February 20, 2010

Bill O'Reilly followed up his interview with Mark Potok about the Oath Keepers with a one-on-one interview with Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers' president and founder.

And give O'Reilly credit: He asked good questions and didn't let Rhodes get away with his usual justifications for their armed-to-the-teeth-and-paranoid worldview:

O'Reilly: OK, so full members in the Oath Keepers have to have a military or police background. Or firefighters. Now, I'm gonna read you something from your website. "We will not obey unconstitutional and thus illegal and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or place them under martial law."

Well, who's gonna try to disarm people and place them under martial law. I mean, why would that even be something you would be discussing?

Rhodes: Well, it happened as recently as Katrina. You probably have seen the videos there of the old lady being tackled in her kitchen, and disarmed of her revolver, and there was house-to-house searches for firearms. And you had the police chief declaring that no one would be allowed to have weapons, or he'd take all the guns. And he did.

So they disarmed Americans over some bad weather, as though the bad weather suspended the Second Amendment. So, that's the most recent example.

Sure, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath were just "bad weather" -- such bad weather, in fact, that the levees around New Orleans broke, flooding 80 percent of the city and killing 1,464 people. Some 90 percent of the population of southeast Louisiana was evacuated. Describing this as mere "bad weather" is like describing the Haiti earthquake as "a little shaker."

This pretty much tells you all you need to know about the Oath Keepers and their grip on reality: They're unable to distinguish between "bad weather" and a devastating natural disaster and subsequent state of emergency.

O'Reilly, to his credit, pointed out that government has long been empowered to declare such emergencies in order to preserve lives and protect public safety in dire circumstances. It seems that for Rhodes and the Oath Keepers in general, no circumstances are ever dire enough to warrant such declarations.

What Rhodes didn't say, but which the Oath Keepers have made abundantly clear elsewhere, is that they believe President Obama is planning to declare a national state of emergency after the economy collapses, which they consider a sure thing.

Rhodes -- who is on the planning committee for the big Tea Party rally planned for September 11, an event his outfit is cosponsoring -- was at least forthcoming about his group's close relationship with the Tea Party movement:

Well, I've been to a lot of Tea Party events, we've spoken at quite a few of them, and I'm on the planning committee for the one on 9/11, this next September. So, the MarchOnDC.org. But, uh, we like the Tea Party movement a lot, we think it's great. It's a revitalization of our core Americanism and core constitutionalism.

In general, O'Reilly did reasonably well making clear that the Oath Keepers are a disturbing phenomenon, particularly in their emphasis on recruiting members of the military and police officers -- a fact which should ring some bells among the people who loudly denounced that DHS report for its observation that far-right extremists are working hard to recruit people with military and police backgrounds. (Ahem.)

Too bad he didn't have time to explore the matter of Charles Dyer, the onetime Oath Keepers figure arrested on charges of child rape, and the Oath Keepers's eagerness to disavow him -- in spite of the fact that Dyer had represented the Oath Keepers -- with Rhodes' blessing -- at a Tea Party on July 4 in Oklahoma. Dyer was also active in forming militias in Oklahoma.

As Potok told O'Reilly earlier:

But the reality about the group is that what it's really about is the fear that martial law is about to be imposed, that Americans are about to be herded into concentration camps, that foreign troops are going to be put down on American soil. The Oath Keepers says specifically, we will not obey these orders, we will refuse orders to put Americans into concentration camps. Now, is that dangerous? It seems to me the danger is that these are men and women, in the case of police officers, who are given a real power over the rest of us, sometimes the power of life and death. They make very important decisions. And if these men and women are animated by the idea that, you know, foreign forces are about to come into this country and put us under martial law and throw us all into concentration camps, I think there is a certain danger associated with that. ... They're operating on the basis on crazy theories that may cause one of them to draw a gun one day.


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