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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Massad Ayoob

REFLECTIONS ON THE IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENCY

Friday, February 20th, 2009

The time between Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s is called by some “President’s Week.” It’s the perfect time to reflect on the character of our nation’s top leaders.

George W. Bush left the office with grace and dignity. As this comparison shows, he and his whole first family was most gracious to his, and their, successors in the White House.

Our last President made decisions that earned some hatred, but decisions that also earned respect in some surprising quarters, as seen below, in the comments.  Being the grandson of Arab-Americans who immigrated to this country more than 110 years ago doesn’t make me an expert on contemporary Arabic culture or anything, but it does give me a little better handle on such things than your average brie-and-chablis Yuppie. Arabs respect strength and have contempt for weakness, and they prize that subjective thing called “character” very highly. George W. Bush showed them that he had both strength and character.

He showed it to his own countrymen, too. In two elections, Democrats assailed him as a fat cat who would leave a gigantic carbon footprint on the world, and urged us to vote for them instead to preserve “green values.” Yet this gives us an idea who among the contenders actually put his lifestyle where his mouth was in terms of energy conservation.

No general can keep secrets from his valet, it is said, and no President can keep secrets from his bodyguards. When I met George Bush in the picture shown here, he had not yet been elected, or even nominated, and did not have Secret Service protection yet. His bodyguards, since he was Governor of Texas, were Texas Rangers. I spoke with them at length. They told me he was a sincere guy who respected cops and all the people who worked under him, and to a man they would have been honored to take a bullet for him. (Secret Service agents assigned later to the First Family detail seemed unanimous in saying the same thing about Bush.) In speaking with the then-candidate, I found that Bush actually listened, and solicited opinions. When I asked him about certain police issues and, yes, gun owners’ civil rights, he was on top of the issues and answered knowledgeably.

This is the corner of Backwoods Home where we talk about gun stuff. Yes, some gun owners never forgave him when he said he’d sign a renewal of the “Assault Weapons Ban” after its sunset, if it passed. They didn’t know that Bush already knew that it wasn’t going to pass. No harm, no foul, no hurt to us in eight years of his Presidency.

The recent 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln reminded me of my favorite quote from that great President: “We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”

It was something that George W. Bush understood, lived by, and led by for eight years.

I have to respect that.

masbush001

27 Responses to “REFLECTIONS ON THE IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENCY”

  1. Mas Says:

    In Damascus, they voted for George W. Bush
    By Tyler Golson
    English teacher in Damascus
    Special to The Daily Star
    December 04, 2004
    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?article_ID=10669&categ_ID=5&edition_id=10#

    While the results of this year’s American election may have liberal
    Democrats and much of the extended international community shaking their
    heads in disbelief, a surprising number of Arabs seem to have not only
    expected President George W. Bush’s return to power but also supported it.

    Since I began teaching in Damascus six months ago, I have been
    continually surprised to find support and even admiration for Bush in
    that city, mixed in with the usual polemics about American imperialism.
    The presumed wildfire of anti-American and anti-Bush sentiment that has
    consumed much of Europe and Asia has apparently skipped over parts of
    the Arab world, where people often have more in common with Middle
    America than they do with the Middle East.

    A few days after moving into my new home in the middle class Christian
    quarter of old Damascus, my landlady asked me whom I preferred between
    the two American presidential candidates. I replied, almost in passing,
    that of course I was voting for John Kerry. Besides being an Ivy
    League-educated New Englander and the son of extremely liberal parents,
    I was a foreigner and a guest in a country laboring under American
    economic sanctions. As a guest, surely I would be expected to distance
    myself from my own government, which had started a pre-emptive war
    against Syria’s neighbor, denied considerable foreign investment to the
    Syrian economy and branded Damascus a “supporter of terrorism.”

    “I like Bush,” she said, without a trace of irony. “He’s a good man – a
    good Christian.”

