about Huma Abedin’s ties to Islamists were “unspecified and unsubstantiated.” Those concerns have now been so overwhelmingly proved that apologists have to change tacks. So now the argument is, “Well, all right, there are many connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, but Ms. Abedin is a victim of ‘guilt by association.’” Mr. Milbank tries to make that fly today.
Remember, we are not talking about an indictment here. When people are being evaluated for their suitability for appointment to high public office and access to national-security information, the whole process is about associations – that’s why, for example, the form all candidates for security clearances have to fill out exactingly probes a person’s background, relations and associations. I don’t expect Milbank to agree with me on this point — although he certainly seemed to think background and associations were pretty significant when Sam Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court). Still, given that I specifically addressed the charge in the speech, he might at least have given readers my take on the “guilt by association” canard:
The five members [of the House of Representatives who have asked for five executive branch inspectors-general to investigate Muslim Brotherhood influence at their agencies] have not made accusations of criminal wrongdoing. The critics who say they are relying on “guilt by association” are absurdly mixing apples and oranges.
Our bedrock principle against “guilt by association” has to do with criminal prosecutions — we won’t tolerate someone’s being convicted of a crime and having his freedom taken away just because of who his friends are, or what his associates have done. But “guilt by association” has nothing to do with fitness for high public office. High public office is a privilege, not a right. Access to classified information is a privilege, not a right. You need not have done anything wrong to be deemed unfit for these privileges.