In an exclusive interview, the candidate in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District tells PJM that “you cannot repeal the health care bill as long as Nancy Pelosi is in charge of Congress.”
by Alyssa A. Lappen
Pajamas Media | March 22, 2010
Back in 2003, few Americans had heard of Lt. Col. Allen West, then commanding a battalion of roughly 600 in Iraq. Then attacks on his platoon suddenly spiked, and his intelligence operations got wind of an Iraqi police having leaked their maneuvers, in advance, to Islamic terrorists. West got nowhere by interrogating the suspected collaborator for several hours. Ever-mindful of his men’s safety — and a rumored plot to assassinate him and attack the entire battalion — West drew his service revolver and fired near the man’s head. The policeman started talking, and West thus averted the plot. He also faced a potential court martial, however, and was called to testify before Congress. “I’d go through hell with a gasoline can” to save his men’s lives, a nonplussed West told [an Article 32 hearing in Tikrit]. The Army merely fined West and relieved him of his command, ending his otherwise stellar 22-year Army career.
But to West, every day offers a new opportunity. After briefly teaching American, then serving as a civilian military adviser in Afghanistan, West decided to seek to fulfill his yen for public service from another route. In 2008, he sought Florida’s 22nd District U.S. Congressional seat, running against incumbent Ron Klein. West garnered 48% of the vote despite raising only $500,000, against vs. Klein’s millions. And in the tradition of his never-say-die lower-middle class Atlanta inner-city parents, the late Herman West Sr. and Elizabeth West, the 48-year-old retired Lt. Col. is running again — more resolute than ever. Below, investigative journalist Alyssa A. Lappen gives our readers an exclusive interview with West.
Alyssa A. Lappen: Is it ironic? You were relieved of your military command during a Republican presidency, yet you’re running for Congress as a Republican?
Lt. Col. (ret.) Allen West: No. I don’t see irony. What happened had nothing to do with politics. My running on Republican ticket is basically due to my conservative politics and in line with what should be the Republican policy platform.
AAL: Would it have been the same under any administration.
West: I don’t think the administration had anything to do with the decision of my field commander or the advocate general advising him. It was very helpful to have members of Congress and the Senate to read out a resolution in support of me and my actions. I stand by what I did. It was based on my men on the ground, not political ramifications or anything like that.
AAL: What was the exact circumstance of this guy who was attempting to assassinate you.
West: He was was an Iraqi policeman. We had human intelligence saying he was leaking information to the enemy. We had seen an up-tick in ambushes and such things. The word on the street was, I was an enemy target. We were very successful and I was a visible and effective commander.
AAL: If elected, what might you change to affect future commanders facing the same situation?
West: Having been a person on this 21st century battlefield, from Desert Storm, Iraq and also Afghanistan, I bring a wealth of knowledge from the tactical level that can help us shape our strategic level decisions. I would seek to be on the House armed services committee.
We need to look at current rules of engagement. Are they stymieing the efforts of our men and women on the battlefield. Are they hindering our initiative against this enemy. We should look at things happening with the defense budget. For example, I am really upset about how we continue to put all these non related amendments on defense appropriation bills. We need to clean that up.
Also, how do we move ahead to taper our force to combat this enemy — a non-state, non-uniformed belligerent on the battlefield. And pay attention to future threats. China continues to build what may be the largest naval force that we will ever know.
AAL: What other principles come from the military?
West: We seek to make a difference. I’m not from a political family or background. We have to re-establish the fact that any American can be a part of the process. In running for office, they have a shot at getting to Congress, and doing the business of being a citizen legislator. Our political system can accommodate people from every walk of life. Let Americans try to guide this thing in the right way.
People need to show it can be done. In 2008, we proved that someone resolute and focused, with a principled message, can get attention. We got 48% of the vote in the 22nd Congressional District of Florida.
This is huge. The key is for people to see, this has to be done. Plato said, those who refuse to engage in politics will be governed by their inferiors.
AAL: An organization was started in Texas by Tim Cox, a former process manager at Dell Computers. He’s just fed up with Congress. Probably most Americans are.
West: Now wait. It’s interesting…. Every cycle, people say they’re fed up with Congress. Last year, Congress had what then was one of the lowest approval ratings, maybe 20% or 21%. Yet 93% of incumbents were reelected. So people continue to say that. I hope finally the American people will stand up and bring those words to fruition. But let’s face it there are districts where Representatives will not be voted out. Folks are very happy with the person they have. It’ll be interesting to see if people go back, with the courage to say, Congress is terrible, but our Congressman is okay.
AAL: One difficulty is beating incumbents. You have all this gerrymandering. Your home district is a good example — a long skinny north-south stretch through Florida, cutting out big sections of key towns through which it runs. And the House of Representatives maps such districts to protect incumbents.
West: It is very hard to get rid of them. You need a strategic perspective. If Americans want to take the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand, they have to look across the country and find 40 to 55 seats, maybe even 60, where you can be competitive and make a difference. Congressional District 22 is one of those. And for whatever reason, my district has gotten a lot of national attention.
AAL: Will incumbent Ron Klein run again?
West: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think he expected me to run again… he felt I was a one trick pony. When I was not successful he figured I’d go away. But I am committed to this country, and committed to continuing service to the people. People now know what I stand for. The name recognition has improved. The national level attention, for whatever reason, is humbling. But I think Klein is now in a very tough situation, running against someone like myself, who isn’t a career politician.
AAL: No doubt you’ll get lots of support.
West: And if in two years, West turns out to, you know, suck, then get me out of there. I am [a] guy [who] would understand that. That’s what I tell folks. You are sending me up there to prove myself as a capable legislator, statesman and political leader. If I fail and let you down, … just don’t support me. Just vote me out. That is what we have to do.
AAL: You’ve spoken about the love your parents instilled in you for God, country and self-sufficiency. What are those principles, and why do you hold them so high?
West: It is important to honor our Judeao-Christian faith tradition — and notice I said faith tradition, I did not say state-sponsored religion. People get very confused about that. You can go back to the founding fathers and see that connection. I had faith and believe in something greater than myself. It comes back around understanding this great country and service to something greater than yourself. My dad served in WWII. My mother did 25 years of civilian service with the Marine Corps. My older brother served in Vietnam, and now young nephew is a U.S. Army Captain, following in my footsteps. I think that’s very important. It’s about giving back, about a great country affording you the opportunities to get out and, as the Army once said, be all you can be. It’s about your own internal individual responsibility and accountability, your own internal drive and desire… to be part of what and who we are in this country. That’s why people come to America. They see the opportunities here.
It’s just a shame that government creates victims, and victims become dependent. Government continues to grow because of this dependent entitlement class. That’s not what my parents raised me to believe. Never see anything as an obstacle. Never looked at the color of my skin as a crutch. Always know the standards. Understand them. Work not just to achieve them, but to exceed the standards. Those are driving factors in my life, which I learned from parents who taught me faith, love of country, individual responsibility and accountability.
AAL: Your parents died young.
West: My Dad was 66 when he passed from a massive stroke. My mother was 63 when she died of liver cancer. I miss them very much, but each and every day that I go forth, I carry them with me.
AAL: Why was your father, Herman West Sr. from Ozark, Alabama, called Buck.
West: Well, it was the strength he exuded. As I said at CPAC, the most important thing was how I ended up on that stage to speak. It traced right back to their dreams, my father, my mother, what they wanted me to be in life.
AAL: I think [your parents] Buck and Elizabeth West would be very proud of you if they were here today.
West: Well, thank you.
AAL: Parenting definitely is important.
West: It is, and one of the problems you have in America is the breakdown of family, especially in the black community. Even Daniel Patrick Moynihan talked about how a lot of these liberal social welfare programs, if you started to pull the man out of the house and to break down the family in the black community, it is not going to be a positive thing. And we see that. In the black community now, you only have 30 to 35% of children being raised in two parent households. That’s appalling.
AAL: Well, yes. And I do not think it’s just in the black community, either. It is all over the place.
West: Yes, it has expanded. It really targeted the inner city black community and now it has expanded. And you cannot have a strong country without strong families. We do not want to see America be reflected in Detroit, Michigan or even in California.
West: Yeah, absolutely. I visited their website. He did an interview with South Florida’s WFTL Talk Show host Joyce Kaufman and I had an opportunity to listen. I think it is a good citizen-based initiative. So I applaud Mr. Cox.
But you already have that system built in. Americans have never really understood, never really participated in this process, and never sat down and evaluated candidates and scrutinized them one on one. Not like we are starting to see now.
The great thing is: The founding fathers set up our system with powers in the House of Representatives to make them the most powerful branch. So every two years, you get to do something about it. It’s just a matter of Americans educating themselves about the Constitution and understanding, you can change this legislative body every two years. Come out and hold people’s feet to the fire.
Will the American people follow through on what they’re saying. Will their respective grass roots organizations follow through. I think when you talk about Constitutional fundamentals and principles that make this country great, Americans will rally, and come to support you.
