Confrontational Congressman Allen West Is Not Afraid To Speak His Mind, Or Call Anyone Out For Speaking Theirs
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
[Washington, D.C.] During a recent interview on FOX News, former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin wouldn’t say whether she’s interested in running again as the GOP’s VP. Not big news, really.
But Palin did drop a bombshell of sorts when she mentioned that she would sure like the current crop of candidates to consider a certain Florida Congressman as a contender for the 2012 ticket as the Vice Presidential running mate.
“You know who I’d like to see … Colonel Allen West,” Palin said during the interview. “Colonel Allen West, who’s been to the school of hard knocks, he should be the one who should be considered seriously for VP.”
U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-22/Fort Lauderdale), while certainly the darling of the Tea Party people, has never been considered anything more than a Congressional curiosity, a lucky son of a gun who ran at the right time to earn a place in Washington.
The stuff that comes out of West’s mouth is legendary. And not necessarily in a good way (that depends on which side of the aisle you are on, or what offends you).
Even though those on the right will not like the comparison, West is the Alan Grayson of the Republican Party. Like Grayson, West was swept into office by a political wave – Obama for Grayson, Tea Party for West – and just like Grayson, you never know what he’ll say next.
Sarah Palin talks up U.S. Rep. Allen West on FOX News
And when he does say something, it usually sends the other side screaming. Just like Grayson. Or like that lady from Alaska … oh what’s her name again?
“In this very tumultuous time across our world, someone who has served in our military or at least has intimate knowledge of the way the military works and should work, perhaps by having a close family member serve, someone like that,” run-on sentenced Palin, pushing West’s camo cred.
Perhaps Palin is onto something (although she’s not the only one to think this way – peep The POH Diaries).
After all, West is a Tea Party favorite and African-American. Both are factors that could help the GOP shore up some of the base lost if/when former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – you know the not-very-conservative conservative gazillionaire – wins the nomination, as well as make a play for some of the black vote.
But then again, West is truly a divisive figure that comes with a whole luggage rack full of baggage that could be more trouble than his nomination would be worth (sound familiar?). There might not be a more polarizing figure in Congress than Allen West.
Also, West is struggling himself with his own re-election campaign, having switched to a more Republican-friendly district in an effort to hold onto his D.C. day job.
But even that isn’t going so well – Democrat Patrick Murphy has followed West to his “new” district with a vow to defeat the one-term incumbent. Did I say “vow”? I meant die-hard commitment – Murphy almost sounds like he’s stalking West (and we all know how well stalking works out for a Democrat in Florida).
“Allen West can run, but he can’t hide,” said Murphy in a blog post, after he called West a “coward” for sheltering his candidacy in a GOP-fortified part of the state. While using the word coward is a good start, Murphy needs to break out the saucier stuff if he wants to compete with “Wild” West, The Mouth From The South.
Hey, Murphy’s no joke – he’s already raised over $1.4 million for his rising campaign. West has him beat at the moment, however, with campaign coffers ringing up an impressive $2.7 million in contributions.
West does have a lot of support within Florida’s Republican-dominate state government. One of those is State Senator Joe Negron (R-28/Palm City), who says that, “Congressman Allen West is the type of principled conservative we can trust to go to Washington to actually solve problems, instead of becoming part of the problem.”
“I know he will continue fighting to ensure a bright future for all Americans through his dedication to reducing reckless spending and rolling back the failed economic policies of the Obama administration. I wholeheartedly offer him my support and endorsement in his campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District,” Negron said.
And some of his fellow colleagues in Congress – by way of the Sunshine State – also support him as well.
“Congressman West will be a principled advocate for the people of Florida’s Treasure and Gold Coasts,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-16/Stuart) in his endorsement for West. “He will continue to lead the fight for policies to help get our nation back on track and he will continue his efforts to get government out of the pockets and off the backs of hardworking taxpayers and small businesses so the economy can grow and create jobs.”
“I know Congressman West will also continue to work to rein in the enormous deficits and debt so threatening to the retirement security of our seniors and the future our children and grandchildren,” Rooney said.
It is not surprising that Rooney endorsed West for the 18th District. West was all set to run against Rooney in D-16 until he moved his operation.
“After much prayer, reflection and discussion with my close friends and family, I am announcing today my decision to seek reelection in Florida’s proposed 18th Congressional district,” said West in a prepared statement announcing the district switch.
“I have always believed the state of Florida would be best served by having both Congressman Tom Rooney and myself in the House of Representatives working to solve our nation’s most pressing problems,” he said.
Allen West speaking on the House floor on C-SPAN in Dec. 2011
Allen West … The Mouth That Roared (A Little Too Much)
West better spend that cash wisely, as he is getting it from all sides, even his own. Conservative columnist and TV fixture George Will took West to task – in his trademark, buttoned-down style, of course – for complaining so vociferously about the price of gas.
“Allen West from South Florida, a Republican, said he was outraged this week because it cost him $70 to fill his car,” Will said. “He drives a Hummer.”
