A postscript to Ed’s item earlier. “I don’t think calling people names is going to calm this down,” says Paul. “I think it’s liable to stir it up.” That’s the point, though, right? That’s what Harry Reid does, especially in election years. He’s a sh*t-stirrer, regardless of who suffers from it. Sometimes that means smearing Mitt Romney as a tax cheat, sometimes it means conducting a daily Two Minutes Hate against the Koch brothers on the Senate floor. There have always been two theories about this. One is that he simply enjoys fighting dirty and is secure enough in his seat that he can afford to be indifferent to criticism. He’s a honey badger, and honey badger don’t care. The other theory is that his demagoguery is calculated for electoral gain, i.e. he chooses a target and subject which he thinks Democrats can exploit for votes (and money) and then does his best to create something combustible from it. In this case, it might be literally combustible. Honey badger don’t care. Senate seats are what’s really important.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting that Rand Paul’s the only major presidential contender to touch this subject so far. (Huckabee has too but he’s less likely to run than Paul is.) You can understand why the others are reluctant: Bundy’s said “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing,” a position that’s out of the mainstream by both GOP and tea-party standards, and his supporters do in fact include some bona fide militia types. Potentially there’s a lot more to be lost here politically as a candidate by taking a strong stand on his behalf than there is to be gained — especially for Paul, who’s already destined to be attacked as a kook in both the primaries and the general election if he’s nominated. (The Free Beacon has a new attack along those lines today, in fact.) He does a solid job here, though, emphasizing that his first concern is peaceful resolution of the standoff and calling for the feds to transfer more of their land holdings to the states to avoid situations like this. That’s a boutique but appealing straing of federalism; even lefties could get behind the idea of selling federal property in the name of raising revenue. Expect Rubio, Cruz, and anyone else in the presumptive field to follow Paul’s lead on this when some reporter finally corners them with a question.