The art of backing away from Bundy

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher at the center of a high-profile fight with the federal government over grazing and the seizure of cattle, let his inner racist out, and that has Republicans who embraced him scurrying.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he’s quoted as saying to a group of supporters and a reporter or two, providing an instant signal that what was coming next wasn’t likely to end well.

Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids—and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch—they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Better off as slaves? Te-nahesi Coates of The Atlantic would like to take that one.

Enslaved black people were, with some regularity, beat with cowhide whips, tongs, pokers, chairs, and wooden boards. Nails were driven through their palms, pins through their tongues. Eyes were gouged out for the smallest offense.

When people like Cliven Bundy assert the primacy of the past it is important that we do not recount it selectively. American enslavement is the destruction of the black body for profit. That is the past that Cliven Bundy believes “the Negro” to have been better off in. He is, regrettably, not alone.

Is Bundy’s racist lesson shared by the politicians who’ve rallied around him? Not necessarily, but you have to say it when given the opportunity.

On CBS this morning, Rick Perry must have known he’d get the question from Nora O’Donnell. There isn’t a politician who wants to be president in America who doesn’t know what’s on the front page of the New York Times before doing a network TV interview about running for president.

“Do you denounce those comments?” O’Donnell asked, indicating the comments were “racial.”

“I don’t know what he said,” the Texas governor claimed, not bothering to ask.

“I think Cliven Bundy is a side story. The federal government and how the federal government deals with these issues of private citizens, whether it’s on the public lands or whether, in the state of Texas we have a big issue about whether this is private land or this is public land. And rather than sending armed troops, I don’t think that is the way that the government should be handling any of these things with its own citizens,” said Perry. “We saw a huge debacle in Waco, Texas, back a decade plus ago with how they dealt with that issue. I hope our government officials are very, very wise and use common sense when it comes to these issues of conflict within the borders of the United States dealing with something that should be able to do be dealt with in a substantially less confrontational way.”

It was perfect example of how politicians deflect questions and turn them back to their talking points: If you don’t like the question that was asked, answer one that wasn’t. But the method depends on reporters not saying the magic words, “you didn’t answer my question.”

Co-host Charlie Rose, named earlier in the day as one of Time’s 100 most influential people, changed the subject to immigration, just before co-host Gayle King concluded the interview by telling Perry, “I like your glasses.”

Mission accomplished.

In its online story about the interview, CBS “News” did not mention one word about Perry’s response to Bundy.

It’s not a hard question.

“(His) remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Rand Paul said in a statement, shortly appeared on FoxNews today, after not being available for comment earlier.

  • David

    Just one of the reasons I can’t tolorate television news. It’s not news. It is a place for politicians to advertise their talking points and the “reporters” usually let them skate by not answering the question.
    Unfortunately, this happens frequently on the radio too.

  • John Peschken

    Perry’s reluctance to answer the question is an answer in itself, isn’t it?

  • Joe

    I support Bundy, we need to tear down the political borders that divide all of us. Land belongs to the people. This land is your land, this land is my land. My cows will graze anywhere, no man’s an island…

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I don’t know to what extent his racist thoughts were known until the article, but it doesn’t seem they were widely known, so I can’t fault anyone for siding with him yesterday over something they didn’t know until today. It’d be different if they keep supporting him or if someone cozies up to a convicted criminal or something.

    I could also buy that Perry didn’t know about the article, but I’d also say he should fire his people if that’s the case.

    • Joe

      Ever read about Rick Perry’s ranch and what word appears on a rock there?
      Maybe not because that rock didn’t stray from his property like a cow, but it did make the news back when people in the country cared about Rick Perry that one day.

  • Dave

    You are never going to be satisfied with Rick Perry because he is utterly devoid of substance. He is the very definition of an empty suit. His “oops” during the 2012 primary was one of the most revealing political moments I have ever seen. It said everything you needed to know about him.

  • Jim G

    Nora O’Donnell and Charlie Rose have mentioned on air that they were raised in Texas. I wish one of them had asked a follow-up question or as you pointed out just said, “You didn’t answer my question.” followed by “Are you afraid to answer it?”

  • Jay T. Berken

    This guy may or may not be a racist. I really do not care. What I do care about is his mindset that is also prevalent on the right of the Republican party that instead of looking for the root of the problem of unemployment for a certain demographic of people much less the unemployed over all, but to just “doing things” is the answer. By getting a minimum paying job(s) is not the path. It is just a path of the unemployed to sit and spin their wheels and not get ahead. The issue is to give the tools to the unemployed to find a way to find that position which they can get out of poverty and maybe do something they actually enjoy. Isn’t that the American Dream?

    What makes me take pause with his words saying that the black unemployed would be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things”? Isn’t that a “socioeconomic system structured upon common ownership of the means of production and characterized by the absence of classes, money, and the state; as well as a social, political and economic ideology and movement that aims to establish this social order.“ Yep took that off of Wikipedia page defining Communism.