Steven Clemons: What Would George W. Bush Do?





[Steven Clemons is a Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, where he previously served as Executive Vice President.]

Slate's Dave Weigel has a nice clip quoting former Bush administration Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and current Director of the George W. Bush Institute James K. Glassman.

Weigel writes:

[James K.} Glassman, who served as undersecretary for public diplomacy under George W. Bush, also believes that the controversy over the planned Islamic community center will hurt the U.S. image among Muslims abroad.


And he believes that Obama's task, like his predecessor's, is to replace the conspiratorial narrative about a United States as an enemy of Islam with one in which a tolerant, freedom-loving country does right by Muslims.

Reading between the lines with Glassman as a proxy for the former President of the United States -- the man who despite launching wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, who regularly met with and coordinated policies with Arab and Muslim leaders, and who did not allow the pugnacious, bomb-them-now wing of his White House prevail in the latter years of his presidency -- would have offered no less support for the Cordoba Mosque near Ground Zero than New York Michael Bloomberg or President Obama at the White House Iftar dinner.

In my view, James Glassman is right on target, and I applaud his willingness to speak out on this from his perch at George W. Bush Central.

And now, speaking out as Arab American and Muslim American Republicans, a group of Washington notables has sent an open letter to their colleagues and friends in the Republican Party:

Dear Republican Colleague:

We are writing to you today as loyal Americans who are active members of the Republican Party. We also happen to be proud of our Arab American and Muslim American contributions to the Republican Party.

We are deeply concerned by the rhetoric of some leading members of our party surrounding the construction of the Muslim Community Center in downtown Manhattan. These comments are not only constitutionally unsound, they are also alienating millions of Arab American and Muslim American voters who believe, as we do, in the principles of our party - individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.

As you know, our party has had a long history of inclusion - beginning with our great President Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership on the slavery issue was monumental, and continuing through President George W. Bush whose public statements and actions on the differentiation between Islam and the terrorists who attacked us on 9-11 were critically important. We are particularly proud to note that President Bush appointed more Arab Americans and Muslim Americans to his administration than any other president in U.S. history.

That being said, it perplexes us as to why some vocal members of our party have chosen to oppose the construction of a cultural and religious center on private grounds. Not only does the First Amendment to our Constitution protect the right of these private citizens to worship freely, it also prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion. Our party and the leaders in our party should not be engaged in judgment issues of the location of a cultural center and a house of worship in direct contravention of the First Amendment.

While some in our party have recently conceded the constitutional argument, they are now arguing that it is insensitive, intolerant and unacceptable to locate the center at the present location:"Just because they have the right to do so - does not make it the right thing to do" they say. Many of these individuals are objecting to the location as being too close to the Ground Zero site and voicing the understandable pain and anguish of the 9-11 families who lost loved ones in this horrible tragedy. In expressing compassion and understanding for these families, we are asking ourselves the following: if two blocks is too close, is four blocks acceptable? or six blocks? or eight blocks? Does our party believe that one can only practice his/her religion in certain places within defined boundaries and away from the disapproving glances of some citizens? Should our party not be standing up and taking a leadership role- just like President Bush did after 9-11 - by making a clear distinction between Islam, one of the great three monotheistic faiths along with Judaism and Christianity, versus the terrorists who committed the atrocities on 9-11 and who are not only the true enemies of America but of Islam as well? President Bush struck the right balance in expressing sympathy for the families of the 9-11 victims while making it absolutely clear that the acts committed on 9-11 were not in the name of Islam. We are hoping that our party leaders can do the same now - especially at a time when it is greatly needed.

While we share the desire of all in our party to be successful in the November elections, we cannot support victory at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or the Arab and Muslim community in America. As President Lincoln so eloquently stated in his famous speech:"a house divided against itself cannot stand."

As proud and patriotic Americans, we are grateful for all the rights our U.S. citizenship allows us, and we will always do our best to not only protect our rights but the rights of all others as well. May God Bless our nation, our freedoms, and our party.

David Ramadan
Vice Chair, Ethnic Coalitions, Republican Party of Virginia

Sherine El-Abd
President, New Jersey Federation of Republican Women

Randa Fahmy Hudome
Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy, Bush Administration

George Salem
Solicitor of Labor, Reagan Administration

Suhail Khan
Chairman, Conservative Inclusion Coalition

Samah A Norquist
Senior Advisor to Arab and Muslim Outreach, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Bush Administration

My late professor, mentor, and friend, Hans Baerwald, taught me that one never really knows the"norms" of a political system unless that system is observed under stress.

Today, we are seeing behaviors emerge in American political life that violate the basic social contract of what this country is about and seeing too much of a tilt towards the possibility of mob rule.

When George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Michael Bloomberg are all essentially on the same side of an issue and the mob out there is trying to lynch American values -- it's time for us to wake up and defend what is right in this country and speak out against what is wrong.

I hope this minority group of Republicans -- including James Glassman as well as the Arab American Republicans and Muslim American Republicans listed above -- eventually work back to hijack their party from those doing such harm to it today.

And Senator Harry Reid would be wise to also read this letter -- as he no doubt will soon be hearing from Arab and Muslim Americans in his own constituency.



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