Thomas Bleming fought as a mercenary for decades against authoritarian governments, from the jungles of Myanmar and Panama to the shrubland of Zimbabwe. He has now set his sights on a target closer to home: a U.S. Senate seat. And not everyone is happy about it.
Bleming lives on a ranch in an eastern Wyoming town of 900, and he’s challenging incumbent Republican Sen. John Barrasso for his party’s nomination. He considers Barrasso a “corporate puppet” who has abetted the demise of constitutional freedoms.
Bleming’s campaign is about “complete freedom,” he told The Daily Caller. His campaign platform is a blend of libertarian and anti-corporate positions.
Since indicating his intention to challenge Barrasso this summer, he says that he has received death threats.
“I was involved in a dozen revolutions and a dozen wars overseas. I had a lot of unofficial sponsorship, you may say,” he noted. “There are things that go on in the world every day that they really don’t want people knowing about.”
“The FBI,” Bleming cautioned, “is worried about what I may say about some of the things that I did overseas for Uncle Sam — unofficially, of course.”
Bleming’s first combat mission came as an American soldier in Vietnam. After the war, he fought for the white Rhodesian government, spent two years in jail for attempting to assassinate Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, and trekked to Myanmar to aid rebels from the Karen ethnic minority.
He collected his reflections on his time overseas in two books: “War in Karen Country: Armed Struggle for a Free and Independent Karen State in Southeast Asia” and “Panama — Echoes From A Revolution.”
Closer to home, the erosion of American civil liberties is Bleming’s primary gripe. He watched votes on C-SPAN last week and was dismayed as amendments failed to remove language from the Defense Authorization Act mandating military detention for terror suspects.
“Here they are in a carnival atmosphere laughing and joking. First of all, they’re deciding something that is totally against the Constitution. Secondly, they’re committing treason, and they’re laughing and joking and kidding around,” he said, infuriated by the conduct of lawmakers. “They were having a pretty festive attitude at the expense of the American people and their freedom.”
“It really didn’t come as a surprise to me that Barrasso would do this,” he said, pointing to the senator’s previous vote to extend the PATRIOT Act. “People in Wyoming are pretty independent in that they don’t want the federal government moseying into their personal business,” he said, explaining that his position might be more popular.
“I’ll tell you what we need: We need our constitutional republic back,” Bleming declared. “Every one of those up there in Washington that voted for Americans to be arrested and held without trial — they should be tried themselves, they should be jailed for treason.”
Bleming is broadly concerned about protecting constitutional freedoms, and believes strongly in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, saying that if he had his way, it would have been the first, as “all freedoms come from it.”
His initial campaign plan included stumping for votes across the state with an AK-47 on his back, to show his commitment to gun rights. Not wanting to give authorities a reason to arrest him, however, he will exhibit an American-made M1 rifle instead when his campaign kicks off in Cheyenne in May. “I think they’ll remember it,” he predicted.
Bleming favors the deportation of all immigrants who have entered the country illegally. His wife, originally from Panama, endured a lengthy and costly immigration process, as did his step-daughter, who is now in her third year of medical school in Cuba.
The unlikely would-be senator supports a single-payer health care system, and believes that many other Republicans do too. “If they have $5 trillion to spend on these unending wars, fighting all over the world, foreign aid and everything else, they can definitely put something on the table for the American people,” he explained.
“You look at congressmen and senators in Washington, D.C., and they have the best health care there is,” Bleming added. “None of them are willing to give it up, saying it is ‘socialism.’”
Should he somehow defeat Barrasso and win a Senate seat next November, Bleming would work to abolish the Federal Reserve. “The gangsters” at the Federal Reserve should be replaced with a more responsible banking system, he said, expressing disbelief that the bank “prints money like confetti” to pay the nation’s debts.
He also rejects the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as self-defeating. Al-Qaida has been destroyed, he said, and America is “now fighting the 14-year-old boy who had his mother killed and, enraged, he decided to fight. We had the same situation in Vietnam,” he explained. “The more people you kill, the more enemies you make.”
Bleming opposes NAFTA and free trade arrangements in general, which he says have led to American manufacturing jobs going overseas. “I got American cowboy boots, but it was hard,” he said.
The police crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protests in cities across the country deeply upset Bleming. “I’m just amazed,” he said. “I’ve seen pictures of elderly people beaten up. If I was at a demonstration and was nonviolent, and a cop came and sprayed me in the face, I would go after them,” he said. “I’m surprised the people haven’t had enough of this shit.”
The crackdowns on Occupy encampments provide more evidence of the gradually diminished rights of Americans, he claimed. “But you can still talk, until they try to take away that freedom too.”
Bleming is banking on winning the Republican nomination and said he is not considering a third-party run. The level of support he enjoys in Wyoming, the least populous state in the country, is hard to gauge, Bleming said.
“Everyone’s biting their fingernails waiting for this primary to start,” he said. “According to the elitists, we’re just supposed to shut our mouths and put our heads down and take their shit. I wasn’t born and raised to be that way.”