Earlier this month, Congressman Allen West said he was "not into name-calling, all that kind of stuff." On Saturday, he said Democratic leadership should "get the hell out of the United States of America." Those comments, at the Palm Beach County GOP's Lincoln Day dinner, got plenty of play on Twitter and the blogs, but it seems the rest of West's 11-minute speech was largely ignored.
West attempted allusions to numerous historical figures and documents in his talk; in almost every case, something got messed up, including a line culled from what is probably Abraham Lincoln's most famous speech. We'll just go through point by point and try to translate as we go along.
1: The Democrat Party
West started the speech declaring himself "the number-one target of the Democrat Party of the United States of America." He said he wore this title as a "badge of honor" and said an innocent first-term legislator like him was being targeted because "you're looking at the embodiment of what Abraham Lincoln talked about... was freedom."
Silly observation about the actual name of the party aside, West is right that he's a Democratic focus going into 2012 -- he's on the list of districts targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" campaign, but there's no indication he's the "number-one" anything.
West went on to say that "the history of the Democrat Party is all about slavery, succession, segregation, and today it's about socialism."
It's a pretty good quip, but it would take much too long to go down the list of racially based injustices supported by conservatives. It was just amusing that West criticized the history of the party of Jefferson only 51 seconds before briefly quoting -- you guessed it -- Thomas Jefferson.
3: A French guy
He then quoted 19th-century Parisian political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville: "The great American republic will cease to exist when Congress realizes that they can bribe the public with the public's money." It's a powerful sentiment and popular Republican quote, but Tocqueville didn't say it, and nobody really knows who did.
"These are the times that try men's souls," West said. "Now, will you be a summer soldier? Will you be a sunshine patriot? Will you shirk away from the duties and responsibilities that our forefathers and mothers laid down for us?"
While Paine certainly played a crucial role in the founding of the United States, West probably wouldn't be down with a lot of the "duties and responsibilities" Paine actually believed in -- inheritance and estate taxes, for example, plus an early concept of what Americans would adopt into Social Security. Combine that with support of a progressive tax code and Paine's mocking of Christianity as "a parody on the worship of the sun" and you don't come out with somebody who sounds like a loyal Republican.
It's cool to quote the founding fathers, Col. West, but you should really look into which ones you contradict in every way deeper than quotes that sound like they were pulled from the Patriot.
5: The Bible
This one's actually a continuation of the previous quote. After asking if the crowd is going to shirk its duties, he said, "Or will you stand in the gap? Will you stand on principle... and say, as the motto of the seal of the United States Army says, 'This we'll defend.'"
Unsurprisingly, he got the Army motto correct, but the "stand in the gap" bit is from the Bible, in the 22nd chapter of Ezekiel. The chapter is basically God listing reasons that he (or she or it or whatever) wants to burn down Jerusalem and everyone in it and saying that he looked for someone to "stand in the gap" and prove him wrong but didn't find anybody.
Some of the reasons God cites as evidence of Jerusalem's corruption aren't really applicable to this situation -- eating at mountain shrines, for example, or sleeping with a woman on her period -- but a few of them West doesn't seem particularly bothered by: God criticizes the city for having "oppressed the foreigner," but West loathes them: He said undocumented children speaking at a Senate hearing on the DREAM Act was "almost treasonous" and that illegal immigrants should be treated as if they were part of "an invasion into your country."
West also spent a considerable chunk of time on his favorite subject -- the military. He criticized proposals to cut defense spending, saying, "That's not what Ronald Reagan talked about -- 'peace through strength,' and that's not why President Lincoln stood and made the decision that a house divided should fall. And he committed the manpower and the will of this nation to keep the union together."
Reagan really did talk about "peace through strength," but it wasn't technically President Lincoln that mentioned "a house divided" -- it was senatorial candidate Lincoln, and West mangled the rest of the quote even worse. The line wasn't "a house divided should fall"; in fact, Lincoln specifically said in that speech, "I do not expect the house to fall."
The line West was thinking of was probably, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," but the original line had nothing to do with committing manpower or keeping unions together; Lincoln was saying that the country was going to have to either decide to be for slavery or against it, that "this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free." It would be almost three years before the Civil War started. Close enough? Not on Lincoln Day, bub.
In case you've got 11 minutes and a lot of patience, here's the video of his speech. He blabbers sometimes, but you've gotta admit he sounds pretty good doing it.