Cliven Bundy Just Ruined His Cause

After Bundy’s overtly racist remarks, let’s see how far politicians run away from him.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
April 24, 2014, 4:15 a.m.

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The New York Times has over­heard Cliven Bundy — the Nevada ranch­er who, in­stead of pay­ing dec­ades of over­due graz­ing fees, met the Bur­eau of Land man­age­ment with guns and a small mi­li­tia — say­ing this:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy re­called driv­ing past a pub­lic-hous­ing pro­ject in North Las Ve­gas, “and in front of that gov­ern­ment house the door was usu­ally open and the older people and the kids — and there is al­ways at least a half a dozen people sit­ting on the porch — they didn’t have noth­ing to do. They didn’t have noth­ing for their kids to do. They didn’t have noth­ing for their young girls to do.

“And be­cause they were ba­sic­ally on gov­ern­ment sub­sidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young chil­dren, they put their young men in jail, be­cause they nev­er learned how to pick cot­ton. And I’ve of­ten wondered, are they bet­ter off as slaves, pick­ing cot­ton and hav­ing a fam­ily life and do­ing things, or are they bet­ter off un­der gov­ern­ment sub­sidy? They didn’t get no more free­dom. They got less free­dom.”

Con­ser­vat­ive and liber­tari­an politi­cians have been sym­path­et­ic to­ward Bundy’s cause, fram­ing his protest as an act of pat­ri­ot­ism in the face of an over­step­ping gov­ern­ment. The graz­ing fees were re­lated to the En­dangered Spe­cies Act. Ranch­ers on pro­tec­ted fed­er­al land have to pay a fee if they want to use it. And most of the land in Nevada is owned by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. 

Ex­pect every politi­cian to back away from the is­sue.

“His re­marks on race are of­fens­ive and I whole­heartedly dis­agree with him,” Sen. Rand Paul said in a state­ment Thursday morn­ing.

But it was just Monday night when Paul offered a care­ful de­fense of Bundy’s ac­tions to Fox News. Say­ing that while break­ing the law is wrong, the gov­ern­ment should re­think its busi­ness man­aging graz­ing land. “I’m for obey­ing the law and I’m not for a vi­ol­ent out­come,” he said. “But with re­gard to the gen­er­al ques­tion, should the states have some prerog­at­ive in this, I think so.” 

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, who hasn’t had many kind words for Bundy be­fore Thursday, called the ranch­er a “hate­ful ra­cist” in a state­ment.

Sen. Ted Cruz has also ral­lied be­hind Bundy, say­ing the stan­doff “is the un­for­tu­nate and tra­gic cul­min­a­tion of the path that Pres­id­ent Obama has set the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment on.” He said the ad­min­is­tra­tion was “us­ing the jack­boot of au­thor­it­ari­an­ism to come against the cit­izens.”

Con­ser­vat­ive Fox News an­chor Sean Han­nity has had Bundy on his show mul­tiple times, and Bundy calls Han­nity one of his her­oes. 

Sen. Dean Heller, who the Times writes has called Bundy’s sup­port­ers “pat­ri­ots,” offered this re­sponse to the pa­per via a spokes­per­son. He “com­pletely dis­agrees with Mr. Bundy’s ap­palling and ra­cist state­ments, and con­demns them in the most strenu­ous way.”

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­pelled Sen. Dean Heller’s first name.

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