West’s hypocrisy: Talk-show host deserves apologyStephen GoldsteinColumnist
May 15, 2011
If the original Boston tea partiers had had to follow Congressman Allen West‘s rules, we’d still be a British colony. He needs to “man up” and apologize to radio talk-show host Nicole Sandler.
She was arrested at one of his recent town hall meetings for the crime of exercising her First Amendment right — and “becoming physically aggressive,” according to the police report, a charge which she denies. It shocked and grieved me to see her being treated like a common criminal — eventually held overnight in jail (three hours in solitary confinement) and maced. Watch the videos of her ordeal at radioornot.com. In one of them, West’s wife tries to grab Sandler’s camera, before she even speaks out.
Hypocrisy of hypocrisies: Tea party/Republican West was elected in 2010, benefiting from a wave of disruptive, mass, orchestrated tea-party protests around the country during town hall meetings on health system reform. Sandler acted alone. But now that West, who went to Washington to “take back” the government for “the people,” is a member of Congress, he appears only to want to hear from “the people” if their questions are screened and sanitized.
First, a little about my history with Sandler. I have known her personally for many years. Well-known and respected, she is a passionate advocate for liberal issues. Controversial, she knows what she’s talking about: Her positions are solid and well-researched. She had her own radio show on WINZ, the Air America affiliate in South Florida, now hosts a weekday radio show at radioornot.com and pinch-hits for nationally syndicated Randi Rhodes. Sandler has interviewed Kingsley Guy and me numerous times — and we have guest-hosted her program.Second, a little background about my history with West. I met him only once, which was quite enough. My “Dueling Columnist” partner, Kingsley Guy, and I had been invited to debate at the Tower Forum in Fort Lauderdale. During the Q&A, no one stopped West from publicly telling me that, because of my political views, I was destroying the country.
He appointed himself judge and jury of my patriotism. No one made him write down his comments and hand them to someone else to censor or deliver — as attendees at his “town hall” were required to do. No matter how subjective, offensive, or outrageous his comments were to me, no one muzzled him. He didn’t hesitate to be confrontational. I told West that I would see to it that he wasn’t elected to Congress, which of course I had no intention of doing — because I don’t engage in revenge journalism. We spoke civilly after the event.
West could have diffused tension when, ignoring his rules, Sandler spoke up. He could have listened to her, answered and then continued. Instead, he watched as she was handcuffed and taken away.
But the retired Army lieutenant colonel needs to get out of military mode and take a course in “How to handle objections,” because he’s in for opposition wherever he goes. His extremist voting record puts him at odds with most Americans, even most Republicans — especially because he defends the GOP destruction of Medicare, the subject Sandler wanted clarified.
She, who lives in West’s district, wonders why he doesn’t. (He lives in Plantation and his member of Congress is Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) She also finds it odd that the Calvary Church, where he held the town hall she attended, isn’t in his district.
West’s handling of his town hall set in motion a shameful chain of events that is typical of today’s divided America. But it’s not too late for him to take the high road and acknowledge mistakes made in his name.
I have not discussed this with Sandler, but he would rise in everybody’s estimation if he were big enough publicly to clear the air with her — even give her the hearing she was denied at his town hall by being a guest on her radio program. I’m waiting for him to show me he’s a bigger man than I have reason to believe he is.
Stephen L. Goldstein’s commentaries appear on alternate Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel