Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida, who happens to also be the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, spoke on the House floor yesterday to criticize the right-wing “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.” Most notably, she wondered aloud how Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, could back a plan calling for deep Medicare cuts.

West doesn’t take constructive criticism well.

Representative Allen West, Republican of Florida, called Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, “the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives” in an e-mail to her on Tuesday. […]

“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,” he wrote.

Mr. West sent the letter to the Republican leaders in the House, and added in the e-mail that “from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior.”

He concluded by saying that “you have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!” and signed off with: “Steadfast and Loyal.”

In his email, West went on to say he wants Wasserman Schultz to “shut the heck up.”

Asked later if he might apologize for his hysterical tirade, West declined.

As a rule, members of Congress don’t generally send emails like this to their colleagues, but it’s not necessarily the language that I find interesting. Allen West has already proven himself to be something of an unhinged partisan lunatic, and the fact that he’d lose his cool like this isn’t the least bit surprising. Besides, if a member really has conducted himself or herself in a “despicable” manner, I’m comfortable with that member being called out on it by colleagues in private correspondence.

What struck me about West’s tantrum, though, is what caused it.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on the House floor, “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.”

This is “vile”? This is so outside the norms of civil discourse that the Democratic leader is “not a lady”?

What a deeply strange man.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.