    Okay, I thought. This is a Christian woman, representing a tiny and
    often overlooked minority in a predominantly Muslim region. She probably
    doesn’t identify as deeply with the average Syrian, doesn’t feel
    threatened by Bush’s perceived crusade against Islam. So I filed the
    incident away in the back of my mind and didn’t hear much about U.S.
    politics again, apart from the occasional exchange with bored taxi drivers.

    Two months into my stay, the issue of pro-Bush Syrians suddenly
    re-emerged when I began teaching English classes to several dozen
    students. The students were, almost without exception, from the upper
    echelons of Damascene society: well educated, financially comfortable,
    with many hailing from important Syrian families involved in high-level
    economic and governmental decision-making.

    One afternoon I was explaining the passive tense of verbs, and I used an
    example that came to mind from American culture. I asked them if they
    knew who was nominated by the two main parties to run for president.
    “John Kerry was nominated by the Democratic Party, and George Bush was
    nominated by the Republicans,” replied one of the brightest in the
    class, a veiled Muslim engineering student named Rahaf. “Very good,” I
    said. “Now, who do you think will be elected?” “Bush,” cried several of
    the students at once, smiling. Abandoning my lesson plan for the moment,
    but curious at this sudden display of interest in the election, I
    ventured: “Who do you want to win?” “Bush,” said Rahaf, while a number
    of others nodded in solid agreement. I pressed them further for a few
    minutes, asking individual students why they liked Bush. The same ideas
    came up again and again: he is a strong leader, an honest man, and, most
    of all, a believer. Like the winning margin of American voters this
    year, these Middle Easterners related to Bush’s sense of religious
    conviction and his confident steering of a nation and culture they admired.

    “But doesn’t he scare you?” I asked finally, unable to contain my
    personal feelings and throwing the lesson plan out the window. “Because
    of Bush’s ideas many people in my country think that all of you are
    terrorists.” Rahaf and most of the others just shrugged. Maybe that was
    all true, they said, but he was still a good president.

    I found these same sentiments expressed almost word for word in my two
    other classes. In addition, some of the most articulate students
    expressed intense misgivings about central Democratic electoral
    platforms, including gun control, limitation of the death penalty and
    especially abortion and gay rights. Just the word “homosexual” made many
    of them cringe and click their tongues in that uniquely Arab way of
    showing disapproval. A final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I
    learned that more than half of the students in my advanced class, among
    them a third-year medical student and daughter of a Western-based
    diplomat, rejected the theory of evolution. “I just can’t believe that
    we came from monkeys,” she said.

    Afterwards I brought up what had happened with a fellow teacher, an
    American-born Muslim of Syrian descent who had taught at a number of
    schools in and around Damascus for years. “It’s a religious thing,” she
    explained to me, citing a particular Koranic verse that tells of God’s
    creating man from a seed and that seed growing into Adam and Eve. “There
    is no room in traditional Islam, nor in traditional Syrian Catholicism,
    for a theory which links apes to humans.” But how do you explain all of
    it, I asked, all the support for Bush, the social and even the
    scientific conservatism? They’re more like the average American than I
    am. My colleague clicked her tongue, shrugged and agreed it was pretty
    strange.

    And thus I came to realize something that the Democrats could never
    admit: that there exists a support base for both the Republicans’
    domestic and foreign agenda among the very people we thought most
    opposed current U.S. policy. The cultural background and value systems
    which inform many of these young Arabs’ outlook on the world mean they
    will always favor men like Bush over men like Kerry. The tenets of
    faith, family and, yes, “moral issues” determine the overall political
    leanings of a considerable number of the Middle East’s future leaders,
    in rejection of Democratic stump issues like increased liberalism,
    internationalism and scientific progress.

