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Very tight race in contest to say the silliest things in CD-4

When a political debate is sponsored by a rural Nevada tea party organization and moderated by a researcher from a right-wing think tank, you just know things are going to jump off. And the Review-Journal’s Laura Myers captured just that in her account of a Republican primary face off between Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, and TV personality Niger Innis.

Innis was apparently the aggressor in the Mesquite debate, sponsored by the Virgin Valley Tea Party and moderated by Geoff Lawrence, deputy director of policy for the Nevada Policy Research Institute. Innis attacked Hardy repeatedly over the Affordable Care Act, and a couple of votes Hardy (and most the rest of the Nevada Legislature) took to implement the health-care law.

“And we all know that Obamacare is a fraud,” Innis flatly declared. (News item: The number of uninsured people is at the lowest level since 2008, according to Gallup.)

Here was a good opportunity for Hardy to say that he and the rest of his colleagues didn’t think it was very fiscally conservative for people without insurance to get health care only when they are at their sickest, in the valley’s emergency rooms, where the health care is more expensive. Or that establishing a state-based insurance exchange was a better option than letting the federal government handle the chore. Or, hell, that getting more people access to health care insurance was just the right thing to do.

Instead, Hardy took the opportunity to try to leapfrog Innis on the nuttery scale, and declare that, if he gets elected to Congress, he will promptly vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This allowed Innis to note, truthfully, that Hardy was vowing to repeal a law he helped to implement, or, in the timeless characterization, that he was for it before he was against it.

Not that Innis was a model of intellectual rigor himself. He criticized Hardy for not doing enough to help rancher Clive Bundy, who for 20 years has been allowing cattle he claims as his to graze on federal land without paying the relatively modest grazing fees to the federal government. Bureau of Land Management officials, acting under court authorization, have begun to gather those “trespass cattle” from federal lands.

Why isn’t Hardy doing anything to protect Bundy from the BLM, Innis wondered. Translated, he’s wondering why Hardy isn’t helping an admitted lawbreaker resist duly authorized government agents acting upon a duly issued court order, or, to put it in legal terms, obstructing a federal officer.

“Cresent, God bless you, I know you’re a decent man, but one of the things I will do in Congress is not just move legislation. I will be a loud, active voice for liberty and for individuals that have been trampled upon by the federal government,” Innis said.

And, if the federal government insists you obey the law, it’s apparently trampling upon you!

Guess what Innis’s loud voice will be good for? Getting Innis on Fox News, and MSNBC, and hell, probably even CNN with the way that guy obviously loves the camera. And guess what good it will do in resolving Bundy’s issue? None.

Oh, by the way, after one of his Bundy’s sons was arrested by federal officers, Bundy sent an email declaring a “range war” to start today. I wonder if Innis won’t just talk the talk here. I wonder if he’ll he’ll actually show up at Bundy’s ranch and lend not just his loud voice but his body in service of a “range war,” i.e. resistance to federal officers acting under duly issued court orders?

Hardy again had the opportunity to note that Bundy’s cattle were grazing on land held in trust for the people of the United States of America, that he’d for two decades refused to pay grazing fees, that he’d had more than his share of due process in court and that this was the inevitable end to ignoring the rules that we all have to live by if we’re to have a civilization. Instead, Hardy once again demonstrated a shocking willingness to cater to the fringe, and asked why Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie isn’t helping Bundy fight the cattle-rustlin’ federals.

Gee, maybe it’s because Gillespie swore an oath as a cop to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and the laws promulgated thereunder show Bundy is in the wrong. Also because it’s not usually the practice of police departments to interfere with federal law-enforcement officials when they’re conducting court-authorized property seizures? That answer may not have placated the crowd at the Virgin Valley Tea Party meeting, but it has the virtue of being correct.

Of course, there was a bit of tangling over the Americans for Tax Reform tax pledge, which both men have signed. This extra-constitutional promise commits its signers to never vote for a net increase in taxes, ever, on the theory that if we starve the government of enough tax money, then it can’t do bad things. And while both have signed it, apparently Hardy is late to the party: He never signed the state version of the pledge, and in 2013 voted to authorize the Clark County Commission to raise taxes!

Yet again, an opportunity: Taxes are the price we pay for living in civilization, Hardy could have said, and we need them to build roads and hire police officers. (Literally: The Legislature passed two bills — approved by a majority and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval — to index fuel taxes to inflation and allow a sales tax increase to hire more cops.)

But no.

“I wish Mr. Innis would kind of understand there are things that go on in the Legislature. I did not vote for a tax on more cops. What I voted for is the opportunity for the citizens of Clark County to decide,” Hardy said.

What? That’s not even true! The vote would have allowed the Clark County Commission to vote to increase taxes, not the citizens of Clark County. The citizens of Clark County voted narrowly in 2004 on an advisory question to ask the Legislature to raise the tax; cowardly lions that they were, lawmakers passed that call on to the locals.

Second, if Hardy was against all taxes, as he claims, why would he even allow for the remote possibility that a tax could be increased? Why would he not say no, consistent with his self-expressed view that taxes are bad, mmmm’kay, so don’t raise taxes?

Third, Mr. Innis does understand there are things that go on in a Legislature. But the nuances of governing aren’t important if one isn’t running to become part of the government, as much to keep one’s profile high. It’s entirely possible he’s running for the same reason Sarah Palin and Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann run for president: It better positions them to hit the book/lecture circuit and separate the rabble from their cash. This race isn’t about winning (neither man has a chance of beating well-qualified incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford). It’s an act of performance art, a role you take to keep your face out there until the Big Gig comes calling (hello, Mr. Ailes? I’m here!).

Oh, and let’s not even get started on this.

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