Welcome! Login | Register

Subscribe Now: Free Daily EBlast


Rob Horowitz: Cliven Bundy: No American Hero

Thursday, May 01, 2014


As a great old Willie Nelson songs goes, ‘My heroes have always been cowboys.” The American cowboy courageously doing what it takes to stave off attacks on his home and property is a hardy staple of American mythology—the subject of countless Western movies and television shows.

This romantic attachment to cowboys, which has far outlasted the end of the American frontier, explains some of the misplaced initial sympathy for the reckless and truly ignorant lawbreaker Cliven Bundy. But Bundy is no John Wayne. Unfortunately, his story brings back echoes of a more recent, all too real, and profoundly disturbing past where tragedy and loss of life was the result in places like Ruby Ridge, Waco and Oklahoma City.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to seize 500 of Cliven Bundy’s cattle was not sudden or arbitrary. For twenty years Bundy has refused to pay the routinely charged grazing fees for his use of federal land, owing the federal government more than $1 million as a result. Further when his grazing rights were finally revoked, Bundy flouted the law by continuing to use the land defying federal court orders.

Bundy’s response was to enlist his allies in the militia movement and greet federal employees just trying to do their job with a rag tag army of self-described ‘citizen-soldiers’. As the Los Angeles Times describes the scene, “Scores of grim citizen militia men in combat fatigues-semi-auto weapons slung over their shoulders, ammunition magazines at their belts — patrol from a base they call Camp Tripwire.” Mindful of past violent tragedies, the federal government ended up backing off at least for now, releasing 350 of Bundy’s cattle back on to public land and making no effort to seize any other property on his Nevada ranch.

Some conservative commentators, most prominently Sean Hannity, and office holders including Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Rand Paul(R-KY), praised Bundy and his militia allies for standing up to what they characterized as an overreaching federal government They did so despite Bundy’s provocative rhetoric and his armed response to an attempt to enforce the law.

Even before Bundy’s disgraceful racist screed at the end of last week, in which he wondered whether African-Americans would be better off if they were still slaves among other choice comments, finally caused most of his mainstream conservative allies to abandon him, the Nevada rancher was making some truly outrageous comments. For example, on the Alex Jones radio show, according to Media Matters, Bundy expanded on his past call for the disarmament of BLM agents and predicted that if local sheriffs did not take guns from ”bureaucratic armies, then civil war will occur.” On the same show, Bundy reportedly added that federal law enforcement should be disarmed by sheriffs “one county at a time.”

On Special Report with Brett Baier, the conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer strongly criticized the conservatives who rallied around Bundy:” …And why conservatives, or some conservatives end up in bed with people who, you know, he makes an anti-government statement, he takes an anti-government stand, he wears a nice big hat and he rides a horse, and all of a sudden he is a champion of democracy. This is a man who said that he doesn’t recognize the authority of the United States of America. That makes him a patriot? I love this country, I love the Constitution, and it is the Constitution that established a government that all of us have to recognize. And for him to reject it was the beginning of all of this.”

Just about 19 years ago, on April 19, 1995, militia movement ally Timothy McVeigh used a truck of explosives to blow up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, resulting in 168 deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. In the wake of this national tragedy, President Clinton said, “We know that words have consequences, so I say to you that even as we defend the right to speak freely and to say things with which we disagree, we must stand up and speak against reckless speech that can push fragile people over the edge, beyond the boundaries of civilized conduct to take this country into a dark place.”

President Clinton’s words still ring true. There is and certainly should be a robust debate about federal land policy in the West. This can be accomplished, however, without embracing and encouraging a reckless law breaker like Cliven Bundy, especially while he is openly threatening violence. We must all stand up against the demonization of federal workers and law enforcement officials just trying to do their job. All of us in the public square, Sean Hannity included, have a duty to be responsible.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

Editor's Note: An previous column this week was incorrectly attributed to Rob Horowitz.


Related Slideshow: 13 Best MINDSETTER™ Columns of 2013

Prev Next

LOOKOUT: Rhode Island Needs to Talk Twin River

By John Hazen White

Demand for table games at Twin River casino has prompted the Lottery Commission to grant the facility additional gaming tables, and the state’s take from the combination of video slot machines and table games is going up each month as a direct result of the tables in place.

The 14 new tables to be added will make for a grand total of 80. More gaming tables will surely be added down the road.

I suppose we should all be cheering about this because of the enhanced revenue stream the state will enjoy, which it desperately needs, but it begs a larger and more troubling question: what will happen to Twin River – and more importantly to the state – when Massachusetts’ three casinos and its single racino slot parlor come on line?

Read More

Prev Next

Climate Change On the Table… Finally!

By Rob Horowitz

A leaked draft of a major report expected to be released in the Fall by the International Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), an international group of scientists under the auspices of the United Nations, landed on the front page of The New York Times last week. The report, a comprehensive and consensus analysis of the latest scientific research on climate change, finds that if greenhouse gas emissions continue apace a sea level rise of as much as 100 feet by the end of the century is a real possibility. It characterizes the assertion that human activity is the cause of most of global warming as a “near certainty.”

Read More

Prev Next

Trying To Make Sense Of The Zimmerman Verdict

By Don Roach

I’m struggling to make sense of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case as I’m sure many people are. I have a number of gut reactions at war with my respect of the justice system. And it’s a battle. So, what I decided to do Sunday was investigate as much of the public facts as possible in order to piece together why in the world a 17-year-old boy is dead.

Read More

Prev Next

In US Schools, Incorrect Answers Are ‘Un-American’

By Julia Steiny

Back in the 1990s, circumstances so maddened Dr. Matthias Felleisen, he felt forced to create Program by Design (PxD) to bring life back to computer science and algebra, both. Since then, thousands of students have used it to learn the elements of programming, with or without a teacher. Even I could understand its free, online textbook. The PxD target audience were first-year college students, but Felleisen's team wanted it to be accessible to clever 10-year-olds. The NSF and other major funders continue to be impressed.

Read More

Prev Next

Big Labor Wants To Shuffle The Deck On Obamacare

By Lisa Blais

While the beat goes on across Rhode Island to trumpet information about HealthSourceRI, the health insurance exchange created as a result of Governor Chafee’s Executive Order in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the AFL-CIO has been pleading with the Obama Administration to waive some requirements of the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, for members of their multi-employer health and welfare plans.

Read More

Prev Next

3 Ways to Restore Confidence in RI’s Government

By Gary Sasse

In the late 1960’s when I was in graduate school many of my classmates sought careers in government and not on Wall Street. They believed that public service could make a difference in the lives of Americans. This positive view that government was part of the solution has been replaced by a more cynical view of government at all levels. This should not be surprising because too many times government has been ineffective in providing essential public services. Earlier this year the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that “trust in the federal government remains mired near an historic low and frustration with government remains high.”

Read More

Prev Next

Time for a Bold, New Budget Process

By Donna Perry

Governor Chafee’s State of the State blueprint is not yet 24 hours old and so the reactions and assessments of it are still pouring in. However, before the battles begin over spending, borrowing, cuts, labor provisions, and whether or not there will be any meaningful changes to spur economic development, both the Governor and General Assembly members should pause, take a deep breath, and consider a proposal from a wise and truly independent voice in the State Senate.

Read More

Prev Next

Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo Turns Opaque

By Russell Moore

Gina Raimondo was all about transparency—during her first year in office. Apparently, sunlight was so 2011. The General Treasurer, who admirably took up the fight for pension reform after her predecessor—Frank Caprio—lost his campaign for governor thanks to his leadership on the issue, named her report describing the need for pension reform “Truth in Numbers”. It was a brilliant move, as she successfully separated the issue from emotional politics over the promises made to retirees that the state couldn’t keep.

Read More

Prev Next

CITY/STATE: How White Providence Really Is

By Aaron Renn

The city of Providence is a very diverse place. In fact, it’s over 62% minority, making it a so-called “minority majority” city. However, the city of Providence is only a very small part of the overall state and region. 

Metropolitan Providence is one of the whitest major regions in America. Looking at metro areas with more than one million people, Providence ranks third in the country for the total non-minority population. The percentage of the population that is “white only, non-hispanic” – Hispanic people can be of any race – is nearly 80%. Only Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are higher.

Read More

Prev Next

What Politicians Can Learn From the Pope

By Carol Ann Costa

In less than a month since Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged as Francis the 1st , this new Pope has through his decisions and actions gained my full attention and respect. What he has shown us is that you rarely go wrong when you return to your mission. Perhaps Francis’ undeniable devotion to the works of Mercy, both corporal and spiritual, can provide a teachable moment for each of us— and our politicians in particular.

Read More

Prev Next

Corporate ‘Reform’ Alienating Teachers/Principals

By Aaron Regunberg

Want Better Schools? Stop Making Educators Miserable.

The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher recently released a report from their 2012 investigation into the state of U.S. educators. The annual survey, which was conducted among 1,000 K-12 public school teachers and 500 K-12 public school principals, offers an invaluable snapshot of the condition of those professionals to whom we entrust the educating of our nation’s youth. This year’s results continue a disturbing—and an escalating—trend that should have all of us seriously reconsidering what kinds of strategies will actually, positively reform our education system.

Read More

Prev Next

Helen Glover, Keith Olbermann + Broadcast Brutality

By Andrew Gobeil

"The television business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

The quote above is often attributed to Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who frequently denied he was a journalist at all. Whether or not he said it isn’t necessarily the point; whether or not it was said to describe the television business, or music business, or radio business isn’t necessarily the point either. Hell, you could be nodding in affirmation as you read it at your desk in the finance world, or the world of politics or sales or law or….well, now you do get the point.

Read More

Prev Next

Lessons From Boston’s Post-Bombing Lockdown

By Travis Rowley

In the midst of the ongoing debate over the 2nd Amendment, I discovered lessons to be learned from the events in Boston this week.

Let me start with this: Owning a gun is not a natural right. After all, how can a firearm be a natural right if man had to invent and manufacture it?

But the right to defend oneself is a natural right...

Read More


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox