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“Self-Avowed Expert On ‘The Negro'”: Rand Paul Meets With Rogue Rancher Cliven Bundy

Rand Paul met privately with Cliven Bundy on Monday, the Nevada rancher and anti-government activist told POLITICO.

The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul’s stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)

The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech.

“I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.”

According to the Associated Press, Paul told the audience during the main event, “I think almost all land use issues and animal issues, endangered species issues, ought to be handled at the state level.”

“I think that the government shouldn’t interfere with state decisions, so if a state decides to have medical marijuana or something like that, it should be respected as a state decision,” Paul reportedly added.

Bundy said that in their private meeting, Paul brought up the work of the American Lands Council, which raises money from groups like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to wrestle land from the federal government and return it to the states via negotiations, legislation and litigation.

“I disagree with that philosophy,” Bundy said of the ALC’s legalistic approach. “My stand is we are already a sovereign state. The federal government doesn’t need to turn this land back to us. It’s already state land.”

“I don’t want to sell this land to private ownership, because I believe I already have stewardship.” He added, “I educated Rand on that point,” and said that the candidate seemed sympathetic to his point of view.

“I don’t claim ownership,” Bundy said. “I claim rights.”

Bundy first made national headlines in the spring of 2014, when the federal government temporarily closed a large swathe of U.S. government-owned land in Clarke County, Nevada, to capture and impound Bundy’s cattle as a penalty for more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. Bundy refused to federal authority on the land where his family had lived for more than 120 years, but federal courts repeatedly sided with the Bureau of Land Management.

Shortly after the BLM closed the land, hundreds of armed militia members — including members of far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the White Mountain Militia — descended on the land outside of Mesquite, Nevada. After a weeklong fight and a twenty-minute standoff where federal agents and protesters pointed guns at one another, the BLM ultimately backed down and returned Bundy’s cattle.

Though the government agency has said that it will continue to work through the courts to exact money owed by Bundy, he told POLITICO that no federal vehicle has returned to the land for more than a year.

“The federal government is off my ranch and off this area of Clark County and they shouldn’t come back,” Bundy said.

After Bundy’s standoff, he briefly became a hero to far-right conservatives, bolstered by coverage on Fox News and praise by prominent Tea Party politicians like Paul and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

But his star quickly plummeted after he made inflammatory comments about African Americans being better off under slavery.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told supporters shortly after the standoff, according to video footage captured by an onlooker. He recounted a time he drove past public-housing in 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.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? 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.”

After those comments went public, Paul walked back his support and issued a statement saying Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”

Bundy then apologized for the comments, saying at a press conference, “I’m probably one of the most non-racist people in America.”

“I hope I didn’t offend anybody. If I did, I ask for your forgiveness,” he added. “But I meant what I said. It comes from the heart.”

As for Bundy, he said he has not yet made up his mind about who he will support in 2016. He said that he’s focused on which national politicians are most keen to return power to the states and local communities and said that, in their private meeting, Paul seemed keen to do so.

But Democrats, even before word of the private meeting surfaced, attacked Paul for what was first reported as a chance encounter. The Democratic National Committee sent an email to supporters arguing that Paul isn’t as sensitive to African-American issues as he says.

Michael Tyler, the group’s director of African-American Media, wrote, “Remember Rand Paul preaching of broadening the Republican Party’s tent to include communities they typically ignore? Remember Rand Paul claiming he was the perfect candidate to spearhead this outreach? Go ahead and throw that idea out the window.”

“Rand Paul spent his day in Nevada kissing the ring of Cliven Bundy,” Tyler added. “The Cliven Bundy who is a self-avowed expert on ‘the negro.’”


By: Adam B. Lerner, Politico, June 30, 2015

July 1, 2015 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Anti-Government Shindig”: Cliven Bundy Hosts ‘Freedom Celebration’ One Year Later

It’s hard to forget the armed confrontation between federal law enforcement and Cliven Bundy’s well-armed supporters in Nevada. In fact, the standoff, which the Obama administration, in the interest of public safety, chose not to escalate, was exactly one year ago.

The L.A. Times noted that the controversial rancher, who claims not to recognize the legitimacy of the United States government, threw a “shindig” over the weekend – a “freedom celebration” to honor the anniversary.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of when federal agents swooped onto the public lands near Bundy’s ranch to round up hundreds of cattle that the 67-year-old had been grazing without permits. The land is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The raid didn’t go well: Hundreds of supporters – self-named citizen militiamen, many with semiautomatic weapons – rallied around their new leader, creating at tense standoff between two armed camps. In the end, on last April 12, the federal government backed down, released the cattle agents had corralled and – poof! – vanished.

