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The tea party's Maddest Hatter 

Lowdown

Just when you think the tea party Republican majority in the U.S. House couldn't possibly get any screwier, up jumps Rep. Allen West.

Once hailed as a tea party "star," the Florida Republican apparently has been spending way too much time down the rabbit hole with the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the March Hare, and the other wacky members of the Alice in Wonderland tea party.

How else to explain his latest eruption of right-wing Jabberwocky as he accuses a large group of his Democratic congressional colleagues of being communists?

This blast from the GOP's McCarthyite past came from West when he was asked at a town hall meeting about the number of "card-carrying Marxists" in Congress. Joe McCarthy would've been proud of West, who puffed himself up and declared: "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party."

As the audience broke out in murmurs of disbelief that such babbling nonsense was coming from their own Congress critter, he doubled down on this dastardly accusation by pointing to a legitimate group that he says is a nest of commies: "They actually don't hide it," he blurted. "It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus."

But wait — I know that group, I know nearly all of its members. They're good, solid, red-blooded, salt-of-the-Earth, American populists — not communists! As an aide to proud progressive caucus member Chellie Pingree of Maine put it: "Chellie is a Democrat, a farmer, and a Lutheran, but no, she is not a Communist."

When Woody Guthrie was smeared with the same baloney in the real McCarthy era, he explained that he wasn't a commie, "but I have been in the red most of my life."

Some worry that Allen West is a dangerous reincarnation of old Joe McCarthy — but he's way too much of a screwball to be dangerous.

The best thing to do would be to ridicule him — but he seems to be doing that on his own.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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