By Richard Reeves
“This is the beginning of taking America back,” said Shawna Cox, who had come from Kanab, Utah, one of hundreds of “patriots” supporting Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has refused to pay a million dollars in grazing fees to the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 85 percent of the dusty land of that state. That makes him a hero to folks like Cox, who have traveled hundreds and thousands of miles, toting their guns, to drive off U.S. Park Rangers trying to drive his cattle off federal land.
He’s a tax cheat is Bundy. But his supporters seem to think he’s Davy Crockett, standing up to an oppressive government. The analogy doesn’t quite hold because Crockett and the rest of the guys at the Alamo were not fighting against the United States. They were fighting the Mexican government. They were, as it happens, illegal aliens trying to take over Texas, which was legally part of Mexico.
Fox News and many prominent elected officials—Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them—have praised and backed Bundy. If there is a movie, Bundy, who is 67 years old, will be played by Mel Gibson. One of the reasons the feds wanted to get Bundy’s cattle off the land was that the government concluded that the grazing cattle were violating the habitat of the desert tortoise, an endangered species.
Great stuff, the Marlboro Man and all that. Then, whoops! Adam Nagourney of The New York Times interviewed Bundy out there in the desert. Bundy, adverse to shutting up—no John Wayne, he—volunteered his feelings about black people. He told Nagourney, in case you missed it, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” and then went on to say that African-Americans were better off under slavery than under the benevolent rule of the modern government of the United States of America.
Oh, dear. The conservatives cheering him on, including such semi-bright bulbs as Sean Hannity of Fox News, began to attack their boy Bundy, saying that they still thought the Bureau of Land Management, and the government for which it stands, is part of a police state quickly put together by Barack Obama.
Politico.com loved it, headlining its lead story: “Cliven Bundy’s First and Last Rodeo.”
Senators Paul and Cruz, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, quickly ran for the hills, saying that they were only talking about expanded government. God forbid, they meant to side with brother Bundy, who lives in a town called Bunkerville. A spokesman for Gov. Perry said: “The governor has had a chance to read Bundy’s comments since this morning, and thinks they are offensive and reprehensible, and absolutely disagrees with them.”
“With Paul,” Politico pointed out, “it could be an especially big problem if other Republicans use the incident to raise broader questions about his judgment. In an interview with Fox News last week, Paul declared that ‘this is a real ... intellectual and constitutional and legal debate, but it shouldn’t be about violence of arms, and I hope that the government will not be there in full arms and provoke a showdown and something terrible will happen.’”
You couldn’t make this up.
Paul seemed to be saying that Bundy’s militialike vigilantes can use guns, but the government can’t. He is against sending in the 82nd Airborne to drive these “patriots” and tax-cheaters home.
Not every conservative wants to run away from Bundy and his posse—yet. Ben Howe, a contributing editor at Red State, tweeted: “We’re running into classic conservative overcorrection here. Bundy may be an idiot. This doesn’t make BLM actions correct. Come on people.”
So, it is, at the moment, a standoff. Certainly the government is not interested in capturing or killing one old fool.
It seems to me that what the government should do is to give southern Nevada back to Mexico. Even better, we could give it back the Paiutes, the nomadic Indian tribe that roamed there before the white man came. You may not believe this, but, in fact, the descendants of the Paiutes have a small reservation, 10 acres inside the city of Las Vegas.
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