Does Allen West need to audition for Fox News, or was that what the last two years actually was?
Of course, before we really begin discussing the worst thing Allen West ever said, let’s note that the decent should hesitate briefly before mocking the soon-to-be former congressman from Florida’s 22nd district for two reasons.
First, West retired from the Army after being fined for “harsh interrogation tactics” while serving with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq. You look at Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and see no excuse in her background for her callous fear mongering and fevered desire to legislate morality—except perhaps her marriage. You can reasonably assume that, like the victim of his interrogation, West may suffer from some sort of post-traumatic shock, a permanent fog of war.
That said, even more importantly, you have to wonder if focusing on their looniest toons only distracts from the calculated cynicism of the right and its billionaire funders. Or does it illuminate the extremism Republicans promise when given any sort of power? After Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, we have to assume the latter is more likely.
The far right are no longer pamphleteers and spit-ballers calling Eisenhower a “Commie” and accusing Kennedy of treason. They’re Republican candidates. In many ways, despite his questionable equanimity, Allen West is a perfect example of a Republican Party that can no longer tell the difference between governing and selling gold and emergency rations on AM radio.
Earlier this year, West told a town hall that “78 to 81” of his fellow members of Congress were members of the Communist Party. He followed that up with an op-ed in The Hill in which he didn’t back down from his claim. Instead he said he was trying to inspire “a passionate debate” and called the blustering AM radio demagogue Mark Levin an “esteemed scholar.”
West channeled former senator Joseph McCarthy perfectly when he asked, “What part of their agenda are they trying to hide?”
The assumption of guilt, the implication of defensiveness, the casual association with unspeakable horrors.
All of these were key aspects of McCarthyism and its blind attack on free speech and free thought. For decades after McCarthy’s censure by the Senate and rejection by his fellow Republicans, McCarthyism had been rejected by mainstream American society—then McCarthyism got its own news channel.
And about a decade and a half after the advent of Fox News, the right got its dream candidate in Allen West, who unapologetically called his colleagues “Communists” and no major voice in the Republican Party rose to rebuke him.
West has finally ceded his seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy, who defeated him in one of the most expensive congressional races in American history. This gave him the chance to voice his most deluded and inflammatory statement ever.
In an interview on NPR about his future plans, West ended by saying, “And always remember, Abraham Lincoln only served one term in Congress, too.”
Since the release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, making allusions to the film has become a national pastime. In The Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus called the film “a political Rorschach test.”
CNN’s David Gergen looks at the ink blots of Lincoln’s complex campaign to pass the 13th Amendment and—unsurprisingly—sees that the president needs to compromise more.
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, author of Angels and Ages: Lincoln, Darwin, and the Birth of the Modern Age, sees the film portraying the 16th president’s exceptional steadfastness:
Lincoln was an uncompromising man who sponsored violence on a hitherto unimaginable scale; that he paid the highest price himself for the noble but hugely costly morality in which he believed is one of the things that makes his story still so fateful and, in its way, uncompromised.
(Ron Paul will probably skip the movie. But you probably wouldn’t want to know what he’d see.)
Apparently, Allen West looks at Lincoln and sees himself.
It’s easy to understand why Lincoln — at least in the North—is our most beloved president. Without his presidency, it’s difficult to imagine what this country would be like today. As the first Republican president, he enacted an agenda noted for progressive achievements, allowing both Democrats and conservatives to claim him. And no one person better exemplifies the American Dream of rising from nothing to become crucial to history.
Allen West would make more sense—and still offend people—by comparing himself to Alan Grayson, the one-term Florida congressman who is about return to Congress.
Grayson’s unabashed attacks on Republican morals won him derision from the right and the center. He said the GOP health care plan was “1. Don’t get sick. 2. And if you do get sick… 3. Die quickly.”
But unlike West, Grayson was a member of the 111th Congress, which racked up achievement after achievement—from preventing a Depression to reforming credit cards, student loans, health care and Wall Street to finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
West’s 112th Congress successfuly threatened America’s full faith and credit and set the record for voting to repeal a law they couldn’t repeal.
West would be lucky to follow Grayson’s unapologetic path back to Congress in two years.
Abraham Lincoln in his one term in Congress spoke out against the Mexican-American War. Allen West has compared Iran to Nazi Germany. Allen West calls Democrats “Communists.” Abraham Lincoln was elected as a moderate who was willing to keep the Union together—even, at first, with slavery intact… though he’d opposed the spread of the institution since his youth. Allen West told liberal leaders to “…get the hell out of the United States of America.” Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address, facing the dissolution of the Union, said:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
If Allen West looks in the mirror and sees the better angels of our nature, we should all have a mirror so kind.
When I look at Allen West’s future, I see only one thing: “Up next on Fox News, it’s Allen West’s Better Angels. He’ll be naming actual Communists.”
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr