When the Bundys seized an unmanned, remote federal outpost in rural Oregon to protest policies by the Bureau of Land Management and the re-imprisonment of two ranchers, the media demanded answers from Republican presidential candidates. Do they endorse the action of Ammon Bundy, his family and friends, in armed protest? Curiously, few reporters seem interested in determining whether Hillary Clinton endorses traffic blockages and other illegal demonstrations staged by Black Lives Matters organizers, but at least Ted Cruz was willing to answer the question. And the answer is … hell, no:
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) January 4, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Monday called for armed protesters who occupied a federal building in Oregon to “stand down peaceably.”
“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds,” Cruz told reporters in Iowa. “But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence against others. So it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”
Cruz added that “our prayers” are with members of law enforcement addressing the standoff, which started Saturday after a group of protesters seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
“Let me just say, first of all, you’ve got to follow the law,” the Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate said on Iowa radio station KBUR Monday morning. “You can’t be lawless. We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies. If we get frustrated with it, that’s why we have elections. That’s why we have people we can hold accountable.”
Rubio said that he did agree, however, that the federal government did control too much land in western states.
“And I agree that there is too much federal control over land especially out in the western part of the United States,” he continued. “There are states for example like Nevada that are dominated by the federal government in terms of land holding and we should fix it, but no one should be doing it in a way that’s outside the law. We are a nation laws, we should follow those laws and they should be respected.”
It’s a silly question and a product of the media’s insistence on making Republicans answer for fringe elements in a way that rarely gets applied to Democrats. It’s making much more of this supposed standoff than it really is. A better answer to this would be to make note of how small and inconsequential the situation is at the moment, and how the media hysteria over this protest is actually feeding into the Bundys’ hype about it.
Still, if Cruz and Rubio felt compelled to answer the question on its merits, they gave good answers in both cases. It makes clear that this is indeed a fringe element in a local context, and one that actually may detract from the ability to change the policies they are protesting in the long run. And now that they’ve answered those questions, perhaps we can get Hillary Clinton on the record over the other #BLM blocking holiday traffic in Minneapolis at the airport and in the Mall of America. After all, she has met with the movement’s leadership on occasion in order to further her presidential ambitions, something neither Cruz nor Rubio have done with the Bundys. Shouldn’t we get an answer from her about their tactics now? Or is the sauce only good for the gander?
Update: Perhaps someone at the White House needs to do a wee bit more research on this:
Spokesman Josh Earnest’s comments come even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken charge of the response to the incident along with state and local agencies.
“Ultimately this is a local law enforcement matter and the FBI is monitoring the situation and offering support to local law enforcement officials,” Earnest said.
The spokesman added that President Obama is “aware” of the situation and said there are no federal employees at risk.
Actually, it’s not a local law enforcement issue, although I’d bet the FBI and White House wish it was. The larger reservation on which the federal facility sits is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, created by a Teddy Roosevelt executive order in 1908. If the Bundy group is breaking the law on federal property, the jurisdiction properly belongs to federal law enforcement, not local police. Or has the Obama administration ceded the facility to the state of Oregon?