Personal Liberty Poll
Among Republican Party name brands with possible aspirations to seek the 2016 Presidential nomination, so far only Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have made known their opinions on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.
All the others are keeping their lips zipped. Coming down in favor of Bundy, who is shrugging off the rule of law to take a principled stand against Federal transgressions, is a sketchy gray area of ideology for would-be candidates who want to appeal to a broad base. And coming down in favor of the government would simply destroy any rapport the GOP candidates have with their base.
So it’s been prudent, so far — even if not very courageous — for most candidates to simply say nothing.
According to The Hill, which attempted to question a trio of potential GOP candidates on why they’ve chosen to stay away from the Bundy-BLM battle, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have offered no statements indicating a position, and they didn’t respond to calls from Hill staff seeking comment.
The nature of the Bundy dispute requires politicians to be well schooled in the case history, as well as in the history of U.S. property rights, Federal land policy and the Constitutionally established balance between Federal, State and individual powers. It’s easy for an incessant talker like Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to make an unequivocal comment favoring the Feds, because Reid’s commitment to understanding the merits of a case into his argument has always been exceedingly low. Plus, as you’ve likely read, Reid may very well have an obtuse interest in what happens on the piece of land in question.
The same study-before-you-speak ethos that Reid eschews may well be the reason no one’s yet heard from Cruz. It’s possible he will, at some point, weigh in. Like or loathe him, one thing that has defined Cruz so far is his will to speak in public with authority, or not at all. But don’t be surprised if Cruz’s deep commitment to the rule of law (think immigration policy) limits what he’d say to bolster the Bundys.
There’s an artful way around such ideological problems: Keep your comments artfully general and populist. Huckabee handled a question on the Bundy dispute by admitting he didn’t know all there is to know about the historical and legal nuances of the case; and then he pointed out the key flaw in the Federal government’s disposition and behavior, so clearly on display last week:
From The Hill:
“I’m not here to jump in on the middle of whether Cliven Bundy ought to pay the state or pay anybody for the chance for his cows to eat some grass,” Huckabee said. “Here’s what I would suggest: that there is something incredibly wrong when a government believes that some blades of grass that a cow is eating is so an egregious affront to the government of the United States that we would literally put a gun in a citizen’s face and threaten to shoot him over it.”
Paul expanded on that idea in his remarks, using the dispute to reflect on the evolution of dozens of Federal agencies into law enforcement entities that carry weapons and hold powers of arrest. You can read more on Paul’s comments in Rand Paul Questions Number Of Armed Federal Agents, Criticizes Government Treatment Of Rancher.