Just what do you say to lawbreakers when they refuse to cooperate with legal decisions? In Public Lands Council vs. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, yes, the Bureau of Land Management did have the Constitutional authority to enforce the provisions of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, 43 USC 315. What do you say to a freeloading rancher who lost in a Federal District Court in July 2013 (pdf) and again in October 2013 (pdf)?
Nevada’s own freeloading rancher, Cliven Bundy, doesn’t have any “right” to graze his cattle on public land. The land is not his property. He has no deed for the property, it is not for his sole and exclusive use. [TWN] There is no “land grab” because the land never belonged to Mr. Bundy in the first place. How much simpler can the issue be? It is public land, the administration and management of the land is established in 43 USC 315, the law was confirmed as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 15, 2000 in a 9-0 decision from Chief Justice Rehnquist’s court. [Oyez Project] And, not one but two Federal judges have informed Mr. Bundy he has no case.
It isn’t too difficult to come to the conclusion that Mr. Bundy is all for the U.S. Constitution — until a law he doesn’t personally like is declared Constitutional. He may be all for law and order — until the law doesn’t suit his purposes. What do we call the people who violate or ignore laws with impunity? The answer is commonly “anarchists.”
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has another answer. He called them “Patriots.” [Roll Call] Heller offered yet another example of his “Government as Bully” perspective, “I take more issues with BLM coming in with a paramilitary army of people, individuals with snipers, and I’m talking to people and groups that were there at the event, and to have your own government with sniper lenses on you, it made a lot of people very uncomfortable.”
Let us parse. What’s a “paramilitary army of people?” On March 15, 2014 after twenty years of trying to get Mr. Bundy to comply with orders, the Bureau of Land Management informed Mr. Bundy, by letter, that his cattle were “trespassing” and would be impounded. Mr Bundy’s response — to ask the Clark County Sheriff’s Department for “protection.” Bundy gives interviews by the hay wagon load and fans the fire of his displeasure. [WaPo] Members of so-called freedom-fighters gather in Bundy’s support. Bundy family members confront law enforcement personnel, and one is tazered after he kicks a police dog.
That “paramilitary army” of people were law enforcement personnel, BLM employees, and cowboys hired to round up and impound the cattle.
On the other side, a very visible group of Bundy supporters is the Oath Keepers organization, closely associated with the Tea Party, and infamous for proudly announcing what orders they will not obey. The organization includes members of the 3%’ers and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack who refused back in the 90’s to enforce the Brady Laws. [MJ]
Perhaps Senator Heller was ‘inartful’ using the term Paramilitary, but the word usually means an organization the structure, training , culture, and function of which is similar to the military, but is NOT considered a part of a state or federal military branch. So, who has gathered a “paramilitary army of people?” From the photographs of the scene the honors appear to go to Mr. Bundy.
But, Senator Heller is disturbed that people have their own government with sniper lens on them. It makes them uncomfortable. At the risk of flippancy, when is it acceptable to have those who have broken the law for 20 years feel “comfortable?”
The radical right gives every appearance of wanting another drama — another Ruby Ridge, — another Waco, — another armed confrontation with authority, especially federal authority. Senator Heller’s unfortunate use of the word “Patriot” offers sustenance to the fantasies of the radical right wing which feeds on these scenarios, and revels in the scripted Hollywood versions like Red Dawn.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is more accurate calling antigovernment types like Bundy “domestic terrorists.” [previous post] Certainly, there are euphemisms which might make the lawbreakers and their allies more “comfortable,” perhaps we could call them “puerile anti-authority activity advocates?” However, it is not particularly helpful to apply euphemisms to assuage the tender sensitivities of extremists while ignoring the deleterious ramifications of their intentions, and covering their lawlessness with a patina of polite phrases.
The strident whining of the radical right extremists with its cacophony of hypocritical complaints is out of tune with a nation of laws — not of men.