Tea Party Republican Rep. Allen West let fly with an email tirade against his House colleague Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Tuesday, calling her “vile, unprofessional,” “despicable” and “not a lady.”

Not exactly a way to win friends and influence people.

At issue between the two Florida representatives was West’s vote, along with all but nine of his House colleagues, for the “cut, cap and balance” plan demanded by House freshmen as the price for raising the debt ceiling.

After the vote, Wasserman-Schultz, who also heads the Democratic National Committee, took to the House floor to excoriate West and his fellow Republicans, saying, among other things:

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.

That got West’s goat, and he fired off an angry email to Wasserman-Schultz, and cc’ing the House Republican and Democratic leadership, with the subject line “Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz.”

The full email read:

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)

West has a history of volatile behavior. He was drummed out of the U.S. Army after an incident in which he fired his weapon near the man’s head of an Iraqi policeman he reportedly believed had intelligence about a plot to kill him.

When he won the District 22 House seat on his 2nd try in 2010, he tried to hire his friend, right wing talk radio host Joyce Kaufman, as his chief of staff. But Kaufman’s history, including calling for the public execution of illegal immigrants who commit crimes and for “bullets” to be used if ballots failed to elect Tea Party members, plus an incident involving an unhinged fan who caused a school lockdown by threatening to shoot students, forced Kaufman to decline the offer. Shortly afterward, West vowed to bring his and Kaufman’s opponents on the left “to their knees”.

West has hardly moderated his rhetoric since becoming a Congressman.
The African-American with a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric has continued to rail against the supposed danger of sharia law spreading in the U.S., called fellow Congressman, Democrat (and first Muslim member of Congress) Keith Ellison, “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was founded”, and plans to sponsor a Capitol Hill briefing July 25th on the alleged history of the Egyptian organization the Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration into the U.S.

For those reasons, West is considered among the most vulnerable freshmen in 2012. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the DNC, have repeatedly targeted West and other freshmen who won House races in closely divided districts, over specific votes. West was the target of radio ads him for voting for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s to replace Medicare with a voucher plan.

West’s congressional district could see geographic changes during redistricting, which, thanks to a constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 2010, can’t be done for partisan gain. And adding to the intrigue, West doesn’t live in the district he represents — he lives in the district represented by one Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. That’s leading to speculation that their war of words could be a prelude to a 2012 showdown at the ballot box.

Meanwhile, the two Democrats already vying for the House seat as it’s currently constituted, issued stinging rebukes of West’s attack on Wasserman-Schultz, with former Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel calling West’s email remarks “out of control, rude, sexist and completely inappropriate,” and an example of “everything that is wrong with Washington at this critical moment,” and Patrick Murphy, a first-time candidate who raised $450,000 last quarter in his quest to defeat West, calling on the congressman’s colleagues to censure him. The statement from Murphy’s campaign, issued early Wednesday, read:

Allen West has a long history of outrageous comments. However, in the last two days, West has demonstrated unusually bizarre behavior — showing himself to be truly unhinged and incapable of controlling himself. As if referring to Americans who support their president as a “threat to the gene pool” wasn’t bad enough, West then unleashed a personal assault on Representative Wasserman-Schultz calling her “vile” and “despicable”. He then had the audacity to label this brave elected leader who courageously shared her successful struggle with breast cancer with the nation as a “coward”. Enough is enough. His conduct is unbecoming a member of Congress. He has disrespected his office and should be censured by the House of Representatives immediately.

Wasserman-Schultz herself brushed off the attack, but the campaign group Emily’s List is already gearing up to make West’s email a campaign issue.

West has been a prodigious fundraiser, pulling in $1.5 million last quarter — more than any other freshmen, and more than any of the Republicans vying to unseat U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. And he has a growing, national profile, thanks to his frequent appearances on Fox News. He’s often quoted as a leading Tea Party House member, and is currently rebuffing calls from his supporters to skip the re-election campaign and run for the United States Senate.

All of the attention on his votes, and the potential 2012 campaign implications, just might be shortening West’s already short fuse.