The adage being, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re an idiot, than open your mouth and confirm it”. And in the case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), two who exemplify not only haw far apart we as Americans are becoming – but frankly how stupidly uncompromising we are as well.
In early April, Cliven Bundy garnered his 15-minutes of nationalized spotlight when he became embroiled in a standoff with members from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as they attempted to clear Mr. Bundy’s cattle from federal lands in the Clark County region. The BLM was enacting a court injunction not only barring Mr. Bundy from said federal land, but was also entitled to sell off the impounded cattle to pay off the decades-long fines that had built up from Mr. Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees. (Fuller)
Naturally Mr. Bundy and his family challenged the BLM, and is often the case the truth was lost amid poor decisions on both sides. Complicating the matter, militias from California, Arizona, Montana, and as far away as New Hampshire answered Mr. Bundy’s call for “Range War” without considering the facts. One militia leader and former Arizona sheriff who came to Mr. Bundy’s aid, Richard Mack, goes on Fox News detailing,
We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers. (Johnson)
Quickly the situation deteriorated and both parties cried foul. Thing was, even Mr. Bundy maintained later the standoff was never about grazing fees, money, or the so-called “endangered” desert tortoise the BLM used as justification for regulations. For him, this was all about the role of government in a citizen’s life. He defined himself as a Nevada “citizen” and described the federal government in Washington D.C. as invalid, not recognizing its authority over the state or himself. (Isquith) (Kessler)
Problem is, per Nevada’s Constitution, he is wrong. In fact the federal government’s claim to the land where Mr. Bundy’s ancestors settled supersedes Mr. Bundy’s as the land was ceded by Mexico to the US Government in 1848 as part of the Mexican Cession. But today the state Constitution, or the fact that Mr. Bundy has been afforded due process three times (1998, 1999, 2013) in separate court cases, doesn’t stop right-wing talk show personalities like Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, or Deana Leash from spinning Mr. Bundy as a “hero”. Oppositely, Rachel Madow, Chris Hayes, and the New York Times have all derided Mr. Bundy as a dead-beat, tax-dodging radical. So the impartiality and “balanced” news coverage in the standoff was immediately questioned as both sides spun the story for their base, giving Mr. Bundy exactly what he wanted – a national stage. (Poulos)
Once the BLM cancelled the cattle confiscation and withdrew citing safety concerns, Mr. Bundy appeared on a variety of newscasts, predominantly Fox News, decrying government overreach and sovereign state rights. But fact is (one conveniently overlooked) that the federal government still owns the land, it always has. Indeed the US federal government owns more undeveloped land than almost any nation on earth with approximately 1/8th of the US landmass under the purview of the BLM. (Government Accountability Office) So the argument that this is something new is irrelevant because thousands of ranchers utilize BLM maintained land each year and willingly comply with regulations that are politically, environmentally, and economically motivated. Yes it sucks that the government imposes rules on how the public can access “its land” but fact is that without those regulations there would be significant impacts. As history has proven, when left to their own individual devices humanity doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record for choosing patience over profit.
So where does the “open your mouth and confirm it” come into play?
Enter Senator Harry Reid who, a mere two days following the withdrawal of the BLM from the Bunkerville Allotment, appeared in an interview stating,
It’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over. (Fox News) (McCalmont)
A rather over-the-top response issued by Reid that resembled an open threat. Fact is Reid has a lot of reasons to respond like this, but mainly because he’s scared. Scared because the BLM Director, Neil Kornze, is a former staffer of Reid’s and was appointed by the Senate (meaning Reid not only supported his nomination but likely carried it) mere days before the dust up with Mr. Bundy. Furthermore, if its one thing that terrifies the Progressives the most; it’s the public’s access and rights to firearms, because firearms represent authority and ultimately – control. And it is precisely this control that Mr. Bundy and his supporters are (albeit poorly) challenging with the notion that not only does the federal government have little-to-no role in State governance but that it ultimately doesn’t belong in our lives.
So Mr. Bundy’s response later that same day (because you know the media HAS to know what it would be)?
