Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., is an officer and a gentleman, a career soldier elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., attacked West last week when he was not in the chamber. West replied with an irate but highly literate email. And the exchange set off a clash between two codes of conduct.
West descends from the code of the warrior, in which personal honor is everything. Wasserman-Schultz comes from the code of identity politics, in which an attack on one person becomes a de facto attack on any sex, creed or color the person belongs to.
And indeed, the attacks upon West by Wasserman-Schultz’s defenders seem out of the source book for race-baiting slanders decried by the left in times past.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, said West’s remarks reeked of “harassment.”
“They ought to take him to the woodshed,” said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.
“Let’s remember all the discussion about how Barack Obama had to fend off the ‘angry black man’ stereotype,” said blogger Ann Althouse.
Interestingly, the Washington Post printed West’s picture between those of authors Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, daring the readers to tell their writing apart:
“Nasty, yes — but what gorgeous 19th-century prose!” the paper exulted. “Can you tell which rich disses were penned by the tea party freshman, and which by the great ladies of Bonnet Fiction? Answers below.”
And this is the West email: “From this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself against your heinous, characterless behavior. You are [a] vile, unprofessional, and despicable member … You have proven … repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore shall not be rewarded due respect from me!”
That is akin in tone to the writings of Bronte and Austen, such as: “Your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike.”
The world would be a better place (and much more literate) if there were more people like Allen West — and Charlotte Bronte.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”