Seven months in Washington apparently has had a moderating effect on Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. The fire-breathing, tea party sensation who urged followers to take up arms against a “tyrannical government” is altering his battle plan, columnist Dana Milbank writes in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post
“You could do the front assault, like at Gallipoli or the Charge of the Light Brigade, but when you end up losing a whole lot of people [all you can do is] pat yourself on the back and say how valiantly we charged that hill, like Pickett’s Charge,” West said recently.
West added that the smarter approach would be for Republicans to outmaneuver Democrats, like they did in the debt-limit battle: “We checked and checkmated them.”
“From a bayonet charge to a Washington chess match: Talk about going native,” Milbank wrote. “The African American conservative with the flattop can still talk like a militant, calling Democrats ‘socialists’ and ‘the enemy.’ But on his first big test, West joined the socialist enemy in the soft middle.”
Milbank noted that West skipped the “conservative insurrection that humiliated the House Speaker” and refused to join the 66 House GOP members who opposed the debt deal. According to Milbank, West told an audience at the Young America’s Foundation conference, “I called some of the tea party leaders. They were all, ‘We’re mad at you,’ ” he said with a mock whine, then gave a who-cares shrug. “I asked them one simple question: If I had voted no, what would I have been voting for? And they couldn’t answer that.”
Milbank argued that “West sounded downright moderate” in the address as he told the students that conservatives have a problem with “incrementalism,” or the concept that there are many steps to take before reaching a goal.
“Tea party Republicans are rightly credited with bringing the nation to the brink of default, but as West’s softening shows, the number of true diehards may be small,” Milbank wrote. “There are enough to cause havoc in the House and to push policy to the right, but it’s worth noting that 174 of 240 House Republicans defied the tea party to support the debt compromise.”
In concluding, he wrote, “West’s image is built on martial imagery; the student introducing him recounted an episode in Iraq in which West fired his pistol near the head of a man he was interrogating. But by the end of the talk, West sounded less like an ideological warrior than a career politician explaining how Republicans could build majorities.”
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