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November 18th, 2009
11:54 AM ET

Follow-up: Patriots or Extremists?

By Jim Acosta

The question comes up time and again: Why is President Obama the target of so much fury from self-described "patriots," tea partiers, and other libertarians in America? Is it racial as former President Carter suggested earlier this year? Sadly, for some Americans, that is the case.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Militias and extremist groups are on the rise in this country, but who is joining these groups and why?"]

But in the growing "patriot movement" in America, there are other factors. For starters, the leaders and many members of both the militia in Michigan and the "Oath Keepers" vehemently deny race is their cause for alarm.

In fact, one militia member told us he was proud to see the first African-American become President of the United States. He just doesn't like where Mr. Obama stands on the issues.

A good many of the self-described patriots say their beef boils down to some of the issues President Obama inherited from the Bush administration.

Libertarians detest a whole host of Bush-era policies from the Patriot Act to the indefinite detention of enemy combatants during the "War on Terror."

Gun enthusiasts abhor the brief confiscation of firearms that happened in the City of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – another Bush legacy.

Then came the Bush bailout of 2008. For many libertarians and self-described "patriots," the financial rescue of the banks remains an outrage.

So when President Obama continued the bailout with a taxpayer lifeline to the car companies, many on the right saw a further erosion of what they believe is the American way.

The Obama administration argues it was facing a potential Great Depression II, and had no choice but to carry on with the bailout.

White House officials also say they are trying to reverse several Bush war on terror policies right now but caution those changes won't happen overnight.

All of this begs the question: Why didn't these libertarians and self-styled patriots speak out more forcefully when Bush was in charge?

To answer that, you can google Ron Paul. Unfortunately for President Obama, many Americans don't point fingers at former presidents. When things are going downhill, they blame the people in charge.

Filed under: Controversy • Follow-up • Patriots or Extremists
November 18th, 2009
07:20 AM ET

An oath to the Constitution, not the president

By Jim Acosta

In the first two parts of our series, “Patriots or Extremists?” we looked at the growth of private militias in this country. Now we turn to a group whose founder says he doesn't need a militia. That's because his organization is recruiting its members... right out of the military and law enforcement.

Just a couple of miles off the Las Vegas strip inside a casino ballroom, dozens of men and women are taking an oath. An oath, they say, to the Constitution of the United States – not to the president.

"If we're going to watch while our country dies and think that there's nothing we can do about it, we're wrong," says Richard Mack, a former sheriff.

They call themselves the "Oath Keepers," and last month they held their first national conference.

The group's founder, Stewart Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and staffer for Congressman Ron Paul, says his members recite a revised version of the oath that's used for enlistment in the Armed Services, but they exclude this phrase: "I will obey the orders of the President of the United States."

"Our role is not to be obedient to whoever happens to be the leader. Our role is to defend the Constitution and the republic," says Rhodes.


Filed under: Controversy • Patriots or Extremists
November 17th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Patriots or Extremists? Growing up in a militia

By Jim Acosta

If there's one thing militias and their critics can agree on, it's the fact that this pro-gun and anti-Obama movement is growing in the United States. That begs the question, "who are these guys?"

We try to answer that in part two of our series, "Patriots or Extremists," by going home with the leader of a militia in Michigan.

Lee Miracle may run training exercises for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia once a month in a rural area outside of Flint, but he's just as busy at home. He and his wife Katrina have eight kids, and there are more than 20 guns in the house. This explains why Lee refers to the family as "Lee and Kate plus eight plus a gun rack."

Make that several gun racks. The Miracle children are very much growing up in the militia. They take part in militia training exercises, including the weapons training.

We were there when 13-year-old Megan fired off her shotgun, but even the couple's six-year-old has had her share of target practice.

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Filed under: Patriots or Extremists
November 16th, 2009
05:50 AM ET

Militias: Patriots or Extremists?

By Jim Acosta

Out in the woods, 30-minutes from the nearest city, the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia meets for training once a month.

Armed with a small arsenal of semi-automatic weapons, the question that crosses your mind at one of these exercises is: training for what?

That depends on who you ask.

Our visit with the militia is the first installment of our three part series on something called "the Patriot movement."

The members of the militia in Michigan would certainly call themselves patriots. The folks at the civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center prefers to use the word "extremists."

Critics of the modern-day militia point out how some of the members of this movement are highly secretive. For example, we contacted nearly a dozen militias for permission to observe their exercises. The militia in Michigan is the only one that said yes.

Watch: Patriots or Extremists? Video

Still, some of its members would not give us their names. Others wore masks.

Then there are the members' constant fears the Obama administration will eventually take away their gun rights.

Another member told us he thinks the president could be "dangerous for the nation."

In nearly the same breath that member said he hopes the militia's training exercises would give some in Washington "pause."

Not to worry, says the group's leader Lee Miracle. A military veteran and postal worker, yes postal worker, Miracle says he urges respect for the president.

He's out to change the way the world views militia groups. We get an up-close look at his family in part two of our series. A family Miracle refers to as "Lee and Kate plus eight plus a gun rack." That's because they have eight kids and 22 guns in the house. And the kids take part in militia day.

In part three of our series, we go to Las Vegas to go behind the scenes with an organization called "Oathkeepers." It's a group of ex-law enforcement officials and military veterans who say they've sworn an oath to the Constitution, not the president. The president they're referring to, of course, is Mr. Obama.

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Filed under: Controversy • Patriots or Extremists