    Though Democrats are often quick to criticize their opponents for seeing
    the issues in stark black and white, “us and them” terms, perhaps they
    ought to step back from their own obsession with “red” and “blue”
    dichotomies and recognize this nuance of Middle Eastern reality. Having
    a truly even-handed and practical approach to peace in the Arab world
    means realizing that not everyone, and certainly not all of the elites
    in Arab society, sympathize with the anti-American movements taking
    place within their own ranks, and that these heartland Arabs could prove
    a valuable ally in future U.S.-Arab relations.

  2. I'm progressive and I hunt. Says:

    I love reading your column in BHM, Mr. Ayoob, when you address what you know best: firearms and their safe and effective handling. I fear this is not one of those columns; it is spoiled by the link to the post alleging that Clinton Administration staffers trashed the White House. These allegations were investigated in 2001 (at the request of Republican Bob Barr) and disproved.

    “The General Services Administration found nothing unusual about the condition of White House offices after Clinton officials left, and President Bush’s staff said it had no records that indicated damage or subsequent repair work, the accounting office manager said.” The false accusations were spread by “Republican officials — often quoted anonymously in news accounts.” (The entire story is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2001/05/19/MN169709.DTL)

    If you take whole chunks of Pappy’s post and Google them, you get about 670 other sites with the exact same wording. In fact, apparently the whole thing is an email that’s been making the rounds–it’s not original, and for the most part it’s not factual either. Do you think there might be an echo chamber out there?

    Let’s stick to the facts: Mr. Bush is, no doubt, a very nice man who sympathizes with gun owners’ concerns and lives in a custom-built, environmentally-sensitive compound in Texas. And now the opinion: Good for him. But his Administration has left the rest of us, who can’t afford those kinds of measures, in deep peril on a number of fronts. In the future, I hope very much to be able to hunt and fish primarily for recreation, rather than in desperation because of the long-term effects of his policies and presidency.

    All that said, I look forward to more of your BHM columns. Blessings!

  3. Jeff S. Says:

    Sorry, but I cannot agree that President Bush’s public support for renewing the 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban” was harmless. It gave the appearance of legitimacy to this worthless piece of legislation, and suggested that it enjoyed support across a broad spectrum. Along with signing the McCain-Feingold Act and favoring increased media consolidation, he should have gotten an NRA rating of C- at best using their rubric.

  4. Brad Says:

    Are you off your nut Massad? Bush was a disgrace and brought shame and financial ruin upon our nation that will takes decades (if ever) to heal. Towards the last 100 days of his presidency I had to turn the channel every time I saw his stupid monkey face on TV because every idiotic, uninformed word out of his mouth enraged me so much.

    Stick to talking about guns. When you say things like “George W. Bush left the office with grace and dignity” you sound like a moron.

  5. Marc Says:

    I was never a big fan of Bush but he had the balls to face up to our enemies, and our “allies” too. Not one of his opponents could have done that. It’s been long apparent to me, and should be to anybody that pays attention, that Mas is right , strength is respected, weakness is despised. Since obama has taken office North Korea is back making trouble and the Iranians are just slobbering to talk to obama not to forget the latest, the closing of a strategic air base in one of the “stans” ( Russian meddling). Oh yes, Pakistan snuggling up to the taliban. The vultures and the hyienas are circling. They smell it. God help the Republic.

  6. DWW Says:

    “I’m progressive & I hunt”…….Hmmmmmmm.I find it interesting to use the term hunt rather than simply stating they were progressive & a gun owner.This is very similar to frequent statements from liberals who often claim they favor 2nd Amendment rights,from Clinton to Biden to Obama.But if you look at where they stand on the issue,they really only want to make “allowances” for hunting.
    They don’t understand or like to talk about the right of self-defense & I sometimes think that they actually don’t believe individuals have the right to protect themselves & their families even in their own homes.The 2nd amendment doesn’t mention sport shooting or Hunting since hunting was simply a way of life when it was written.Rather the 2nd talks about the right to keep & bear ARMS. Arms implies they are referring to weapons,not hunting “tools”.I interpret KEEP & BEAR as meaning own & carry & concealed carry is something most liberal Dems are against across the board.
    Liberals & progressives often argue that many of the idea’s put forth by our Founding Father’s are outdated & irrelevant,but I think that couldn’t be farther from the truth.They warned of the Partisanship that is rampant today and established a Country that was far different from the oppressive one they escaped from.So,I imagine they would be saddened by the current intrusiveness & increasing power of our Government.
    I’m an Independent & try to make Judgements about a Person based on their policies,positions & character & don’t really care for extremism on the left or the right.The Democratic party has been taken over by the far-left,so I don’t have much use for them these days.Indeed the party has changed since GrandPa’s day.
    Mas,I say inject your political opinion anytime you wish.Based on what I’ve read from you in the past,you approach Politics just like you do everything else,which is with an objective,methodical open minded approach. We need more voices like that.

