Allen West is learning the ways of Washington.
On December 7, Congressman-elect West committed his very first honest-to-goodness Washingtonian gaffe when, in an interview with the African American Conservative Radio Show, he called for the effective dismantling of the First Amendment. Yesterday afternoon, West attempted to minimize the damage with his very first Washingtonian spin job. The gaffe was committed with considerably more elan than the spin job, which was frankly amateurish.
The trouble began when West was asked about Julian
Assange's Wikileaks website. "Regardless of whether you think [Wikileaks] causes harm," said West, "the fact that here is an individual who is not an American citizen -- first and foremost -- [who has] for whatever reason, you know, gotten his hands on classified American material and has put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to be able to do this, and then [who are] also supporting and applauding him for his efforts."
Whoopsies. That's a hard thing to hear from an elected official whose fans consider him a freedom fighter and small-government conservative. In its most mild manifestation, West's prescription for censorship would necessitate the kind of license-yanking advocated by the Nixon White House, when it was under threat from the Washington Post. At its most extreme, West's prescription calls for the seizing of the New York Times' newsroom by Sharpie-wielding government goons.
But wait, wait, says West -- this is all a terrible misunderstanding. When his words were greeted with outrage by the anti-censorship blogosphere, West explained that we had all misheard. What he really said
was "censured" -- that is, he advocated the harsh criticism of news organs, such as the Times, that have reported on the content of Assange's Wikileaks.
"I am heard on the African-American Conservative Radio Show saying the media should be 'censured,'" wrote
West on his Facebook. "In no way would I ask to 'censor' anyone or any organization."
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The statement goes on a bit -- you can read it here -- but that's the nut of it. It is, we may safely say, one of the worst spin jobs in recent political history.
A more experienced politico probably wouldn't try to tell us we hadn't heard what we so plainly did hear -- over and over again, in hi-fi audio. He wouldn't say "you misheard." He would say "I misspoke." The tape is unambiguous and unforgiving, and "censor" and "censure" sound nothing alike.
And a more experienced politico would probably have tried more diligently to avoid shooting himself in the foot while removing the combat boot from his mouth. It is clear from West's rebuttal that either
his interview or his spin was a misstep at best, and a bald-faced lie at worst. Because if West is sincere in insisting that he would never "ask to 'censor' anyone or any organization," he wouldn't have a problem with Wikileaks in the first place.