No doubt about it, Florida Congressman Alan Grayson is a boisterous and intense political player.
He ia an unapologetic liberal who says things that make headlines, stir debate and upset Republicans.
In that sense, he is a lot like the Tea Party conservatives. But there is one big difference.
Grayson—who famously suggested that the Republican plan for healthcare reform was "don't get sick and if you do get sick, die quickly"—is proud of his positions, more than ready to defend them and open to debate.
In contrast, Grayson's Republican challenger this year, Dan Webster, is more than willing to call Grayson names. But he will not defend his statements or debate Grayson.
Webster's campaign accuses Grayson of making "vile and wildly dishonest accusations" and says that the congressman displays a "lack of decorum."
At issue is the Grayson campaign's reference to Webster as a "Taliban Dan" who, like fundamentalists in Afghanistan, would impose his personal religious views on Americans. The term surfaced in an over-the-top campaign ad that Webster says took his statements out of context.
Webster cries that he has been treated so unfairly that he simply cannot debate Grayson.
Why? Not because there is any debate about the fact that Webster would impose his personal religious views on Americans. The veteran legislator has supported using the power of government to take away a woman's right to choose, even going so far as to back the position that rape victims must bear the children of their attackers. Webster has, as well, supported moves to make it more difficult for victims of domestic abuse to divorce their abuses. Webster makes it clear that he wants federal and state government to require discrimination against gays and lesbians. Nor is there any question that he favors a host of moves that would blur the lines between religion and state, in a manner that would make it easier to impose a particular set of fundamentalist views on all Americans.
So what's Webster's gripe? Despite the fact that his campaign refers to Grayson as "vile," Webster says: "I have run a positive campaign without making a single personal attack on Congressman Grayson, and I pledge to continue to do so throughout this campaign. Being on a stage with him at this point would make keeping that commitment almost impossible. I do not believe that a debate with Alan Grayson will be anything more than gutter theatrics."
Translation: Webster thinks that he might get upset, even agitated, in a debate with Grayson. The Republican says would have trouble "keeping that commitment" to stay cool and positive.
Fair enough. A number of candidates with extreme positions, including several Tea Party favorites, have been avoiding debates this year.
But what happens if Webster gets elected to the House and the debate on Capitol Hill gets heated—as it frequently does? What happens if another member of Congress says something Webster does not like?
Will he refuse to debate? Will he refuse to attend sessions dealing with major issues where passions are high and the charges and counter-charges fly? How far is Webster going to take this search for decorum?
Will he serve as US Rep. Dan Webster, R-Florida?
Will it be US Rep. Dan Webster, R-Whiner?
Or will voters decide that they would prefer to be represented by a congressman who is ready to state his views, defend his positions and join the great debate?