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President Bush's Boy Feels the Sting of His Boss' Mistake

by Sam Cohen

May 8, 2003 -- The New Hampshire State Republican Committee is sponsoring a series of in-state visits from party bigwigs. Last night, Karl Rove, advisor to the President, and a friend of George W. Bush for 30 years, spoke at a lecture hall at Southern New Hampshire University, in Manchester. The hall was full, with several hundred people there, including a state senator, a recent Congressional candidate, and a number of other people I knew. (New Hampshire's a small state.) I sat in the front row, and after Rove's speech, was the last of a half-dozen people to be recognized for questions. 

I introduced myself as a director of Gun Owners of New Hampshire, the NRA state affiliate, noting -- for the benefit of the audience -- that even Bill Clinton admitted that the country's 83 million gun owners, and the NRA, delivered the electoral votes of Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia in the 2000 election. I then told of assistant White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's statement a couple of weeks ago that President Bush had joined Democrat senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer in calling for renewal of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, due to sunset after ten years in 2004. 

My question was whether President Bush was aware that many thousands of gun-rights activists around the country felt so strongly about this that we had drawn a line in the sand (my exact words), and would not support ANY politician -- even President Bush himself -- who supported this atrocious legislation. 

Rove began his answer by referring to the tremendous amount of email that the White House had received on this subject, but then he shot back the question of whether we supported Bush in the 2000 elections. 

I said "absolutely." His follow-up was that Bush had publicly campaigned on his position of "enforcing existing gun laws," and his position hasn't changed; he was just being consistent. Rove then closed the session and walked off the stage. 

Just a few minutes later, I approached him to continue in private as he was leaving the building; I was the last to do so before he got into his car. This is where it got interesting: Rove took my arm and literally got in my face, using the old drill sergeant intimidation trick of speaking through clenched teeth with his nose an inch from mine. It didn't work, because I'm taller (and older, and uglier) than he is, and I took HIS arm in turn. He told me that Bush was sticking to his position, but that Congress would never pass the legislation. I told him that there were a lot of us, that we were dead serious, and that if Bush let the ban get renewed he'd lose the election, because freedom is more important than politics. He looked at me -- still with clenched teeth -- turned, and walked to his car, obviously angry. 

GOOD! First, his anger told me that he knew that the hypocritical strategy was dangerous. More importantly, it tells me he'll remember the exchange. 

Molon Labe!

Sam Cohen

* RKBA! (...the exclamation point means "shall not be infringed!")