Obama's impossible Muslim standard

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Steve Clemons gives the Barack Obama campaign a good thrashing from the left today for the candidate's willingness to accept the resignation of his Muslim outreach coordinator, Mazen Asbahi. The Wall Street Journal reports that Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer, resigned because of questions about his ties to an Illinois-based Imam named Jamal Said who has been accused (though not indicted) of fundraising for Hamas. The two served together for a few weeks on the board of an Islamic investment fund back in 2000. Predictable smug outrage has followed on right-wing blogs.

According to the Journal, the tenuous connection between Asbahi and Said was first noted by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, a subscription-only Web site that tracks the international activity of that Islamic party and its supporters. The WSJ says the Report is published by a "Washington think tank," but there doesn't seem to be any author or organizational affiliation mentioned on the site, and a Whois lookup yields no clues.

The Report employs a fairly loose definition of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates that includes fairly mainstream organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Amusingly, recent FP contributors Graham Fuller and Marc Lynch are also described as Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. As Passport readers know, Lynch has indeed met with senior Brotherhood leaders in Cairo, but they hardly see eye to eye. Fuller's supposed ties are of the six-degrees-of-Mahdi Akef variety.

By the standards of this site, you are not only a fellow traveler of the Muslim Brotherhood if you have defended them or recommended dialogue with them, you need only have been loosely associated with people who held those views. By this standard, there probably isn't one prominent Muslim-American in the country that Obama could hire for the campaign. Anyone he could find who has never participated in an event that includes people with sympathies Obama might not agree with is probably not actually influential enough to win him any votes.

Even in a campaign full of trumped-up outrage and guilt by association, the Asbahi affair is pretty absurd. This is roughly the equivalent of Obama throwing Chris Rock under the bus because he once appeared in a movie with the anti-semitic Mel Gibson. If nothing else, it's an indication of how rattled the Obama campaign is by all the Muslim rumors.

Update: ABC's Jake Tapper has much more:

As long as we're playing the guilt by association game, we should note that Karen Hughes, back when she worked for the State Department, spoke before an ISNA conference and was honored with an ISNA dinner, and both former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have met with ISNA leadership.

Also check out the comments on this post for some more investigation into the mysterious Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report website.


Anthrax mailer began work before 9/11?


I'll admit that the FBI has put together some very suggestive information about Bruce Ivins, the anthrax researcher who committed suicide last week. The key document is this one (pdf), an affadavit for a search warrant, in which Postal Inspector Thomas F. Dellafera informs us that Ivins was under suspicion for the following reasons:

(1) At the time of the attacks, he was the custodian of a large flask of highly purified anthrax spores that possess certain genetic mutations identical to the anthrax used in the attacks; (2) Ivins has been unable to give investigators an adequate explanation for his late night laboratory work hours around the time of both anthrax mailings; (3) Ivins has claimed that he was suffering serious mental health issues in the months preceding the attacks, and told a coworker that he had "incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts at times" and feared that he might not be able to control his behavior; (4) Ivins is believed to have submitted false samples of anthrax from his lab to the FBI for forensic analysis in order to mislead investigators; (5) at the time of the attacks, Ivins was under pressure at work to assist a private company that had lost its FDA approval to produce an anthrax vaccine the Army needed for U.S. troops, and which Ivins believed was essential for the anthrax program at USAMFUID; and (6) Ivins sent an email to [redacted] a few days before the anthrax attacks warning [redacted] that "Bin Laden terrorists for sure have anthrax and sarin gas" and have "just decreed death to all Jews and all Americans," language similar to the anthrax letters warning "WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX . . . DEATH TO AMERICA . . . DEATH TO ISRAEL."

I'd like to hear some scientific experts weigh in on #1, which is the only non-circumstantial piece of evidence here. The Feds have more damning stuff, too, such as this bit about the anthrax letters noted by the New York Times:

[S]earches of Dr. Ivins's home in Frederick, Md., turned up "hundreds" of similar letters that had not yet been sent to media outlets and members of Congress.

But here's something Bloomberg caught about Ivins's late-night work habits:

The spike in his evening hours began in mid-August, almost a month before the Sept. 11 attacks, investigators said.

So, he was working on all this before 9/11? What's that all about?