Allen West hasn’t changed his core message since falling short in a run for Congress last year, but with the political winds now at his back, the retired Army officer’s passionately delivered emphasis on constitutional principles of liberty, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and free-market solutions is attracting an audience well beyond Florida’s 22nd district.
A video of his rally cry to the party base in preparation for a 2010 run has drawn more than 1.2 million views on YouTube.com.
See Allen West’s speech:
West was introduced to the nation in 2003 when he faced criminal charges for using shock interrogation tactics to protect his soldiers in Iraq.
Taped at the Revolution Nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in October, the video captures West giving supporters a taste of what it must have been like to prepare for combat in Iraq with the lieutenant colonel.
“It’s OK to come out here and cheerlead,” he told the enthusiastic crowd. “But you’ve gotta get your butts out there and understand there’s a fight – and you’d better be willing to fight for this country.”
Recalling the oath he took as an Army officer to support and defend the Constitution, West said “there’s no statute of limitations on that oath, and, tonight, everyone of you needs to take that oath.”
Calling 2010 a defining moment for the nation, he cited Thomas Paine’s famous “times that try men’s souls.”
“If you’re here to shrink away from the duties, there’s a door. Get out,” West said. “But if you’re here to stand up – to get your musket, to fix your bayonet, to charge into the ranks – you’re my brother and sister in this fight.”
West said Americans need to gather together and “start talking about restoring our liberty and fighting back against a tyrannical government.”
Recounting his own story of being raised in inner-city Atlanta by lower-middle class parents, he stressed America offers equal opportunity, not equal achievement.
He pointed out he received an education and earned a commission in the Army, where he served 22 years, “not because the government came down and tried to make the rules and change it for me.”
“We cannot live in a country where the government sits around and tries to design results and outcomes,” he said in the taped speech. “Every time they try to do that – Everyone has a right to own a home – how does that end up? Everyone has a right to health care – how does that end up?
“The Constitution says promote the general welfare, not provide welfare,” he said. “It is about setting conditions for our success.”
West said big government has produced an entitlement class, exemplified in a widely viewed video clip during the 2008 presidential campaign in which an Obama supporter exulted that if the Democrat won the White House, he would put gas in her car and pay her mortgage.
“If we are not willing to take a stand right now and take this country back and put it back on the right track with the principles and values it was established on, you’re complicit,” West said. “It’s your fault.
“It’s your fault,” he continued, pointing to different sections of the auditorium. “It’s your fault up there.”
West, who captured 45 percent of the vote in his Florida swing district in 2008 against incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Klein, says his positions on the economy and national security are resonating in South Florida. And while he received no support from his party last year, the National Republican Congressional Committee has identified him as one of its most potent recruits.
Allen West leading a briefing in Afghanistan in 2007
As WND reported in 2003, West was threatened with court martial for tactics he used to flush out information from an uncooperative Iraqi policeman. Threatening to kill the Iraqi if he didn’t talk, West fired a pistol near the policeman’s head, producing an immediate flood of information that purportedly led to the arrest of two insurgents and cessation of attacks on West’s 4th Infantry Division battalion.
In an interview during last year’s campaign, West told WND his controversial ordeal in 2003 – during which he drew support from congressmen and many Americans who regarded him as a hero – should tell voters what kind of a lawmaker he would be, particularly when it comes to issues of defense.
“If you’re a bad guy, and you try to get between me and the safety and lives of American citizens, you’re going to lose,” West said.
Army prosecutors charged West with aggravated assault, and he faced the possibility of up to eight years in prison. At a hearing, West was asked by his defense attorney if he would do it again.
“If it’s about the lives of my men and their safety, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can,” he said.
West eventually accepted a non-judicial punishment, the forfeiture of two months’ pay, about $5,000. He retired from the military and moved with his wife, Angela, and two young daughters to Broward County, Florida, where he taught high school. He served in Afghanistan as an adviser to the Afghan army until November 2007.