MSNBC’s Ed Schultz hosted former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Monday night to discuss the growing “revolt” over federal land use policies in Western states, embodied in the recent armed standoff with federal officers at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. Schweitzer has deep experience with contentious land use issues and dealing with federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
As Schultz pointed out, antigovernment animus – rife with extremist “Patriots” and militiamen, as well as ample weaponry – appears to be building. Just last week in Utah, a BLM livestock wrangler was threatened on Interstate 15, and protesters – including two Bundy sons – intentionally violated a ban on motorized vehicles in a natural area, put in place to protect nearby archaeological sites.
Schultz blamed the rise on right-wing media: “We all know where this antigovernment sentiment started, don’t we?”
Schweitzer, who has had plenty of experience in dealing with “Patriot” extremists in his own state, including in the Montana legislature, was particularly scathing in his assessment of the motivations of the people involved in the “revolt”:
SCHWEITZER: And now this bunch, this Cliven Bundy bunch, coming over from Nevada giving advice to people in Utah on how to deal with the BLM? My God, that’s like the Aryan Nations giving advice to Donald Sterling. This bunch, the Bundy bunch are grifters, they haven’t paid their fees, they haven’t cooperated with the federal government, they say they don’t even recognize the United States government. And these Tea Party, militia Foxtrotters, they’re a bunch of ne’er-do-wells – they aren’t ranchers, they aren’t loggers, they aren’t people who have legitimate businesses on the land. You wouldn’t get ranchers to stand next to Bundy. And people who are in the mining business, and the oil and gas business on federal land, they wouldn’t stand next to these people because they make a living on that land, and they listen to the rule of the land.
Schultz pointed out that the fanatical behavior of the “Patriots” raised real concerns about the rule of law: “So now we have got government officials in this country wondering, ‘What do we do if we go out and try to enforce the law, and people are openly armed with assault weapons?’”
“No one knows where this is going to end,” he added. “And no one knows how it’s going to end. And it’s kinda scary. It has the roots of a movement that won’t end really peacefully. I hate to say that. But this is how it goes, isn’t it?”
That was the conundrum he presented to Schweitzer: “Are we now seeing a culture develop in America: ‘Well, you can go ahead and do what you want, we’ll just decide which law we are going to uphold?’”
Schweitzer agreed that it was a real concern. “We are a land that has rule of law,” he observed. “We’re not Yemen. We’re not Somalia. We’re a land that has laws. And we all have to follow those laws. We don’t get to decide which ones we’re going to follow and which ones we don’t. That’s what a civilized society does.”
Schweitzer also said he was glad that the FBI had announced it was investigating the people who had pointed weapons at federal agents during the Bundy standoff in Nevada on April 12: “If you point a gun at law enforcement or federal officials, you should have no expectation of this ending good for you,” he said.