Oh, my gosh, did you hear that Rep. Allen West claims there are seventy or eighty card-carrying members of the Communist Party serving as Democrats in Congress? The House Un-American Activities Committee must be re-opening for business!
That’s the headline you’ll see all over the left side of the blogosphere. And it’s got to be true, because they’ve got video! Here’s a clip of West (R-FL) speaking at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach on Tuesday:
Except all of these video clips are very carefully edited to cut out the next thing West said. Here is the quote in full, with the omitted part presented in boldface:
It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
He is very clearly not saying he thinks there are eighty secret Commies working as moles in the Democrat Party. He’s insulting the Congressional Progressive Caucus by saying they’re functionally equivalent to the Communist Party. The Caucus has 76 members, so West guessed a bit high when he rattled the number off the top of his head.
Now, that’s a provocative jibe, and anyone sympathetic to the Congressional Progressive Caucus is perfectly entitled to be duly provoked, but portraying West as seriously suggesting Boris and Natasha lurk in the House cloak room, hatching plots against Moose and Squirrel, is silly and disingenuous. One can chastise West for noodling the CPC in this manner without editing his remarks to make him sound like a wild-eyed disciple of Joe McCarthy.
An alternative brand of misreporting about West’s town hall meeting holds that he claims to have “heard” there are 80 dirty Commies running around Capitol Hill, insinuating that the Congressman is a credulous dimwit who reflexively believes and repeats such outlandish allegations.
The CBS news affiliate in Miami manages to misrepresent the Congressman – complete with the headline “Rep. Allen West: 80 Communist Party Members in U.S. House” – even though they included the full transcript of West’s remarks, and a further statement from his office, in the body of their article:
It wasn’t quite Joseph McCarthy waving around papers claiming to know of communists in the federal government, but according to the Palm Beach Post, Congressman Allen West claims he “has heard” there are communists in the House of Representatives.
According to the Post, West was talking to Jensen Beach voters this week when he said President Barack Obama was “scared” to have a discussion with him.
West then said that “he’s heard” up to 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Communist Party members, but declined to give the names of any of the alleged members, according to the Post.
…and in the very next paragraphs, the CBS article relates the question West was asked at his town hall meeting (“What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?”) and his full reply, which does not include West saying he’s “heard” any such scurrilous rumors. And he most certainly did name them! He said he was talking about the Congressional Progressive Caucus, although he didn’t run through all 76 individual names.
West isn’t splitting any hairs about his meaning, as a follow-up statement from his office made clear:
The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom.
The CBS Miami post also included this statement, although it’s written in a manner that suggests the full statement was inserted later, after the writer took a stab at paraphrasing it. They nevertheless went with the “Rep. Allen West: 80 Communist Party Members in U.S. House” headline.
Whatever trouble this little dust-up might cause Rep. West, it’s worth it, because the responses from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Communist Party USA are hilarious. First up, the Progressive Caucus:
CBSMiami reached out to Co-Chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Raul Grijalva for their comments on the issue.
Rep. Raul Grijalva’s office sad the CPC declined to comment on the record, but did say in an email that Politifact has debunked everything West was referring to last year.
“Just because you are a member of the Progressive Caucus does not mean you are a socialist,” Politifact said in September 2011.
Well, now, hang on a moment there, Rep. Grijalva. West didn’t say you guys were like socialists. He compared you to communists. Are you saying that’s the same thing? Could you folks over at the CPC whip up a little essay on the precise differences between “progressives,” “socialists,” and “communists” to clear up the confusion?
Even more entertaining is the angry reaction of the actual Communist Party USA, which apparently remains large enough to have both a chairman and multiple vice-chairmen, according to this report in Politico:
“I just think it’s an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy,” Libero Della Piana, a vice-chairman of the national Communist Party, said of the Florida Republican’s charge that about 80 House Democrats were members of the radical party.
“It’s just guilt by association taken to an extreme,” he told POLITICO. He also said there are no members of Congress who are members of the Communist Party – not even avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Aha! So the Communists think socialists are not the same thing as communists! Could someone forward Rep. Grijalva’s email address to Comrade Vice Chairman Della Piana, so they could collaborate on that white paper I requested?
On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea, because Della Piana kept talking, and things started to get really confusing:
Della Piana also said that using the term “communist” as slander ran counter to democratic principles.
“We are supposed to live in a political democracy,” he said. “I didn’t know that being a Communist in Congress was off-limits or out of bounds. There aren’t any now and if there were in the future does that mean that the voters don’t have a say? Can’t choose a Communist to be in Congress?”
In fact, charges from the tea party that President Barack Obama and other Democrats were enacting “socialist” policies has led to increased interest in socialism, Della Piana said.
“I think a lot of Americans were opened up the idea of socialism because of the tea party’s attack on it,” he said. “I think they put it back on the agenda. By attacking every policy initiative of the president as socialism, they put it back in the public debate… it wasn’t exactly something the average American was talking about before that.”
So now he’s saying socialism is basically what the Communist Party USA is all about, or at least they view it as an appetizer to the main totalitarian course they offer. And it should be totally cool for an out-and-proud Communist to serve in Congress, but it’s also a “slander” to insinuate that a sitting member of Congress might have Communist sympathies. I’m sure this was probably all covered in more detail at an Occupy Wall Street meeting.
The comedy of the situation comes from the tortured maze of leftist taxonomy, which is made shadowy and complex by their constant need to lie about what they really believe, sometimes even to themselves. Socialism is super awesome… until nervous independents start thinking that’s what Democrat Party orthodoxy boils down to. They can’t call themselves “liberals” any more, because that sends voters fleeing into the streets. They’re pretty sure they’re not “communists,” even though very few rank-and-file American leftists understand what communism or Marxism really are… or, more importantly, why they are always and invariably murderous failures.
And they’re absolutely certain they despise “fascism,” even though few of them have a clue what that really means, how it differs from Nazism, or how it was sold to its original, and quite enthusiastic, consumers.