Bush Does Care About the Second Amendment, Just Not Very Much

Robert Novak reports that "disorganization and weakness in the eighth year of [Bush's]presidency" are responsible for the bizarre split within the Bush administration over whether the Supreme Court should uphold the D.C. Circuit decision overturning the District of Columbia's gun ban. To the dismay of gun rights advocates, Solicitor General Paul Clement is asking the Court to send the case back to the D.C. Circuit to consider whether the District's laws can withstand "intermediate scrutiny" under the Second Amendment. Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, has joined 55 senators and 250 House members (in his capacity as president of the Senate) in a brief that urges the Court to uphold the D.C. Circuit ruling, saying that "the District's prohibitions on mere possession by law-abiding persons of handguns in the home and having usable firearms there are unreasonable per se" and that "no purpose would be served by remanding this case for further fact finding or other proceedings." Novak claims the president agrees with Cheney:

The president and his senior staff were stunned to learn, on the day it was issued, that Clement's petition called on the high court to return the case to the appeals court....The president could have ordered a revised brief by Clement. But under congressional Democratic pressure to keep hands off the Justice Department, Bush did not act....

While [Cheney's] unprecedented vice presidential intervention was widely interpreted as a dramatic breakaway from the White House, longtime associates could not believe Cheney would defy the president. In fact, he did not. Bush approved what Cheney did in his constitutional legislative branch role as president of the Senate.

Lord knows Novak's sources are much better than mine, but I'm not sure I buy this. If Bush cared enough about the issue, he could and would have intervened. This part is even more suspect:

Bush finds himself left of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama....Sen. Obama has weighed in against the D.C. law, asserting that the Constitution confers individual rights to bear arms—not just collective authority to form militias.

As I pointed out in my column a few weeks ago, Obama has specifically cited D.C.'s ban as an example of gun control that should be upheld notwithstanding the individual right to keep and bear arms. In this week's column, I explain why that position is so hard to defend.

Clement's brief is here (PDF). The congressional brief signed by Cheney is here (PDF). Last month Brian Doherty noted an op-ed piece criticizing the Justice Department's position by Cato Institute legal scholar Bob Levy, who spearheaded (and financed) the gun ban challenge. The Goldwater Institute gets into more detail here (PDF).

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  • Episiarch||

    Bush signed McCain-Feingold too. I swear he just assumes someone else (the Supreme Court) will take care of these issues for him.

    He's either imperially unconcerned about these issues ("shit, I've only got a few more months of this"), absolutely tone-deaf to his constituency (whatever remains of that), or actually believes in his decisions.

    All are bad.

  • ||

    Novak loves to blame evil staffers for what are obviously decisions made by elected officials. I wonder if Bush really gives a damn about the 2nd amendment. He didn't carry a piece at Andover, did he?

  • ||

    The cops always get to politicians. The fuckers have badges and chochkies and can wave the flag better than anyone. Everyone politician wants to look hard on crime and pro cop. There is one part of the government that gives a shit about gun rights, and not in a good way, and that is the federal cops, DOJ, CBP, ICE, ATF and the like. Not to let Bush and Chaney off the hook, they should be let off the hook, but I think this is a symptom of people spending enough time in the exectutive branch and going native. You hang around the Secret Service and the FBI long enough and you hear the sermons about how they need this or that law to save lives and get guns out of the hands of bad guys and if you are not careful you lose sight of reality and start to believe it. I gaurentee you that DOJ and the like are whining like stuck pigs over the possibility of not being able to seize people's guns. Shame on Bush and Chaney for giving into them.

  • ||

    Maybe Bush is just really deferential to the idea that the people of the District of Columbia should govern themselves with minimal federal intrusion.

    Ha, jes' kiddin!

  • Elemenope||

    "shit, I've only got a few more months of this"

    Yeah, he definitely has the sound of a guy who has basically checked out. Not that he really checked in to begin with; the SOB had more vacation time in the first six months of office than I have had my entire employed life.

  • ||

  • T||

    Maybe Bush is just really deferential to the idea that the people of the District of Columbia should govern themselves with minimal federal intrusion.

    Bush, for all the rhetoric, just isn't a "minimal federal intrusion" kinda guy.

    Not real deferential to ideas in general, either.