Zing. But West doesn’t need any help from anyone. While most politicians fire a well-aimed single shot at their opponent or policy, West squeezes off rapid-fire Uzi rounds, spraying everyone and everything with incendiary sound-bite bullets.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t know when to take his finger off the trigger, and has a politically-fatal penchant for saying things that could – at minimum – be classified as definitely beneath the demeanor of a Congressman and, at worst, the mad ravings of a lunatic.
But the Tea Partiers love him because he says what they think (again, like Grayson).
During a speech on the House floor in mid-February, West trumpeted the Republican record for “minimizing government dependence” for the less fortunate as it is “particularly beneficial to the poorest among us,” he said.
“Conversely, the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary [sic] handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today, and it does not promote economic freedom.”
A slide from one of Allen West’s recent Town Halls
More insidious than the actual slavery that still exists, Mr. West? He certainly has a flair for the ridiculous.
Take, for instance, this true but contextually-challenged factoid he told to The Daily Caller back in January.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, there’s been a 41% increase in food stamp recipients in the United States of America,” West said after hosting a Conservative Black Forum on Capitol Hill.
Yes, true, but West fails to mention that more people were added on the food stamp rolls under President George W. Bush, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition which kind of makes the manufactured Obama drama a little less fantastic.
Just a few days later at a Lincoln Day Dinner with Herman Cain, Congressman West said that Democrats can “get the hell out of the United States of America. … I will not allow President Obama to take the United States of America and destroy it.”
Destroy? Like Obama’s the villain in a James Bond movie? Come on Allen, aren’t you overdoing it a little (a lot)?
He has also called out Democrats in the harshest way possible for using race when addressing certain situations, asking, “why is it that we continue to hear charges of racism emanating from the left?”
My message to President Obama is this: ‘Mr. President, your very in office demonstrates Dr. King’s dream has indeed come true. But how devastated would Dr. King be to know the Americans who are still fomenting racism at the highest levels are the very people for whom he fought for and died?”
Yes, West is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black (oops, now he’s gonna come after me) and again when he refers to himself as, reported by The Washington Examiner, “a modern-day Harriet Tubman” who would lead black voters off the Democratic electoral “plantation.”
Rep. Allen West doesn’t like to “waste airtime”
Possibly West’s “greatest hit” was his attack on a fellow representative from Florida, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-20/Pembroke Pines). West sent what can be described as on over-the-top email to Wasserman Schultz, insulting her gender and calling her “vile.”
The right cheered West on.
What did Wasserman Schultz – the Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Chief Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives – do to enrage West to the point of him using insulting, sexist language toward his fellow Florida representative in a widely distributed email to members of Congress?
In a run-of-the-mill speech on the House floor without West being present, Wasserman Schultz criticized his support of the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill. She didn’t even mention him by name.
“Incredulously, the gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries — unbelievable from a member from South Florida,” said Wasserman Schultz.
“It slashes Medicaid and critical investments essential to winning the future in favor of protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires and companies who ship American jobs overseas,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Allen West’s votes
Mr. West didn’t like it one bit. Here’s his response email, in its entirety:
From: Z112 West, Allen
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 04:48 PM
To: Wasserman Schultz, Debbie
Cc: McCarthy, Kevin; Blyth, Jonathan; Pelosi, Nancy; Cantor, Eric
Subject: Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz
Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!
I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior……which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.
You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!
Steadfast and Loyal
Congressman Allen B West (R-FL)
When asked if he would alter any of the harsh language he used in the e-mail, West said emphatically that, no, he wouldn’t.
“There are certain ways we speak in the military and I guess I have not learned the D.C. insider talk that these people are used to,” said West, an Army veteran with 22 years of service in the military. “Don’t poke me in the chest. That’s the bottom line to that exchange.”
The “war of words” between Wasserman Schultz and Allen West – guess who brought a bazooka?
Not everyone is buying that excuse, especially those who have served in the armed forces.
Former members of the military point out that “the sexist and disrespectful language West directed at a colleague is incompatible with military service,” says Richard Allen Smith, the Vice Chairman of VoteVets.org, a non-partisan political action committee and non-profit.
“There is not one officer worth his or her salt that would refer to a peer as “vile, unprofessional, and despicable.” Smith also notes that the Army Values includes the statement that soldiers and officers “Treat people as they should be treated.”
“In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to ‘treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.’ Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty,” said Smith.
“And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute,” he said.
Smith continued by saying that, “If an Army leader were to criticize another’s performance, that leader would criticize them as a Soldier, not levy the insult that the individual is not ‘a lady.’ Soldiers are Soldiers, and the same is true of members of Congress.”
Allen West’s military service is seen as an asset to some, liability to others
A Casualty Of War?
Sarah Palin points to Allen West’s military record as a badge of courage. She might want to look again.
While West definitely served in the Army for many distinguished years, he elected to retire rather than face the ugly fall-out from his violent conduct during the interrogation of a detainee in Iraq.
The story goes like this: While serving in Taji, Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel West got some information that there may be a plot to ambush him and his men possibly involving civilian Iraqi policeman Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi. West had his men in his command detain Hamoodi for questioning.
