The Not-So-Jolly Rancher
Anyone who thinks the Cliven Bundy debacle is over has not been looking at the news too closely. Politico has picked up the story and written a much more in depth look about this “racist welfare cowboy”. His following number more than 1000 and are growing. They have set up “check points” around the perimeter of where they are staying – stopping cars and harassing people who they fear might be with the government. What makes this volatile is that they are gun carrying extremists. The only fortunate thing has been that surrounding states with rural counties that once held up the Bundy banner so they could keep those pesky wild horses in check for themselves – have backed down… for now. This Bundy situation is too crazy for them.
When Vickery Eckhoff did a piece on these millionaire cattlemen welfare frauds, Forbes magazine let her go. A past article on Steve Forbes himself shows him to proudly be a millionaire cattle welfare cowboy. No wonder then, as Ms Eckhoff and Jane Velez-Mitchell were driving together to a summit on wild horses that she should get a call from Forbes saying she was sacked. The bottom line is…the Bundys of this world have potentially powerful friends trying to get this story to simmer down so they can keep bilking taxpayer money.
A more detailed story on exactly how the Bundy debacle imploded can be read below – its a very good timeline that does indeed look like a Coen brothers movie – a very scary dark Coen brothers movie. ~ HfH
By: Jon Ralston
How the Federal Official Botched the Bundy Cattle Round Up
Cliven Bundy sounds like a character in a Coen brothers movie. But even that imaginative pair, who created the surreal worlds of No Country for Old Men and Fargo, could not have conjured a figure as comically tragic as Bundy. The Nevada rancher who is in a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over cattle-grazing rights has become a figure of mighty symbolic proportions—a hero to “domestic terrorists” and a leader of “patriots,” a brave states’ rights advocate channeling the Founding Fathers and a whining welfare cowboy, an avatar for the common man fighting big government and a crude racist who talks of “the Negro” and “colored” people being better off enslaved.
Bundy has been seen through the immutable prisms of ideology, even after his Tourettish effusions about race, with the fiction factory of the right concocting conspiracy theories and deifying Bundy and the see-no-evil left ignoring the incompetent behavior of a government agency that botched a cattle roundup and then went into a bunker after an aborted operation that reached all the way, I have learned, to the secretary of the Interior.
Add in plenty of Republican politicians spraying lighter fluid on the smoldering embers, with Nevada’s top two GOP officials initially mounting their horses to lead a revived Sagebrush Rebellion. Sen. Dean Heller even went so far as to call Bundy’s militia supporters “patriots,” as if the rancher’s home near Bunkerville, Nevada, were a latter-day Bunker Hill.
And let’s not forget the Man Without a Self-Editing Mechanism, a.k.a. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (oh, who would play him, Joel and Ethan?). Reid’s “domestic terrorists” epithet, which he planned to use to describe Bundy’s supporters and then affixed to the rancher himself, only emboldened a right-wing chorus stoking the flames and hoping to immolate the majority leader, too.
As Bundy has been exposed as a bigoted caricature, an anachronism who could have been played by Rod Steiger in his prime, the real issues surrounding the welfare cowboy are receding. But before they do, and thanks to exclusive information and interviews, it’s worth reviewing how one man’s two-decade flouting of federal law resulted in a tense standoff between government agents and what the local sheriff said was a horde of well-armed supporters ready to die for Bundy.
“I’ve been to a lot of functions,” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, a law enforcement veteran of more than three decades, told me “I’ve never seen that many guns.”
Well, I’ve covered many political stories. And I’ve never heard so many loony conspiracy theories, or seen so many politicians pander to an obviously flawed lawbreaker despite the danger to civilians that they might be exacerbating and the awful precedent they might be enabling.
Cliven Bundy has been breaking the law for two decades.
He grazes his cattle on federal land near his ranch in a 600,000-acre area known as Gold Butte, claiming to have rights to the land dating back to the 1870s. (This ignores some recent research finding that Bundy’s family didn’t buy the property until after World War II, and that the Moapa Paiute Indians actually were there first.)
His battle with the federal government began after a late-1980s listing of the desert tortoise as endangered, forcing a reduction in his grazing allotment to 150 cattle. Bundy, unlike a couple of other Gold Butte landowners, refused to move his cows, recalled Alan O’Neill, an erstwhile superintendent of the Lake Mead Conservation Area and an expert in such issues.
Bundy’s grazing permit was revoked in 1994 for nonpayment, but for a few years the BLM did nothing, even as he expanded his herd. Then, in 1998, Bundy was served the first of several federal court orders, which he fought and lost at every level. Two years ago, the BLM tried to negotiate a deal with Bundy, hoping to take possession of the cattle, sell them and give him the proceeds. Bundy refused, so the BLM considered a raid to seize the cattle.
Bob Abbey, who was the head of the BLM at the time, told me he had agreed to be present at the Bundy ranch and talked to local and state officials to coordinate.
“At the last moment, the decision was made to not proceed with an impoundment but to pursue legal actions that would likely result in an updated court order directing Bundy to remove his livestock from public lands,” said Abbey, who has been critical of the agency’s efforts this month as heavy-handed and overly aggressive.
But Bundy had other ways out before the situation escalated a couple of weeks ago. He was advised that a water-rights claim might have the best chance to reverse the court order and he met with attorneys, including Mark Hutchison, a prominent constitutional lawyer now running for lieutenant governor.
Bundy, though, apparently wanted to assert state sovereignty claims—the progenitor to his “the federal government doesn’t exist” assertion—and did not get a taker.
“I met with Mr. Bundy almost two years ago and haven’t talked with him since,” Hutchison told me.
The federal government reasserted its rights to the land shortly afterward and won a judgment last July, which made it clear (again) that the land had never been in Nevada’s hands. Bundy appealed and lost in the Ninth Circuit in February.
By the beginning of this month, the BLM was ready to make its move, once again involving state and local authorities. In the run-up to what occurred on April 5, I have confirmed, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto were kept apprised of the federal agency’s actions. I’ve also confirmed that BLM head Neil Kornze, a former aide to Harry Reid, became personally involved, checking what was happening at the site and remaining in contact with law enforcement on the ground in Bunkerville. Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, also played a role, fully supporting the roundup on that Saturday morning, despite being warned about potential problems.
Jon Ralston has covered Nevada politics for more than a quarter-century. He has worked for both major Las Vegas newspapers and now has his own site, email newsletter and television program.
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