The underlying dispute has not been resolved. Bundy has still ignored multiple court orders and still owes the United States more than $1 million after he was fined for grazing on protected land.

Bundy’s posture, as a long-term proposition, remains unsustainable – a fact he seems to realize. “It’s hard to tell, but the feds, they’re probably going to do something,” Bundy told the L.A. Times. “[T]hey’re probably just standing back, looking at things.”

He added, however, in reference to the Bureau of Land Management, “They know if they make a move, they’ll upset America. And I don’t think they want to do that.”

It’s an ominous choice of words from a fringe activist who may not enjoy quite as much support as he thinks he has.

Remember, Republicans and conservative media personalities quickly elevated Cliven Bundy to folk-hero status early last year, right up until some of his racist views came to light.

Suddenly, the right was forced to reevaluate whether they were prepared to stand behind a racist lawbreaker who doesn’t recognize the United States and whose supporters pointed high-powered weapons at American law enforcement.

I’m reminded, in particular, of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) who said last April, “I am very quick in calling American citizens ‘patriots.’ Maybe in this case, too quick.” Around the same time, the Nevada affiliate of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity started scrubbing their online messages offering praise for Bundy and his radical campaign.

In April 2014, Bundy was a cause celebre for the far-right and anti-government voices. In April 2015, his “freedom celebration” enjoyed less national support. If he’s assuming “America” will be “upset” if there are consequences for his defiance of the rule of law, he’s probably going to be disappointed.

Postscript: ThinkProgress noted a bill in the Nevada legislature, sometimes referred to as the “Bundy Bill,” intended to empower the state to seize federal properties Nevada wants to control. The legislation seems to be a brazenly unconstitutional scheme, but it’s nevertheless working its way through the Republican-led legislature.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 13, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Bureau of Land Management, Cliven Bundy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Foot-Dragging Tedium Can Become Dangerous”: Senate Republicans Are Already Frustrated With John Boehner’s Crazy Caucus

There’s an any-port-in-a-storm quality to Speaker John Boehner’s piloting of the House, and nothing illustrates that better than Republican squabbling over whether and how to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Why is the Department of Homeland Security about to run out of money? Because back in December, conservatives wanted to use a government funding deadline to pick a big fight with President Obama over his deportation relief policies, and rather than risk a shutdown, or wrest the till back from the hardliners, GOP leaders decided to give them whatever they could cobble together. What they came up with was a harebrained scheme to fund all government operations except for Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, they extended DHS funding through February only, and promised to fight Obama’s deferred action programs in the context of a narrower threat to shut down the department that enforces immigration policy.

The problems with this strategy were obvious from the outset. As I observed at the time, denying DHS an appropriation wouldn’t freeze Obama’s deportation programs, because the agency implementing them is self-financing. In fact, denying DHS an appropriation wouldn’t accomplish very much at all; as a national security hub, most of its functions are considered essential, and thus exempt from the kinds of closure protocols that apply to national parks and Social Security administrative offices.

The upshot is that Republicans are threatening to infuriate DHS employees and their allies, weaken DHS functionality, and, in a losing p.r. campaign, surrender the mantle of national security back to Democratsall unless Obama agrees to rescind his own executive actions. As muggings go, this isn’t much different than screaming, “Your money or my life!” No less an immigration hardliner than Representative Steve King understands that the plan has always amounted to capitulation.

But having promised a brawl, Boehner must now go through the motions, which look more and more contrived as prominent Republicansparticularly in the Senatestep in to admit that they will fund DHS, come what may.

This week, John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, told CNN “we’re not going to take any chances with the homeland.” Cornyn is showing his cards here, but he’s also putting the House’s strategy up for ridicule. Because House Republicans must proceed as promised, Cornyn et al must now pledge not to incur the mostly-imagined risk that his House counterparts are supposedly inviting. When Republicans let appropriations lapse in 2013, and DHS was just one of the many agencies ensnared in the shutdown, domestic security wasn’t the core political concern. By centering the fight around DHS alone, though, conservatives have left themselves no choice but to swallow Democratic demagoguerytheir strategy is premised on the notion that Obama will relent when the threat to national security becomes too great. There are no national park closures to obscure the fact that the fight is over something called the Department of Homeland Security, and you gain no leverage by threatening to withhold funds from DHS, if you admit that withholding funds from DHS doesn’t really accomplish much.

Senate Republicans have other political concerns as well.

Dean Heller, a Republican senator from Nevada, worries that forcing a fight with Obama over immigration policy, in the context of an appropriation, invites the risk that certain members lapse into referring to affected immigrants “in a way that is offensive.” Mark Kirk of Illinoisa vulnerable incumbentbelieves any “government shutdown scenario” would be “a self-inflicted political wound for Republicans.”

Where Senate Republicans would like to avoid deadline-driven fights altogether, Boehner promises to drag them into those fights at the behest of conservatives, even when he knows he can’t win. His inability to admit the obvious, while Republican senators feel unencumbered, reflects the dramatically different pressures a House speaker and a Senate majority leader face. The strategic rift thus isn’t limited to DHS, but will emerge any time Senate Republicans see political dividends in a compromise that House hardliners won’t accept.

To avoid an embarrassing, damaging lapse in highway funding, for instance, senate Republicans, including Orrin Hatch, who helms the tax writing committee, are warming to the idea of replenishing the highway trust fund by increasing the gas tax. Collapsing gas prices have made the prospect of a higher gas tax less punitive, and lent an obvious idea bipartisan support.

Naturally, Boehner can’t accept this.

At least not yet. The logic of a higher gas tax might become more appealing to him as the funding deadline nears, just as we assume the logic of extending DHS funding cleanly will overwhelm him before too long. As a template for addressing pressing national business, taking symbolic stands like these is more tedious than dangerous. But foot-dragging tedium can become dangerous when the pressing business is increasing the debt limit or responding to unanticipated crises.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, January 14, 2015

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Friends Don’t Let Friends Run For President”: A Muddled Indictment Of GOP Senators By GOP Senators

Today’s most decidedly peculiar article is one by The Hill‘s Alexander Burns reporting that Republican senators really hate the idea of Republican senators running for president in 2016.

Fearful of a third successive Democratic triumph, concerned Senate Republicans are turning against 2016 presidential bids by upstart hopefuls within their own ranks.

In forceful comments to The Hill, GOP senators made it plain that they would much prefer their party nominate a current or former governor over Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Rand Paul (Ky.).

Those senators have created a buzz among conservative activists, but their colleagues in the upper chamber are eager to support a nominee from outside Washington with a record of attracting independents and centrist Democrats.

They worry that Washington has become so toxic that it could poison the chances of any nominee from Congress in 2016.

Now there are obviously multiple thoughts at play in this muddled indictment of senators by senators. Is the problem the particular “upstart” senators who are thinking about running (and is Establishment darling Rubio really an “upstart”?)? Are governors generally a better idea, or only those with “a record of attracting independents and centrist Democrats”? After all, senators run statewide just like governors do, and if you think about the GOP governors who may run in 2016, several (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal) aren’t exactly famous for “attracting independents and centrist Democrats,” are they?

Interestingly, the most forceful senator on the record in this piece as deploring his peers as presidential candidates is Chuck Grassley, from a state that will have more than a bit of influence in culling the GOP field. Dean Heller is from another early state. But from reading Bolton’s piece, you’d think these worthies are speaking strictly from an abstract point of view.

Bolton offers the obligatory history lesson: Warren Harding was the last Republican to go straight from the Senate to the White House; the last three senators to win the GOP nomination (Goldwater, Dole and McCain) all got waxed. To read this account, you’d think maybe the GOP might have won in 2008 if the governor on the ticket had been the presidential nominee. Nor does the article’s “executives inherently do better” line tested against the reality that the 2012 cycle’s most spectacular flame-outs–Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry–were both governors.

In any event, the senators-say-don’t-run-a-senator meme strikes me as just a data point for opposing candidates you don’t like for other reasons. The way contemporary politics works, all the handicaps senators used to face–particularly the inability to stand out in a body of 100 bloviators–have pretty much been obliterated by different standards of media access, which is how Ted Cruz became presidential timber so very fast. So don’t tell me about Warren Harding or even Bob Dole: once a pol has been elevated by party and media elites and public opinion into someone being Seriously Mentioned for a presidential run, it’s not that clear his or her day job matters all that crucially, except as a scheduling problem.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2014

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sagebrush Provocateur”: Racist Liberal Media Invent More White Racism

Wouldn’t you figure it would be Adam Nagourney of the New York Times who would ruin the splendid living theater of patriotism being acted out in Nevada by quoting everybody’s hero Cliven Bundy as having views about black folks that might embarrass your local Grand Dragon:

[I]f 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.”

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.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 24, 2014

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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