Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
As if the Anthony Weiner saga was already not painful enough, Islamophobia had to be inserted.
Maureen Dowd, for instance, gave us this bit of sociological insight: "When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet."
How, then, does Dowd puzzle out why Hillary Clinton stood by her man? Last I checked, Hillary wasn't raised in Saudi Arabia.
Many others have been engaging in similarly ridiculous analysis.
"I know some people find the situation baffling, but Huma Abedin grew up in Saudi Arabia," tweeted Elizabeth Wurtzel, most famous for being the author of "Prozac Nation" (remember her?). "She might be joyous just to not be wearing a burka."
Rush Limbaugh weighed in with his typically crude thoughts.
"Huma is a Muslim," he declared. "In that regard, Weiner ought to be able to get away with anything. Muslim women don't have any power, right? Muslim women are beheaded, stoned, whatever, if they drive, have affairs."
There are about 800 million Muslim women in the world, and the vast majority are not living under the Taliban-like rule that Limbaugh describes.
Then there's the really vicious stuff: the slew of allegations that Abedin is part of a fifth column waiting to take over the country on behalf of Muslim fundamentalists.
Andrew McCarthy had a scurrilous piece for the National Review where he linked her, Kevin Bacon-degrees-of-separation style, to the Muslim Brotherhood and alleged that she had been controlling State Department policy through Hillary Clinton.
Additional members of the rightwing brigade have chimed in. Fox News panelist Brooke Goldstein called the Weiner-Abedin union a "Manchurian marriage" and blamed Abedin for Weiner's wanderings.
"Perhaps it's because she is connected with Islamists who want to kill us!" she said. "Perhaps it's because her family members are part and parcel of the Muslim Brotherhood. I completely agree with Andy McCarthy that she poses one of the greatest national security threats of this administration. She has access to the most classified information, because of her position with Clinton about the Muslim Brotherhood, which is -- it's creed is to destroy America from within."
Talk radio host Bryan Fischer made the same conspiracy-mongering the centerpiece of a rant.
"Her goal in life as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is to destroy Western civilization," said Fischer. "Huma Abedin, she wants to destroy Western civilization. That is her stated purpose, that is her stated goal."
Poor Abedin has been down this road before. Last year, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and four other Republican members of Congress asked the State Department to investigate her for her supposed Muslim Brotherhood ties.
For the record, she is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. And nowhere has she stated that her goal is to destroy Western civilization. Attributing such comments to her is the most blatant kind of slander.
As John McCain said a year ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate, "These allegations about Huma are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now."
But for a lot of people in this country, if you happen to be a Muslim American, you're automatically a subject of ridicule and suspicion.
All of us need to move beyond that prejudice -- now.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of "Islam" Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today (Praeger).