Today's New York Times has an article about black Republicans in this year's elections, a few of whom could win -- although not everyone believes it's going to be a watershed year:
Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, "It's worth remembering that the last time it was declared the 'Year of the Black Republican,' it fizzled out."
Um, that would be 2006, when Ken Mehlman, chair of the Republican National Committee, used the phrase "year of the black Republican" on Smiley's radio show. The Washington Post also used the phrase. The black Republicans in question? Ken Blackwell in the Ohio governor's race, Lynn Swann in the Pennsylvania governor's race, and, um, Michael Steele in the
But the Times suggests that this time is different:
State and national party officials say that this year's cast of black Republicans is far more experienced than the more fringy players of yore, and include elected officials, former military personnel and candidates who have run before.
In the latter two categories is Allen West, whose photo illustrates the article, and who's cited as one of the black Republicans who has a serious chance of winning (which I think is true).
No, West isn't "fringy" -- because his attitude and pronouncements are fully within the GOP mainstream. Let's start with the incident that got him drummed out of the Army -- an interrogation of a prisoner early in the Iraq War. Here's how National Review's Jed Babbin recounts it:
... Lt. Col. Allen B. West was told the [prisoner] was uncooperative, so he took a few of his men to the interrogation area to see for himself.... West entered the room, sat across from the man, drew his pistol, and placed it in his lap. West told him he had come to either get information, or to kill him. The prisoner responded by smiling and saying, "I love you." The interrogation continued, and one of West's troops lost his temper and started slapping the man. West then had his men take the prisoner outside, where he again threatened the man, telling him that he would kill him on the count of five if he didn't tell what he knew. The prisoner refused, and West fired his pistol into the air.
The interrogation continued, but not the beating. After about 20 more minutes of useless questioning, West grabbed the man, held him down near a box full of sand used to discharge jammed weapons, and said something like, "This is it. I'm going to count to five again, and if you don't give me what I want, I'm going to kill you." West held the man down, counted to five, and then fired his pistol into the discharging box about a foot from the Iraqi's head. He began talking. Over the next few minutes, the prisoner gave very specific information about the plot....
That ended West's military career -- and made him a hero at Free Republic and other wingnut outposts. In recent years, as he geared up for this congressional race, West has become a quotable blowhard. He's declared Islam the enemy of the West, stating that we are
"fighting a theo-political belief system that has been doing this since 622 A.D. -- 1388 years....
"You want to dig up Charles Martel and ask him why him why he was fighting the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732? You want to ask the Venetian fleet at Lepanto why they were fighting a Muslim fleet in 1571? You want to ask ... the Germanic and Austrian knights why they were fighting at the gates of Vienna in 1683? You want to ask people what happened at Constantinople and why today it is called Istanbul because they lost that fight in 1453?
"You need to get into the Koran ... and understand their precepts. This is not a perversion. They are doing exactly what this book says."
(On his campaign site he says that "this is the vilest and most determined enemy we have seen in our Republic's existence." Reached in Hell, Mr. Hitler declined to comment.)
He was mouthing off about Barack Obama back in 2008:
It ... seems rather humorous that the Presidential candidate who was supposed to be such a "uniter" and transcend race is the one talking about it the most. If Senator Obama was confident in his abilities and character, he would not need to create a crutch for failure. Senator Obama has just tipped his hand, any criticism of him and his policies will be directly attributed to racism. I congratulate Senator Obama for taking race relations in America back some 30 years.
And, since Obama was inaugurated, he's continued denouncing him in the sort of language that used to be reserved for half-mad letters to the editor in small-circulation newspapers:
...we have ... an effete, ineffective President whose nuanced intellectual elite responses offer no support to those desiring Liberty. Indeed, President Obama's apologetic Cairo speech just emboldened the Mad Mullahs and Annoying Ayatollah's, as well as Johnny Jihadi. The theocrats and despotic autocrats who dominate the Islamic world realize they are free to butcher and suppress their own people, young people, who desire one thing.....Freedom.
Imagine if Obama existed in the days of the Soviet Union, Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel, would that wall have indeed come down? I know that the "messiah" believes that his mere presence and a teleprompted speech will convice killers to lay down their arms and worship at his feet.
That is the state of delusional malignant narcissism which now occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave....
My message to President Barack Hussein Obama, there is no button to vote "present" in the Oval Office. If you have not the courage to face the enemy, do us a favor, leave the Greatest office in the World and go make speeches, or co-host the Oprah Winfrey Show.
History is indeed repeating itself as the shadow of Sir Neville Chamberlain walks the halls of the White House.
But that's the tone of the GOP mainstream. That's not "fringy." The fringe is the center now.
Of course, Allen West has been endorsed by -- who else? -- Sarah Palin.
I do think a lot of these candidates have a shot -- because they're by-the-book teabaggers and Palin/Limbaugh/Beck cover acts, and because the angry whites in the GOP base want to be able to say sneeringly to us, "See? We're not racist. You're the ones who have blacks on a plantation." So, yeah, this time probably is different.