This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The Internet is buzzing over a Republican congressional candidate in Florida by the name of Colonel Allen West, and it's all thanks to this impassioned speech which was caught on video and soon after became a viral hit all over the Web. Let's take a look.


COL. ALLEN WEST, R-FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is what America's about. This is what America is about when it comes to understanding that it is equal opportunity versus equal achievement.

Each and every one of us has the opportunity for greatness in this country. A person like myself, born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia, to lower-middle-class parents. But I had the opportunity to get an education, to go and earn a commission in the United States Army, to serve for 22 years, to lead men and women in combat.

That was done not because the government came down and tried to make the rules and change for me. It was done because I realized I was an American, and I had the freedom and ability to do that.


•Video: Watch West's speech

HANNITY: All right. So is Colonel West's message the one that will resonate with voters in 2010?

Joining me now from Washington is the man himself. He is the Republican congressional candidate in Florida's 22nd District, retired Colonel Allen West.

Colonel, welcome aboard, sir.

WEST: A pleasure. Merry Christmas, and it's really an honor to be with you, Sean.

HANNITY: Well, I'm glad you can say that. It's not a public school, so you're free here to say "Merry Christmas." I'm kidding.

WEST: Absolutely.

HANNITY: Are you as shocked? Apparently, this video of yours going viral, has been seen by millions of people. Are you surprised by the reaction?

• Video: Watch Sean's interview

WEST: Yes, I'm usually surprised when I stepped out on that stage to give that little short six minute speech, I never thought it would have the impact that it is having.

But I think the think that it shows is that the American people are looking for principle leadership. They understand that you need the courage, the competence, the commitment, the conviction and the character to step up and do the things that are right, to accept the future and the legacy for this great republic that's threatened right now.

HANNITY: All right. You served 22 years in the — for the armed forces for the Army. You're retired. And what I found amazing is what you're saying in here. You were talking about growing up, starting at the bottom, making your way to the top. It's an interesting concept.

You're not looking for, let's see, a bailout. You're not looking for a handout. You're not looking for free health care. I mean, you actually — it seems like an out-of-date concept. Nobody — how come nobody else talks about this today?

WEST: Well, I think that's one of the things that we're losing, and you talked about that earlier. To understand the conservatism is truly the interaction of life, society, and governance that advances the individual by adhering to the foundational constitutional principle of liberty.

And my parents bringing me up, they taught me about individual rights and freedoms; individual responsibility and accountability. And most of all they told me to get out there and take advantage of the opportunities that this country has and never look to anyone to give you some type of handout or help you out, because that is what this country is about. That is what makes it great. And if we don't reestablish that basic foundational principle of liberty, this country can be down the road of ruin.

HANNITY: Our parents must have been related because I've got to tell you something: that's the same message I grew up with.

Do you think Americans have become conditioned to look to the government, to be the answer to all of their problems? Is that, in part, what this health care debate is all about?

WEST: Yes. Incredibly so. You know, the thing is you've looked and seen right now that the government is starting to extend itself more and more.

When you looked at the president today at, I believe, Home Depot talking about how he's concerned about making homes energy efficient. That's not his responsibility. His responsibility should be about how do we make us energy independent?

And I think right now you're seeing a change in paradigm of the type of individuals that are coming out to run for Congress, to run for other offices from the local level all the way up to the national level, because the grass roots realize that they have to elevate individuals that understand what they are going through and understand the American values.

HANNITY: All right. So the president grades himself, gives himself a strong B-plus. If he passes health care an A-minus. How would you grade him?

WEST: I have to tell you that I think that this president has failed. And the reason why I think this president has failed is because you look at the stimulus package. He said that, "If you pass my stimulus package, unemployment will stay below 8 percent."

In the state of Florida, we have unemployment that's about 11 percent or a little bit higher.

You look at the fact that now we have this cap-and-trade bill that is sitting out there, which is nothing but behavior modification through taxation, trying to force Americans to go to this green agenda.

No one talked about the fact that in this year under the Obama administration you've seen the highest casualties in Afghanistan. And the fact that it took him almost 90 days to figure out what his strategy is going to be was absolutely appalling.

We still are not talking about illegal immigration. We're still not talking about energy independence. And I guess this president believes that job creation is giving 22 staffers to his wife.

HANNITY: All right, so let me go back to something we discussed earlier in this program. Because everything you're saying I agree with. I want to see a new Republican Party. I want to see a revitalized Republican party to quote Reagan.

Energy-independence, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, free-market solutions to health care education. Things you talk about.

My question is, is some Republicans still don't get it. And we saw them voting for these earmarks. What do you — were do you see the problems with the Republican Party? Is there — they've stood against cap-and-tax and the stimulus and the health care bill. But when they vote for earmarks, doesn't it frustrate — does it frustrate you as it does me?

WEST: It absolutely does frustrate me. And I think, if you go back to the special election that happened in New York 23, you saw some problems there in the candidate that the Republican Party put forward.

There is, without a doubt, a sort of internal struggle that's going on within the Republican Party about what is the message. What are the — what is the thing that is going to become the foundation of this party as it moves forward?

And I think you have to go back to understanding those Reagan principles, the basic conservative values, that, as you talked about, resonate with the limited government, with the fiscal responsibility, the free market solution. But more importantly, we have to get away from leadership by entitlement.

HANNITY: And have you ever thought about being speaker? You sound like you're doing a great job.

WEST: Thank you.

HANNITY: Colonel, I really wish you the all the best in your election. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

WEST: Thank you for having me.

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