  7. Danny Says:

    Do not mistake strength of character with being stubborn. GW Bush displayed no such strength. The problem is that people see Bush make symbolic gestures of courage and resolve and think it shows his character. As a seasoned, if inept, politician, Bush knew how to weave a story and sell it to the public. And he would’ve gotten away with it, had it not been for the economically damaging mistakes his policies had wrought.

  8. My Gun Culture Says:

    Prophetic Abe…

    “We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”Abraham LincolnNuff said.Thanks to Mas Ayoob’s Blog for the reminder…….

  9. Long Island Mike Says:

    Mas your dead on target. I made it a point of sending President Bush a thank you note last fall. He protected this nation. That says it all. Sure there were some policies I disagreed with him on. But overall I’d rather trust the lives of my wife and children to him than Obama. I worry for this nation.

  10. BikerRN Says:

    “strength is respected, weakness is despised.”

    How true.

    When I die, I don’t care if every person I have dealt with hates me, but I will by God be respected. I try to conduct myself in such a manner that there is no confusion on this issue.

    Too many people confuse “like” with respect. They are not necessarily polar opposites, but they are also not one and the same. You can hate somebody, and still respect them. I’ve had people hate me, but they respected me. The fact that you like me, or don’t like me, means little. The fact that you respect me, means everything.

    People and countries need struggles to grow stronger. I just hope and pray that this struggle that is upon us is not our demise.

    Biker

  11. Michael Jarrett Says:

    Two people can see the same thing and have two different views of what they see.Bush is great Bush is a moran.M is Bush through haw he left or country or economy is in the trash heap,or ststus around the world the isin the trash heap are we better of after 8 years of Bush No!it will take years to recover from the Buse legasey.Iam pro gun 2dn anmendment supporter also i am viet-nam vet so for those of youe who will say i am not a good american you can go to you knowwhere.ther are more issues facing or country then just one issue.like the economy, forien policy,poverty.health care ,4th admendment issues

  12. BikerRN Says:

    “ther are more issues facing or country then just one issue.like the economy, forien policy,poverty.health care ,4th admendment issues”

    Thank you for your service.

    Now go take an english class and learn how to spell and punctuate. The fact that you’re a vet really has no bearing on this discussion.

    As for me, I am a single issue voter first and foremost. The other stuff, like poverty, health care, foriegn policy, blah, blah, blah, takes a backseat to the Second Amendment.

    Biker

  13. bignflnut Says:

    I love you Mas and I can’t get enough of you, but W was not good for America’s citizens.

    McCain Feingold destroyed the 1st Amendment.
    FEMA at New Orleans destroyed the 2nd Amendment (Bush was against Heller in SCOTUS case).
    Bush Administration advocated the 4th Amendment did not apply ( http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/04/administration-asserts-no-fourth-amendment-domestic-military-operations ).

    Other greatest hits include the Patriot Act (wiretaps and constant State surveillance), REAL ID, countless TSA abuses, Homeland Security, not arming pilots, No Child Left Behind, TARP, Military Commissions Act of 2006 (destroys habeas corpus)

    And if you want to put tax cuts in the positive column, anyone with a real understanding of the power of the tax code would abolish the entire thing today, not give us the scraps of tax cuts.