I don’t have a response for Harry Reid, but I have a response for every county sheriff across the United States. I only want to talk to one person in each county across the United States, and here’s what I want to say: County sheriffs, disarm U.S. bureaucracy. (Associated Press)
The piss match continues with Reid then offering on April 19th that Cliven Bundy and all his supporters are akin to “domestic terrorists”. (McCalmont) He also admitted in the same interview that he had begun working with Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI, and Department of Interior in various cases and plans against the Bundy family. (Fox News) (Johnson)
Hold on now. The ranking Democratic and Senate Majority Leader is calling his own constituency and US citizens “domestic terrorists”. You know, that label we typically apply to folks after the crime and in conjunction with a proportionate amount of evidence like with Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Ted Kaczynski. Per the Department of Defense’s Joint Publication 1-02 terrorism is defined as,
The unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political.
This closely parallels the FBI’s Terrorist Research and Analytical Center in 1994 that defined domestic terrorism as,
The unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Or the guidelines as set forth by the US Patriot Act which reads domestic terrorism as,
(A) Involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Look, I get that both Mr. Bundy and Harry Reid seemingly are spewing from their fourth-point-of-contact, but there was hardly the justification necessary to label the rancher, his family, or his supporters as domestic terrorists (even the militias – although I would warily hold my assessment on that one). Pissed off Americans, sure. But by arbitrarily labeling these people as domestic terrorists Reid has opened the door to any method of investigative or law-enforcement action simply because they dissented with the government. (Whitehead) A dangerous precedent for a Senator of such authority establishing clearly that the federal government is increasingly in one camp, and the very citizenry in another. I would further argue that at no point in our history, aside from the American Civil War, are Americans more politically, socially, and economically further apart from one another than they are now. So in reality, Mr. Bundy and Harry Reid really are just representatives of a bigger dynamic across America. Individuals of opposing political views that are so entrenched they ignore any effort at compromise, logic, reasoning, or the law while using their assorted personal causes to mask larger social issues. (Newby) All the while militia movements like the one seen responding to Mr. Bundy’s call for “Range War” grow. (Thompson)
But yet, not to be outdone in all this (I know, shocking right?), in a diatribe filmed on April 22nd at Bunkersville, NV, Richard Mack is quoted deriding talk show personality Glenn Beck (who advocated peace in the standoff, and that those espousing violence against the BLM we not genuine Americans) saying he “ought to be ashamed of himself”. (Syrmopoulous) Mack maintains,
This is still America, lets put freedom and liberty first. Lets have the people who have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution be legally liable for that, lawfully, legally, and criminally liable for that. If they don’t keep their word then kick them out of office, fire them or charge them criminally. But this incident here has shown me one thing… the federal agents and the mercenaries that they have hired are willing and able, and have made this very clear. They will shoot at unarmed people; they will shoot at unarmed citizens. They are willing to kill, and over what? Grazing fees or the desert tortoise? How ridiculous can you get and they will do that here and then turn around and then blame the Bundy’s. The Bundy’s will not be responsible for that, I’m guaranteeing you that right now.
Strong words from the very man who was willing to put women in children at the forefront of the standoff in what amounted to human shields. First off, by his own logic Mack is exceedingly close to violating his own edict of punishing those violating their oath of office. As a former AZ sheriff he himself took such an oath. Yet here he is championing sovereign individual rights in Nevada against its very state Constitution. Secondly, Mack maintains the federal government is willing to “shoot at unarmed civilians” or “kill” over something as petty as the desert tortoise. Yet at no point during the entire standoff was anyone shot, let alone shot at. Yes, members of Bundy’s family were tased when they themselves became irate with sheriff officers and BLM members trying to execute a federal court order and became agitated. But open source reports show Mr. Bundy’s supporters were far from unarmed. Thanks to arriving militias whom felt this was a defining moment, many openly carried long rifles and full kit openly – as is their right. However, it forced the BLM and law enforcement’s to increase their security posture. For all those on the Right like Mack who insist on playing the “victim” card, lets be honest with ourselves and call a spade a spade. Folks opposite the BLM were far from unarmed and their actions directly influenced the acceleration of the situation. And thirdly, perhaps what Mack is most wrong on, the Bundy’s would have been responsible then, just as they will be going forward.
