Joe Conason's Journal

Right-wing pundits Frank Gaffney and David Horowitz are accusing fellow conservative Grover Norquist of ties to dangerous Islamists. But since Norquist is good pals with Karl Rove, what does that tell us about the president's political guru?

By Salon Staff
Published December 10, 2003 9:29PM (EST)

Faction fight on the right
The ongoing feud between conservative activist-lobbyist Grover Norquist and conservative defense expert Frank Gaffney is boiling over again -- thanks to conservative gadfly-fundraiser David Horowitz, who has published a long Gaffney screed against Norquist on his Web site.

For at least a year now, Gaffney has been portraying Norquist, long among the most prominent figures in Washington right-wing circles, as a dupe of Muslim extremists or "Islamists." The complaint dates back to efforts by Norquist -- encouraged by his old friend Karl Rove -- to organize American Muslims into the Republican Party (and the Bush-Cheney campaign). According to Gaffney, the Islamic Institute founded by Norquist several years ago is actually a haven for Islamists, and has enabled disreputable supporters of terrorism to enter the White House and influence administration policy. In his Frontpage article Gaffney reiterates many of his old complaints, while buttressing them with new evidence about unsavory individuals he ties to Norquist.

The intimacy of this dispute is indicated by the curious fact that Gaffney's Center for Security Policy rents its office space from Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. Indeed, their proximity apparently allowed Gaffney to observe Norquist and his Muslim allies at very close quarters, as he describes in fascinating detail in his article. He goes so far as to suggest that Norquist colluded in efforts to subvert the FBI's ability to investigate terrorist networks in the United States.

When I spoke with him today, Norquist dismissed the latest Gaffney salvo as "regurgitated garbage," and said that a November 2001 letter he sent to the New Republic about his work with Muslims will stand as his written response. (It doesn't address many of the detailed charges raised by Gaffney.) He added that "the White House has denounced [Gaffney's accusations]," referring to comments by Rove in a Wall Street Journal story last June about Norquist's Muslim connections.

Whatever the merits of Gaffney's case, he doesn't appear to have diminished Norquist's influence in the White House or on Capitol Hill. But he apparently made a deep impression on Horowitz.

In a long preface to the Gaffney article, the author and former Salon columnist blasts Norquist as a "Fifth Columnist" in the terrorist war on America. Horowitz fans will recognize that term as the worst category of abuse, usually reserved for antiwar demonstrators and other such unpatriotic rabble. Horowitz briefly praises Norquist's past anticommunist activism and identifies him as a longtime "political ally," before opening up on him:

"It is with a heavy heart therefore, that I am posting this article, which is the most complete documentation extant of Grover Norquist's activities in behalf of the Islamist Fifth Column ...

"On the basis of the evidence assembled here, it seems beyond dispute that Grover Norquist has formed alliances with prominent Islamic radicals who have ties to the Saudis and to Libya and to Palestine Islamic Jihad, and who are now under indictment by U.S. authorities. Equally troubling is that the arrests of these individuals and their exposure as agents of terrorism have not resulted in noticeable second thoughts on Grover's part or any meaningful effort to dissociate himself from his unsavory friends."

Yet none of Norquist's friends have dissociated themselves from him, despite the gravity of Gaffney's charges. His most important pal and patron is Rove, of course, who insures his continuing access to the Bush administration.

So if the fifth column depends on Norquist, and Norquist depends on Rove, then what does that tell us about the ever-vigilant Horowitz's great friend and sponsor in the White House? America awaits the answer.
[1:30 p.m. PST, December 10, 2003]

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