We hear lots of laments about the general coarsening of our culture and of political speech in particular. Few ever actually do anything about it, of course. All the more noteworthy, therefore, was the very public response of Senator John McCain and others to Michelle Bachmann’s bizarre attack on Muslim-American State Department official Human Abedin, the long-time aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who is also the wife of former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner. Bachmann, along with four other Republican congressmen have apparently based their comments on an organization called The Center for Security Policy, which purports to oppose supposed Muslim Brotherhood influence in the U.S. government
McCain’s criticism did not mention Bachmann by name, but he didn’t have to. Speaking in the Senate last week, McCain, who in the past had traveled abroad with then-Senator Clinton and Human Abedin, said that the “allegations about Human and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.” Such attacks, McCain insisted, “have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.” Besides defending the reputation of a fellow citizen and public official, McCain also addressed the larger picture of why this is so important. He said: “When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches speeches and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.”
Hooray for John McCain! His remarks remind us of his readiness to rebut lies about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign - in sadly conspicuous contrast to the current Republican candidate’s cozy relationship with the likes of “birther’ Donald Trump and “I wish this President would learn how to be an American” John Sununu.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham also condemned the attacks as “ridiculous, really off-base, inappropriate,” and Republican Senator Scott Brown said of Bachmann’s accusations, “This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.”
Of course, in a society which is increasingly abandoning any common understanding of facts and truth in favor of pseudo-“facts” and ideologically filtered “truths,” whose only function is to distort reality for short-term partisan gain, why would anyone be surprised by this sort of rhetoric?