Too Many Republicans Encourage Crazies, Then Back Away When Bad Things Happen | Phoenix New Times

Stephen Lemons Column

Too Many Republicans Encourage Crazies, Then Back Away When Bad Things Happen

Now that former Phoenix resident Ammon Bundy, son of bigoted clodhopper Cliven Bundy, has up and taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon with his brother, Ryan, and a bunch of fellow gun-slingin' wackos, what do Arizona Republicans — like former state Senator Kelli Ward — have to say about...
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Now that former Phoenix resident Ammon Bundy, son of bigoted clodhopper Cliven Bundy, has up and taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon with his brother, Ryan, and a bunch of fellow gun-slingin' wackos, what do Arizona Republicans — like former state Senator Kelli Ward — have to say about him?  

Ward, as you may know, is the wingnut alternative to U.S. Senator John McCain in the GOP primary and is known as "Chemtrail Kelli" for presiding over a 2014 town hall in Kingman during which the kooky conspiracy theory was discussed with staffers from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, present at Ward's request.

A physician with an undergrad degree from Duke University, Ward later claimed that she was just responding to the concerns of her constituents, many of whom happen to be proud to wear tinfoil trucker hats.

She told media she really doesn't believe that the white lines of condensation emanating from passing airplanes are, as the nutters believe, part of some gub'mint plot to poison Ameri-cuns.

If so, she failed to share that skepticism with those in attendance at the chemtrail coffee klatch, instead letting ADEQ employees bare the brunt of the crowd's weirdness.

Is her political shtick mere pandering to Republican cray-crays, or does it also involve some sincerely held views?

Normally, her education would argue for the former, but if the Republican presidential candidacy of neurosurgeon Ben Carson shows us anything, it's that even doctors can be downright daffy.

Back in 2014, Ward was one of five Arizona pols who made the trek to northeast Nevada to show support for "welfare cowboy" Cliven Bundy, who had refused to pony up $1 million in grazing fees to the feds for allowing his cattle to pig out on federal property.

Militia goofballs rallied to the Bundy family's side, pointing loaded AR-15s at U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents.

Rather than allow the situation to devolve into bloodshed, the BLM defused it by calling off a confiscation of Cliven's critters on federal property and allowing the conflict with the Bundy family to continue in the courts.

The elder Bundy became a darling of Fox News until he began to share his views of "the Negro" in America.

He reckons black folk would have been better off "picking cotton" as slaves rather than soaking up all that public assistance that racists like Cliven always think people darker than him are getting too much of.

For some conserva-loons, if the deadbeat is white and wearing a cowboy hat, he's a patriot, not a freeloader.

Ammon was up there with his pa fighting the feds in Nevada, though he had a home in Laveen. Afterward, he became a conservative cause celebre in Maricopa County and Arizona in general.

Shortly after the April 2014 staredown with the BLM, Ammon met with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a made-for-local-TV event, where Joe and the cowpoke reportedly discussed what Arpaio's role would be if a similar confrontation occurred in the MCSO's jurisdiction.

A master at coddling kooks, Arpaio said he would have to "play it by ear" while putting the safety of county residents first. Bundy came away satisfied, both with what Joe had to say and with the time Ammon had earned on camera.

In 2015, Ammon appeared at a Second Amendment rally at the Arizona Capitol sponsored in part by local nativist group Riders USA. He also spoke (with his dad) at the über-right East Valley political forum the Red Mountain Tea Party.

Last May, he was scheduled to take the mic at a cavalcade of crazies called the Arizona Freedom Fest in Kingman. I can't confirm that he actually showed, but candidate Ward did, as there are photos of her addressing the crowd on the event's Facebook page.

Wondering if Ward would wholeheartedly denounce Ammon Bundy's illegal actions in Oregon, I reached out to her and eventually received this reply from campaign staffer Roger Galloway:

"I will always support our First Amendment rights, including free speech, peaceful assembly, and the right to non-violently protest. As Americans, we enjoy the right to speak our minds without threat of government persecution, arrest, or incarceration.

"We don't have the right to use force or to threaten violence against others. There is too much federal control of our lands, especially in the West, and we need to address this overreach in a constitutional manner that follows the law."

I guess that kinda-sorta repudiates Bundy's methods, if not the ideology that motivates him.

Republican State Representative Kelly Townsend was another Arizona legislator who went to Nevada in 2014 to back the Bundys. She knows both Ammon and his brother, Ryan, and she appears in a photo with Ammon at the aforementioned pro-gun rally in 2015.

Though I'm in complete disagreement with Townsend's politics, she always has struck me as plucky and forthright. She told me that she had called Ryan not long after the occupation took place and asked what was going on.

She said he told her that he and his cohorts had taken possession of a federal building.

She asked if he was "ready to go to prison" for his actions.

"He told me something to the effect, 'We don't recognize the federal government,'" she said.

After the call, Townsend said she texted Ryan, telling him that the Bundy party should "stand down," but received no reply.

The taking of the wildlife refuge compound by the Bundys came on the heels of a peaceful demonstration in Burns, Oregon, protesting the prison sentence of two locals, father and son Dwight and Steven Hammond, convicted of setting fires that destroyed 139 acres of federal land.

Interestingly, even the Hammonds have not supported the Bundy occupation and recently turned themselves over to the feds to do their time.

Townsend told me that she feared the occupation in Oregon would "discredit" the Hammonds' cause, which she believes is worthy of support.

"It's one thing to stand [with the] Hammonds," she recently tweeted. "But it's an entirely different thing to garner attention by breaking the law."

Indeed, terrorists — whether domestic or international — often use violence or the threat of it to draw attention to their causes.

The actions of Ammon and Ryan Bundy have the potential to be deadly. Asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos about Ryan's statement to a local reporter that the occupiers were willing to "kill or be killed," Ammon shrugged it off:

"Well . . . when a people are defending their rights, that's always what we have to stand on."

What "rights"? The right to illegally seize federal property and threaten the use of gunfire if moved upon by law enforcement?

In other statements to reporters, Ammon Bundy has called the refuge "a tool of tyranny," which gives you an indication of just how divorced from reality these yahoos are.

Online, lefties have pummeled the occupiers as "Y'allQaeda," and "YeeHawdis."

Amusing, yes. But as Dylann Roof proved last year in South Carolina, a racist redneck clown with a gun is no joke.

To this point, the Anti-Defamation League recently released a report showing the 2015 tally of deaths by homegrown terrorists to be 52, the highest it's been since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Twenty of these killings were by white racists. Nineteen were by "domestic Islamic extremists," and 10 were by anti-government wackos.

Here's hoping that the Bundy boys and their pack of fellow extremists, which includes infamous Muslim-hatin' Phoenician Jon Ritzheimer, end this stunt without bloodshed and in cuffs.

But even if this situation is resolved peacefully, the instinct of some GOPers to treat such right-wing Froot Loops like their political cousins may one day lend itself to another Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, or worse.

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