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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: Standoff could yield common ground

The absurd Oregon standoff has conveyed an uncomfortable truth: If the occupiers were armed Muslim Americans, they’d be treated as terrorists.

Instead, law enforcement is wisely taking a wait-’em-out attitude, and Twitter pundits are having a field day with the contradiction, with hastags such as #YallQaeda, #YeeHawdists and #TaliBundy.

But, as Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic points out, social justice advocates should be sympathetic to the protest in Burns, Oregon, that preceded the misguided siege because the five-year sentence of ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond is extreme. In fact, it provides an excellent example of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws run amok, which has long been a progressive cause.

The Hammonds were convicted on arson charges for setting fires on federal land to either cover up a case of poaching or to burn invasive species, depending on whose story you believe. The federal sentencing guidelines, which remove judicial discretion, called for five-year terms.

The federal judge felt that was “grossly disproportionate,” and issued much lighter sentences, which the Hammonds have served. But the U.S. Justice Department appealed, and the five-year sentences were imposed. The Hammonds, who want no part of the refuge takeover, turned themselves in on Monday.

So now that conservatives have felt the ridiculous consequences of these robotic tough-on-crime sentences, perhaps they will team up with liberals to end mandatory sentences for good.

IOWA OR BUST! Just before the Rose Bowl clash between Stanford and Iowa, presidential candidate Carly Fiorina provided a breathtaking example of pandering with this tweet: “Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeye win today.”

The Hawkeyes would be Iowa, home of the first test of presidential candidates, the Feb. 1 caucuses. Alas, Stanford won the game, making her the only alum who couldn’t celebrate.

This got me to thinking how other candidates could hop the Pander Express:

Donald Trump: “I love New York, but the next Trump Tower is going up in Keokuk. I’m thinking a neon silo, but nothing tacky. All my properties are first-class.”

Hillary Clinton: “I’ve been to the Caucasus Mountains, but the Iowa caucuses are much more majestic.”

Jeb Bush: “I love Florida, but the best key lime pie is at The Cheesecake Factory in Ottumwa, home of M*A*S*H’s Radar O’Reilly. Choppers! Heh – is this mic on?”

Bernie Sanders: “I thought Vermont was paradise, but the agrarian socialism of Iowa is a breath of fresh air. Well, not literally.”

Ted Cruz: “I’m all about the Lone Star State, but the best Tex-Mex is at the Chevy’s in Cedar Rapids.”

Ben Carson: “This isn’t politically correct, but I really hope the Hawkeyes can knock off my Baltimore Ravens in the NFL playoffs.”

Mario Rubio: “I love Miami, but the best Cubano sandwiches are in the frozen food section of the many fine Hy-Vee stores throughout the Hawkeye State.”

Ben Carson: “I’ve been informed that Baltimore isn’t in the playoffs. So I’ve fired my entire staff, which is the kind of decisive leadership that’s sorely lacking in our politically correct culture.”

Chris Christie: “You know I love the George Washington Bridge, but have you seen the bridges of Madison County? I would never close them down, even if nearby mayors failed to endorse me.”

Ben Carson: “Uh, me again. It seems the Hawkeyes are a college team and are barred from playing in the NFL playoffs. Political correctness strikes again.”

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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