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Right-wing media figures seized on what ABC News’ Jake Tapper has described as an "apparently erroneous" report of a statement allegedly made by President Obama’s nominee for special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain to portray him as a "pro-jihadist," a "radical," and a "terrorist sympathizer." But, as Tapper points out, Hussain has argued that terrorism is "antithetical" to Islam had has written extensively on "[d]iscrediting the terrorist ideology…to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."
Fox News: "Obama’s Islamic Envoy Quoted Defending Man Charged With Aiding Terrorists." A February 16 FoxNews.com article reported on the "controversy over remarks attributed to [Hussain] defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group." Despite acknowledging in the article that "the White House says the controversial remarks defending Al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain," the article ran the title "Obama’s Islamic Envoy Quoted Defending Man Charged With Aiding Terrorists."
American Thinker calls Hussain "a terrorist sympathizer," who is "pro-jihadist." On a February 18 blog, American Thinker contributor J. C. Arenas asked "how a terrorist sympathizer has risen to such a position within the president’s administration." Arenas also calls Hussain "pro-jihadist" and referred to President Obama’s "radical minions," who are "members of an increasing network of radical individuals whom share a common belief system and they’re working together for a common purpose; to fundamentally change America."
Atlas Shrugs called Hussain a "Jihadist in the White House." On February 17, Atlas Shrugs writer Pamela Geller highlighted a Human Events post by Robert Spencer, under the headline "Covering up for Jihadists in the White House."
Hannity guest: Hussain’s appointment is "an intentional effort to get folks with a radical perspective into the administration." On the February 17 edition of his Fox News program, host Sean Hannity said of Hussain’s appointment: "[N]ow I don’t know what has happened with the vetting process," adding that "[an] Obama nominee defended a guy who was convicted of aiding a terrorist group." Fox News contributor Pat Caddell said, "[I]f the White House hadn’t had so many problems with people, they might be able to get away with the fact that they are claiming it was his sister." Fox News contributor Kate Obenshain claimed that "there’s no mistake, it’s not the vetting process, Sean. It’s an intentional effort to get folks with a radical perspective into the administration," and said of the disputed quote, "Give me a break! This guy, you mean to tell me for five years, he didn’t mind being inappropriately — a quote inappropriately attributed to him where he’s defending a man involved with an organization that killed over 100 Israelis?"
Brad Blakeman: Hussain has "more in common with our enemies than what we stand for as a nation" and Obama should "dump him now." Appearing on the February 17 edition of Fox News’ America Live, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman asked "how is it possible that the White House found somebody who has more in common with our enemies than what we stand for as a nation? This is our representative to the Muslim world? Somebody who aids and abets a confessed terrorist?" After host Megyn Kelly asked Blakeman if he was "overstat[ing] the case," he responded "I do not," and added, "For him to have made those comments after being appointed to a White House position is unconscionable and the president needs to dump this guy and dump him now."
Soon-to-be former Senator Evan Bayh has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times explaining why he will not seek reelection. He says Congress is in need of reform, that members of the respective parties in Congress don’t socialize as a group, choosing instead to only meet on the floors of the House or Senate, where they are often combative and polarizing.
Unfortunately, Bayh’s solution is to get out. To quit. This decision lowers him to the level of Sarah Palin, with the exception that he will actually finish his current term in office. He will not quit early to work for Faux news.
Challenges of historic import threaten America’s future. Action on the deficit, economy, energy, health care and much more is imperative, yet our legislative institutions fail to act. Congress must be reformed.
There are many causes for the dysfunction: strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.
Many good people serve in Congress. They are patriotic, hard-working and devoted to the public good as they see it, but the institutional and cultural impediments to change frustrate the intentions of these well-meaning people as rarely before. It was not always thus.
While romanticizing the Senate of yore would be a mistake, it was certainly better in my father’s time. My father, Birch Bayh, represented Indiana in the Senate from 1963 to 1981. A progressive, he nonetheless enjoyed many friendships with moderate Republicans and Southern Democrats.
One incident from his career vividly demonstrates how times have changed. In 1968, when my father was running for re-election, Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, approached him on the Senate floor, put his arm around my dad’s shoulder, and asked what he could do to help. This is unimaginable today.
When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This type of social interaction hardly ever happens today and we are the poorer for it. It is much harder to demonize someone when you know his family or have visited his home. Today, members routinely campaign against each other, raise donations against each other and force votes on trivial amendments written solely to provide fodder for the next negative attack ad. It’s difficult to work with members actively plotting your demise.
I agree that Congress needs to be reformed, and moderates like Bayh may very well be the people needed to help bring about that reform. Having a President who really is moderate, does not wed himself to any particular ideology, seeks the truth whereever it may lie, and believes in consensus building, has been a real plus — even though the far, far left doesn’t seem to get that yet. Bayh could have been part of the needed coalition to make Congress once again function as a parliament, a true legislative body that puts the good of the nation first.
That was then.
Now, the soon-to-be former Senator Bayh doesn’t have to worry about members of his or any other party actively plotting his demise. He took care of that himself.