February 11, 2003

GROVER'S CORNERED (via Barry Meislin):

US conservatives split on support for radical Islamists (Caroline Glick, Feb. 11, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
A public controversy broke out in Washington late last week between two prominent Republican conservatives with close ties to the Bush administration.

The spat centers around the administration's outreach to Islamic fundamentalist organizations and, according to Washington insiders, could have implications on proposed measures to enhance US homeland security in the fight against global terrorism.

The two warring parties are Grover Norquist, a prominent political organizer who is closely allied with President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy think tank in Washington. [...]

In a letter made public last Wednesday, Norquist accused Gaffney of "bigotry and racism"for questioning the reliability of White House staffer Ali Tulbah for inviting representatives of two radical Islamic organizations, the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), to a White House briefing on January 16.

Norquist further attacked Gaffney for past comments against former White House staffer Suhail Khan, who was removed from his position after it became known that his father, a prominent Wahhabi Islamic cleric on the West Coast, had hosted an al-Qaida operative on two separate visits to the US.

Both AMC and CAIR, which purport to represent the interests of American Muslims, have been widely criticized since September 11, 2001 for supporting terrorist organizations, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaida.

According to US Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, both represent the "extremist Saudi, Wahhabi brand of Islam"that views jihad against Western civilization as a primary end of Islam.

Mr. Norquist has done yeomanlike work in the vineyards of the Right, and his brainstorm--that Muslims are a natural conservative constituency--seems sensible enough on its face and may indeed prove true in the long run. It may even be correct to note a double standard when American Muslim ties to terror fronts are concerned, after all, the Clintons paid no political price for playing footsie with Puerto Rican Nationalist terrorists and the Democrats happily overlooked Irish-American collusion with the IRA for years. But Mr. Norquist has somehow failed to adjust his ideas to the changed realities after 9-11 and to the fact that George W. Bush is a genuine social conservative, rather than just a tax-cutting libertarian.

In one particularly unfortunate instance of pique, Mr. Norquist, just weeks before the November blowout, penned a column arguing that President Bush would not be able to use his political popularity to elect fellow Republicans, in fact he argued that such popularity had become a "white elephant". In an Administration that values loyalty above all else, Mr. Norquist's embarrassing of the President in setting up these meetings, his opposition to the Bush social agenda and to "civil liberties" encroachments in the war on terror, and the way that he's personalizing these disagreements are inexorably isolating a guy who's entire being is wrapped up in being a "player". It's hard to see how lashing out like this is going to help him any. Memo to Mr. Norquist: stop digging.

Islamists' White House gatekeeper (Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., February 11, 2003, townhall.com)

One of the hardiest perennials in the Washington political scene is the spectacle of conservatives publicly disagreeing with one another. The vicious personal attacks launched against me last week by Grover Norquist, however, went way beyond the kind of dispute that so often enlivens policy discourse, usually to the delight -- and advantage -- of liberals who agree with neither camp.

So why would Mr. Norquist, a colleague well-known and widely admired for his work on tax reduction and conservative activism with whom I have often worked collaboratively over the years, publish a letter and take to the airwaves to accuse me of "racism," "bigotry" and "lying"? [...]

Wahhabi/Saudi funding appears to have been instrumental in creating and sustaining a large number of organizations involved in such troubling activities as: prison recruitment of American felons, indoctrination of U.S. military personnel, proselytizing on more than 500 college campuses across the United States, charitable fund-raising for terrorists and, of course, underwriting -- and, therefore, controlling -- as many as 70-80 percent of the Nation's mosques.

Given the politically attuned nature of the CPAC audience, I expressed particular concern about one of the most insidious of the Wahhabis' activities -- a concerted attempt to penetrate and otherwise influence political circles in Washington. I noted that among the several groups engaged in such activities, the American Muslim Council (AMC), had issued a press release gloating about a recent success: their invitation to participate in a January 16th White House "dialogue" with Muslim and Arab-American organizations opposed to the Bush Administration's registration of aliens from terrorist-sponsoring and -harboring nations. [...]

Grover Norquist's intemperate and defamatory attack on me says much less about my behavior and character than it does about his own relationship to this Wahhabi political influence operation and the role of the Islamic Institute he formerly chaired in facilitating its access to the Bush team. Let us hope that his own conduct has not caused irreparable damage to either this President or the conservative movement.

