The GOP Candidates' Responses To The Oregon Militia Are Not As Enthusiastic As You Might Think

The armed militia that took control of a federal building in Oregon is showing no signs of letting up. The FBI has taken the lead in investigating the situation, and members of the militia say they're willing to "kill or be killed" in order to stay at the wildlife refuge in which they're currently holed up. Because the militia's members include two sons of Republican darling Cliven Bundy, it's natural to ask: How have the GOP presidential contenders responded to the militia's takeover?

You surely remember Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who initiated an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in 2014 because he didn't want to pay grazing fees for his use of federal land. A similar impetus has inspired Ammon Bundy, Cliven's son and the leader of the Oregon occupation. Ammon, his brother Ryan and an unspecified number of armed buddies are protesting the arrest of two ranchers who were convicted of arson. Never mind that those two ranchers have turned themselves into authorities; the Bundy brothers are mad, and they want the federal government to know it!

So far, local, state and federal law enforcement have taken a relatively hands-off approach to the situation, most likely in order to avoid a violent confrontation with the group. Meanwhile, several of the Republicans running for president have weighed in on the situation. Here's what they had to say.

Ted Cruz

Cruz supported Cliven Bundy's 2014 armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (at least, he did until father Bundy came out as pro-slavery, but that's a story for another day). This time, though, Cruz isn't taking the bait. Here's what he had to say about the recent Bundy crisis:

Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don't have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence against others. And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably — that there will not be a violent confrontation.

Marco Rubio

Darren McCollester/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Rubio, too, has condemned the Oregon militia's actions. While Rubio was careful to add that "there is too much federal control over land, especially out in the western part of the United States," he was mostly critical of the group's actions:

Let me just say, first of all, you've got to follow the law. You can't be lawless. We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies. If we get frustrated with it, that's why we have elections. That's why we have people we can hold accountable.

Rand Paul

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Paul is a noted fan of the elder Bundy, so much so that the two had a private sit-down in 2015. He's not on board with the armed takeover in Oregon, though he was careful to express his opposition in conciliatory, measured language:

I'm sympathetic to the idea that the large collection of federal lands ought to be turned back to the states and the people, but I think the best way to bring about change is through politics. That's why I entered the electoral arena. I don't support any violence or suggestion of violence toward changing policy.

John Kasich

When Kasich was asked directly about the militia's actions, he said he hadn't heard of the story and didn't know what the reporter was talking about. But Kasich's top strategist, John Weaver, weighed in on the matter on Twitter. Short version: He's not a fan of the Bundy boys.


George Frey/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As of this writing, none of the other Republican presidential hopefuls have chimed in on the situation in Oregon. However, the Mormon Church has said that the militia's occupation of the building "can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis." Meanwhile, a state GOP lawmaker in Tennessee sent a tweet offering help to the militiamen, though he's since deleted it.