Let's not let this go the way of Tea Party threads past, shall we?
It was while volunteering for Ron Paul's doomed presidential bid that Rhodes decided to abandon electoral politics in favor of grassroots organizing. As an undergrad, he had been fascinated by the notion that if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could have been stopped. Then, in early 2008, SWAT received a letter from a retired colonel declaring that "the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered" and that service members, veterans, and police "is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!"
Rhodes responded with a breathless column starring a despotic president, "Hitlery" Clinton, in her "Chairman Mao signature pantsuit." Would readers, he asked, obey orders from this "dominatrix-in-chief" to hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters? If "a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands," he warned. You had better "resolve to not let it happen on your watch." He set up an Oath Keepers blog, asking soldiers and veterans to post testimonials. Word spread. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local Tea Party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. And by the time Rhodes arrived in Lexington to speak at a rally staged by a pro-militia group, a movement was afoot.
Rhodes stood on the common that day before a crowd of about 400 die-hard patriot types. He spoke their language. "You need to be alert and aware to the reality of how close we are to having our constitutional republic destroyed," he said. "Every dictatorship in the history of mankind, whether it is fascist, communist, or whatever, has always set aside normal procedures of due process under times of emergency...We can't let that happen here. We need to wake up!"
He laid out 10 orders an Oath Keeper should not obey, including conducting warrantless searches, holding American citizens as enemy combatants or subjecting them to military tribunals (a true Oath Keeper would have refused to hold José Padilla in a military brig), imposing martial law, blockading US cities, forcing citizens into detention camps ("tyrannical governments eventually and invariably put people in camps"), and cooperating with foreign troops should the government ask them to intervene on US soil. In Rhodes' view, each individual Oath Keeper must determine where to draw the line.
The crowd was full of familiar faces from patriot rallies and town hall meetings, with an impressive showing by luminaries of the rising patriot movement. There was Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who had refused to enforce the Brady Law in the mid-'90s. Also present was Mike Vanderboegh, whose Three Percenter movement styles itself after the legendary 3 percent of American colonists who took up arms against the British. Rhodes singled out Marine Charles Dyer, a.k.a. July4Patriot—whose YouTube videos advocate armed resistance—as a "man of like minds." When Rhodes finished, Captain Larry Bailey, a retired Navy SEAL, Swift Boater, and founder of the anti-antiwar group Gathering of Eagles, asked the crowd to raise their right hands and retake their oath—not to the president, but to the Constitution.