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The other reason driving Allen West's outrage

July 21, 2011 |  4:48 am

florida Republican representative allen West 6-3-11Have you ever noticed you don't see much news each morning about the estimated 80,000 airplane flights that landed safely the previous day?

Or, conversely, that before any prominent politician completes a major speech, someone is already denouncing its assertions and falsehoods?

That's one of the most important rules of politics in modern America: If you want to get noticed, don't get along. Pick a fight.

Conflict sells. The D.C. media pack feeds off it. Did Donald Trump get more attention last spring from his outspoken doubts about the president's birth certificate?

If faux outrage in American politics had any value, it could pay down a handsome chunk of the $14.2 trillion national debt. These revealing conflicts are Exhibit A why no one will ever change the harsh partisan tone of Washington.

Now, getting noticed is crucial to politicians running for office. No one runs for office more often than the 435 members of the House of Representatives. And no one needs to run harder for office every two years than new members of that chamber.

Republican Rep. Allen West is one of those. He's from Florida. He gave a speech in the House this week in support of the GOP's so-called "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan to cut spending and the national debt. It's not going anywhere. But fine.

After West left the floor, another representative from Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, gave a speech criticizing West's speech. She also happens to be the new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, is still trying to show her scrappy bona fides and does not allow any criticism of the country's top Democrat to go unchallenged. Same old, same old.Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz 7-20-11

A little-known backbencher taking on the alleged head of the other party is a publicity opportunity not to be missed. And their interests collided during last fall's campaign too.

According to West, who apparently does not have access to C-SPAN, her predictably Democratic remarks outside his presence constituted a protocol breach and criticism behind his back.

So West fired off an e-mail to Wasserman Schultz with copies to congressional leaders to ensure it would receive wider distribution, maybe -- who knows? -- even reach the media. And dribble down to Florida.

In his angry missive, West said: "Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige." He called his fellow representative "vile, despicable and cowardly." Also, "not a lady."

Not as good as arguing over what Rush Limbaugh said. But it did allow the media to run around covering the latest meaningless little conflict and seek outraged reactions from all sides, allowing them to pick a fight with the fight-picker.

Not to let a golden opportunity pass unutilized, on Wednesday West emailed, you guessed it, a fundraising appeal repeating his charges and adding: "Her agenda isn’t to improve the lives of Floridians or to stand on principle. She’s an attack dog for the liberal, progressive wing of the Democratic Party — plain and simple. And it’s times like this that I need friends with me."

Then came the appeal for, say, $25 or more.

Next comes the squabble back home about whether Allen should or did apologize.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Molly Riley / Reuters (West); Alex Wong / Getty Images (Wasserman Schultz).

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