July 25, 2011

She Said, He Said: West vs.Wasserman

Debbie Wasserman SchultzShe Said
Debbie Wasserman's remarks on the House Floor  in which she responded -- without naming West-- to his  support for "Cut, Cap, and Balance" legislation to raise the debt ceiling:

"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," Wasserman Schultz said, saying the legislation "slashes Medicaid and critical investments essential to winning the future in favor of protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires, and companies who ship American jobs overseas."

"Apologize for what?" He Said:
In response, via email, copied to members of the House Republican and Democratic leadership:

 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!   

[Emphasis mine]

Its wonderful red meat to the base, and perhaps plays very well in his home district, but I can’t say I care for it, nor that it makes me regard congressman Allen West as particularly statesman like in any way. Wasserman and West have history, I get that. Its no surprise therefore that he regards her as a really tawdry no class politician. Totally understandable. She has gotten up to some mess opposing him.

That said, if you are going to accuse someone of lacking in class, you should show a little yourself. If you put what she said up next to what he said and you don’t know any of the background (90% of people won’t) his response looks over the top. The only way it looks reasonable is if you know something about the backstory and thats my problem with it. If your sound bite has to be explained, you lost the soundbite war.

Shay Riley, of the outstanding Booker Rising blog, defends West's comments and argues he's being unfairly smeared with the Angry Black Man Brush,

A black man -- especially a conservative one -- is never supposed to get angry in the public square. Black conservatives are supposed to be quiet, and defer to liberals. They aren't supposed to challenge the impact of liberalism on black communities or question Democratic policies, as Rep. West does. 

.....Meanwhile, whites who have expressed themselves much more harshly get a pass. Before he left Congress in January, former Rep. Alan Grayson was infamous for rants that included referring to other Congressional members as "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthals" and referring to former Vice President Dick Cheney (then in office) as a blood-sucking vampire. 

Then there are former Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D-Ill.) actions such as sending a dead fish to a pollster, his profanity-laced tirades at other Congressional members, and other infamous antics that have earned the former White House chief of staff the nickname "Rahmbo". Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) has a well-documented history of angry outbursts

Whereas white men have the luxury of being angry with little or no sanction no matter how outrageous their conduct, the double standard results in a similarly situated black man who has even a mild emotional response risking far more sanction. 

Now, there is some truth to Shay's point, but I would argue, so what? Life ain't fair and politics ain't beanbag. We scoff when Sheila Jackson Lee alludes to racial double standards, but want to give it credence when West or Cain references it? We are not even consistent in that sense, considering how people scoffed at Steele's "slimmer margin for error" comments.  The fact is, the email WAS angry and used the language of a schoolyard fight scenario.  I could rewrite West's email to her to be every bit as hard hitting and scathing, without any of the sexist trash talking or violence threatening atmospherics West used . If you want a personal fight, I'm happy to oblige? That sounds like gunslinger language from an old western, stuff the kids say in the school yard. Shut up? Or what? Is he going to kick her ass?  I will defend myself forthright?  Musketeer language that bit, is he going to challenge her to a duel?  I'm sorry, it comes off more silly than anything else to me, including the bit about taking his complaint to the leadership. On what grounds? That she exercised her political speech rights on the House floor as a duly elected member of Congress? House rules dictate that a member should not address another member and should "avoid impugning the motives of another member using offensive language or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary." She clearly referenced him, but you can't tell me that doesn't happen between members every day in Congress.

Partisans want knock down drag out rhetorical Armageddons big and small. I don’t. I want effectiveness, results and solutions. I’m not impressed by a grown ass former military black man cum politician issuing a public written statement like that to a woman. I didn’t find anything particularly admirable or politically smart about it all. He should have let his wife write it.