Sensenbrenner Defends Abedin


Several Republican leaders have condemned Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt of Huma Abedin, but none of them with as strong a record as a conservative than Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. Asked about the issue at a townhall meeting, Sensenbrenner not only defended Abedin but the very idea of religious equality:

SENSENBRENNER: Let me say that I do know Huma Abedin and I think that the comments that were made about her in that letter, whether or not they were taken out of context, were the wrong thing to do… I think the Constitution in saying that there shall never be a religious test for any office of trust and profit under the United States meant that people should not be judged on the basis of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. That was Thomas Jefferson that put that in the Constitution — I think he was right.

CONSTITUENT: I think that there’s a political ideology that’s a concern in Islam that is concerning and that should be looked at and we should know that this person is not a threat…

SENSENBRENNER: Heidi, Heidi, Heidi, the First Amendment prohibits the government from making a distinction between what is “good religion” and what is “bad religion.” That’s none of the government’s business. Religion is a personal issue to every one of the people who lives in the United States, whether you practice a faith, how you practice a faith, whether you don’t practice a faith, whether you say you’re a member of a faith but don’t practice it, it’s none of the government’s business. And this is the whole issue of religious freedom. And that has been one of the most cherished freedoms that this country has had since it’s beginning.

He’s wrong about Jefferson putting the no religious test clause in the constitution — Jefferson wasn’t at the constitutional convention, he was in France at the time — but it’s nice to hear him condemn Bachmann and take a stand on the right side of this one.

Comments

  1. imrryr says

    I think that there’s a political ideology that’s a concern in Islam that is concerning…

    I’m concerned about her concern concerning the concern people have on this concern.

  2. Taz says

    …or lack of religious beliefs…
    …whether you don’t practice a faith…

    I’m impressed.

  3. says

    Because all individuals who profess to belong to a given religion never dispute with each other on matters of politics or religious doctrine.

    Sufis and Sunnis? Like two carebears at a picnic.

  4. says

    Still no word from Mutt Romney — or Ron Paul — on this?

    Jefferson wasn’t at the constitutional convention…

    Not only that, Jefferson OPPOSED ratification of the Constitution, because he thought the stronger national government would make us less free. And he turned out to be DEAD WRONG on that point: that strong national government managed to do what he had tried and failed to do: abolish slavery in the US. And since then, practically every major advance in individual liberty has been accomplished with the use of Federal power: civil rights, voting rights, desegregation, legalization of unions, and all manner of regulations that gave ordinary people at least a little more recourse against injustices by their more powerful naighbors, and by corrupt state or local officials.

    This is where libertarianism is wrong from the very start, and wrong at its very core premises.

  5. lynneggers says

    Could have done without the “Heidi, Heidi, Heidi” part… sounds pretty patronizing. The rest is great (and surprising).

  6. Abby Normal says

    Simple, clear, sensible, tolerant… so much for his chances of reelection. /teasing

    Did he suffer a recent head injury? I did not expect this from the man who introduced the Patriot Act to the House and authored the Real ID bill, from the man who shut down a House Judiciary Committee debate and stormed out at mere suggestion that the Gitmo detainees might have basic human rights? Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the first decent thing he’s done. But on this particular subject it was certainly a welcome surprise.

  7. ajb47 says

    lynneggers@5: I read that as him trying to interrupt her before she got too far into her rant about The Evil Muslims(tm). Mostly because of the ellipses at the end of the transcript for her statement. I admit I could be wrong — it’s hard to pick up nuance from a transcript sometimes.

  8. bmiller says

    Raging Bee does bring up the best argument contra anarchism…often it has been localized power, local community control, that is the most regressive. IN THE UNITED STATES, at least.

    Not sure one can universalize this across all states and times, though. See the War on Terror. See federal grants being used to arm and militarize local police forces. See the new Obama Administration attacks on medical marijuana clinics* See federal election laws and Big Money.

    The problem, of course, is that for every Cascadia (I know it’s only a novel!) or Vermont Republic there is a Neo Confederate horror out there. What does one do when local culture and local control is based on racial or tribalism and repressive religion?

  9. says

    Abby: Offhand, I’m guessing Selselessbrenner feels a need to wear the mantle of Mature Establishment Leader; and cutting Bachmann down serves to: a) rid his reich-wing authoritarian cause of an embarrassing loose cannon; b) make himself look moderate and disciplined when HE goes on a witch-hunt; and c) reassure independent voters that Republicans aren’t loony extremists (something Romney should be doing, but, well…)

  10. bmiller says

    But…I still disagree that centralized power is inherently better. During one time period in the United States, it certainly was. Can this be generalized into an attack on “libertarianism” (whatever that means?). For every Little Rock, I’ll give you a Tibet. For every Voters Rights Act I’ll give you Phalangist Spain’s opppression of Catalonia.

  11. Chiroptera says

    I think that there’s a political ideology that’s a concern in Islam that is concerning and that should be looked at and we should know that this person is not a threat….

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but certainly Mr. Abedin was thoroughly looked to find out whether he is a threat before he was given his job?

  12. tubi says

    Please, please, please let this be the end of Bachmann’s reign of terror over MN6. I was at the Sherburne County* Fair parade last Friday night and of course everyone running for anything had a contingent. The DFL candidate, Jim Graves, was there and I shook his hand. Bachmann herself wasn’t there, but her proxies included an older man carrying a sign that read, “Pray for America!” When I pointed to it and laughed, he glared right at me and said, “Do not mock God! Change your ways before it’s too late!”

    The point is, we were sitting with our neighbors, pretty strong Christians, can’t understand why we should “let” the gays get married, that sort of thing. The Dad told me he’s tired of Bachmann and can’t understand why she acts the way she does. I asked if he was going to vote for her again this year and he shook his head and said, “I don’t think so.” So even the people on the ground who supported her seem to be changing their minds.

    *MN6 includes a big chunk of Sherburne County, northwest of the Twin Cities.

  13. says

    …often it has been localized power, local community control, that is the most regressive. IN THE UNITED STATES, at least.

    And in other countries as well: most “wars of national liberation” or “anti-colonialist struggles” tend to result in newly-independent regimes that are more backward, and less advanced (at least in the short term) than the larger empire, nation or other system/alliance/sphere of influence they broke away from. Think Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, the former SSRs, the Confederate States (hypothetically) — and, yes, even the USA, which left a multicultural, cosmopolitan, globe-exploring British Empire* only to fall so far backward they couldn’t even uphold their own progressive Constitution, couldn’t break free of backward oppressive religions, and couldn’t even abolish slavery on their own turf until about 87 years later!

    _________________________
    *How did Darwin get to the Galapagos and come up with the theory of evolution? On a Royal Navy ship. So much for “govermnent stifles innovation.”

  14. slc1 says

    Re Chiroptera @ #11

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but certainly Mr. Abedin was thoroughly looked to find out whether he is a threat before he was given his job?

    It’s Ms. Abedin, who, by the way, is married to former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

  15. says

    Oh, and let’s not forget THE CLASSIC CASE of backward locals fighting a (relatively) progressive empire: Judea vs. Rome. Jesus tried to bring an advanced, educated, globalized interpretation to his people’s religious laws (congruent with the new foreign ideas from the Roman Empire, which also included Greek civilization), and he got crucified by local authoritarians who saw him as a threat to their power and privilege.

    That’s the thing about empires: they mix things up and bring diversity and fresh thinking. The price tag is pretty high, but this is how humans roll.

  16. Michael Heath says

    I found James Sensenbrenner’s response atrocious. His constituent argues that merely being Muslim is cause for concern. He should have called bullshit on that given there is no overriding Islamic mandate to violate the Constitution. He instead claimed someone’s religious beliefs is off-limits from scrutiny, which is the idiotic portion of this response.

    The fact is there are sects within religion which do promote harming the U.S., e.g., conservative Christians. And we should absolutely assure that our officials will defend the Constitution, even when they come into conflict with their religious beliefs as they so often do with radical Islam or conservative Christian sects. We are far too cowardly to drill down on that aspect, to our detriment. Exhibit A – gay people’s rights where government-employed bigots ignore the plain language of the 14th Amendment.

    Sensenbrenner is insinuating it’s fine for us to effectively hire people who won’t defend the Constitution precisely because we shouldn’t apply sufficient scrutiny to somebody’s beliefs even when we know their sect opposes the Constitution. Especially when other members of that sect have in deed used government power to promote their religious views, even when it violates their beliefs or what their sect demands of them.

    I’m not saying conservative Christians shouldn’t be allowed office, obviously that violates the religious test clause. I am saying we need to insure they won’t violate the Constitution and come down hard on government employees who do, regardless of whether it’s their prioritizing their beliefs or some other factor, like greed. And the same goes for all Muslims, and atheists as well for that matter if they belonged to a group to worked to end religious freedom in this country.

  17. Stevarious says

    He instead claimed someone’s religious beliefs is off-limits from scrutiny, which is the idiotic portion of this response.

    Well, no, he said that someone’s religious beliefs are off-limits from government scrutiny. Which is not the same thing.

  18. says

    …I’ll give you Phalangist Spain’s opppression of Catalonia.

    Are you sure Catalonia would have been better off, or its people freer, as a separate state?

  19. abb3w says

    Checking an edition of Madison’s notes on the constitutional convention, it looks like Charles Pinckney of the South Carolina delegation was the one who introduced the “no religious test” clause.

  20. D. C. Sessions says

    it’s nice to hear him condemn Bachmann and take a stand on the right side of this one.

    Pity that he’s leaving office.

  21. d cwilson says

    Stevarious @18:

    Well, no, he said that someone’s religious beliefs are off-limits from government scrutiny. Which is not the same thing.

    This.

    While I agree with Mr. Heath that there are people out there who want their religious beliefs to supersede the Constitution (coughricksantorumcough), putting a person’s religious views under the microscope before they can be appointed to a government job is a very dangerous slippery slope. That way lies the “religious freedom is only for Christians” mentality of the Bryan Fischers of the world.

  22. Abby Normal says

    Michael Heath @17

    He instead claimed someone’s religious beliefs is off-limits from scrutiny, which is the idiotic portion of this response.

    I didn’t get this from his response. Instead I got that he was saying religious affiliation is not a good predictor of a person’s individual beliefs or behaviors. The implication being that you actually have to deal with people as individuals to judge their character, instead of relying on mere religious affiliation as a shortcut. He then goes on to justify the no-religious-test clause with an appeal to tradition, which I agree with you is silly. Though given his target audience, it makes some strategic sense. But that wasn’t the whole of his argument.

  23. ricko says

    Jim Sensennbrenner is MY Congressman, and he’s not “leaving” office. If he was, I’d be most happy.

    He’s going to stay until he’s dead… Maybe he’ll stay longer.

    This is his one good point, put next to his thousand or more bad points it doesn’t make up for any of it. He’s a wreck, and he’s the reason Wauwatosa needs Representation from Milwaukee, rather than from Waukesha… And the Congressman is, so they say, from Menomonee Falls.

    They say, because he’s seldom there.

  24. bmiller says

    Oh come on, Raging Bee. You are taking it well beyond rationality. Many of the worst horrors were perpetrated by strong centralizers. Stalin, for example (to avoid Godwin)

    I’m sure that the victims of the deliberate policies of famine instigated by the British Empire in India felt so priveleged to die for the glories of centralized power and Capitalism (because charity to salve the famine interferes with the Free Market, PBIN). Or the Irish famine. Or the Congolese under the rule of cosmopolitan imperialist King Leopold. On and on and on.

    Not to ignore the basic problem with your argument…under what right do the centralizers have to invade and conquer, even if their victims are purportedly better off under the empire? Is it just a case of might makes right?

    No more on this topic, as it is off-topic, but come on. The British Empire as the paragon of virtue?

  25. bmiller says

    As for Catalonia…versus forty years under repressive Castillian Falangist rule? One cannot say, but I would be willing to bet pretty strongly.

    Do you really believe, as you are arguing, that EVERY centralized power, every empire is better? Really? Soviet Union? The Third Reich? China?

  26. Michael Heath says

    Me inititally:

    [Sensenbrenner] instead claimed someone’s religious beliefs is off-limits from scrutiny, which is the idiotic portion of this response.

    Abby Normal:

    I didn’t get this from his response. Instead I got that he was saying religious affiliation is not a good predictor of a person’s individual beliefs or behaviors.

    But religious affiliation is a good predictor of a person’s individual beliefs or behaviors. An excellent one at that. Not at the macro, Christian, Jew, Muslim perspective, but certainly when you drill down to the sect level which is exactly the level I drilled into in my post.

    And it’s not all that hard for the media or federal government hiring managers to ask the right questions to determine whether a person is prepared to defend the Constitution or seeks to exploit the job at hand to violate it without hiring mangers finding out what someone’s religion is. We know the status of the culture war. You can ask questions relevant to the task, say hiring attorneys in the Justice Dept’s civil rights division, to better insure they’re on-board defending the Constitution or instead hoping to use their new power in a way that violates it while promoting their religion.

  27. D. C. Sessions says

    Jim Sensennbrenner is MY Congressman, and he’s not “leaving” office. If he was, I’d be most happy.

    Talking like this, he may not get a choice. One word: “primaried.”

  28. says

    Oh come on, Raging Bee. You are taking it well beyond rationality…

    You did read the bit where I mentioned the high price-tag?

    Many of the worst horrors were perpetrated by strong centralizers.

    True, but imperialism and “centralized power” are not exactly the same thing. Lots of overlap, to be sure, but not the same thing. The USA, for example, created a very empire-like sphere of influence after WW-II, but there was far less centralized power than other regimes (not all of them really “imperialist”) had.

    Not to ignore the basic problem with your argument…under what right do the centralizers have to invade and conquer, even if their victims are purportedly better off under the empire? Is it just a case of might makes right?

    Where did I say there was a “right?” All I did was point out that the creation of larger national units (such as the USA or Roman Empire) often bring advancement and progress, and separatism and secession from such units often hinders or rolls back such progress. I believe we can acknowledge this historical fact without denying or ignoring the human/moral costs that often come with the creation and maintenance of such national entities.

  29. Abby Normal says

    Michael Heath @27

    But religious affiliation is a good predictor of a person’s individual beliefs or behaviors. An excellent one at that.

    Care to put that to a test? Sitting across from me is a Protestant Christian. Just a little further down the hall is a Sunni Muslim. Why don’t you declare how these individuals will opine on the following list subjects and I’ll collect their actual statements. Then we’ll see how well the predictive power of religious affiliation matches with these individuals. If you’d like, we can find a neutral third party to collect and report the results and help hammer out the details.

    The sujects I propose are:
    Democrats
    Republicans
    Libertarians
    Separation of Church and State
    Abortion
    Gay Marriage
    Intelligent Design in the Classroom
    Flag Burning
    The Occupy Wall Street Movement
    Climate Change
    Animal Testing
    Obamacare
    Contraception
    Gitmo
    WikiLeaks
    War on Drugs

    I know this is somewhat error prone test. But I bet going through the motions will still provide useful insights. What do you say?

  30. Chiroptera says

    slc1, #15: It’s Ms. Abedin….

    That’s an idiot mistake on my part.

    Probably time to take another break from blog commenting.

  31. says

    ““Pray for America!” When I pointed to it and laughed, he glared right at me and said, “Do not mock God! Change your ways before it’s too late!””

    I’m at the age where if someone says something like that to me I usually tell them to fuck off.

    “slc1, #15: It’s Ms. Abedin….

    That’s an idiot mistake on my part.

    Probably time to take another break from blog commenting.”

    Oh, no, not hardly. There are LOTS of folks who comment here and on other blogs I go to who, if they applied as stern a test as you impose on yourself, would simply disappear in a puff of sm

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