I’ve been mulling over two questions this past week and a half: what is the law if inconsistently applied? What is “rule of law” if the rule on which the law is based has been bastardized?
Those who wanted Cliven Bundy to remain in a court battle with the federal government have never been in a legal fight. They’ve never witnessed how a legal system can be used as a manner to delay justice instead of obtain it.
John Hinderaker speaks to this in a piece about the Bundy Ranch:
So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there. Rather–this is the second and more important point–it is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.
The new head of the BLM is a former Reid staffer. Presumably he was placed in his current position on Reid’s recommendation. Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals. Does Harry Reid now control more than 80% of the territory of Nevada? If you need federal authority to conduct business in Nevada–which is overwhelmingly probable–do you need to pay a bribe to Harry Reid or a member of his family to get that permission? Why is it that the BLM is deeply concerned about desert tortoises when it comes to ranchers, but couldn’t care less when the solar power developers from China come calling? Environmentalists have asked this question. Does the difference lie in the fact that Cliven Bundy has never contributed to an Obama or Reid campaign, or paid a bribe to Reid or a member of his family?
So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?
Bingo. What is the rule of law if the rule can be broken? What is the rule of law if it is inconsistently applied according to politics? If we’re going to discuss rule of law, this situation would have never happened in the first place. The Bundys and those who agree with them aren’t devaluing the rule of law, rather, they’re pointing out how those who have violated the rule of law are now trying to hold it up as a standard of measure. Bureaucrats writing their own regulations to later violate is a bad thing. Making a specious argument based on a situationally-endangered turtle is a bad thing.
I do disagree with Hinderaker here:
First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives.
I think it’s premature to claim that Bundy doesn’t have a leg on which to stand. First, shouldn’t this be tried in a state court, not federal? Secondly, BLM can waive rights which have existed with the Bundy family, rights that supersede the BLM’s existence? This is one part of a very large argument: Bundy is contesting BLM’s authority here. The “M” stands for management, something designed to work with ranchers on lands, not against them. There is more to this story than this graph adequately addresses.