Not wholly unlike our own tribe: All of a sudden, beleaguered rancher Cliven Bundy is Nevada-in-summer hot, on both sides of the tribal aisle.
If you don’t know the facts of the case, access Kevin Drum.
Last night, Bundy broke big on MSNBC. Chris Hayes opened his program with the tale of the insufficiently jolly rancher who doesn’t recognize the federal government.
This morning, the Morning Joe panel was firing at Bundy too, right out of the gate.
Over the weekend, Bundy became the newest star of the conservative world. But uh-oh! Last Thursday, when he debuted on The Five, Fox stars came out against him!
Bundy has been freeloading off the federal government for the past twenty years. As of last Thursday, none of The Five had devised a way to defend the practice.
First up was Bob Beckel, the resident liberal who is normally outnumbered four-to-one on the unfair and unbalanced program. Unsurprisingly, Beckel took the anti-Bundy line:
BECKEL (4/10/14): At one point, as you know, I owned a ranch with some other people up in Montana. We used to lease grazing rights to ranchers around for a considerable amount of money per cow. The federal government has a dirt-cheap policy of renting their land out, and this guy is getting a break. It's been contentious in Congress for years. Whether you like it or not, he is breaking the law. If he's going to continue to break the law, they're going to take your cattle.Beckel took the common sense line—Bundy is breaking the law. But just like that, Eric Bolling said he agreed, though he quickly proceeded to argue a larger line:
BOLLING (continuing directly): I'm going to agree with you. Look, the problem is, the government gets involved in things like this. They undercut what you were doing. You were a businessman, you were earning a living leasing out your land. Government came, comes in and undercuts you.Etcetera and so forth and so on. Still and all, you’ll note that Bolling said he agreed with Beckel about the randy rancher.
Government should stay out. They subsidize everything. They subsidize ethanol. They subsidize land. They subsidize this grazing rights...
Next up was Andrea Tantaros. She lassoed Bundy too:
TANTAROS: I feel bad for this guy. You know, the government is trying to make it impossible to make a living. And the way that they're seizing his cattle now, it's pretty dramatic in droves.Can Andrea Tantaros say that?
However, I do agree with you, Bob. It is the law of the land. It's a dumb law about a tortoise. But it doesn't give him his right, the right to ignore the law. He hasn't paid his grazing fees in over 20 years. So dare I say, the government has actually been somewhat patient with him?
Gutfeld offered comic relief; Guilfoyle avoided stating a view. But of the three panelists who declared, all came down against Bundy!
On Friday, it wasn’t hugely different. That said, Dana Perino was back on the set. She sketched a middle line:
PERINO (4/11/14): I think it's extremely complicated. I grew up with a family that continues to utilize BLM grazing opportunities. And Bob knows a lot about it as well. It's something that the rural America understands a lot more than anybody sitting on any big city on East Coast can understand. It seems a little incongruous to say, “Why can't he just pay the fine?” I mean, doesn't that make sense?Perino was playing it safe. That said, Tantaros seconded her view from the day before, saying that she had taken some heat for her view. And guest panelist Tom Shillue came down against the man-in-arrears of the west:
The problem is, when it comes to a lot of these issues, there isn't a lot of common sense. I do think he is in arrears for 20 years for these fines. You and I probably wouldn't be able to get away with that with the IRS if it came down to it. But I also believe that it shows that central planning does not work well, OK?
SHILLUE: I looked at all the issue here, and this guy—he's not paying his rent. He seems a little goofy. I mean, in all these instances—obviously, the government was wrong in Waco. The government was wrong at Ruby Ridge, except the people in those situations were also pretty goofy.In truth, The Five were already edging their way toward the right. But in these, the first two days of the mess, they were quite slow on the pick-up.
So what the government should do is just back off. I don't know what they are doing. Just walk away. I mean, there's nothing there. Just leave that land alone for a while, it will deescalate itself. Am I right?
By yesterday, the situation in Nevada had been temporarily resolved. And given a weekend to gather their thoughts, The Five had themselves back on track.
Most strikingly, Dana Perino showed the gang how to run to the light. Perino could see that elitists on the coasts had caused the whole dadburned problem:
PERINO (4/14/14): I thought the Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, was probably the best voice of reason of all of this, in trying to tell the government, “You might have a point, but actually, this is a state issue not a federal issue. So, can you back off and let us deal with it like reasonable people in all of this?”We’re opposed to condescending elitists too. But when she got her second round, Perino showed herself to be a master of the narrative:
I think the problems that the administration, the White House was about to have is that you had the video of the tasing and the build-up and this escalation, and the story line, whether it's fair or not, but it was developing on the left, was that the federal government is sending a sniper to shoot at people to protect its turtle. That is the message that they were about to send, and so I think everybody’s backing off.
There's bigger questions here about Endangered Species Act Reform writ large, and also how elitists on the coasts are condescending towards people who have chosen a way of life in rural America. And I don't think those are going to be solved during the Obama administration, but it will be an issue in 2014.
PERINO: Remember last week when we watched the town hall and they had, it was a packed room, standing room-only and they had the speeches there? You don't get a group like that together just because of one person's cows. This is a culmination of a lot of frustration and the condescending tone from a lot of Democrats toward people in rural America.It was all Bruce Braley’s fault, and also the fault of Bruce Braley’s desk! It’s no wonder militias were on the move a thousand miles away!
For example, there's a congressman named Bruce Braley. He's running for Senate in Iowa. And he was caught on tape saying that if Senator Chuck Grassley became the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That was seen as yet another swipe as we're better than you because we're more educated.
I think that the most wise people I've ever known don't live in cities. And they don't sit at a desk, they sit in a saddle. Their office is on top of a horse, not a horse crap that happens in New York.
By yesterday, it was back to The Four and The One, with only Beckel holding the line on this evolving issue. This is the way it normally works on this pitiful program.
It’s easy for liberals to laugh at this daily gong-show. By now, though, we have our own unbalanced panels and our own absurd discussions.
Last Sunday, the Harris-Perry show assembled a full-blown panel of five, with all five panelists carefully chosen to come down on the same side.
Jonathan Chait was on the rack; there was no Beckel figure. Our panel broke down five to none. The Five provided more balance!
Tomorrow, we’ll start to look at the brilliant thoughts which came from our own tribal panel this weekend. Yesterday, Perino really played the fool, but let’s be honest just this once:
Increasingly, it seems that our tribe may not differ from Fox to quite the extent we once thought.