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Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Featured, Law, Politics, Race | 17 comments

Cliven Bundy wonders if blacks were ‘better off as slaves’: Republican supporters start fleeing (UPDATED)

Cliven-Bundy (2)

More responsible Republicans are now starting to flee. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the rancher who refused to pay grazing fees, suggested he’d violently resist if the feds showed up to try and coerce him or touch his land or property, made comments in a New York Times interview that even one of cows would look at and say: “Those comments are racist!”

(UPDATE: Bundy is now in damage control mode, visiting friendly conservative talk show hosts. But there is, in fact, video of him making the comments. DETAILS ARE HERE. My prediction now: many Republicans and libertarians will resume supporting him, saying he was misquoted or that it was a NY Times “gotcha,” which will to them negate what he said. And it’ll be another thing that damages Republicans with anyone who doesn’t already vote for them — and even with some who do.)

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) are now backing away from their support of Bundy due to this section of the Times interview:

But if the federal government has moved on, Mr. Bundy — a father of 14 and a registered Republican — has not.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“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.”

The three questions now will be:

(1)Does it really matter to partisans and ideologists anymore what someone who they feel is on their side says or does, or after a bit of outrage will people (predictably) jump through hoops to still try and defend him?

(2) Will Fox News revise its coverage — which featured Sean Hannity all but in a cheerleader’s costume with printed “BUNDY!” letters. jumping up and down with pompoms.In fact, this was in many ways a Sean Hannity inflated controversy: his coverage provided the impetus for other conservative print and media to seemingly jump on the go-Bundy-and-resist-the-feds bandwagon.

(3)Will there be some soul searching on the part of those who supported him, not due to his racist comments but on a clear fact: as we’ve seen time and time again, if it’s something involving defending a member of a partisan’s or ideologist’s political sports team (or more accurately political tribe), people in the 21st century will completely jettison their past values. Republicans used to be the “law and order” party, but now some GOPers today seemingly embrace virtual insurrection and treat the concept of confrontation sparking bloodshed lightly. If gunfire broke out, one strategy allegedly was that Bundy & Company would use women as human shields. (I don’t think that’s exactly the way the American revolution was won.)

And the answer to whether some will jump through hoops to defend Bundy is: yes.

It has already started. Conservative radio host Dana Loesch:

“I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media trained to express himself perfectly,” she wrote, noting that “it’s justified to have a healthy suspicion of the New York Times” for raising the issue.

So it’s all (of course) the New York Times fault for twisting his arm giving him truth serum plying him with drinks making up a quote on instructions from Barack Obama for reporting what he told them.

Paul and Heller are moving quickly to distance themselves from Bundy’s comments:

“His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said in a statement Thursday shortly after the Times published its story.

A Heller spokesman said the senator “disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”

Both senators have previously defended Bundy in his dispute against the Bureau of Land Management, which has accused the rancher of using federal land to graze his cattle for decades without paying fees. Paul criticized the federal government’s handling of the dispute, while Heller has referring to Bundy’s supporters as patriots.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has blasted Bundy, calling his supporters “domestic terrorists.”

The Washington Post’s Post Partisan blog:

Since Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s remarks to the New York Times — they began, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro” — Republicans who have expressed previous admiration and support for his standoff with the Bureau of Land Management have been mostly silent. Bundy has not paid grazing fees for his cattle, which number into the hundreds and have been on federal land illegally, for over two decades.

However, the more prominent Republican leaders who have made public and laudatory statements about Bundy have begun to backtrack. Expect the rest — if they want to keep their political careers — to follow.


Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul released a statement Thursday saying, Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.” During an interview on Fox News this Monday, Paul offered hesitant and stipulated support for Bundy. “With regard to his specifics, I’m for obeying the law and I’m not for a violent outcome,” he told host Greta Van Susteren. “But with regard to the general question, should the states have some prerogative in this, I think so. I would like to see the land owned by individuals, either privately or, at the very most, the state government, but not the federal government. And I would like to see the Endangered Species Act administered with a little more sense of what people need as well as what animals need.”

Van Susteren has also distanced herself from Bundy. A headline on her Web site linking to the New York Times story reads, “Let Me Make This Plain: I Condemn What Cliven Bundy Said About African Americans.”

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller’s spokesperson said Thursday, “Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.” While on a local television show with his fellow Nevada senator Harry Reid, Heller said, “What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots. “We have a very different view on this.”

Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward — who spoke at a Bundy rally in Nevada this month — wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post: “Apparently he has some thoughts that aren’t shared by many Americans. He is free to think and speak as he chooses (even if it may offend) and we are free to listen (or not) and form our own opinions. I am thankful for our amazing Constitution and the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech — if I don’t agree, I don’t seek to silence or shame the speaker or to paint his associates with the broad brush of collective condemnation.” Ward says she also disagrees with Bundy’s statements to the Times.


Lauren Scott, who is running for a Nevada Assembly seat this year, tweeted, “Nevadans may support your views on the BLM but your bigoted and racist views are are not welcome in Nevada, Mr. Bundy.” The executive director of Equality Nevada and former Democrat, she registered as Republican for the first time last year. “If left unchecked, neoconservative policies will turn Nevada into a corporate-owned wasteland, not a state for the people and their families,” she said. “I will bring leadership and common sense back to the Republican Party,”

As the Post notes, the media now has question to ask Republicans and the Democrats have a new attack line:

Expect many other Republicans who have been silent on the issue of Bundy to be asked for a comment during this slow week in the middle of a congressional recess and a presidential trip abroad. Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus was asked about the issue this morning on the conservative “Coffee and Markets” podcast. “I haven’t really been following that issue much, I have to tell you,” Priebus said. He’s not the only one trying to evade the issue:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry went on “CBS This Morning,” and was asked about Bundy’s comments. “I don’t know what he said,” Perry responded, “but the fact is Cliven Bundy is a side issue here compared to what we’re looking at in the state of Texas. He is an individual – deal with his issues as you may. What we have in the state of Texas, I don’t get distracted about, is the federal government is coming in and attempting, from our perspective, to take over private property. And you must — if this country’s to stay the land of freedom and liberty, private property rights must be respected.”

The Post notes that Democrats are already having a field day.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey:

This has always been a tricky case, one where sympathies and the law go in opposite directions, as John Hinderaker noted at Power Line last week. Legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg on which to stand, and his weird insistence that the federal government has no jurisdiction on federal land has no basis in law or reality. Having the BLM show up with a small army to collect a debt made it easy to sympathize with Bundy and to call their actions into question, but they’ve been pursuing this case through the courts for more than two decades, too, while Bundy grazes on federal land. The federal government may own too much land, but that’s an issue for the states to fight in court, not ranchers with guns.

Bundy doesn’t have a legal case. And it looks like sympathy just ran out for him, too.

Ed Kilgore:

Since Nagourney’s story came out late yesterday, you can imagine the consternation in conservative-land, which has for the most part adopted Bundy as a sort of sage-brush counterpart to Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. What to say? Dean Heller’s staff was smart enough to immediately distance The Boss from Bundy’s racist rant. It took Rand Paul a bit longer to get there. Texas GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott’s people also disavowed an earlier effort to link his cause to Bundy’s. It’s probably a matter of moments before someone accuses Nagourney of inventing the quote about “the Negro,” and it’s probably crossed more than a few minds that Bundy is an agent provocateur. Seems to me the old cowboy really, really wanted to say what he said; he had to understand he was blowing up his own game.

All I know for sure is that the next ten or a hundred conservative gabbers who claim the only racists in America are liberals who play the “race card” are going to have to deal with Bundy’s example. They, not liberals, made the man an icon. Let them explain how his racism is unconnected with all the other reactionary features of his world view, which are pure as ever.

The Atlantic Online:

A couple days ago Jonathan Chait asserted that modern conservatism is “doomed” because it is “rooted in white supremacy.” The first claim may or may not be true, but there’s little doubt about the second. Whether it’s the Senate minority leader claiming that America should have remained legally segregated, a beloved cultural figure fondly recalling how happy black people were living under lynch law, a presidential candidate calling Barack Obama a “food-stamp president,” or a campaign surrogate calling Barack Obama “a subhuman mongrel,” the preponderance of evidence shows that modern conservatism just can’t quit white supremacy.

This is unsurprising. White supremacy is one of the most dominant forces in the history of American politics. In a democracy, it would be silly to expect it to go unexpressed. Thus anyone with a sense of American history should be equally unsurprised to discover that rugged individualist Cliven Bundy is the bearer of some very interesting theories..

