The Significance of Congressman West

Amidst the rhetorical pyrotechnics surrounding July’s debt-ceiling debates,
another controversy streaked across the sky like a comet, flared for an
instant, then receded into the maelstrom of ongoing partisan attacks. The
shooting star in question involved an exchange between two of Congress’ most
controversial members, Allen West (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz
(D-Fla.), whose regard for one another constitutes something of a congressional
equivalent to how the Earps and Doc Holliday felt about the Clanton-McLaury
gang at the OK Corral.

Except in this case, only one of the participants was present, and this was the
problem. Their dispute, which since has reverberated through the internet, went
like this: "The gentleman from Florida," Wasserman Schultz intoned, "who
represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries … is supportive of this plan
that would increase the cost for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable from a
member from South Florida." That comment was too much for former Army Colonel
Allen West, who responded in an email in which he stated, in part: "You want a
personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional,
and despicable member of the U. S. 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."

Obviously, Congressman West is no one to trifle with.

All of which was dismissed as another example of hyperventilated partisan
bloviating, perhaps a bit too acrimonious in the case of Congressman West, but
otherwise best to be taken in stride with the rest of what angry lawmakers have
to say about each other. Further, it would seem that Congressman West comes out
looking a bit worse for expressing his unbridled contempt for Debbie Wasserman
Schultz while she only offered animadversions against his policy stance. By
this interpretation, the P.R. battles continue apace, with a slight nod for the
Democrat in this shootout at the Capitol Corral.

Another interpretation puts this matter in a different light. Congressman West
was not objecting to the substance of the Democrat’s comments, though of course
he was opposed; he objected in principle to the fact that he was not there when
she directed her comments at him. For Wasserman Schultz, pushing her agenda was
more important that conducting a debate about contesting views with an opponent
who was not present to answer her charges. In short, for Wasserman Schultz,
agenda trumped principle; for Congressman West—regardless of the directness of
his email message—principle superseded agenda, and that is why he became so

And as if to illustrate this difference, although unintentionally, the
Democrat’s office later released a ludicrous statement about how Colonel West
had perhaps "cracked" under the pressure of the budget debates and further
failed to grapple with the consequences of Republican policies for Medicare
recipients. To which a more informed observer might respond: Are you kidding
me? Congressman West, a decorated leader who would carry gas cans and march
through hell to help his men? In your dreams, Debbie! In short, Allen West
bristled with indignation over the violation of principle, to which
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz responded with a mushy sound bite extracted
from the Democratic agenda.

In fact, this incident illustrates a great deal about nearly every political
conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Certainly it’s the case that our
political parties represent opposing principles of politics: Republicans more
generally stand for principles of limited government, while Democrats espouse
views that reflect the statist ideology of European social democracies. But as
the West v. Wasserman Schultz controversy demonstrates, the differences between
the parties really go beyond this rather facile distinction, especially in the
era of the Obama administration. For instance, House Republicans have proposed
structural changes to America’s healthcare system to prevent insolvency and
collapse; Democrats retorted with accusations about throwing granny into the

These differences were further demonstrated by President Obama’s July 26 speech
in which he railed against oil companies, hedge-fund managers, and (gasp!)
corporate jet owners again, who, in his view, received special privileges at
the expense of Medicare recipients and college students seeking government
loans—all expressed in a series of schmaltzy, partisan banalities. Speaker John
Boehner’s response was based on constitutional principles absent from the
president’s speech.

This brings us back to Congressman West, who is a role model of clarity against
the din of left-wing prevarications about saving mythical grannies from
non-existent legislation. Democrats are accustomed to smearing Republicans when
they’re out of the room; they’re not accustomed to Republicans defending
themselves. Allen West fights back. Indeed, he represents scores of
conservative legislators who refuse to have their views constantly lied about
(especially in their absence) and who are not afraid to speak their minds about
their opponents’ tactics. Among such individuals, Congressman West stands tall
and he’s here to stay. And that is the significance of Congressman Allen West.

— Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for
American studies with [2]The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled
[3]"The Thirteenth Commandment."

[4] | [5]