  • ||

    Within the GOP, it's a real contest between the Second Amendment and all the "law & order" stuff. In fact, I think it's a pretty good litmus test for which part of the "big tent" one resides in. Increasingly, I think the power-worshipping part dominates. Which presents a real opening for the Democrats if they were willing to abandon their own authoritarian tendencies.

  • thoreau||

    ChrisO-

    Authoritarian is part of it, but Kulturkampf is also part of it. Gun owners are perceived as being predominantly from certain cultural factions that coincide with the GOP coalition, while the factions in the Dem coalition are perceived as not owning guns. That's not entirely accurate, but there's at least a kernel of truth behind that bias.

    As long as cultural biases play a role in the formation of these coalitions, I suspect that some in the Dem tent will find gun owners "icky", while the GOP will continue to provide a home. But if the Pink Pistols and similar groups get a higher profile, the two coalitions might be scratching their heads in bafflement.

  • ||

    Thoreau, I have no doubt you're right about. I do think, however, that the basic cultural division in American society between liberty and puritanism is not being well served by the current political alignment.

    Oh, and modern puritanism includes many aspects of environmentalism, feminism, and various "progressive" tendencies, not merely the bible-thumping crowd on the right.

  • Other Matt||

    But if the Pink Pistols and similar groups get a higher profile, the two coalitions might be scratching their heads in bafflement.

    Don't forget JPFO, SAS, and other "minority" groups who the Democrats staunchly believe they represent.

    Bush's presidency brought us the "Patriot Act", he's no fan of individual empowerment. Obama is quite precise in referring to "hunters", wants to outlaw semi auto firearms (no, joe, not just rifles...all of them, including shotguns, and handguns...). He's just pandering to the "we know what's better for you, so sit down and shut the fuck up while we tell you what to think" Democrats. Speaking of which, hi joe, how you been keeping lately?

    Anyway, the only thing he promises is "change", and there's a whole bunch of people that don't realize that word cuts a number of ways. Painful death is "change", I'd prefer to see what kind of "change" someone advocates, but I guess I'm not in with the "in crowd" on Obama on that one as the man has yet to say much of anything of substance on anything to my ear. Hillary says she has more experience, she's right, Ferraro says he wouldn't be where he is if he wasn't black, she's right, and she wouldn't be where she was if she wasn't a woman, but don't mess with Obama's "change". ::sigh:: We're headed for some fucked up years here, I didn't think it would get much worse than Bush, but it's pretty easy to see that whatever direction we go now will only further infringe upon us.

    As long as cultural biases play a role in the formation of these coalitions, I suspect that some in the Dem tent will find gun owners "icky"

    Thoreau, I think this is more the mechanism of propegating the idea that what they're doing is "right" after the fact. The reason I say this is that the canard used to sell firearm regulation is that it stops violent crime. This is obviously not the case, DC is a great example of how little it helps. However, most of these same people who talk about "violent crime" picture urban minority gang banger types. So, I'd say this is not the basis.

    However, when someone says "Wait a minute, this isn't right", they're portrayed as white, backcountry, tobacco chewing rednecks. The president of the senate in Virginia said something to the effect of "I can see we have gun bills, we have the cast of Deliverance here" or something akin. It's a smug superiority which goes to "I'm better than you so I know what's right" and back to "You poor thing, I'll take care of you for your own good" kind of viewpoint.

    It's really interesting how the gun owners are violent urban minorities or psychotic mass spree killers for the purposes of passing regulations, but when it comes to who it impacts, those inbred country hicks aren't "us" anyway so it's not a big deal.

  • ||

    So let's say I start a militia. Does that satisfy the collectivist's interpretation of the law so that I may have a m240 in the house assembled and loaded? Would I then have to pay the additional tax to obtain one?

    I have an unshakable feeling that the negotiations and arguments made in nearly all law seek absolutes. What we are left with in the end is not ment to be understood. It is the battlefield after the battle and we must live with it.

  • Other Matt||

    So let's say I start a militia.

    Ok

    Does that satisfy the collectivist's interpretation of the law so that I may have a m240 in the house assembled and loaded?

    Nope, can't have private armies. Also, even though started much later, they will tell you that the "militia" means "National Guard." Indefensible, I can't say it's right, that's just what you'll hear.

    Would I then have to pay the additional tax to obtain one?

