The idiom better late than never can mean either that arriving late for a function is better than not appearing at all, or it is good this is happening now, but it should have happened sooner. Usually, the term is applicable when, after a tragedy that could have been prevented, steps are taken to make sure the conditions that led to and likely exacerbated the tragedy can never recur. The term is also apropos when law enforcement officials ignore a criminal threat to the safety of others and only take action after the criminal committed an offense. During the Bundy ranch standoff last March, many observers were puzzled why local law enforcement failed to arrest Bundy and his heavily-armed militias for at least confronting and preventing federal officials from performing their duty; what federal statutes define as sedition.
Over the weekend, the Clark County Sheriff, Doug Gillespie, finally said that Cliven Bundy crossed the line when he sent out a call to states’ rights supporters and self-proclaimed armed militia members onto his property to aim guns at police and prevent federal officials from executing a federal court order. Gillespie said, “If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions, and I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it. They need to be held accountable for it.” Obviously, if the Sheriff had taken action prior to the armed standoff with officials from the Bureau of Land Management, the entire “Bundy standoff” may not have happened.
Curiously, the sheriff said that because Bundy was not a hardened criminal, and only failed to pay fees for twenty years, it was not worth risking violence to do his job and assist federal officials executing a federal court order. The sheriff said it was the bureau’s fault for escalating the conflict even after he had a confrontation with Cliven Bundy’s children a few weeks before the standoff began. Gillespie claimed he warned BLM officials to delay executing the court order because of the confrontation with the Bundy’s, but one cannot help wonder why he failed to “hold the Bundy’s accountable” when they confronted him. In fact, the sheriff had said he wanted to take action against Bundy, but that he was heavily outgunned.
The sheriff said after he was confronted by the Bundys, “I came back from that saying, ‘This is not the time to do this’,” but according to his account, federal officials said “We do this all the time. We know what we’re doing. We hear what you’re saying, but we’re moving forward.” A BLM spokeswoman, Celia Boddington, said the Bureau planned and conducted the court-ordered roundup in “full coordination” with Sheriff Gillespie and his office.
Boddington responded to Gillespie’s remarks saying, “It is unfortunate that the sheriff is now attempting to rewrite the details of what occurred, including his claims that the BLM did not share accurate information. The sheriff encouraged the operation and promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we enforced two recent federal court orders. Sadly, he backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation — and after months of joint planning — leaving the BLM and the National Park Service to handle the crowd control that the sheriff previously committed to handling.”
Likely, the sheriff backed out of fulfilling his previous commitment because of his earlier confrontation with the Bundys. Now, if that was the case, and there is no reason whatsoever to doubt his word; why did he not summon state police, or appeal to the Republican governor or Republican state legislators for assistance immediately to, as he now says, “hold the Bundy gang accountable?” After witnessing Republican after Republican stand on the side of Cliven Bundy and armed militias cheering their armed sedition as champions of liberty against the federal government, the sheriff probably knew that asking for assistance from Republican state leaders was a futile exercise.
At least, and it is better late than never, the sheriff is willing to assist federal officials conducting an active investigation to hold the seditionists involved in the Bundy standoff accountable. Boddington released a statement on Saturday that said the agency (BLM) continues to pursue the matter “aggressively through the legal system” and welcomed the sheriff’s assistance. She said, “There is an ongoing investigation and we are working diligently to ensure that those who broke the law are held accountable,” but did not elaborate further. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also declined to comment on its investigation.
According to Huffington Post, Bundy did not respond to a request for comment. He will likely issue his comments on Fox News or through Oathkeepers, Richard Mack’s Constitutional Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), and various states’ rights armed militias when he is finally “held accountable” for inciting sedition. The sheriff’s charge that his armed gang “aimed their guns at law enforcement officers” will be the least of the Bundy’s troubles, and doubtless the sheriff regrets not holding the seditionists accountable prior to the standoff with federal officers.
There is little doubt that when the sheriff and federal law enforcement do attempt to hold the Bundy gang accountable, there will be another armed standoff because Bundy refuses to acknowledge federal authority on federal land, or the federal government in general. It is why he owes the federal government over $1 million for trespassing on federal property without a permit for over 20 years. It is also why after several court cases, and two federal court orders, the Bureau of Land Management was left with no option but to take action according to orders from the courts.
What proves Bundy’s issue is not solely with the federal authority is the confrontation with the sheriff weeks before the BLM standoff. Bundy has stated several times that he only recognizes state and county authorities, but apparently he recognizes no authority but his own. Otherwise, he would not have confronted the country sheriff, much less federal officers. Bundy also would not have been emboldened to marshal armed militias to his “cause” if he did not know in advance that Republicans and Fox News would regale him as a folk hero for standing up to the federal government.
It was disappointing, but understandably humanitarian that the federal officials backed down during the armed standoff to prevent what was surely going to be a shooting war between seditionists and the federal government. But if the sheriff had done his job in the first place and held Cliven Bundy’s family accountable for confronting his officers, Americans would likely never hear of Cliven Bundy. Unfortunately, it appears Americans are going to hear more about Cliven Bundy and it likely is not going to end peaceably.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.