Allen West Knows What He's Doing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 12 2012 12:30 PM

Allen West Knows What He's Doing

Yesterday, the Florida Democratic Party released this 26-second clip of Rep. Allen West at a district town hall meeting.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


A sample headline: "Allen West: 80 Communists in the House." A sample lede: "Rep. Allen West channeled Joe McCarthy in a town hall event in Florida that he’s “heard” that up to 80 House Democrats are Communist Party members, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The West campaign argues -- rightly -- that the bigfoot media that didn't do its work before running with the "red scare" story. They give the Palm Beach Post a longer version of the video, in which there's an uncomfortably long period of mumuring, then West explaining that he was referring to the House Progressive Caucus.

Sloppy national journalism created a story about West counting Communists -- real, no-foolin' Reds -- in the House. Unfair. West was only characterizing 76-81* colleagues as communists because they belonged to the Progressive Caucus!

Everyone, please: This is what Allen West does. He realizes that the media wants to cover him, that liberals want to hate-share stories about him on Facebook. "You guys in parts of the media needed a sensational story," sniffed West in a 2011 interview with Marin Cogan, "and I guess I — a black Republican, first time from Florida since 1876 — join the Congressional Black Caucus. I guess there’s a story there." The same story, like any objective look at West, noted that he was substantially less right-wing than some less flashy colleagues. He offered to "drive the car" and pass the first, compromised version of the debt limit deal. His Heritage Action for America vote rating is in the 70s (out of 100). The bluster gives him space to let the Right down on actual votes. And I doubt anyone will ever stop falling for it.

*The HPC is shockingly haphazard about keeping up an official membership list.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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