So you tell me: who's more dangerous, divisive and delusional -- CNN contributor Hilary Rosen or U.S. Representative Allen West? Based on their past declarations and history -- plus a judicious Google search -- I'd have to say Allen West by about twelve thousand furlongs. For while Rosen's comment about Ann Romney (" . . . she's never worked a day in her life . . .") has become the political flashpoint of the week, Representative West's statement that " . . . there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party" sounds and feels like the rebirth of McCarthyism. I don't know about you, but when it comes to being dangerous, divisive and delusional, Rep. West wins this one hands down.
When asked to recant and apologize for her comment, Ms. Rosen issued a statement in which she said, "I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance." Ms. Rosen (who herself has raised two children) also published a piece in The Huffington Post, which said in part, ". . . Let's be clear on one thing. I have no judgments about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family. I admire women who can stay home and raise their kids full-time. I even envy them sometimes. It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let's stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today."
For those who at this point are crying out "But that's no apology!" guess again. Even former first lady Barbara Bush commended Rosen's mea culpa, telling people ". . . forget it. Life is good. Women who stay home are wonderful, women who go to work are wonderful. Whatever." At a time when all sides of the media love playing "Gotcha!" the response to Hillary Rosen's verbal gaffe is far from unique. That she has been taken to the woodshed by both the stalwarts of the Right and members of her own party is hardly surprising. Obama campaign chair David Axelrod told CNN's John King that Rosen's comments were "unfortunate," but quickly reminded him that ". . . she works for you (CNN), not for us . . ."
While everyone in America now knows that Hilary Rosen accused Ann Romney of "never having worked a day in her life," few realize that this was only the first part of her statement. For beginning with the very next sentence, Rosen added, "She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future." In checking out numerous websites -- right, center and left -- dealing with the Rosen/Romney scrap, it is amazing how many people have felt the need to mention that Hilary Rosen is a lesbian, but that "this has nothing to do with how I feel about what she said." Well, if it has "nothing to do with . . . what she said," why bring it up in the first place?
Lost in the current imbroglio is the fact that there is still more than a germ of truth in what Hilary Rosen said; people like Ann Romney cannot truly understand just how difficult it is for two-wage earner families to make ends meet. For most American families raising children is something one does after eight -- or ten, or twelve -- hours of work. Staying home with a sick child can mean a loss of income; taking time off to give birth can mean a loss of employment.
Then there's Alan West.
Where Hilary Rosen quickly gave in to demands that she apologize to both Ann Romney and the women of America, Allen West has remained unbowed, unapologetic and defiant; he truly believes that of the 193 Democrats in the House, more than 40% are members of the Communist Party. When asked to comment on West's assertion, Libero Della Piana, a vice-chair of the Communist Party said, "I think it's an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It's kind of a sad ploy."
While it's a pity that Hilary Rosen's remark threw a rhetorical monkey wrench into an otherwise serious, much-needed political debate, it is an even greater pity that Rep. West should attempt to recycle and revive one of the darkest, most gruesome episodes in American history. To be certain, there are some mighty big differences between the America of Martin Dies, Joe McCarthy, J. Parnell Thomas, and the John Birch Society than that of Allen West, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers. Back then, people got their news from journalists like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith and Eric Severeid; today we've got a thousand-and-one cable entertainers, few of whom qualify for the title "newsman." In the McCarthy era, nearly 35% of the American labor force belonged to a union; today the percentage is not quite 12%. Back in the day, the "international conspiracy" was made up of Jews, unions, Zionists, even plutocratic bankers, all puppets dangling on strings manipulated by Stalinist agents in Moscow, Hollywood, the Lower East Side and certain segments of Capitol Hill. Today, all that has changed; the Soviet Union no longer exists, and thus can no longer act as puppet master.
Or does it? Just three weeks ago Mitt Romney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that " . . . Russia is, without question, our biggest geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors."
Representative West, who has been suggested as an "ideal running mate" for Romney, would appear to agree with the former Massachusetts governor; Russia is still the enemy, Communism still the greatest source of evil.
West is of course well-known for making outrageous comments:
- “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat party."
- [Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is] "Vile, unprofessional and despicable . . . not a lady."
- “I am sick and tired of this class warfare, this Marxist demagogic rhetoric that is coming from the president of the United States. Barack Hussein Obama is nothing more than a low-level socialist agitator.”
- Speaking of Congressional Democrats: “Take your message of equality of achievement…You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.”
From where I sit, Allen West, like Joseph McCarthy, is divisive, delusional, and just plain dangerous. Like McCarthy, he says things he knows are not true in order to garner public attention; in order to separate himself from the nameless pack. Like McCarthy he has identified a segment of the American public that is beset with fear, loathing and resentment -- and announced that he can be counted on to be their champion. And like McCarthy he is a master of political misdirection -- of creating conspiracies out of thin air.
Hilary Rosen has apologized for her gaffe; her political compass will lead her back to a proper path.
Allen West, on the other hand, is a man without a compass . . . or a conscience.
It's a whale of a pity.
©2012 Kurt F. Stone