Florida Congressman Allen West (R-Ft. Lauderdale) can't seem to open his mouth lately without saying something provocative, controversial and, some would say, ill-considered. According to Florida news blog Sunshine Slate, in addition to his remarks on Tuesday accusing members of the House Democratic Caucus of being members of the Communist Party, the Freshmen Representative and tea party favorite has declared that the proposed 10 percent tax on tanning beds proposed in the Affordable Care Act is "racist."
Sunshine Slate points to a speech West made to a group of seniors on Wednesday, April 4 at Century Village, a retirement village near West Palm Beach. To a sparse crowd, the Congressman declared that he agrees with "10 to 15 pages" of the president's Affordable Care Act, but that the tanning bed provision was more than he could countenance.
"You want to talk about something that's really racist? They have a tanning tax," West, who is African-American, said, "I'm not tanning."
On Tuesday, March 10, West calmly asserted to a room full of supporters that "79 to 81" members of the House Democratic Caucus are "members of the Communist Party."
Hoping to mitigate the damage from the claim, West's handlers told the right wing blog The Daily Caller that a "stupid" reporter had taken the Representative's words out of context. West, said campaign manager Tim Edson, was referring specifically to the House Progressive Caucus and called the flap over West's charges an issue of "semantics."
“The real point," he said, "is these people speak for themselves and if you listen to the words of the progressive caucus it’s clear that these people are opponents of capitalism — they oppose free markets, they oppose individual economic freedom — so you can call them whatever you want — whether they’re socialists or marxists or communists.”
Libera Della Pianna, a spokesperson for Communist Party USA said that whatever West may believe, there are no Congressional Democrats currently on the party's rolls, not even Vermont's avowed socialist Congressman, Bernie Sanders. Della Pianna called West's remarks "an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy."
West has received favorable mentions as a possible Vice Presidential candidate to run alongside presumptive Republican nominee Massachusetts ex-Governor Mitt Romney (R). Former Republican candidate Herman Cain, ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R), and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) have expressed their support for the West as Vice Presidential nominee.
West has a history of controversial and intemperate remarks, however, particularly toward liberal women.
In July of 2011, he sent an email to Democratic National Committee chairperson Rep. Deborah Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), calling her "vile," "despicable" and "not a lady." He has also accused liberal women of "neutering American men" and bringing males "to a point of incredible weakness," socially and economically. Gender equality in the U.S., he said, would mean that the national debt "will continue to grow.”
Mitt Romney is expected to announce his running mate at the 2012 Republican National Convention, which takes place in Tampa, Florida, August 27 to 30.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr Commons)