Tuesday, April 22, 2014

what do you call armed private militias massing to oppose federal authority?

WaPo | The Senate majority leader who called President Bush a “loser” and a “liar,” declared former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan a “political hack” and asserted that all Obamacare horror stories are “untrue” has now called Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters “domestic terrorists.”

The comparison is as noxious as it is absurd. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a domestic terrorist. The Unabomber was a domestic terrorist. Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph was a domestic terrorist. To equate Bundy and his supporters with these murderers is, quite simply, appalling. 

It was the federal Bureau of Land Management that provoked the confrontation — descending with 200 armed men, including some with sniper rifles, to seize the Bundys’ cattle on land their family has grazed since 1877. Whatever one thinks of the Bundys’ legal case over unpaid grazing fees — and the federal government’s desire to protect the desert tortoise — defending your property against a paramilitary force of armed federal agents is not the equivalent of blowing up a federal building or sending letter bombs.

It would be easy to dismiss Reid as a buffoon with a chronic case of logorrhea. But this was not a slip of the tongue on Reid’s part. Video shows that when Reid first used the phrase “domestic terrorists” at a Las Vegas Review Journal event, he looked down at his notes just before he spoke the words. It was a carefully planned line of attack. Then, when he was asked during a Nevada TV interview a day later “What did you mean by that?” he replied, “Just what I said” — before engaging in an extended attack on the Bundy family and its supporters. 

Why would Reid, the senior senator from Nevada, make such an outrageous accusation?
First, Reid is defending the Obama administration from the charge that it used excessive force to try to seize the land. Most Americans recoil at the sight of armed federal agents training sniper rifles on a group of Boy Scouts, veterans, parents and grandparents engaged in civil disobedience. But if Bundy’s supporters are not protesters but “domestic terrorists,” then sending a federal force to confront them is not excessive. 

Second, Reid is defending his former staffer, Neil Kornze, who presided over this debacle as the newly installed head of the Bureau of Land Management. Kornze, who is just 35 years old, was Reid’s handpicked choice to run the BLM. “Neil is just perfect for this position,” Reid declared when Kornze was nominated, adding that he “really understands the role of public lands in rural America, and natural resources across the West.”

In his first days on the job, Kornze demonstrated that understanding by launching a paramilitary raid against a Nevada rancher. Kornze tried to silence Bundy’s supporters by setting up “First Amendment Zones” where protesters would be corralled and fenced in like a bunch of cattle. And he provoked an armed standoff that might well have resulted in the death of innocent men, women and children. The only way his actions could be even remotely defensible is if he was confronting “domestic terrorists.”