Col. Allen West opened the final 22nd district debate Monday morning with a speech that could have been pulled directly from a tea party manifesto. In a mere four minutes, West railed against the health care reform bill, Cap and Trade, high unemployment, TARP, auto bailouts, foreclosure rates, card check, an increase in the federal debt limit, the stimulus, and “shovel-ready” jobs that, as President Obama has now admitted, weren’t ready for shovels at all. West didn’t spare the GOP, either.
“The Republicans got us in trouble, no doubt about it. The eight years of George W. Bush, we had $1.8 trillion of spending. Then these 20 months under the Obama administration with Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representative, we have seen $2.8 trillion be spent in the United States of America,” West said. “We cannot continue on that road, where now each and every American — man, woman and child — would have to write a check for $45,000 in order to get rid of this debt.”
Later, when discussing illegal immigration, West rattled off a Constitutional bibliography to support his point.
“If you study the Constitution, you will see in Article 1 section 8, Article 1 section 10, Article 4 section 4, and then also the 10th amendment, which lays down the responsibilities of the federal government, also, the abilities of the state to protect its citizens in case of imminent danger, and opportunity to act without delay,” West said.
With a message like that, in a year like this, it’s no wonder that West is raking in the donations — $1.6 million in the third quarter, more than double the $782,000 that Klein pulled in.
For his part, Klein defended the health care reform bill as a work-in-progress, and said that legislators made bailout and stimulus decisions when the country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs every month.
“It’s easy to go back as Mr. West is doing, and say, ‘oh, I would have done this, and I would have done this,’” Klein said.
Klein has spent most of his campaign efforts labeling West as an extremist, and Monday’s debate was no exception. Though West has stated that he supports a flat tax over the Fair Tax, Klein repeatedly tried to tie the colonel to the proposal, which would replace federal taxes with a 23-percent consumption tax. Klein also suggested that a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.
“If you want to talk about deficits, and discuss this — and this trillions of dollars of deficit — if you kept this current tax policy intact, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Klein said.
He also continued to hammer West’s personal life. NBC News ran a story on Friday suggesting ties between West and a South Florida biker gang, which Klein said is another example of an irresponsible “pattern of conduct.”
West said he spoke about the Constitution at a biker rally, but denied any affiliation with the criminal group.
“Now there were gentlemen that were there from another group; that does not mean I’m associated with that group,” West said. “And if anyone wants to talk about my character, let me tell you something. Folks, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t party, you can ask anybody that knows me. I don’t hang out with gangs.”
And besides, West pointed out, in the realm of guilt-by-association, Klein has actively campaigned with Rep. Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge impeached on bribery charges.