Get busy, BLM—fast
In the armed standoff at Bunkerville in 2014, only one of the many players came out looking better when it was over. That was Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who kept talking sense while loons, other public officials and employees of the Bureau of Land Management dropped the ball repeatedly.
Although Cliven Bundy and his cronies and family members talked about principles and noble causes, the standoff had no such admirable issues. It was simply a case of a man who would not pay his bills. The BLM was there to take his cattle in lieu of the million-plus dollars he owed the public for using the public’s lands for grazing. Though Bundy kept offering cockamamie legal theories, the courts had long since knocked all of them down. He was just a deadbeat like anybody else who won’t pay his bills or drives without insurance or shoplifts. He had run out of court appeals and drew naive citizens into a dangerous situation they did not understand rather than pay his bills.
The BLM had dithered for years in bringing the matter to resolution and was not ready for the army of poorly informed people who thought they were there for some high-flown battle instead of the government equivalent of a collection agency dunning a debtor.
Politicians chose sides, also without knowing much about the issues, much less about Bundy. Nevada’s naifish governor for some reason took offense at the press section set up where the various players could safely be interviewed and decided to take Bundy’s side. Since calling out the national guard was always a possibility, Gov. Sandoval—putative commander of the guard—had complicated the situation for the feds on the scene, because he had given them no reason to trust him.
“No drop of human blood is worth spilling over any cow, in my opinion,” Gillespie said on March 27.
When the BLM was forced to choose withdrawal over blood, it was the best ending to a lousy situation. But the public was entitled to see those who flaunted the law called to account. “If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions,” Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it. They need to be held accountable for it.”
Thanks to devious federal prosecutors who failed to respect the law and played games with due process, that will now not be possible. The public will have to settle for the half-dozen convictions of peripheral figures around the Bundys, who are very good at putting others in legal harm’s way.
The federal agency that caused this entire dispute by its laggard behavior must now accomplish the original cause of the dispute—collecting the public’s money.
And it would be nice if the BLM not only acted for once with great dispatch and got the job done fast, but also converted its operations to greater transparency. For years, no local BLM officials—the ones who know the Bundy issues best—have been allowed to comment on them. Instead, only D.C. agency officials were allowed to speak on it. That should end.
And so should the Bundys’ free ride. Fast.