AAL: In current politics, have you read the revised House health care measure? What are your key concerns?
West: I have not read the entire revised measure. I’ve looked at certain pieces. The biggest thing: this is not about focusing on the health care problem in America. And we do have a problem. That is with lowering the costs. If you look at the system that makes costs too high, it drives you to some specific solutions to fix the problem. It’s not about creating 110 more government agencies. It’s not about expanding government health care supervision, or trying to take over one sixth of our gross national production.
This directly affects us in Florida. It’s about catastrophic litigation. Doctors charge more because they are afraid. So tort reform is a first start. It’s about state insurance agencies and commissions, state by state, that have created monopolies all over the place. The one thing that drives down costs in a free market society is competition.
And it’s not about introducing government into this aspect of competition. Government can run itself in the red [at a loss]. If it wants to produce more capital, government just prints money or borrows money or raise taxes. That would be unfair competition.
It’s about putting Americans in charge of their choices. Now, the insurance companies cannot go jacking up rates because you’d have another company to buy insurance. That is the great thing about our system. If people see the need, they’ll come into this market and meet the needs of consumers and American citizens [and profit].
Another thing no one talks about is the effect of illegal immigration on health care costs. Down in Miami Dade, we have Jackson Memorial about to go under because of the rising [costs and expenses] from illegal immigrants. North of us in Martin County you see the same thing.
Health savings accounts are something that no one talks about. Everyone keeps throwing around [numbers]: 30 million, 45 million, 47 million [without insurance]. But it’s really a targeted group of maybe 9 to 10 million citizens that need affordable health insurance. Give them the tax credit.
We have got to transfer the wealth from Washington D.C. back down to the people so they can take care of their [own] lives and their life styles. It’s a lie that increasing taxes increases revenues. At this time, I do not think we need to be creating programs to raise taxes on the American people.
AAL: I could not agree more. Having government control health care would be an unmitigated disaster.
West: The country is upside down. USA ran a side by side comparison of public sector and private sector compensation a few weeks ago. At this point, public sector compensations exceed private sector compensations. Here in Broward County, we have city managers making more than the governor.
You cannot have 20% of federal government employees earning 6 figure incomes. You can’t continue down the road where government continues to grow. Look, they run the finance industry, they have taken over the automobile industry. They are going after health care. If Cap and Trade were to go through, they’d control the energy sector. It just squashes out the innovation and ingenuity that comes from the private sector.
This is not efficient. Look at the four standing government medical programs — Medicaid, Medicare, the SCHIP and the Veterans’ Administration. None of those four programs runs effectively or efficiently.
AAL: What’s SCHIP?
West: The State Children’s Health Insurance Program was started in 1997 to cover children at or below the poverty level. A lot of people didn’t notice last January, one of the first things the Nancy Pelosi crew did. It was signed by President Obama. They raised the age of children covered under SCHIP from 18 to 25, and the poverty level from $32,000 to $83,000 for a family of four.
AAL: $83,000? Oh goodness, we’re poor! (Laughs) That’s unbelievable.
West: Absolutely. So now you are paying free health care for children who are up to 25 years of age, in a household of four with $83,000 income. They are creeping their way to getting what they want. And SCHIP is a huge misnomer; it’s a federal program.
AAL: Assuming health care does pass, can it be repealed by the next Congress? What would that take?
West: The biggest thing. You cannot repeal it as long as Nancy Pelosi is in charge of Congress. So in November 2010, you’d need 40 to 50 seats to flip so she does not have the gavel. She is no longer Speaker of the House of Representatives. Even more, you probably need to flip it so at least a 2/3 majority in the House sit on the other side. Then you can override any presidential veto. Americans need to strategically think about those key things if they want to reverse that, and some other dangerous pieces of legislation passed in the first couple of Obama Administration years.
AAL: Such as.
West: Some of the spending. We have to get that under control. [We also] have to challenge and get rid of the czar stuff. This is not just from the Obama administration. It went on previously. But it has been exacerbated to epic proportions. Once again, it’s just expansive growth of government, and that’s not constitutional, having people make public policy, who aren’t accountable to the people. We need to peel the onion back on all that. We need the checks and balances that the founding fathers established.
AAL: What about the effects of global jihad in the U.S. What concerns you most about domestic policies on this issue?
West: We have become so politically correct and so hung on multiculturalism, that our tolerance has become a one way street leading to cultural suicide. As you evaluate jihad, Islam, or whatever. It’s not about Muslims, not about individuals. It’s about an ideology. We need to study the history, from the 7th century, from Islam’s inception and after. How was it promulgated and disseminated across the world from the 7th century until today. We see that it’s not so much a religion, but more of a totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology.
We need leaders in Washington D.C. with courage and confidence to stand and say so. So that we are not allowing ourselves to be infiltrated in cultural, educational, political and economic operating systems by something really antithetical to our Constitutional republic. As long as we continue letting people use our freedom to preach against what we are in America and indeed Western civilization — you can look to Europe and see what’s going on — we are hanging ourselves. We have to challenge this ideology, their belief system, to show us that they can be compatible with democracy and freedom, with our principles of individual rights and freedom.
AAL: Yes, but how can you control it. People see Islam as a religion, a faith, and the first amendment allows freedom of religion.
West: It’s what I said. There will come a point where we cannot see it as religion. This enemy’s reality will have to become our own. It’s a sad truth. I want to coexist with all people. But when you look at it, we are accommodating an ideology that does not accommodate us. How many churches and synagogues are there in Saudi Arabia? A “quote, unquote” infidel cannot go to Mecca. Yet anyone can visit the Vatican. Anyone can go into a church here in the United States. Just yesterday I went to a Jewish temple and spoke to Jewish War Veterans. There’s something inherently wrong, that a lot of people don’t want to admit, they don’t want to face.
It requires leadership. Leadership has five components. Courage, competence, commitment, conviction and character. You need the type of people in Washington D.C. willing to stand up and say these things. You may not like what I just said, but it is all true.
AAL: You’re preaching to the choir. I’ve been writing on this since 2000 or 2001.
West: Muamar Ghadaffi last summer said something a lot of people missed. He said Islam will overtake Europe without firing a shot. They’ll do it by migration and an explosive birth rate. In in a democratic society, the next thing you know, they’ll win by sheer numbers. Then they’ll start to impact domestic policies and programs.
AAL: So does the U.S. limit immigration or ban new mosque construction?
West: No, you challenge the ideology to show that it’s compatible. And if it’s not compatible, then you stem the infiltration. What I’m talking about has nothing to do with Muslims. I’ve been in that part of the world for some time, and helped three of my Afghani interpreters get green cards. But they had to prove to me that they understood the Constitution of the United States and what it meant to be a free people. That’s the onus we have to place on Islam and the Muslim community.
AAL: But even that is tricky because of the taqiyya doctrine. That commands Muslims to be good liars to advance Islam. While it’s horrible to generalize, the ideology allows and encourages such lying.
West: That’s why we have to force a reformation. It’s the same as Judaism, the same as Martin Luther in 1517. We went through a Reformation. The same needs to happen in Islam. After 622 A.D., after Mohammed’s Hijra (migration to Medina), everything became very violent. Until Muslims reject that, and [reinstate] all the abrogated verses from the first 12-year peaceful verses. We absolutely have to pressure them to make that happen. I am not going to let someone lie to me and say this is a religion of peace. History shows that it is not.
AAL: You are the first person I’ve heard even contending for political office to say anything like this, never mind those already in office. And what is the reaction in the field?
West: People do listen. You only have to tune into the news and see exactly what’s happening. I’m not sitting by myself and preaching some heresy. I’m talking about fact, talking about history and current events. Let’s face it. Jihad Jamie. Jihad Jane. Look at Buffalo NY. You have a guy on trial for beheading his wife because she wanted a divorce. In Arizona, a guy ran over his daughters because they were becoming too western. Look at all these things. Fort Hood, Texas. The U.S. soldiers who were shot at a Little Rock recruiting station. We have a serious problem we have to deal with. We can’t continue putting our heads in the sand and saying these very trite terms like “moderate Islam” or “peace loving Muslims” because we don’t want to confront it. So we have got to challenge them.
AAL: How does the president get away with it.
West: It’s very easy. He’s the president. But people are challenging him because he’s not dealing with this situation forthrightly. Look at his address at the Turkish National Assembly. Look at his address in Cairo, which was just replete with lies and platitudes not based upon fact. It was appeasement.
AAL: I lost a friend over that speech.
West: Understand. There are going to be 30 to 35% of Americans who are not comfortable dealing with this. But the majority of Americas want leaders willing to stand up and speak the truth. They really do.
AAL: How do you arrive at that percentage?
