On Monday, demagogic, Islam-hating Rep.-elect Allen West (R-Fla.) caused his first congressional controversy. Today, he announced his first flip-flop.
The firebrand tea partying West, who as an Army officer confessed to abusing detainees and won a conservative South Florida district last week, today reneged on a Monday promise to appoint right-wing radio host Joyce Kaufman as his congressional chief of staff. Kaufman is a fellow demagogue who spends her air time railing against Muslims, touting an "infidel" ballcap she wears, advocating the hanging of illegal immigrants, and saying Jews who vote for Barack Obama "don't embrace being Jews anymore." West's office made the announcement this morning in a statement:
It is with deep regret that this Congressional office and the people of CD 22 will not have Joyce Kaufman as my Chief of Staff. Joyce is a good friend, and will remain loyal to South Floridians and to me. I will always seek Joyce's counsel for being a good Representative of this Congressional District.
West's rhetoric tracks Kaufman's pretty closely, and they were thick as thieves on the campaign trail. But a counsel for the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said yesterday that Kaufman's appointment could be "problematic." It appears Republican House leaders may have stepped in, prevailing on West to turn down the crazy and pick a chief of staff who (unlike Kaufman) might actually have a modicum of experience with legislative affairs, media messaging, and constitutent services.
West's already-troubled tenure poses a direct challenge to Republican leadership that's not going away anytime soon: While it's in their political interest to keep loose-talking neophytes like him away from the limelight, where they might turn off mainstream voters, they can't deny that his brand of anger brings in the campaign cash. He was tops among all congressional challengers in donations this year, in no small part because of endorsements from the likes of Sarah Palin and small contributions from angry tea partiers and right-wing vets across the country. He has a chance to become the Michele Bachmann of the South, but only if he manages to avoid alienating his constituents with bad governance and worse sound bites.