Armed right-wing extremists and the politicians who indulge them

     Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    Ammon Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    Once upon a time, back when the Republican party had laudable mainsteam principles, President Theodore Roosevelt got very upset that plume hunters were decimating birds in rural southeast Oregon, for the sole purpose of selling feathers to the hat industry. By 1908, white herons had virtually become an endangered species.

    But because TR was an environmentalist who believed that certain lands and wildlife should be protected in the public interest, he decreed in 1908 that the newly named Lake Malheur Reservation would be set aside “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” Those 188,000 acres have been one of TR’s many such legacies in the ensuing 108 years.

    Enter the locked ‘n’ loaded white right-wing extremists who, during the last few days, have taken it upon themselves to seize a federal Malheur facility, demand that the entire refuge be “shut down forever,” and demand that the feds give it all to private ranchers. In the words of Ammon Bundy (son of Cliven “I Want to Tell You One More Thing about the Negro” Bundy), he and his fellow extremists are “making a hard stand against this overreach, this taking of the people’s land and resources.”

    It should amuse Barack Obama no end that he has now been joined, in the Pantheon of Overreach, by Republican Theodore Roosevelt, a denizen of Mount Rushmore.

    Who the heck do these insurrectionists think they are? How can they think they have the right to breach the rule of law, to threaten the Guv’mint at the point of a gun? To declare their willingness “to kill and be killed?” To defend the seizure of land that has long been owned by us, the American people?

    I can’t possibly imagine how these people have managed to nurture their crackpot notions …

    Oh wait! I am shocked, shocked, to learn that they’ve received fulsome aid and comfort from the current Republican party. TR, dead these past 97 years, would never recognize it.

    It was only last year when extremist patriarch Cliven Bundy defied the federal courts by refusing to pay two decades’ worth of federal grazing fees in Nevada; he said “I don’t even recognize the United States government as even existing” – and was applauded for his claptrap by many members of the GOP. A Republican senator called him a “patriot.” Donald Trump said, “I like his spirit, his spunk.” Rand Paul and Ben Carson cheered him on. Ted Cruz said that Bundy was right to oppose “the jackboot of authoritarianism.” Bundy was an instant Fox News hero (until the right-wing pundits ran for cover after realizing that the guy was a vocal racist).

    And that was no isolated incident. Republicans have long polluted the air with rhetoric that slimes government as the enemy.

    Rick Santorum, anti-abortion extremist, has vocally questioned the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court. Mike Huckabee adopted gay-hating Kim Davis as his personal mascot, lauding the Kentucky clerk for her bigoted refusal to obey the rule of law. Ted Cruz says the Second Amendment is intended “to serve as the ultimate check against government tyranny – for the protection of liberty.” Republicans have long indulged the nutcase theories that Obama is a foreign-born oppressor. And last year, Republicans indulged the right-wing paranoids who were convinced that the Operation Jade Helm military exercise was an Obama plot to impose martial law in Texas (Cruz, natch: “I understand the concern …. We have seen for six years a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens”). And those are just recent samplings.

    So it’s no surprise that these insurrectionists think it’s OK to defy federal authority and seize public property at gunpoint. Rest assured that if armed Muslim-Americans tried the same thing, Republicans would be chewing the carpet and the conservative talking heads would be calling them terrorists.

    This protest was originally intended to be a show of support for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who have been convicted — twice — for committing arson on federal land. Prosecutors successfully argued that father and son had set the fires to destroy evidence that they’d illegally hunted deer on protected turf. (According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oregon, “The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations.”) Yet even the Hammonds said this weekend that they want the insurrectionists to go home, that Ammon Bundy and his pals do not speak for the Hammond family.

    And last night, Fox News host Megyn Kelly confronted Bundy and shut him down: “These ranchers … had their day in court. And they were found guilty, and it went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied their appeal. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in our country when it comes to the rule of law?” (Bundy’s response: There’s no “proper redress” for “the people,” i.e., the people who want to take over the land that TR gave to the public.)

    But most amusing of all — if amusement is even possible when speaking of armed sedition — is that some Republicans are delicately distancing themselves from the locked ‘n’ loaded gang. On the radio yesterday, Marco Rubio offered the insurrectionists a little advice: “You’ve got to follow the law. You can’t be lawless.” Even Cruz said that they “don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence.”

    Yeah. Now they tell us.

    But as it says in the King James Bible, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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