By Molly K. Hooper - 07/21/12 09:00 AM EDT
The political career of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one year after winning the Ames straw poll, seems to be in disarray.
At this time last year, Bachmann was leading Mitt Romney in a number of Iowa polls. In August 2011, she won the Ames Straw poll. But since then, her political stock has taken major hits and now it is an open question whether she will be invited to speak at the GOP convention next month.
A diverse group of GOP lawmakers, who spoke with The Hill on background, said the 2012 GOP presidential contender’s recent controversy over questions of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the U.S. government is a major distraction in this heated election season.
The lawmaker, facing a tough reelection fight, said, “The issue is: She has been a total disaster and distraction for us,” the mild-mannered lawmaker said in an interview with The Hill.
Even several GOP lawmakers who support the darling of the Tea Party called her press for an investigation, by singling out Abedin, former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) wife, “an overreach” and “a big mistake.”
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program, GOP strategist (and columnist for The Hill) John Feehery called Bachmann’s accusations “absolutely outrageous. I don’t know what she’s up to.”
A veteran GOP lawmaker told The Hill, “more in sorrow than in anger,” that Bachmann was “headline hunting” after lying low — in an attempt to seek the publicity that she lost following her failed presidential bid.
“She needs to be very careful and pick her shots. This is the kind of thing you look at and your eyes roll before you’ve even gotten to the bottom of the article. … And it just smacks of somebody that is just desperate to get in the newspaper as opposed to make a point,” the lawmaker said.
Another conservative member said “there’s no way this helped her. This hurt her.”
Earlier this week, 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain (Ariz.) took to the Senate floor to decry the letters sent by Bachmann and four other four GOP lawmakers -- who include Reps. Trent Franks (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Tom Rooney (Fla. and Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) -- to several departments asking for an inquiry into Muslim Brotherhood ties to high-ranking U.S. officials. Bachmann, Westmoreland and Rooney are members of the House Intelligence Committee.
"When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious 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,” McCain said in a speech in the Senate chamber.
His speech sparked a firestorm of GOP wrath felt directly by Bachmann.
Her former presidential campaign manager, Ed Rollins, wrote in an op-ed that Bachmann’s charges mirrored McCarthyism.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) defended Abedin against implications made in the letters.
Boehner said he did not know Abedin well, but that “from everything that I know of her she has a sterling character. I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”
It has been a tough year for Bachmann, who was soaring so much in the polls last summer than the left-leaning DailyKos website ran a story titled, “Why Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee.”
She subsequently plunged in the polls and finished a distant sixth in the Iowa Caucus.
On Thursday, Bachmann took to the airwaves on conservative radio host, Glenn Beck’s morning show, to defend herself.
“Now what’s happened is the attack machine has been turned on myself and the other members of Congress who have been asking the questions, that somehow we’re the Muslim haters, we’re the witch hunters, we’re the new Joe McCarthyites because we’re asking these questions,” Bachmann told Beck.
Bachmann said that she never implied that Abedin was compromised.
“[McCain] went on the Senate floor and he gave a spirited defense of Huma Abedin, who is a friend of his. ... All we’re saying because we did not infer that she is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or that she’s working on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bachmann said.
Bachmann’s office did not comment for this article.
Shortly following McCain’s attacks aimed at Bachmann, Tea Party Nation sent out a scathing email and posted a defense of Bachmann on its website.
“The media and the moron wing of the Republican Party immediately jumped on this as an attack on Huma Abedin. The Chief Idiot of the Republican Party John McCain jumped into the action saying, ‘These attacks have no logic, no basis and no merit, and they need to stop.’ Is John McCain really that stupid or is he just putting on a special election year show,” Judson Phillips wrote in a post on Tea Party Nation.
He included a link to the letter that Bachmann and the four legislators wrote more than a month ago on June 13, telling his audience to “be the judge” of whether there was an attack on Abedin.
In that letter sent to the State Department’s deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, the lawmakers noted that “the apparent involvement of those with such ties [to the Muslim Brotherhood] raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention.”
They proceeded to cite “for example, according to ‘The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within,’ a product of the Center for Security Policy,’ the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin, has three family members — her late father, her mother and her brother — connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.”
In his Wednesday op-ed on FoxNews.com, Rollins wrote that “I am fully aware that [Bachmann] sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Sen. Joe McCarthy level.”
Before this incident and since exiting the presidential race, many of her GOP colleagues told The Hill that she had served admirably and with a lot of poise.
One member of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus shook his head, questioning why Bachmann would use this matter to make a splash in the spotlight.
"There's a certain amount of equity still from her presidential run — that's more courage than many of us have displayed. It's a tough thing that she took on and, at least for a time acquitted herself very well and she did well in the debates — prepared, poised. [So] this one is hard to figure out. I don't really know where it's coming from,” the conservative lawmaker said.
And the Republican lawmakers who spoke with The Hill for this story concurred that she has jeopardized any chance she would have had to take on a prominent speaking role at the GOP convention in Tampa.
“There's no way she could be put out in front [at the convention] now,” the self-described non-Bachmann fan said.