Congressman-elect Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, tells Newsmax it's "crazy" to squabble over the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay soldiers when the focus should be on winning the war in Afghanistan.
West, an African-American, also vows to challenge the Congressional Black Caucus' "liberal social welfare perspective," and criticizes censured Rep. Charles Rangel and the "ruling-class elite."
A decorated veteran of more than 20 years in the Army, West served in Iraq and was a civilian adviser in Afghanistan. He holds two master's degrees. In November, tea party favorite West unseated Democrat Ron Klein in Florida's 22nd District, becoming the first black congressman from Florida since the 1870s.
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Asked during an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview for his point of view on the controversial don't ask, don't tell policy regarding gays in the military, the former Army officer responds: "The mission of the United States military is not to accommodate behavior, and definitely not to accommodate sexual behavior. But right now, what is most important for us to be talking about?
"In this past week, we had the Taliban infiltrate a gentlemen into the Afghan security forces who shot six American soldiers. Killed them. What we should be talking about are rules of engagement and the strategic objectives that will lead to our victory and our success against this enemy.
"Instead, we are worrying about who is sleeping with who in the military. That's crazy. So I think right now don't ask, don't tell is not the thing the American people expect the House and the Senate and the senior military leadership to be talking about. What they want to know is how do we protect our sons and daughters on the battlefield, how do we make sure that we are promoting victory, and how do we make sure that we take this fight to the enemy and not allow them
to bring the fight to us."
Also during the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview, West was asked what actions on the economy he expects to see early in the next session of Congress.
"I think one of the critical things we have to do is make sure that the [Bush] tax cuts are permanent, because the last thing you want to see is an increase in taxation," he says. "And it's not so much about the wealthy. This is about people who are producers and employers.
"But those tax cuts are just the tip of the iceberg, because you have to think about capital gains tax, dividends tax, estate tax, marriage tax credit, child tax credit. So we're looking at a huge tax increase come January 2011 if this lame-duck session of Congress doesn't do the right thing.
"We've got to turn it around so we can have long-term sustainable growth in the private sector."
Regarding the debate over an extension of unemployment benefits, which are set to expire for many unemployed Americans if Congress does not act, West says: "I don't want to see unemployment benefits stop for people as we go into this holiday season.
"But come January 2011, we've got to get Americans back to work. When you hear Nancy Pelosi and some of these other Democratic Congress members who came out and said unemployment benefits are a means by which you can stimulate the economy -- that is an insidious statement. It really is the antithesis of who we are in this country.
"We don't want to have people dependent upon government. I think that's what a true conservative thinks about. A true conservative thinks about how can government set the conditions for the betterment of the society and the growth of this economy."
Despite his strongly conservative views, West plans to join the Congressional Black Caucus, one of the most liberal Democratic entities in Congress.
"Everybody talks about bipartisanship and intellectual discourse and debate," he tells Newsmax. "That's what I want to have in the Congressional Black Caucus, because this body politic cannot continue on to be this monolithic entity.
"It is time that we challenge this liberal social welfare perspective of victimization and dependency that is coming out of places like the Congressional Black Caucus, and I look forward to bringing that debate."
Asked about Rep. Charles Rangel, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus who was censured by the House on Thursday for violating House ethics rules, West says: "There is a standard, and when you bust the standard, you have to be held accountable.
"Some of the things Charles Rangel was guilty of, the average American citizen would go to jail for. We cannot continue to have this sense of a ruling-class elite that is above the American people. So I think it is very important that we hold our legislators' feet to the fire, and we cannot allow them to believe that they are separate and above the laws that they're supposed to be creating and upholding."
West also says Republicans should not simply repeal Obamacare but should replace it with a market-driven plan that takes into account "a cost-based analysis."
He feels that the GOP does not need to shut down the government and should find ways to cut spending without a shutdown. And he says the central bank's move to "magically print $600 billion trying to monetize our debt" is an example of the disconnect between "fiscal policy," which is the domain of Congress, and "monetary policy," which is the responsibility of the Federal Reserve.
As for real estate mogul Donald Trump's recent disclosure that he is considering a run for president, West says the American people are looking for businessmen and others who do not have a history in politics, "so Donald Trump could be that Ross Perot-type of individual that shows up in 2012."
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