Wild, wild West

WILD, WILD WEST…. Last week’s episode of “Meet the Press” featured an interview with a Democrat, an interview with a Republican, and a four-person roundtable featuring three conservatives and a journalist. (The Republican guest, by the way, was John McCain, who appears on the show so often, he’s had his mail forwarded to the green room.)

This week’s episode was similar: an interview with a Democrat, an interview with a Republican, and a four person roundtable featuring two conservatives, a journalist, and a vaguely center-left author.

But that’s really only part of the problem. Only one lawmaker was included on the program, and given who received the invitation, it’s hard to imagine what the bookers were thinking.

[Yesterday] morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, Rep.-elect Allen West (R-FL) somewhat puzzlingly joined the show’s panel, which also featured Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, author and reporter Richard Wolffe, and the New York Times’ Robert Draper. West is not yet a member of Congress, and is known mostly for his history of extreme statements targeting Islam, liberals, women — all issues host David Gregory chose not to explore with West, instead asking him somewhat banal questions about things like TSA screenings and a possible Sarah Palin candidacy. […]

If Meet the Press is going to ask extremists like Allen West to offer political analysis, it’s their responsibility to let viewers understand West’s philosophy clearly, so they can consider his views in the proper context.

That seems more than reasonable.

West’s inclusion on the panel is just bizarre. If the name seems familiar, West first gained notoriety during his military service in Iraq, when he was forced to retire from the Army for engaging in abusive interrogation techniques. More recently, he incorporated violent rhetoric into his campaign speeches, and made demonstrably ridiculous claims about his own background. Last month, we learned about West’s ties to a violent gang of criminals, which the Justice Department believes is involved in drug running, arson, prostitution, robbery, and murder.

Soon after his election, West announced his choice to be his chief of staff: a right-wing radio talk-show host who hates immigrants, hates Muslims, and has raised the prospect of an armed insurrection against the United States government. (The host soon after said she would not join West’s staff after all, but the fact that she was hired in the first place told us a great deal about the congressman-elect’s judgment.)

Under saner circumstances, West would be considered a fringe crackpot. Under our circumstances, West is an invited guest on “Meet the Press” — before he even casts a vote — where he faced no scrutiny for his borderline-dangerous background.

I realize finding guests the Sunday before a major holiday might be difficult, but “Meet the Press” has to have higher standards than this, doesn’t it?