For once he’s right. John Hinderaker, who’s sympathetic to Bundy, nonetheless acknowledges that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on legally. Bundy’s theory, that land universally recognized for the past 150 years as belonging to the federal government really belongs to Nevada because it was never properly conveyed to the U.S., is DOA in court. He’ll lose his appeals and then, presumably, he’ll go on refusing to pay grazing fees to use the land. What should the feds do then? Given the publicity the case has drawn and the fact that the judiciary’s on his side, Obama can’t look the other way at Bundy’s continued defiance of the law. He’s happy to do that abroad with bad actors like Putin and Assad because Ukraine and Syria aren’t part of his jurisdiction. (Although fans of the world-policeman theory of foreign policy might disagree.) He can duck those messes, sort of. He can’t duck the one in Nevada, if only because letting Bundy off the hook there is bound to inspire copycat defiance elsewhere. So Reid’s right. This isn’t over.
My question is, how should the feds proceed once Bundy’s appeals are exhausted? What could they do to enforce the court’s order that won’t be treated as some sort of provocation by Bundy supporters? Seize his cattle that are on federal land? Let the cattle graze there but seize some of his assets to make him pay the grazing fee? (If they went the latter route, ranchers would then have a liability right to use federal land for their own purposes, which would interfere with the government’s plans for land use.) Watch the second clip below and you’ll find Glenn Beck taken aback by the violent rhetoric among some Bundy supporters, a portion of whom he thinks are clearly spoiling for a fight. Then watch the first clip, where one supporter is interviewed, and you’ll see why. (Another supporter, a former sheriff, spitballed on Fox News yesterday about placing women at the front of the protest crowd to maximize the PR damage to the feds in case shooting breaks out.) Remember, Bundy doesn’t recognize federal jurisdiction over the land at all; any interference with his cattle by the BLM, no matter how light a touch is used, will presumably be regarded by him and his fans as illegal and therefore worthy of resistance.
Maybe, since Bundy recognizes Nevada’s authority over the land, the feds could ask Nevada authorities to remove the cattle? Not sure the local cops would be up for that, though, partly because of the politics involved in siding with the feds against a native rancher and partly because it sets a precedent of doing the feds’ dirty work for them anytime someone raises an objection to federal authority. Besides, would that really appease Bundy? If the county commissioner shows up and tells him that it really is federal land, according to the government of Nevada, would that do it or would Bundy go on believing his own theory?