Everybody knows that the issue of patriotism belongs to the right – right? And everybody knows that all those Americans who consort with those hostile to America are all left – right? You know, “Hanoi” Jane Fonda and Alger Hiss and the rest of those liberals – right?
Well, here’s a newsflash, folks – in this new millennium, it’s not just my friends on the left playing footsie with the unfriendlies, they’re also the right – right here in old (Potomac) River City, as “The Music Man” sang it. It’s a Bushie, in fact – a man who has the president’s ear on the subject of presenting the worst forces of Islam in the best possible light, War on Terrorism be damned.
Today’s Music Man is someone I respect: Grover Norquist. Most of my right-leaning readers may remember Mr. Norquist as president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group dedicated to reducing income and other taxes. Now I’ve never agreed with Norquist – if anything, Americans are undertaxed, especially the rich – but there was no denying his effectiveness and sincerity at making his arguments.
Times have changed, however, and Norquist has added new ventures. His new project – one that should concern all Americans – is his efforts to bring Islamic fundamentalists into the Republican Party … without regard to how they feel about terrorism or Americans, let alone Republicans.
Remember Bush’s photo-op in the mosque where the president stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a line-up of Arab-Americans and spouted the, “Islam is a religion of peace” slogan? That meeting was set up by Norquist. In fact, Islam is a religion of peace – but not the way it is practiced by those brought in by Mr. Norquist. Of the various Islamic leaders present, virtually every one is on record praising Hamas (“freedom fighters”), claiming the Israelis were behind 9-11 or threatening the United States with “the wrath of God” for defending our interests abroad.
In bringing these types to President Bush, Norquist wasn’t just being a good citizen. He was the man behind the Bush-push into Michigan’s Arab neighborhoods, and, in fact, claimed credit for “delivering” the Arab vote to the Republicans – even though Bush lost Michigan. Portraying himself as a front man for the “Arab vote” enhances the Beltway’s perception of Norquist as a man with a constituency – a strong card to play for a man who makes his living lobbying the government.
In fact, Norquist has represented at least one Arab satrapy – Qatar – in its dealings with Washington. Several years ago, Norquist and Khaled Saffuri – an Arab American who had been employed by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – set up something called The Islamic Institute – which for a time just happened to have the same address as the Americans for Tax Reform.
Is it fair to ask any of my valued right-wing readers who might have contributed money to Norquist’s tax-reform effort to ask him if any bucks migrated to the Islamic Institute? If any money did go in that direction, I’ll bet it doesn’t anymore. The reason is today the Institute is probably rolling in dough, starting with the $150,000 received from the government of Qatar.
And what, pray tell, were the Qataris (a state that is the home of al-Jazeera Television) getting for all that moolah? For starters, a very expensive op-ed piece in the Washington Times in which Norquist touted his Qatari clients as enshrining “values of universal suffrage, a free press and human rights.” He wrote this about a country that, according to international watchdogs, is rated near the bottom of a whole list of human rights and economic freedoms. I doubt that he’d ever say such a thing about Israel, the Middle East’s only real democracy. But, of course, the Israelis probably haven’t paid him $150,000.
And if anybody thinks this is some Jewish liberal’s attempt to play “Gotcha” with Mr. Norquist, think again. Grover Norquist’s own pals on the right are reportedly unhappy with him. His Arabian elbow rubbing has garnered criticism from such respected righties as Paul Weyrich and William Murray, head of the Religious Freedom Coalition.
Look, when Fonda and Hiss supposedly made their contributions to our enemy’s welfare, at least they believed in what they were doing. The sound of “ka-ching” nary was heard. But I suppose that when free market right-wingers do it, it’s driven by their own ideological passions – ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.
I’ve known Grover Norquist for years, and he is a man of talent and conviction. But he’s lost me on this one.