The United States is in grave danger from domestic enemies: Infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood have wormed their way into sensitive government positions, Communists wield influence in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama hates America and is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American Dream.
The first two assertions - Muslim infiltrators and Communists in Congress - come from Republican members of Congress. The third comes from the host of the radio talk show with the biggest audience in the United States. All three merit pondering about the current state of the Republican Party, a mainstay of American democracy for more than 150 years.
A brief look at the details of the claims first. In June, Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview that "it appears there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood." In letters that came to light in mid-July, she asked the inspectors general of four government departments to launch inquiries into the depth of Muslim penetration.
Bachmann's letter to the Department of State pointed to Huma Abedin, a top aide of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as grounds for "serious security concerns." The letter, co-signed by four other Republican lawmakers, quoted an anti-Muslim organization as saying Abedin had family members with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
That claim prompted angry rebukes from the man who ran her unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, Ed Rollins, and from Senator John McCain, the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2008. Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist, combined criticism of Bachmann's "far-fetched" charges with a warning about the future of the party: "The Republican Party... is going to become irrelevant if we become the party of intolerance and hate."