West: You have a third of folks ideologically very much at that far left extreme. There’s an unholy alliance between liberal progressives and this radical Islamic enemy. I don’t understand it. But it is what it is. But 65 to 70 % of Americans are composed of the center right. And 65% to 70% of Americans understand the basic set of principles of limited government, security from external and internal threats, individual responsibility and accountability, liberty, free market solutions, leadership based on merit (not entitlement) and traditional values — our borders, our culture, our language, protecting the unborn and also the sanctity of marriage.
AAL: How would you control these assaults, if elected. How do convince peers in both parties, and frankly there are many problematic Republicans too.
West: Look at Lindsey Graham who’s signing onto an amnesty bill. It comes down to leadership — and challenging people. You need an open forum and debate to throw light upon these issues. If legislators are serious about their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they have to do what is right for the American people. Now is a critical time.
Americans are going back to what we said …. They’re starting to hold legislators’ feet to the fire; they’re looking for principled leaders, who aren’t self-serving or beholden to special interests or afraid to tackle hard issues. I’d have to sit down with fellow Republicans and educate them on the threats out there. They need to do what’s right and protect the American people.
AAL: Tim Cox‘ group wants a law specifying that each new statute can address only one issue. That is, the House and Senate must limit new measures to one law on one issue. That’s it.
West: Absolutely. That’s it. We need people who understand the five basic mandates of the federal government: To establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, promote general welfare, provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty. Also, the House of Representatives operates within the mandates of Article One of the Constitution. If we could get those people, then we’re going to be fine.
It’s not the government’s right or responsibility to start mandating to Americans that they must buy health insurance. That’s a prime example of a government gone totally awry. We have got to get people up there who understand that what’s best for Americans is that they have liberty, to pursue happiness. We need people who set the conditions for the success of the American people, NOT people who try to engineer results and design the outcomes. It’s about making sure that Americans have opportunities for their life, for their liberties and for their pursuit of happiness. It’s about getting back to fundamentals.
Honor, integrity and character need to be reestablished in our country’s leadership, and you can do that with people who focus on what’s best for the country and not what’s best for themselves.
AAL: A great many people nationwide pin a lot of hope on you (not to use an overused word), to reform government, and rekindle basic American principles in Washington D.C. Assuming you win, you’d be a junior congressman. What can supporters realistically expect?
West: They can expect me to go and give that age-old adage — 110%. There’s not a day when I don’t lay my head down without realizing the responsibility upon me — that a lot of people pin a lot of hope on me to turn things around.
I go back to Harry Truman, and what he was able to do. Here was a guy who had not been very successful. He was a haberdasher. Yet he took on the defense industry. And he got recognized. A person who stands resolute can make a difference. People rally around him. That is what you focus on. Not the special interests or the PACs or anything like that.
You focus on who sent you and what they’re looking for. The bigger thing: I will continue to pray for God to strengthen me; I will put together a top notch team to look at all the critical issues. It’s that important to me. I’m not saying I’ll hit a home run every time. But every time I’m at bat, I’ll seek to get on base. I am not going to let people down. And I am not going to be relegated to some back bench, to sit in a corner and just work on being reelected. That’s not why I am going to Washington D.C.
Understand the kind of people I am and the stubbornness that — if my mother and father were alive, they would tell you about. People say, you gotta compromise and work with people. But I am not going to compromise my principles. When you start to do that, you start on the road to perdition. I will always stand for my principles. I will always stand on the beliefs in what made this country great, from the Declaration, to the Constitution and all the great thinkers and the worries of our founding fathers and framers. That’s the bedrock upon which we stand.
And I am absolutely humbled at the response we’re getting across the nation and beyond. Last week, we were sent a Dutch Conservative blog that featured me on the front page.
AAL: That’s not surprising. You support freedom of speech and Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, charged with hate speech in his own country merely for filming and translating passages chanted from the Koran, by Muslims. Some supposedly conservative Americans deride him as a fascist. You, on the other hand, understand he’s fighting for Western civilization itself. Naturally, Dutchmen respect that.
West: It comes back to honor, integrity and character. They need to be reestablished in the our nation’s leadership. You can do that if you get people to focus on what’s best for the country and not what’s best for themselves. For me, the honor and integrity are the payoff.
There is nothing fancy about me.
It can be taken away any day. That’s what keeps you humble. When you’re in a combat zone, and have a successful firefight and survive that day — you have to go back out the next day too. That keeps you humble. Each and every day is a new fight. What I have done today will not matter tomorrow. You have to stay humble and on focus.
But more than that, it’s how you were raised, those intrinsic characteristics that your parents gave you.
Alyssa A. Lappen is a former senior editor of Institutional Investor, Corporate Finance and Working Woman and a former associate editor of Forbes.
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