I appreciate the unqualified contempt Timothy Egan expresses in this New York Times op-ed about the Bundy Ranch standoff -- but I think the analogy with which he opens the piece is a bit off base:
Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn't paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What's more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital.That last line is pretty much dead-on. (I might qualify it and say that the Midwesterner-turned-Easterner who runs Fox News assumes, probably correctly, that his exurban audience has a soft spot -- or maybe "collective mancrush" would be closer to the mark -- for those Stetson-wearing bad boys.) But I think Egan is too quick to assume that there'd never be a posse of armed defenders for a National Mall vendor.
Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not.
So what's the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.
The vendor would have to be the right kind of Real American -- maybe a "Hanoi Jane"-hating 'Nam vet who doesn't believe Obama's birth certificate and who thinks Allen West and Donald Trump would make a hell of a 2016 ticket. Maybe he'd claim to have gotten on the wrong side of some real or imagined quota system (he'd have to be white, of course), or maybe he'd just claim that Evil Obama and Holder were trying to shut him down because of all the "pro-freedom" bumper stickers on his pushcart. Could I imagine Fox News doing a hundred segments on this guy? Could I imagine a crew of belligerent malcontents daring the cops to remove his cart from the Mall, even though he wasn't fulfilling the requirements for a vendor? Sure I could.
We know that Fox doesn't care about the letter of the law if someone's case for special treatment seems emotionally correct to the Fox audience. Recall the 11-year-old girl who was initially denied the right to sell mistletoe at a Portland mall last Christmas. It didn't matter that other vendors there had gone through an application process for the limited vendor spots -- this girl was selling mistletoe, for heaven's sake (War on Christmas!), and she had a Fox-worthy story about how she wanted to work rather than beg, so Megyn Kelly, among others in the right-wing media, made her a victim. In the end, she got special dispensation to sell her mistletoe.
To the right, the law doesn't determine who's allowed to do what. The deserving are the people right-wingers feel are the deserving. There's a higher law, and only True Patriota know what it is.