Rep. West’s Incendiary Comments

There has been a lot of chatter about Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as a potential vice presidential nominee. These comments he made at a town hall meeting yesterday are a good example of why that’s unlikely to happen:

Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?

To be fair, it’s hard to tell whether or not West is joking. His last sentence seems like it could be some sort of punch line, i.e. “Sure, there are Communists in Congress” [beat] “they’re called progressives.” Unfortunately, in all the videos I’ve seen, West’s last sentence is cut out, and it’s impossible to determine without actually hearing it.

Joke or not, West’s spokesperson offered a clarification today:

“The congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom,” Angela Melvin said in a statement to The Huffington Post.

Okay, but West said these were members of the Communist Party. If that was just colorful language for effect, West should say so, but he needs a bit more evidence if he’s trying to stand by his claims.

West may have actually been referring to a document that listed 70-or-so members of Congress as official members of the Democratic Socialists of America, which made its way around conservative blogs a couple of years ago. According to the DSA, the list is fraudulent, and there hasn’t been an official card-carrying member of the DSA in Congress since 1998.

Whatever the reason for West’s comments – joke, bad information, or his honest opinion – this latest flap brings back memories of similar firestorms he’s been involved in. The fact that he speaks his mind even when it’s not politically correct is why conservatives love him, but it’s hard to imagine a politician as cautious as Mitt Romney choosing a running mate with such a penchant for incendiary comments.