Bartlett's survivalist views give voters a different perspective

September 03, 2012

Some things, on reflection, aren’t surprising in the least, but when you hear about them for the first time, it’s still a complete shock.

I mean, who is really blown away by the revelation in The Washington Post last month that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is an off-the-grid, bunker-inhabiting, tuna-hoarding survivalist?

Of course he is. It all fits. The nightlong rants on C-Span in front of an empty House chamber about Peak Oil. The disappearances for extended periods of time, usually when his presence is being requested to participate in campaign debates. Sponsor of the, this is not a joke, “Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.”

You would almost be disappointed if he weren’t doffing a tin-foil hat and drawing up a Buckeystown Evacuation Plan.

Although I wonder about the timing of this news, coming right before the election. This could just be an old-fashioned, embarrass the candidate, parlor trick. (Speaking of which, I’m disappointed that Rush didn’t point out after the hurricane that the Obama levee in New Orleans failed, while all the Republican levees stood firm.)

My dad was a lot like Bartlett. He was chock full of theories that had just enough plausibility that you didn’t feel comfortable ridiculing them outright in case they panned out.

Sunscreen causes skin cancer; the universal bar code is the Sign of the Beast; the formula of aspirin is being gradually changed from painkiller to mind-controlling agent. Happy stuff like that. I don’t know that dad ever heard the term “survivalist,” or would have approved of it if he had, but he was accomplished at leaving the reservation without leaving the reservation, so to speak.

The Post story says Bartlett owns a small cabin in West Virginia powered by solar/wind power, with stores of food and water.
“The supermarket may not always be there,” Bartlett says in a video tour.

According to the Post, “The electrical grid could fail tomorrow, he frequently warns. Food would disappear from the shelves. Water would no longer flow from the pipes. Money might become worthless. People could turn on each other, and millions would die.”

Yeah, and he’s one of the members of the loon House of Representatives that’s made all this possible, so I guess he would know.

But the part I don’t understand is — well, how do I say this? Bartlett is, you know — he’s 86 years old. In my view, he’s already survived. Game over, he won.

So when you get to be 86, doesn’t this whole survivalist effort start to succumb to the law of diminishing returns? Like, when does the End of Days start taking a back seat in your consciousness to the end of days, if you know what I’m saying.

Seems to me that at some point you’re going to have to start carrying cases of bottled water back out of the bunker because you already have far more than you could conceivably use. You’re going to need the space for something else, like an electric scooter and your Liberty Medical testing supplies.

When you’re bumping up against 90, you’re always concerned about surviving until tomorrow, so why worry about it twice? Once ought to cover it.

But, I guess that’s what floats Bartlett’s raft. “I have no television, and you can’t really get radio there very well ... We just don’t turn it on,” Bartlett said in the video. “I enjoy being isolated. And I ask myself, you know, if the world fell apart, I wouldn’t know it here, would I?”

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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