The National Journal has a story titled: “Cliven Bundy Just Ruined His Cause” which includes this:

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 it’s 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.”

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.

Outside the Beltway’s Steven Taylor:

1. It is ironic that he is concerned about government subsidies for the poor since he expects the federal government to subsidize his cattle ranching.
2. Now that many on Fox News have so openly embraced Bundy’s cause, how will they deal with this?
3. This is another example of a prominent figure supported by some on the right who turns out to have racist views. Many politicians and commentators now have to figure out how to extricate themselves from this situation. This reminded me of a recent piece by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: You’re in Denial if You Think Steve Israel Is Wrong About GOP Racism, the subtitle of which states “Not a month goes by without a GOP racial gaffe, racist vitriol fills conservative websites’ comment sections, and the party refuses to take on the issue.” So I guess this one for this month.
And no, Bundy is not a Republican official, but he is a registered Republican who has become a cause célèbre in some Republican circles. At a minimum, these statements will be associated in the minds of many with the Republican Party and will further solidify what Representative Israel (D-NY) said on TV recently: “to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.” Bundy and his allies are, without a doubt, part of that base. And this a problem that the Republican Party, writ large, refuses to address.

–An earlier post from Salon that is a must-read. Part of it:

Sean Hannity rarely seems to reflect on the moral implications of careless words – at least his own. Preventing Nancy Pelosi from becoming House speaker was, said Hannity, “a cause worth fighting and dying for.” When the killer of churchgoing Unitarians was found to have a Hannity book on his shelf, he showed no sign of introspection – and never toned down his rhetoric.

Now Hannity has responded to criticisms of his Bundy coverage by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton Jr. by attacking them personally. He also made a cryptic comment in response to Schultz’s claim that “I think Sean Hannity is cheerleading for armed conflict with the federal government.”

Hannity responded: “Now, the No. 1 thing that Ed Schultz said was true, but guess what? If I was a network exec at NBC News I might be ashamed of having this man work for me.”

However you interpret those words, it’s clear that Hannity will not be held accountable to a reasonable ethical standard. But what about his corporate bosses either at Fox, or the Koch brothers? Who’ll hold them accountable?

Some on the right will try to make this a free speech issue. But this isn’t about the right to say unpopular or dangerous things. It’s about the abuse of a powerful megaphone for selfish ends, with potentially disastrous consequences. The freedom to speak doesn’t exempt one for moral responsibility for what is said.

Fox has promoted Bundy’s threat to start a “range war.” They seem to have forgotten the typical “range war” plotline in old American westerns. You know the one. Wealthy, cruel cattlemen try to terrorize small farmers and the townsfolk until they submit to their outrageous demands. Fox, Hannity, the Koch brothers: They’re the bad guys in this movie.

What happens if the last act turns violent?

The Daily Banter’s Michael Luciano:

Yesterday I wrote that Sean Hannity was cultivating trouble by supporting Cliven Bundy, the deadbeat Nevada rancher who says he doesn’t recognize the federal government and who’s played host to an armed anti-government “militia.” That conspiracy goon Alex Jones had jumped to Bundy’s defense should’ve given Hannity pause, but he allowed his hatred of the Obama administration to rule the day.
This kerfuffle has been Hannity’s pet cause of late, with Fox News’ blowiest blowhard having the 67-year-old on his show to, I guess, spin the 1787 Constitutional Convention as a victory for the Anti-Federalists. But all that Bundy-pimping will be gone now after the he made racist remarks while addressing a group of supporters on Saturday. And I don’t mean Salon’s idea of racist, I mean racist-racist…

…Some conservatives have already started to withdraw support from Bundy, but the truth is his what he said is very much a part of Republican psychology, and this has manifested in the subtext of innumerable GOP political campaigns over the years with aim of stoking enough white rage to achieve electoral victories. And white rage is exactly what Hannity taps into every night and it’s why he’s one of the most successful conservative talk show hosts on television and radio.

Balloon Juice’s John Cole:

Every single…Republican who spoke out in favor of this loser should have their words plastered on tv commercials over this racist a——’s words. Can we find a left-wing Adelson to fund these damned ads?

Also, I’m going to be forced to go through the Reason archives looking for complimentary pieces on Bundy by Welch, Gillespie, Sullum, and crew, aren’t I? That alone makes me sick to my stomach.


John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune

John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune