Cliven Bundy Claims Rand Paul Promised Him As President He’d Make Nevada A ‘Sovereign State’

In politics, your reputation is often about the company you keep, and for Sen. Rand Paul, that company is noxious enough to leave any reputation in tatters.

As part of his desperate bid to lift his sagging poll numbers and get recognition as a “legitimate” Republican candidate, Paul seems to have gambled on the power of the fringe far-right to bring him the votes. Who better to help appeal to that fringe than the king himself: defiantly criminal rancher Cliven Bundy.

As you may recall, Bundy kickstarted a media circus last year when he boldly refused to pay the over $1 million he owes the United States government for illegally using public lands for grazing over the course of decades and turned the issue into something about “freedom.” (He never could quite articulate what that issue might be.)

Conservatives loved him. Fox News sang his praises. They remained giddy about Bundy even after he began assembling a veritable right-wing militia at his ranch, which could be seen pointing their AR-15s at federal employees sent in to speak with Bundy and enforce the law. They labeled him a hero… right up until he started giving interviews that revealed him to be a virulently racist, possibly mentally unstable, old man who was standing less for “freedom” and more for “personal profit.”

And Bundy hasn’t really changed in the ensuing months. He doubled down on the idea that he knows a thing or two about black people. He’s quoted in The Guardian as saying:

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“He said he had not personally heard any complaints from ethnic minority groups. ‘I’ve never had a black person or a brown person ever say anything bad about me.’

“Then he proceeded to make fresh contentious comments, first by repeating the comparison between slavery and welfare dependence: ‘Receiving welfare and housing – is that a sense of slavery when you get caught up in that and can’t get out of it for generations? They don’t have freedom.’”

Apparently, this is the guy Paul wants to be associated with. And according to Bundy, he was even willing to secretly make the rancher certain promises about how great things would be for, say, criminal ranchers, if he were elected president. Bundy told reporters that Paul had personally promised to make Nevada a “sovereign state” that wouldn’t be beholden to federal laws.

“Bundy said Paul told him: ‘If I was president of the United States, Nevada would have their sovereignty,’ Bundy told KNPR’s State of Nevada program.

“He said, ‘One of your biggest problems is getting Nevada to recognize its sovereignty and to stand up for its sovereignty,’ Bundy also said. ‘He said he would turn over the jurisdiction authority and allow the state of Nevada to act like a sovereign state. He said it would be up to we the people to govern ourselves.'”

Presumably he meant the state could ignore things like federal enforcement of gay marriage, Roe v. Wade, and of course, grazing fees on federally protected lands.

The problem with this promise, if Paul indeed made it, is that it is absolutely unconstitutional and doesn’t just skirt the line of insurrection, it jumps right over it. Perhaps Paul doesn’t remember, but the United States fought a Civil War when a few states tried to say the exact same thing a while ago. Part of being a member of the United States means you don’t get to choose which federal laws your state has to abide by, even if you personally disagree with them.

Paul knows all this. He’s not stupid. So why would he have such a friendly meeting with a man who seems to want to overturn some of the very bedrock of the country’s system of governance so he can graze his cattle for free?

The answer is simple: pandering.

Paul’s spokesperson claimed he hadn’t spoken to anyone for as long as Bundy claimed to have talked to him, although they also didn’t deny that the two met, either. It’s likely that Paul was hoping his meeting with Bundy would go unnoticed in the press and his comments or nods of agreement with Bundy would slip through the cracks. Instead, Paul looks like at best a candidate who openly admits to not understanding the job he’s running for and at worst sympathetic to a wacko like Cliven Bundy, a racist criminal with dangerous ties to radical right-wing militia groups. Neither is a great look for a man who thinks he’ll be president one day.

Editor’s note: At some point, Paul’s campaign will almost certainly try to claim that he didn’t understand what “sovereignty” means to Sovereign Citizens. Since the SC movement is quite taken with Paul’s father, Ron, and is closely associated with the Libertarian movement Rand claims to represent, this would be absolute 100% bullshit