    If you want to start quoting people: Ben Franklin’s “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither”

    “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.” — Patrick Henry, during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788)

    “If you have 10,000 regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” —Winston Churchill

  14. TAS Says:

    I am with “bignflnut” here. I respect some things Bush got done and for his leadership after 9/11. We’ll always owe him gratitude for those things. However, anyone who is a true believer in fiscal-mindedness, small government, and accountability just can’t entertain the same rosy picture as you, Mr. Ayoob. There were too many failures, too many big ones, on all those fronts. It pained me when people I had believed were principled or conservative at heart seemed to ignore the slights of Bush (and his colleagues) against the Constitution. The people I knew who had always swore to upload liberty first, even in the face of fear or uncertainty, were turning a blind eye to what were real abuses. It’s because of that feeling that I can’t give Bush a 100% pleasant farewell, even if he did some good along the way for us. I also think everyone who truly believes in their principles needs to question if they lived them during those two terms, and didn’t turn that blind eye, didn’t let the bad decisions slide. Otherwise, yes, goodbye Mr. Bush, best of luck, but it was a rough ride at times Sir.

  15. Charlie Reed Says:

    I feel so strongly about the bush presidency, that I could believe God himself saw to the winning of both elections. How could God let Us go through 9/11 and aftermath under the direction of the supreme cowardice and stupidity of either Gore or Kerry?

  16. BikerRN Says:

    Does anyone think Obama will be a better “friend” of the Constitution?

    Like I stated, I base my vote, one that I hold dear, on one issue. The other stuff will take care of itself.

    Biker

  17. DapST Says:

    Gee Charlie, well, why don’t we just stop voting and leave it up to God from now on? Why not just crown Kings? Some days I swear the anti-federalists had it right, sheesh. Last I checked, it actually mattered that we the people choose our leaders. Besides, if you’re right, does this mean we have to accept the idea that supremely opaque folks like Rummy and Cheney are in fact God’s chosen men? Because that one’s a bit hard to swallow. You know what? I hear enough these days about God’s chosen holy warriors and divine right from the enemy, thanks.

  18. bignflnut Says:

    To be clear, I confess to voting for W twice. The choice between Obama/ Soteoro and McCain, W and Gore, W and Kerry is a false one. So no, Obama/Soteoro will not be better for the Constitution or the nation’s citizens (neither the Ds nor the Rs uphold the US Constitution). Also, if one thinks that God would approve of the US government, they may benefit from another reading of Proverbs (While any issue may be pointed out, abortion, undue taxation and corruption seem to jump to mind).

  19. Brogan Says:

    Mas,
    I have to wholeheartedly disagree with your views G.W. Bush. He has done more to advance big government and to destroyed civil liberties then any other president in history. I echo bignflnut’s sentiments, after Bush’s departure we are left with the patriot act 1 and 2, Posse Comitatus and habeas corpus nulified by the military commissions act, Serect prisions, Real ID, touture, warrentless wire taps, one million + on a “No fly list”, never ending war, Presidental directive 51 the list goes on and on…

    The only reason he left office with out being impeachd was that Nancy Pelosi took it “off the table”. Even now there is a cry to investigate and prosecute him and his administration for war crimes (he admitted to authorizing torture). We as a country are now more hated and less safe then ever before (this is stated in the 9/11 commission report under “blow back”).

    One countries rage at what G.W. Bush has done to it’s people was manifested in a pair of shoes that were hurled by a reporter who now faces up to 15 years in prison. He is more deserving of praise than anyone in our government. He actually said, out loud, what many of us were thinking and did what many more have not dared to do… Stand up to tyranny, even though it would cost him dearly… I have to respect that.

    ~Brogan

  20. Charlie Reed Says:

    Relax, Dapst, I’m not proposing a theocracy. I also have to say I am opposed to the expansion of federal government. I just don,t think sending a strongly worded letter is adequate response to a terrorist attack. (Thop it that hurts!!)

