NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Army veteran and former U.S. congressman Allen West told WND he is seriously considering running for president in 2016.
West was responding to a question posed by WND at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans Friday.
“I’m praying on whether to run for president, and I have discussed the possibility with my wife and family,” he said.
“But the country is not about me,” West added. “It’s about making sure the Republican Party comes out of the mid-term elections this year controlling the House and Senate. After that, we can focus on who should be living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Friday afternoon, West took the conference by storm when he was introduced by a film clip of Mel Gibson playing Scottish warrior William “Braveheart” Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge during the First War of Scottish Independence in 1297.
In the movie, the Gibson character rallied the Scottish warriors by asking the question that West posed to the RLC audience: “Are you with me?”
Looking very much like a presidential candidate, West received a standing ovation in response to his questions.
“Well, then,” he continued. “I have a message for Washington. You don’t compromise your principles.”
West insisted that if the GOP is to win elections, it must establish an emotional connection based on conservative principles that will resonate with all Americans, including the minorities in the inner cities that Democrats typically consider their voters by default.
“Today we stand on an ideological battlefield where we look across and we see the Democrats,” he said. “We see the left. We see the progressive socialists. We see the secular humanists. We see radical Islam. But are we going to run away? Will we not stand at this moment of time to fight for what is so sacred to us as American people? And that is our freedom.”
At this point, and throughout his speech, West was interrupted by strong and enthusiastic applause.
Citing the famous “Braveheart” hero, West called for courageous leadership in the Republican Party, referencing President Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” declarations against Syria.
“The opposite of courage is to say we have red lines, then when those red lines come to bear, you say, that is not my red line,” said West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in the Iraq War.
“We in the Republican Party cannot believe we are going to win elections based on the friends we have in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “When we have all the issues on our side, we should be able to win elections. But to do so, Republicans have to get out there and make the emotional connection with people.”
West championed conservative values, arguing they will connect with all Americans. He said he sees no reason why the Republican Party shouldn’t open headquarter offices in the heart of Democratic strongholds in the nation’s minority communities.
“We cannot win as the GOP by trying to be a lesser version of the other side,” he insisted.
“Having been on battlefields, I know we as Republicans have the courage to press forward to secure the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. The American people are waiting for someone to come on the battlefield and say, ‘Rally Around Me!’”
West asserted the Republican Party must have a vision for the future if voters are to be convinced.
“Like my mother taught me, ‘A man must stand for something, otherwise he will fall for anything,’” West said.
West urged the audience to be relentless in their pursuit of liberty.
“I have a message to everyone in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We have principles and we don’t compromise. Courage, character, conviction and confidence – that’s what we need to produce here and now another Braveheart, equal to the leadership of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, another rising conservative star in the Republican Party, followed West on the Friday afternoon RLC program.
“It’s time to expect more,” Lee said, framing the central theme of his speech. “It’s time to expect freedom.”
Lee turned this theme into a stinging criticism of Obama’s leadership.
“Don’t settle for trillion-dollar deficits. Expect balanced budgets. Don’t settle for a president with a pen and a phone. Expect Congress to do its job.”
Lee said citizens “have a right to live in a land where are laws are made by the legislative branch, not by the judicial branch, and certainly not by the executive branch.”
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich closed the RLC program Friday afternoon.
The highlight of Gingrich’s speech was an attack on the Obama administration for allowing the medical care provided veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs to deteriorate to the current crisis level.
“We owe it to the veterans and to their families to do whatever it takes to fix this,” he demanded. “We cannot ask our brave military to have courage on the battlefield if we do not have the courage to clean up the Veterans Administration so we can deliver the best possible quality of medical service to those American heroes who have worn the uniform.”