And probably most other Cliven Bundy supporters as well, assuming that the New York Times report of his Saturday press conference is accurate. National Journal’s Brian Resnick described these comments as something “overheard” by the Times, but the Times report itself puts them in the context of an open meeting that took place after only two media outlets arrived for Bundy’s daily presser:
Cliven Bundy stood by the Virgin River up the road from the armed checkpoint at the driveway of his ranch, signing autographs and posing for pictures. For 55 minutes, Mr. Bundy held forth to a clutch of supporters about his views on the troubled state of America — the overreaching federal government, the harassment of Western ranchers, the societal upheaval caused by abortion, even musing about whether slavery was so bad.
“Overheard” isn’t quite accurate, in other words. This was a public event, and Bundy put his foot squarely in his mouth during it:
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.”
Yeesh. That’s about as ugly as it gets. It certainly got the attention of Senator Rand Paul, who had been one of Bundy’s supporters during the rancher’s standoff with the BLM. Paul’s office issued a statement distancing the Senator from Bundy, as Resnick reported:
“His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Sen. Rand Paul said in a statement Thursday morning.
Closer to home, Bundy also lost Sen. Dean Heller, who had been arguing his case last week in a debate with Harry Reid:
Sen. Dan Heller, who the Times writes has called Bundy’s supporters “patriots,” offered this response to the paper via a spokesperson. He “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”
This has always been a tricky case, one where sympathies and the law go in opposite directions, as John Hinderaker noted at Power Line last week. Legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg on which to stand, and his weird insistence that the federal government has no jurisdiction on federal land has no basis in law or reality. Having the BLM show up with a small army to collect a debt made it easy to sympathize with Bundy and to call their actions into question, but they’ve been pursuing this case through the courts for more than two decades, too, while Bundy grazes on federal land. The federal government may own too much land, but that’s an issue for the states to fight in court, not ranchers with guns.
Bundy doesn’t have a legal case. And it looks like sympathy just ran out for him, too.
Update: Jeff Dunetz advises conservatives who have sympathized with Bundy to walk away:
Cliven Bundy has broken the law to get what he wants. He should fight within the system to change the law. If he was going for an act of civil disobedience to make a statement, he should be prepared to accept the consequences. One of the consequences is confiscation of property including Elsie and all the other cows. But Mr. Bundy is trying to have it both ways break the law but face no consequences. Beyond that I am not aware of any attempt of his to try and change the law, just his refusal to follow it.
In the end Cliven Bundy’s actions are indefensible from a conservative point of view while the federal government should not be owning the land—they do. In the end the govt. was protecting its property rights however unjustified they are.
Now that Mr. Bundy is shown to have at best racially insensitive beliefs, it time to end his 15 minutes of fame and its time for my conservative friends and colleagues who have shown him support to run away as fast as humanly possible.
Update: Bundy repeated the sentiment on Peter Schiff’s radio show today, stressing the use of “I’m wondering…”:
So the Times didn’t misquote Bundy. Mediaite also has video of Bundy making this statement originally. Conservatives didn’t buy the “I’m just asking questions” when 9/11 Truthers used that excuse; they shouldn’t accept it from Bundy either.