You’ll seldom see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended in this column.
However, there’s so much to legitimately complain about the senator’s politics and how he accomplishes his goals, it doesn’t seem right to flay him over misconstrued comments.
Reid’s been the brunt of the right’s righteous criticism all this week since he uttered the accusation that Bundy’s supporters were “domestic terrorists.”
Reid certainly was not likening Bundy to Timothy McVeigh, bomber of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, or Eric Rudolph, responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing or Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who bombed the finish line at last year’s Boston Marathon. Those men all committed murder.
And Bundy is just a scofflaw.
No, Reid obviously was referring to the armed men who aimed their weapons at BLM officers attempting to stop them from freeing Bundy’s rounded up cattle. Pointing a loaded weapon at another person is considered a criminal assault. And Reid may not have been far off the mark if he had used the term insurrectionists instead of terrorists.
So let’s let the man from Searchlight off the hook for his unkind words about armed men. But he hasn’t done a lot to defuse the situation, either.
“It’s not over,” he repeated almost as often as he’s blamed George Bush for the nation’s current woes.
And those militia types who still may be lingering in the Virgin Valley are here, in part, because Reid has led them to believe federal authorities may return soon to the Bundy Ranch and Gold Butte area.
And, of course, the actions by the BLM itself caused much of the resistance.
Bundy had paid his grazing fees to the BLM since 1973 before he “fired” the land managers for trying to drive him out of business. His refusal to pay his fees should have been dealt with immediately and not allowed to ricochet around for the next two decades.
If laws are important, they should be enforced. And it’s pure nonfeasance that the BLM neglected to act effectively in the early years of Bundy’s defiance.
It made sense to round up his cattle in 1994 when he first refused an order to remove them himself, but even then his financial assets could have been frozen and liens place on all of his property.
But even waiting 20 years before attempting to end the dispute, the BLM could have found an alternative to a paramilitary operation. And setting up those First Amendment zones was another blunder in the magnitude of the Affordable Care Act rollout.
Now, the emphasis should be on ending the dispute. The federal government has lost what could have been the moral high ground, and frankly Bundy never had it. Only the ham-fisted might of the federal government was able to raise him to the folk hero level.
The federal government should be seeking a settlement with Bundy that the disgruntled and uncooperative rancher could live with. He cannot be allowed to continue to flaunt the law, but a pardon for past violations and greatly reduced fines that allow him to continue ranching with the limited freedoms that all public-land lease-holders have should be presented to the man.
If Bundy refuses that kind of governmental generosity, then there would be no choice except to tie up his assets and put full-value liens on his ranch so he would have no legacy to pass on to his children.
Bundy has shown himself to be a loving family man and the future of his descendants in the Virgin Valley should mean something to him. Taking advantage of that certainly would be preferable to some kind of future raid reminiscent of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas.