The Players: Freshman GOP Rep. Allen West, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who represents the Fort Lauderdale area which makes up Florida's 22nd District; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair who represents parts of South Florida--the 20th District.
The Opening Serve: During yesterday's debate on the "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation, Wasserman Schultz took to the floor and criticized West's support for its passage after he had left the floor--which, Slate reports,violates the House's rules of debate. "This is yet another thinly veiled attempt by our colleagues across the aisle to end Medicare as we know it," she said. "The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a member from South Florida."
Instead of striking those comments, West brought the fight online. Politico reports that they obtained an email West wrote to Schultz. They write that West had copied various House Republican and Democratic officials on the memo, as well as his chief of staff, Jonathan Blyth.
From: Z112 West, Allen
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 04:48 PM
To: Wasserman Schultz, Debbie
Cc: McCarthy, Kevin; Blyth, Jonathan; Pelosi, Nancy; Cantor, Eric
Subject: Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz
Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!
I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior……which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.
You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!
Steadfast and Loyal
Congressman Allen B West (R-FL)
The Return Volley: " I don't think that Congressman West is upset at the Congresswoman," wrote Wasserman Schultz's communications director, Jonathan Beeton, in an email to Politico yesterday. "But rather with the fact that she highlighted that he and other Republicans are once again trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children and the middle class. ... The truth hurts," he concluded.
West's team responded to ABC yesterday. A representative said that West contacted Wasserman Schultz directly and House leadership. "The Congresswoman's actions were unprofessional and cowardly. The constituents in Florida see Congressman West as a true leader and a man of principle while Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is once again viewed as politics as usual, and her true character sadly shown today," said Angela Sachitano, communications director for West.
What They Say They're Fighting About: The "Cut, Cap and Balance" Act, representation, and professional disagreement. Wasserman Schultz said she couldn't support the act because of its similarity to the Ryan Budget Plan. In the past, West has gone on record saying he supports privatizing Medicare, and supports the "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan. Wasserman Schultz asserts that West is out of touch with the people who live in his congressional district and isn't using his vote to represent them. She also doesn't hesitate to attack her "colleagues across the aisle." Similarly, West is quick to warn Wasserman Schultz to mind and represent her own district.
What They're Really Fighting About: Their history and general dislike for one another--that's our guess. West brings up a specific incident in his e-mail. In October 2010, Wasserman Schultz protested outside West's headquarters his contributions to what she believed was a misogynistic biker magazine. She told the Palm Beach Post that the magazine, which regularly features bare-breasted or naked women, was "degrading, sexist and misogynistic.'" West said Wasserman Schultz "incited a political riot." Earlier this year, the two had a spat in the Sun Sentinel about political rhetoric in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.
Who's Winning: Wasserman Schultz.These two have a prickly history. But Wasserman Schultz has let West do much of his own digging. In one email, he challenged a woman to a fight, questioned said woman's ladyhood, and brought up a protest to his perceived misogynistic connections--not exactly the best response from someone trying to shake that misogynistic image. Challenging someone to a fight also doesn't help when you've been accused of violent rhetoric and when trying to disprove a violent image--West was fined $5,000 in 2003 for harsh interrogation tactics. Wasserman Schultz might not have been able to prove if West was voting against the will of his people, but West's email hardly qualifies as damage control. And today, there are reports of Democrats using West's email to spur fundraising.