BOOKNOTES: Nina Easton, Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade (C-SPAN, 10/01/2000)
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Grover Norquist and Abdurahman Alamoudi (SETH GITELL, Boston Phoenix)
Fevered Pitch: GROVER NORQUIST'S STRANGE ALLIANCE WITH RADICAL ISLAM. (Franklin Foer, 11.01.01, New Republic)
On the afternoon of September 26, George W. Bush gathered 15 prominent Muslim- and Arab-Americans at the White House. With cameras rolling, the president proclaimed that "the teachings of Islam are teachings of peace and good." It was a critically important moment, a statement to the world that America's Muslim leaders unambiguously reject the terror committed in Islam's name.

Unfortunately, many of the leaders present hadn't unambiguously rejected it. To the president's left sat Dr. Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council, an organization whose leaders have repeatedly called Hamas "freedom fighters." Also in attendance was Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who on the afternoon of September 11 told a Los Angeles public radio audience that "we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list." And sitting right next to President Bush was Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, who last fall told a Washington crowd chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans, "America has to learn if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come." Days later, after a conservative activist confronted Karl Rove with dossiers about some of Bush's new friends, Rove replied, according to the activist, "I wish I had known before the event took place."

If the administration was caught unaware, it may be because they placed their trust in one of the right's most influential activists: Grover Norquist.

CORRESPONDENCE: Wild Pitch? (Grover Norquist, 11.08.01, New Republic)
To the editors:

Franklin Foer is right to be bitter and fearful that George W. Bush and the Republican Party increased their support among American Muslims from 40 percent in 1996 to more than 70 percent in 2000 ("Fevered Pitch," November 12). That increase alone won Florida many times over. Bush demonstrated that a conservative can speak with respect, seriousness, and compassion to immigrants and minorities; that we earn their votes, not by moving left and offering patronage and welfare, but by campaigning for lower taxes, reforming social security, strong families, and respect for people of faith--all faiths.

Muslims are 'natural conservatives' in America (DEAL HUDSON, Crisis Magazine)
How Did Muslims Vote in 2000? (Alexander Rose, Summer 2001, Middle East Quarterly)
Conservative "Dismay" at the Times: The New York Times says religious conservatives are unhappy with John Ashcroft. Which is news to them. (Jonathan V. Last, 07/24/2002, Weekly Standard)
For several years, Norquist has been trying to convince Republicans that Muslims are a natural GOP constituency (see Franklin Foer's informative New Republic piece on Norquist, Fevered Pitch [above]). September 11 threw a spanner in the works of Norquist's project, especially as American Muslim groups reacted with ambivalence, if not hostility, to the fact that the war on terrorism, of necessity, would focus on Arabs. In the ongoing struggle between these groups and the Justice Department, Norquist has been a consistent critic of Ashcroft. This is also in keeping with Norquist's longstanding, anti-government brand of conservatism--his so-called "leave-us-alone coalition," which has been a harder sell since last September. Not that Norquist has relented. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, he kept his powder dry for less than a week. By September 17, he was denouncing Ashcroft's plans for the war on terror as "a real danger for civil liberties."

So Norquist has an Islamo-libertarian axe to grind. Bully for him. But that makes him doubly unreliable as a guide to the feelings of "religious conservatives"--unless by that phrase the Times means Norquist's American Muslim allies, who are, indeed, dismayed by Ashcroft's policies.

Gary Bauer, another religious conservative, says, "I think that Mr. Norquist needs to take a deep breath and realize that the danger to American liberties does not rest in the office of John Ashcroft, but rather in the radical Islamists who are trying to destroy America."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2003 8:18 AM

Mr. Norquist has built himself a good reputation in the area of fiscal policy, but he has ZERO cred on defense or foreign policy issues. Frank Gaffney, on the other hand, is one of the foremost conservative foreign policy intellectuals, and his Center for Security Policy was an invaluable think tank during the 90s when we had an Administration that wasn't especially interested in foreign policy. Even when one disagrees with Gaffney, he's usually worth considering. Norquist, on the other hand, just seems intent on making a fool of himself on this issue.

Thanks for rounding up all the related pieces!

Posted by: Kevin Whited at February 11, 2003 9:34 AM