TheDC Interview: Tea Party ‘leader’ Tom Trento on his attack on Allen West and the budget battle

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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The Hill newspaper reports that Tom Trento, who heads up a grassroots foreign policy group called United West and serves in a leadership role in a number of other Tea Party-related groups, has affixed the label “Tea Party defector” to several Tea Party-connected members of Congress who have come out in support of the Boehner debt plan (without a provision for a balanced budget amendment), including Florida Rep. Allen West.

The Daily Caller caught up with Trento to discuss his attack on West and his position on the debt ceiling debate.

What makes you a Tea Party leader? How many followers do you have?

The majority of my educational and activist work is in the national security sector dealing with issues like Shariah Islam, border vulnerability, nuclear Iran and the necessity for America to fully recognize and support Israel as a national security partner.

Over the past two years, I have spent a significant amount of time with the grassroots Tea Party community, most of whom are seeking information and direction on the issues upon which I focus. In this capacity, I began working with a small group of serious Tea Party activists to develop a comprehensive national security campaign that will be launched sometime early next year …

Though I’m not trying to be the leader of any movement, only an educator/activist, judging by the opinion of others, there are many thousands, if not millions of Tea Party “members” who are interested in the material I communicate. A comprehensive national security policy necessitates sound economic stability, thus my participation in this current debt debate.

Most economic experts and businessmen believe defaulting would be catastrophic. Do you agree with that? If not, what makes you sure enough in your position that you would be willing to risk plunging America into greater financial crisis?

Look, I’ve been running around Washington, D.C. for over thirty years and I’ve lost count of all the Chicken Little “plunging, devastating, end-of-the-world” scenarios that come into play in 11th hour politicking. I also find it interesting that those Tea Party candidates who just a few days ago were arguing my position, standing firm on the Cut Cap, Balance Act, are now — after “getting their asses in line” — arguing the opposite position.

I submit that their change of position had more to do with the politics of the moment, than the proposed devastating consequences. Moreover, if the Democrats were so concerned about this nightmare scenario, just deal with the CCB Act that is sitting on their table. We have competent economic analysts on both sides which usually means stick with your principles and do not blink!

Even conservative economic icons such as Thomas Sowell have come out in favor of the Boehner deal. Why do you continue to oppose it at the risk of America’s economic position?

We are living in historic moments where the voice of the millions of America voters, who made electoral history, are more concerned about the principle of serious and significant economic responsibility than the opinion of icons, pundits, or even the self-serving agenda of the President of the United States.

This current debate is not just another issue in D.C., it is an indicator of whether America moves in the direction of maintaining a democratic capitalistic system or heads toward a European system, where individual dependency is traded for governmental dependency, that is, citizens turn first to the state to solve their problems, whether large or small …

As conservative economist Walter Williams — a frequent Rush Limbaugh fill-in host — has noted, the balanced budget amendment is irrelevant to our current budget debate. The constitutional amendment process is very slow. By the time it could be enacted, the time would have likely long past for America to get its budget situation under control. Given that, why push the BBA when it’s irrelevant?

Mr. Williams and all other balanced budget naysayers are simply, at best, emphasizing pragmatic politics over principled governance. In fact, Mr. Williams is focusing on the micro when in fact the “less-sophisticated” Tea Party folks include, with the micro, the macro solution …

Are you calling for a primary challenge for Florida Rep. Allen West for supporting the Boehner plan?

No, I am not calling for a primary challenge for Congressman West. I am warning Mr. West and all other CCB pledge-takers that there are massive political consequences when “defecting” on principled issues at this moment in history.

I love Allen West. He is my congressman and my friend. I have helped him in the past and I will help him in the future unless his compromised moment of weakness after getting beat up by the established politicians becomes the norm. In that case, the statesman Allen West who energized a nation would have been consumed by the “curse” of the Beltway and become nothing more than another politician …

Considering that Allen West has personified the Tea Party, and probably has more support nationally from rank and file Tea Party members than you or any other Tea Party leader, do you fear marginalizing yourself and the Tea Party by taking him on?

A long time ago I decided that I can contribute more to this country that I love by working outside the system than inside in an elected position. Along with that decision is a complete disregard for any concern of being marginalized. Let me tell you, there is true freedom in not worrying what others think, but lest you conclude I’m a “loose cannon,” ah … quite contraire. First and foremost I’m an evangelical Christian who takes very seriously my calling and recognizes the importance of making sure I don’t do anything that causes me to be marginalized by … God!

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.