    Most certainly, in fact, I think there's a tax involved for just thinking the thought.

  • Someone Who Doesn\'t Want to L||

    Yeah, he definitely has the sound of a guy who has basically checked out. Not that he really checked in to begin with; the SOB had more vacation time in the first six months of office than I have had my entire employed life.

    Fortunately, not me. Best job in the world, folks, best job in the world.

  • LarryA||

    while the factions in the Dem coalition are perceived as not owning guns.

    One reason the NRA was able to make huge inroads into the normally-Democratic unions in the last few elections. Lots of avid hunters in the unions.

    But if the Pink Pistols and similar groups get a higher profile, the two coalitions might be scratching their heads in bafflement.

    What I hear so far is that the Pink Pistols get a more civilized reception from redneck gun owners than they do from the pro-diversity GLBT crowd. As in they're welcomed to the Gun Rights Policy Conference every year, and thrown out of similar gay events.

    Another stereotype shot to hell. :-)

  • DannyK||

    Wow, now even Novak is resorting to the "He doesn't mean it! He's just confused and easily manipulated!" argument about George W. Good thing Dick Cheney is there in his patented Fourth Branch ECV (Extra-Constitutional Vehicle) to tell us what the President REALLY wanted to say.

  • thoreau||

    LarryA-

    I'm not talking about their reception by other gun owners. I'm talking about their reception by other elements of the coalitions, factions that aren't focused on firearms.

  • ||

    People who don't like deunciations of racism HATE me.

    And just can't stop themselves from dragging it into every conversation.

    I love the fact that I bother you this much, OtherMatt. Love it.

  • T||

    People who don't like deunciations of racism HATE me.

    But joe, keep in mind it's you they hate, not all people of your race, so it's not racism.

    Remember, kids, it's not racism if you get to know people and hate them for the loathsome creatures they really are!

  • ||

    Hmmm...250 Representatives and 55 Senators. That seems like enough to enact a law. And, if I recall correctly, Congress has exclusive jurisdiction over DC (although it has granted home rule to the city government on many issues). So, instead of signing a brief to the Supreme Court, why don't they write some damn legislation overturning the DC ban?

  • ||

    Please keep in mind that gun owners serve a similar role in the Republican party as African-Americans do with the Democrats. We're welcome to contribute funds, canvas voters in phone banks, post our yard signs, and even sit in "the big tent". But we're expected to sit in the back, be quiet, and don't do anything embarassing to the party, like for instance ask for some legislation that we like to be passed. What the Republicans seem to forget is that no Republican nominee has advanced to the Oval Office without the endorsement of the NRA in 20 years. If we get ticked off and stay home, they lose. It's just that simple.

  • Other Matt||

    But joe, keep in mind it's you they hate, not all people of your race, so it's not racism.

    Remember, kids, it's not racism if you get to know people and hate them for the loathsome creatures they really are!


    Actually, joe hates himself for having white skin. That would be racist. I hate him for being an arrogant fuckwit moron, which is well documented, so that wouldn't be.

    It actually started when I pointed out that gun control's roots are inherently racist and that Obama is a good example of someone that has been suckered. joe, I guess irritated that someone interrupted his one handed typing on the subject of racism, and highly offended that anyone but him assumed they could point out anything regarding racism, resorted to insulting me. So, I just return the favor to the little goat fuck moron whenever I see him.

    I love the fact that I bother you this much, OtherMatt. Love it.

    I'm glad I could make your day, joe, now come on over here and let me drop trou so you can give me a big ole sloppy kiss.

    So, instead of signing a brief to the Supreme Court, why don't they write some damn legislation overturning the DC ban?

    Believe it or not, that was the strategy of the NRA attempting to prevent this case from being heard, via Hatch, if I recall correctly. The NRA is all about "Grassroots" change, they don't like direct confrontation because they don't do it very well. They're really quite scared, for all their shrill cries, of the question actually getting to the Supreme Court. It's understandable, the Supreme Court is always somewhat of a crapshoot, and if it was suddenly well settled the NRA would be out of business. They grudgingly decided to go along with it once they realized it was going to happen regardless, but they weren't too happy about it.

  • Other Matt||

    Please keep in mind that gun owners serve a similar role in the Republican party as African-Americans do with the Democrats.

    Which is why I vote independent, Dan, and I cancelled my life membership to NRA in favor of GOA and some of the more dedicated groups.

  • ||

    Other Matt can't think in any terms but race.

    And he hates it when I call him on it.

  • ||

    The president could have ordered a revised brief by Clement. But under congressional Democratic pressure to keep hands off the Justice Department, Bush did not act....

    So if Mukasey comes out tomorrow and says waterboarding is torture and thus illegal, and the warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and he's ending it, Bush would forego immediately firing him out of fear of the Democrats?

    If that's not the case, then it's obvious Bush cares more about continuing those liberty-shrinking policies than he does about gun rights.

  • ||

    Maybe Bush is just really deferential to the idea that the people of the District of Columbia should govern themselves with minimal federal intrusion.

    So requiring local governments to comply with the Bill of Rights is "federal intrusion" now? I don't even know where to begin with that whopper.

  • John Corbett||

    George Bush has twice taken an oath to "...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.", not to pass the buck to the Supreme Court. He did just that when he signed McCain-Feingold. He seems ready to retreat from his responsiblilies once again. How anyone who claims to be a conservative can continue to defend this empty suit is a complete mystery.

  • brian||

    Chris Potter
    So requiring local governments to comply with the Bill of Rights is "federal intrusion" now? I don't even know where to begin with that whopper.


    Well, remember that it was only about 50 years ago that state and local governments had to abide by the Bill of Rights. There's nothing in the Constitution saying that have to--that decision was made by the Supreme Court.

    Of course, when that decision was passed down, the Right was up in arms about "federal intrusion." That was mostly because it stripped local governments of the right to discriminate based on race though.

  • brian||

    John Corbett | March 13, 2008, 9:23pm | #

    George Bush has twice taken an oath to "...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.", not to pass the buck to the Supreme Court. He did just that when he signed McCain-Feingold. He seems ready to retreat from his responsiblilies once again. How anyone who claims to be a conservative can continue to defend this empty suit is a complete mystery.


    I dispute the claim that conservatives are big fans of the Bill of Rights. How many conservatives do you know who support numbers One (flag burning), Four (no-knock searches, warrantless wiretapping), Five/Six (military tribunals, habeas corpus), Eight (death penalty, torture), Nine (take your pick), and Ten (federalizing local criminal cases). Thats 7/10.

    Ok, so they agree that the government shouldn't be able to force private citizens to put soldiers up in their homes (but I'm sure you'd find many hawkish conservatives being perfectly fine with that, making it 8/10).

    Ok, so they support the second amendment--so long as it doesn't affect their law and order positions, and they support the 10th to an extent. You've got me there.

    So I'll grant you that: True conservatives support the Bill of Rights, except for amendments 1,3,4,5,6,8, and 9 (and sometimes 10).

  • LarryA||

    I'm not talking about their reception by other gun owners. I'm talking about their reception by other elements of the coalitions, factions that aren't focused on firearms.

    Agreed. I was just pointing out that for some of those factions, which are not focused on guns (unions are about work issues) the perception doesn't match the reality.

  • ||

    As a Jewess in the US, I would like to remind everyone that criminals are stopped by FIREARMS, not by talk. And that America wasn't won with a registered gun! That is why all REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST!

  • ||

    I thought he was The Decider.

  • ||

    Brian, TRUE conservatives support the Bill of Rights from one end to the other. The problem is that there are so few true conservatives.

    This, BTW, is why there was such an argument about whether to enumerate rights in the first place. The Anti-Federalists correctly predicted the hair-splitting that we are seeing today, while the Federalists correctly predicted that the power-hungry would usurp any right not put down on paper.

  • ||

    We have already gutted much of the Constitution and are doing the same with the Bill of Rights. The Constitution is not a menu where you get to pick the parts you like. It is also not a living document as so many of the liberal revisionists dream it is. Please find me a true conservative, not one socialist, a newbie and a wannabe almost conservative Republican. Is there a "none of the above" on the November ballot? Otherwise, just vote for the one you dislike least.

  • ||

    George Bush's legacy is to castrate the conservative movement and the concept of limited government. Doubling the size of federal spending, strong determination to keep our borders porous until they disappear altogether, and setting the stage for civil rights to be superseded by the war on terror have marked him as an enemy of the Constitution. He is the personification of what our founders saw as the gateway to tyranny.

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