Congressman Allen West and I have mutual friends. When he won election in November 2010, his phone number was given to me by someone who thought I would be a good fit working for him as a writer and spokesman. We had a pleasant conversation and he suggested I send my curriculum vitae to his chief of staff. At the end of the day I held back, leery of being pulled back into a life of hectic schedules marked by frequent crises.
Now I wonder if I made the right choice, because he needs some sane, loyal defenders in his camp. Instead I guess we have to settle for second best; namely, getting him some sane, loyal defenders outside his camp.
A little background is in order. The Congressman first came to national attention as Lieutenant Colonoel Allen West. During the Iraq War, the Lieutenant Colonel was questioning a recalcitrant terrorist who was not forthcoming with information about planned attacks in the area. To stimulate the gentleman’s recollection, the Lieutenant Colonel was said to have fired his weapon into a metal garbage can to create some cacophonous acoustics. This was not to the taste of some of his more genteel superiors and he was in hot water for a time.
When the Lieutenant Colonel resumed civilian life in South Florida, he announced for Congress as a conservative Republican. The seat he targeted includes Fort Lauderdale and some of its beachside environs, as far north as parts of the Palm Beaches. It had been held for many years by Republican Clay Shaw, who voted conservative except where money for seniors was involved. Shaw began winning by narrower margins as more Jews from the Northeast relocated into the area. Liberal Jews in state politics were salivating for that slot, which they thought rightfully theirs.
His slimmest victory came in 2000, when just such a politician, Elaine Bloom, was ahead in the tally from about the time CBS called Florida for Al Gore. Shaw refused to concede because he was down by a thousand votes or so with fifteen thousand military ballots uncounted, so he said a smiling goodnight at 2 A.M. and went to bed. Bloom angrily gave her victory speech anyway, which I wound up watching because the Presidency was still unsettled. Before twenty-four hours had passed, Shaw was declared the winner by several thousand.
Shaw held on until 2006, when another pol who fit the profile took him down as part of the Democrat takeover of the House. This fellow, Ron Klein, won using the time-dishonored approach of running nonstop ads about how his opponent wanted to feed dog food to local seniors to leave more money for his corporate fat-cat friends — a style I like to call “quibbles and bits.” Upon assuming the seat, Klein tried to be the inverse of Clay Shaw, a social liberal with nods toward fiscal conservatism in non-entitlement expenditures.
West took his first run at Klein in 2008, but the Obama effect helped Klein to hang on. By this point, an alliance had solidified between Klein and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, whose district (Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Davie) was contiguous to his on its southwestern edge. DW-S, unlike Klein, is blissfully impervious to nuance in her political thought. She is thoroughly but not thoughtfully liberal, reflexively but not reflectively liberal, deliberately but not deliberatively liberal, contemptuously but not contemplatively liberal. She courageously does interviews even with hostile hosts, but her responses predictably consist of rewarmed pap.
When new political winds began to blow in 2010, the Republican ticket went West and the Democrat ticket went south. In the waning days of the campaign, DW-S spent a lot of her time canvassing Klein’s district. Her own was secure, so she headed to the abutting one and began to butt heads with West. An article written by West had been reprinted in a motorcycle magazine, so she organized a public demonstration to tie West to the crude macho bile these testosterone-poisoned bikers spew. It was a low blow and West escaped it by staying on the high ground.
Now DW-S has perpetuated her there-goes-the-neighborhood vendetta against West. While he was absent from the chamber, she used her speaking time in the House (using “incredulously” when she meant “incredibly”) to lash out at West for backing the “cut, cap and balance” bill which will, in her trite rhetoric, gut Medicare yadda yadda yadda. West was offended that she violated the honor code of Congresspeople against singling out colleagues for vitriol in their absence. He dispatched an email calling her vile, despicable and unprofessional, not a lady and unworthy of respect. She reacted by publicizing the email.
Now he is being excoriated by all sorts of preux chevalier types and soul sisters of DW-S for affording her such disrespect. DW-S is a bigger shot these days, because she was recently elevated to the chairwomanship (did I put an extra i in that word?) of the Democrat National Committee. The elites in Washington Ditzy are lining up with her hyphen against his adjectives. So it falls to a dashing man-in-the-street, man-about-town, man-of-the-world, man-for-all-seasons type like myself to defend him with hyphens to spare.
After all, there but for the grace of God go I. Had he hired me to write those emails, the language would have been far more caustic.