The “range war” in Sen. Harry Reid’s Nevada between hardscrabble rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government appears to have ended. The Bureau of Land Management has retreated, having seized Bundy’s cattle and tasered and arrested his son.

Bundy and the BLM are fighting over his refusing to pay fees to use federal lands for grazing near Bunkerville, about 15 minutes from the border with Arizona, where his family’s cattle have grazed for many moons. Apparently, the dispute is 20 years old, with the feds claiming Bundy owes them $1 million. Who is right the courts will determine. It suffices to say the government wisely backed down, Robert Stacy McCain rightly noted, before federal agents unleashed another Waco or Ruby Ridge.

The legal minutiae of Bundy’s case notwithstanding, anyone familiar with cases like this — where an American citizen pushes back against certain uses of federal power — knew that the Southern Poverty Law Center would target Bundy as an “extremist.” Which it did … almost.

SPLC has published several posts about Bundy and his stand in Bunkerville. None of them called Bundy a racist or extremist, although it did say he has “patriot movement leanings.” That’s SPLC code for “right-wing extremist,” which in turn is code for “bigot” and “racist.” But unlike so many other times, not least its hateful defamation aimed at Christians, at least SPLC had the sense not to defame Bundy outright and publish a defamation per se; i.e., to describe him in terms that are flatly defamatory unless they are true.

Not so, the crackpots at Daily Kos, who called Bundy a “right-wing extremist domestic terrorist lawbreaker.” That is classic defamation per se. Legally, the proprietors of Daily Kos should be worried, and not least by its actual malice, a very bad thing, legally speaking. Bundy should sue. He can force the Nutocrat website to spend upwards of $20,000 on lawyers defending that headline and the ensuing commentary, whether he wins or loses. A writer for the publication also called him a “a big fat million dollar welfare dead beat!” This too might be defamatory.

Because the left suffers no consequences for these calumnies, they are increasingly common. Leftist propagandists hurl infamies, falsehoods and invective with abandon, knowing no one will file a lawsuit, or better, show up at an office to give the hurler a black eye and bloody nose. Thus, have conservatives, be they black or white, man or woman, been the target of the left’s unhinged rage. Remember what that despicable foreigner Martin Bashir said about Sarah Palin. Todd Palin should have appeared at Bashir’s desk and knocked his teeth out.

Bundy needn’t do that. But he should, again, file a defamation lawsuit that demands the Daily Kos either prove he is a “terrorist lawbreaker,” or cough up a few million bucks. He could use some of the money to pay the grazing fees the leftists think he owes the government.

As for SPLC, recall that its hate drove homophile Floyd Lee Corkins to the Family Research Council, where he intended to kill the “homophobes.” So give credit where credit is due. The hatewatchers have shown remarkable restraint in the Bundy case.