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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.


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Agree that Bundy is no hero, but what about the federal response? Why the snipers, helicopters and para-military "officers" that were there at the beginning? Much like the police response to the Boston Bombing, we as Americans are too comfortable with 2 standing armies (the US military and the Federal agencies) When does the American Citizen get to defend themselves?

2nd Bundy himself is an old-idiot cowboy, but his situation calls into focus what is happening here with US land grabs from here in Texas to California. The Federal government is subverting the Constitution (and no Article 4 Section 3 does not apply that was for the Northwest territory post American Revolution) The Federal Government should not own 85% of a state.

The reason Bundy situation has escalated to what it became is the fact it shows when a Government gets too big and intrusive, the citizen is the one who suffers.

Comment #1 by Silence Dogood on 2014 05 01

Mr. Horowitz, you continue your chastisement of Mr. Bundy in this second article, but you outdid yourself. Your first article on the same topic didn't stay up for more that two hours before you or GoLocalProv removed it. Apparently it was easier to pull a story than to stick by your own commentary.

Now you've changed tactics and come at the same story with a different angle. Again giving a dig to Mr. Bundy's racist rant. There was an even bigger racist comment by David Sterling owner of the LA Clippers, a Democrat.

This rewrite was much simpler for you. In one article you espouse the words of your hero President Clinton, claim the Right as racists, protected the actions of the BLM and compared the Militia Movement to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

You will point out the faults associated with the conservatives while brushing away any faults of progressives and liberals. It is unfortunate you didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand by your previous article and take the hits. But this article casts you in a better light to your readers. Too bad you're not a commentator who stands by his words and needs a rewrite.

Comment #2 by Mark D on 2014 05 01

Bundy is certainly a flawed individual.

However, the motivation behind the BLM Swat Team descent on the grazing land his family has used for generations might just be because Harry Reid wants the land for solar energy farms from which he and his son and other bureaucrats would profit handsomely.

From infowars.com:

"The Bureau of Land Management, whose director was Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) former senior adviser, has purged documents from its web site stating that the agency wants Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle off of the land his family has worked for over 140 years in order to make way for solar panel power stations."


"Deleted from BLM.gov but reposted for posterity by the Free Republic, the BLM document entitled 'Cattle Trespass Impacts' directly states that Bundy’s cattle 'impacts' solar development, more specifically the construction of 'utility-scale solar power generation facilities' on 'public lands.'"

Comment #3 by Art West on 2014 05 01

and you gotta love the drag queen add on the bottom of this crap story, pathetic providence at its best.

Comment #4 by llik amabo on 2014 05 01

Cliven Bundy is no Rosa Parks. The guy is absolutely the wrong person to espouse the values of the right. Guys an idiot and they need to drop his cause asap.

Comment #5 by Redd Ratt on 2014 05 01

The newly minted right-wing-hero, and faux "victim" Mr Bundy is still "free" to go repeat himself on Fox News the Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and Huckabee comedy shows and all the other professional "victim" outlets that the right-wing rubes are so enamored with. We all know how conservative lemmings just love to play the victim card.

Righties seriously need to get over their victimization complex thing ... IMHO

Comment #6 by Sammy Arizona on 2014 05 01

Sammy you are a walking contrition. Call me iconoclastic but the left has a PHD in the victim complex. Sandra Flux? Al Sharpton? How long of a list do you want? Maddow and schultz have made a living out of creating forest fires out of a burnt out matches. Your projectionist point of view shows your intransigent nature.

Comment #7 by Silence Dogood on 2014 05 01

I should have written
The newly minted right-wing-hero, welfare-queen, avowed racist, and crook, the faux "victim" Mr Bundy

Updated Thurs May 1, 11:47 Arizona Time

Comment #8 by Sammy Arizona on 2014 05 01

did really call him a welfare queen? Do you not realize Sammy that your entire movement is predicated on welfare keeping people in a de facto feudalistic system? You are a gainsayer who is blinkered by some idea that if they have a D in front of their name they must be divine, reality check yourself.

Comment #9 by Silence Dogood on 2014 05 01

This is the problem getting news from only a few sources. Check the unedited video, you may find your opinion softens in Mr. Bundy's favor.


I don't usually put up links, but I think this one shows how bad the media makes the man look.

Comment #10 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 05 02

Wuggly, I can't thank you enough for sharing that YouTube video.

This guy cuts right through and gets to the heart of the liberal race baiting strategy -- and their devious hatchet job on Bundy.

Sammy, I challenge you to watch this video and then explain it away as a right-wing rube fantasy or whatever.


Comment #11 by Art West on 2014 05 02

"We must all stand up against the demonization of federal workers and law enforcement officials just trying to do their job." Yikes! I see old movies in my head.

Comment #12 by bill bentley on 2014 05 02

Art West - I'm glad you appreciated the video. I'm fairly sure you would find most of Mr. Rachel's enlightening.

bill bentlely - The King George III's men were just trying to do there job, as were Nazi soldiers, Pol Pot's militants the list goes on and on.

The Law Enforcement guys should start to wake up and remember who they actually work for and are there to protect. We as citizen must also hold our Politicians accountable for unjust, Big Brother type laws that infringe on freedom and done "for the safety of the people". You don't send a company of troops to collect unpaid fees. That to me seems equivalent of why the original 13 had a revolution in the first place.

Comment #13 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 05 02

Sorry, "there" should have read "their". -5 spelling.

Comment #14 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 05 04

Just say "racist" a thousand times over, ignore the rest of the story, ignore Scumbag Harry Reid's veiled threats, rinse and repeat. You've done you useful tool of a job, Robby-boy. The fact that this is a warning flag run up the pole on several counts means nothing to you, the hordes of Feds, you think, are on YOUR side. You're worthless.

Comment #15 by G Godot on 2014 05 07

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