Ladies and gentlemen I try to play advocate here. Advocate for the truth and Constitutional freedom. And perhaps I am overly critical of the right and their more extreme elements because while I may find many of their principles similar to my own, fact is in this whole situation with Cliven Bundy and the BLM, the only one still crying “foul” here is Conservatives. Despite all evidence to the contrary that Mr. Bundy is in the wrong, including his recent racial remarks on African Americans. Both sides screwed this up. It could have been handled better, there was a lot of room to stop and reassess things – specifically the message perceived by the larger public who, in the tenants of asymmetrical warfare, are the key to victory. If you want to win you have to not only do so in the hearts and minds of your men, but those whom do not presently exist in your camp. By and large that is where I think Cliven Bundy and his supporters failed, to frame the context of the message and how it would be perceived, a failure they continue to do. The militias only exacerbate the problems given their outward and “in your face” approach. For the most part Progressives have already moved on, caring little for a crazed rancher in the Nevada desert who has a wild idea that States should have greater authority than the federal government. Just as our founders initially intended.
Associated Press. ‘Patriots’ back Nevada rancher; Reid labels them ‘domestic terrorists’. 19 April 2014. 19 April 2014 http://triblive.com/usworld/nation/5975927-74/bundy-federal-rancher#axzz2zVzaOv00.
Fox News. Sen. Reid calls supporters of Nevada rancher Bundy ‘domestic terrorists’. 17 April 2014. 17 April 2014 http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/17/sen-reid-calls-supporters-nevada-rancher-bundy-domestic-terrorists/.
Fuller, Jamie. Everything you need to know about the long fight between Cliven Bundy and the federal government. 15 April 2014. 20 April 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/15/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-long-fight-between-cliven-bundy-and-the-federal-government/
Government Accountability Office. Federal Lands Managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service. 22 April 2014 http://www.gao.gov/key_issues/managing_natural_resources/issue_summary.
Isquith, Elias. Cliven Bundy’s ailing America: What a wingnut rancher’s rise says about our waning democracy. 19 April 2014. 19 April 2014 .
Johnson, Timothy. Cliven Bundy Praises “Hero” Sean Hannity, Warns Of Civil War. 21 April 2014. 21 April 2014. http://www.salon.com/2014/04/19/cliven_bundys_ailing_america_what_a_wingnut_ranchers_rise_says_about_our_waning_democracy/
Kessler, Mori. Right or wrong, controversy surrounding Cliven Bundy continues. 19 April 2014. 19 April 2014 . http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2014/04/19/mgk-conflict-surrounding-cliven-bundy-continues/#.U1Txgl5GXyc
McCalmont, Lucy. Harry Reid: Cliven Bundy’s ‘domestic terrorists’. 18 April 2014. 18 April 2014 . http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/cliven-bundy-nevada-ranch-harry-reid-105811.html
Newby, Joe. Liberals on Twitter demand feds kill Bundy family, supporters with drones. 22 April 2014. 22 April 2014. http://www.examiner.com/article/liberals-on-twitter-demand-feds-kill-bundy-family-supporters-with-drones.
Poulos, James. Cliven Bundy Is Angry—Just Like the Rest of Us. 14 April 2014. 14 April 2014 . http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/19/cliven-bundy-is-angry-just-like-the-rest-of-us.html
Suckling, Kieran. A rancher’s armed battle against the US government is standard libertarian fare. 19 April 2014. 19 April 2014 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/19/cliven-bundy-nevada-blm-libertarian.
Syrmopoulous, Jay. VIDEO: Sheriff Mack Calls Out Glenn Beck, “You Ought To Be Ashamed of Yourself!”. 22 April 2014. 22 April 2014 . http://benswann.com/video-sheriff-mack-calls-out-glenn-beck-you-outta-be-ashamed-of-yourself/
Thompson, Christine. Meet the Militia Rushing to Cliven Bundy’s Defence. 23 April 2014. 23 April 2014. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/23/3429758/bundy-militia/.
Whitehead, John. Cliven Bundy and the American Police State. 21 April 2014. 21 April 2014 . http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/the-bundy-paradigm-will-y_b_5185606.html