  21. Kay Says:

    Mas,
    I read all you blogs and have developed a great respect for the wisdom you inpart to us. I will continue to follow your articles and blogs with zest. However, I do not condone anyone posting a blog that belittles a person. No one should be made fun for the opinions they express or how well or poorly written their opinion is.

  22. DapST Says:

    Thanks for clarifying Charlie, I’ll relax. And I do agree with your last point.

  23. John Says:

    Mas,

    The old timers used to say that if you wanted to avoid an argument, then you better avoid talking politics or religion. I guess they were right.

    They also used to say “you get the government you deserve.” A wise man once said “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I, for one, was just along for the ride until the 1994 “Assault” Weapon ban snapped me out of complacency.

    I voted for GW both times, mainly because of the alternative. I don’t agree with many of the choices Bush made, but I do respect him for trying. To blame him for all our country’s ills just shows a lack of understanding about our system of government. The thing is so huge these days that it is impossible to control.

    I’m not a sailor, but I’m told that those large oil tankers need quite a bit of room to maneuver. In fact, if you’re headed for shore and you loose engine power a mile from shore, you’ll still hit with a pretty substantial amount of force. That’s kind of the way our government is these days. If you all recall, before George Bush even took office, he warned that we were heading for a substantial resession. Everyone poo-poo’d him and accused him of being negative. Well guess what, he was right. Things that were set in motion long before he took the helm are more to blame than he was.

    Did Bush make some mistakes? Of course he did. Did he mess with our liberties? Yes, but so did Clinton, Roosevelt, Lincoln and others. The founders KNEW stuff like this would happen, and they did their best to put enough checks and ballances into our Constitution to counter-act the lust for power and prestige.

    Eternal Vigelance, people. Eternal Vigilance.

    “…for it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger when the means of ensuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.” — Alexander Hamilton

  24. Brogan Says:

    John,
    I read what you wrote quite a few times. You are correct, we should not blame a president, past or present, for his misdeeds or crimes against the nation and it’s people. We should blame ourselves for electing said president . We should blame ourselves for allowing him to take away our rights. We should blame ourselves for being apathetic about our country, it’s policies and laws passed by corrupt politicians. We should blame ourselves that we let government get as big as it is and letting grow bigger. We should blame ourselves because all we do is complain and hope it will get better…

    We should not push the blame on some one else, we elect them, we let them get away with it and we don’t do anything to stop it. We should take responsibility and realize it starts and ends with each and every one of us… the president didn’t fail us… We did.

    ~Brogan

  25. bignflnut Says:

    More on W’s loyalty to the 1st Amendment:
    http://republicbroadcasting.org/index.php?cmd=news.article&articleID=3569

  26. Radio Says:

    Mr. Ayoob I would have to say that I am at almost full odds on your post about Bush the younger.

    While I love Backwoods Home, and have subscribed and loved and enjoyed the magazine from first time I ordered my first Backwoods Home printed Anthology, I find myself opposed to your position posted here.

    I must say that from a freedom standpoint and as concerned citizen of this country, I opine that the now former president was and will go down in history as one of the most incompetent puppet presidents to curse our country. I view “Bush the younger” as a figurehead with little real substance or “character”. I do think that Obama will be much worse, but the election of a new evil little excuses the former evil.

    I have not reservation is writing that “W” as a man was an individual that was personally charming, warm, sincere, and even “down home” but that little excuses his actions on legislation such as The USA PATRIOT Act or his (weak at best) positions on gun rights.

    Your invocation of one of our most unconstitutional presidents Abe Lincoln is fitting if not a bit unintentionally ironic.

  27. TV Says:

    I can’t believe that you not only praise Bush on a pro-gun site, but you bring up Lincoln to do it!?!

    I have to say that now I know what you are about Mr. Ayoob.

    At least you’re honest about what you believe.

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