How Gaffney Versus Norquist Began

David Frum has a five-part series up explaining the origins of the feud between Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform and neocon pundit Frank Gaffney, who asserts that Islamist radicals are infiltrating the conservative movement and may succeed in imposing sharia law in the United States. Here's one meaty part of the story:

[S]ometime in the 1990s, Grover Norquist had decided that Muslim American voters would make a great target market for Republican recruitment. And few conservative activists had as much sway with Karl Rove as Norquist. You can see why Rove would be interested. He knew that Florida was a must-win state for George W. Bush. Florida had a rapidly growing Muslim community concentrated in the state’s swing I-4 corridor. If they could be persuaded to vote Republican, it might help compensate for the GOP’s decline among younger Cuban-American voters, a very complicating factor in that year’s election.

But what was Norquist’s angle? Norquist and I talked about his outreach to US Muslims on a DC streetcorner in the late 1990s. He argued that Muslim immigrants were entrepreneurial, family-oriented, culturally conservative. At a time of massive immigration to the United States, here was a fertile opportunity to offset what some were already calling the “emerging Democratic majority.” Others who knew Norquist hypothesized other motives. At the time, Norquist was involved in a lobbying firm that did business with state enterprises in Qatar and Malaysia. Did this affect his thinking somehow? We can’t know, and I won’t guess.

But here’s what we do know: among the most prominent targets of “secret evidence” deportation hearings were two prominent South Florida Muslim immigrants, Sami al-Arian and his brother-in-law Mazzan al-Najjar. To the dismay of many of his political allies, Norquist had developed a political relationship with these two fundraisers and activists for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

It's a fascinating story. Obviously Frum has his biases as a narrator, and there are reasons other than political expediency that could explain why the Bush Administration adopted certain policies – it's sad if they only opposed racial profiling because there was electoral gain in it. Ultimately, it does little to alter the conclusion that Gaffney is deeply paranoid, though it does explain why Norquist is one of his targets.