Problem was that West, despite being a lieutenant colonel, had never conducted – or even witnessed – an interrogation before. And he certainly was not responsible for or supposed to be conducting interrogations in Iraq.
That’s how things get out of hand, as you can see in the recounting below:
Arriving at the interrogation room, West approached Hamoodi, took out his gun, and chambered a round. He placed it in his lap with the gun barrel facing Hamoodi. “I had drawn out my pistol as a means of conveying a threat to him for the seriousness of wanting the information,” West told investigators. Hamoodi said that after West’s arrival, “a soldier pulled his shirt over his head, and numerous others began to punch him in the chest.” The beating bruised his ribs, said Hamoodi, but those bruises had healed in the month that passed before he met with investigators.
Said West: “Yes, there had been sporadic body punches and shoving to the individual, which I witnessed but did not allow to get too brutal.”
Hamoodi still didn’t give West or the soldiers the information they wanted, either because he wasn’t part of the assassination plot or because he was being an uncooperative witness.
West ordered Hamoodi out of the interrogation room and took him outside the facility, where Hamoodi says West pointed to six soldiers who were standing in line with their weapons in hand. Through the Egyptian translator, West told Hamoodi: “If you don’t talk, they will kill you.”
When that didn’t work, West admitted to pushing Hamoodi’s head into a clearing barrel full of sand, which is typically used for clearing weapons. West then put his gun into the same barrel, near Hamoodi’s head and fired.
“In my anger I do not know if I fired two shots in to the barrel or one into the air and another into the barrel,” said West in his sworn statement.
Candidate Allen West speaking at CPAC in Feb. 2010
Hamoodi indeed provided information – but it was later described as “meaningless information induced by fear and pain.” One of the people Hamoodi named under duress was arrested, but no plan for an attack or weapons were ever uncovered. Actually, none of the intel panned out at all.
“At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received,” West said of his violent and irresponsible behavior. “It’s possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi.”
More than possible. West was hit with an Article 15 – just below a court martial – allowing him to retire in 2004 with full benefits. He paida $5,000 fine for falsely imprisoning two men, torturing a suspect and not following proper Army procedure.
“I know the method I used was not right, but I wanted to take care of my soldiers,” said West in his own defense. “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.”
Hard to believe West earned only a slap on the wrist for his actions, although some – including West himself – felt it was the right thing to do under the situation. Forget about procedure and training. Forget about the Geneva Convention. Forget about the innocent Iraqi policeman who was tortured merely because West felt that’s what needed to be done.
”The fact is, I made a choice, the choice had consequences and I accept that,” West was quoted as saying in The New York Times.
VoteVets.org also weighed in on West’s Hamoodi “incident” in Iraq, saying that the former soldier is a “verified torturer, war criminal and a liar.”
Now West is a U.S. Congressman.
Allen West shown here pallin’ around with biker gang members
West’s Outlandish Claims & Outlaw-ish Friends
In what has to be one of Allen West’s most outlandish statements, he claimed in an interview to have a higher security clearance than the President. The President of the United States. That statement was rated “Pants On Fire” by PolitiFact.
Why would he make such a claim? West was responding to a simple question about tax liens that had allegedly been placed against him.
“I had a Top Secret/Security Compartmented Information classification, that is the highest you can have in the United States Army. You don’t get a security classification like that if you have financial issues like that,” said West.
“I still retain a Secret security clearance. And I tell you, if you look at the application for a security clearance, I have a clearance that even the president of the United States cannot obtain because of my background,” said West.
West’s boast doesn’t even make sense, say the experts.
“The President is the one who established the security clearance system by executive order,” said Steven Aftergood, a national security and intelligence specialist with the Federation of American Scientists. “Therefore it is nonsensical to speak of clearances higher than what the president has.”
West also has a biker problem, which will certainly crop up if he gets the VP nomination.
Allen West as seen by biker dudes
NBC News profiled West’s involvement with Outlaws MC biker gang, considered by the FBI to be a criminal organization. NBC pointed out that when a supporter cautioned West about associating himself with criminals, he admonished the supporter for using the word criminal and made the case that the biker group “protected him during an interview.”
West also appeared as a speaker at a “constitutional rights rally” sponsored by groups claiming affiliation with the Outlaws, his presence detailed in photographs from the event. West saw nothing wrong with his any of it.
Before he was elected to Congress, he was also a frequent contributor to Miami Mike’s Wheels On The Road, a biker publication that consistently denigrates women, calling them such things as “oral relief stations,” according to reports.
West is prominently displayed on the magazine’s website – there’s even a flattering caricature of West on a motorcycle headed for Congress and a pic of a biker holding his “Go West” sign. This is after you scroll down from the picture of the same biker flicking the bird – and before you get to the dozen or so “award winning” cartoons making fun of President Obama.
There’s even a copy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate right there on the front page.
All of this seems like to high hill to a nomination for even this former soldier to climb. Yet, West seems to relish the opportunity to engage in battle. With anyone, anytime.
“All I have to say is one thing: Bring it on,” West said.