Nothing demonstrates the ignorance and danger of the Tea Party movement more than its leaders’ immediate, knee-jerk embrace of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
No sooner had armed vigilantes around the country rushed to Bundy’s side than Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended him. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) called him and his armed thugs “patriots.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) praised his resistance to federal authority. Sean Hannity and other Fox News hosts extolled him as a “folk hero” and the poster boy of standing up to a “government gone wild.” At which point, all this praise having obviously gone to his head, Bundy compared himself to Rosa Parks.
But note: They didn’t totally throw Bundy under the bus. Yes, they condemned his racist remarks, but they still insisted he had a legitimate beef with the federal government. Hannity even lamented the fact that Bundy’s defense of slavery would overshadow the central issue in this dispute, which he said was one of “government overreach.”
No, no, no! What is Bundy’s claim to fame? Refusing since 1993 to pay fees for grazing 900 head of cattle on 600,000 acres of public lands. Not that these fees are exorbitant, by the way. They amount to a giant subsidy. Today, grazing fees are only $1.35 per cow for one month — a bargain that 18,000 other ranchers gladly pay. But not Bundy. He’s racked up $1.1 million in unpaid fees and fines. Three courts have ruled against him. But Bundy still refuses to pay, because, he says: “I don’t recognize the federal government as even existing.”
This is the man embraced by Paul, Heller, Perry and others? Bundy’s no “patriot.” How can he be a patriot when he doesn’t even recognize the existence of the United States? Bundy’s not just a racist, he’s a freeloader and a cheat. He’s stealing money from you and me. He’s breaking the law. He’s not practicing civil disobedience, like Rosa Parks. He’s leading armed insurrection against the federal government, and should receive the same treatment crackpots like him in our history have always faced.
In 1791, in what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion, a group of farmers in western Pennsylvania refused to pay a new federal tax and took up arms against federal agents who tried to collect the tax. In response, President George Washington himself saddled up and led federal forces to suppress the insurgency, demonstrating, for the first time, the determination and the ability of the federal government to enforce its laws.
There’s no doubt what Washington would have done about Cliven Bundy. First, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), he would have called Bundy and his vigilante henchmen “domestic terrorists.” Then he would have crushed them. Why should we do any less?
Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.