Charlie Rangel: Sad, But To Be Expected

Who says conservatives don’t have “compassion?” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on Friday lamented over the “sad,” “terrible” ordeal that Charlie Rangel endured during his censuring. His more progressive Morning Joe cohorts like journalist Nora O’Donnell of course were full of that liberal piss and vinegar compassion usually reserved for radical imams or far-left politicians, calling it “very moving moment” and seemed moved to tears over Rangel’s “very emotional statement” on the floor of the House. At one point, co-host Mika Brzezinski offered a one word description for the Democrat’s punishment: “Terrible.” (One wonders if they feel the same sadness for fallen Republican Tom DeLay, but that’s another story.)

For anyone wishing to understand some of the rancor that led to the walloping the Democratic establishment just experienced in the November mid-terms, all one need do is look into the happy face of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), former Chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

I just want you to imagine sitting across from an IRS auditor trying to explain how you failed to report: credit union balances, several investment accounts, vacant properties in New Jersey, stocks in your portfolio, rental income from a Costa Rican villa, etc. And then explain how you “amended” your 2007 tax returns to include and extra $780,000 in assets income…oops! I dare say the IRS would do more than give you a tongue-lashing and then let you keep your position without further prosecution as a Congressional censure pretty much is just that. (Ouch! Don’t…stop…don’t…stop.)

This man, who was finally brought to luke-warm justice for consistently underreporting his own income to avoid taxation, has not only pushed for a 5.6% tax surcharge on the wealthiest of us but even had the insolence to declare that paying more is “the moral thing to do.” He is a leading figure in a government hell bent on expanding into every aspect of our lives, while going out of its way to exempt itself both from the programs themselves as well as having to pay for said expansion.

Rangel is the personification of a permanent political class that leverages its influence to get rich while many Americans scramble to find work in a 9.8% unemployment reality. Mr. Rangel’s new and improved net worth may now exceed $2 million. Not bad for a public servant. How do I get me some?

Back to his sob-fest at MSNBC. Later in the morning, Scarborough admonished those who might not feel sorrow over Rangel’s predicament: “I was trying to explain to everybody, and a lot of partisans may not understand this, this was a genuinely sad moment, not only for Democrats yesterday, but so many Republicans.”

Honestly, I think I get Scarborough’s point here. Although I have never met the man, those who have agree that “to know Charlie Rangel is to like Charlie Rangel.”

Still, his “punishment” vis-à-vis what you or I would suffer at the hands of the IRS for similar crimes aside, I do see Charlie Rangel as a tragic figure of sorts. His autobiography And I Haven’t Had A Bad Day Since tells an extraordinary tale of an exceptional man. It is the reflections of a decorated veteran of the Korean War (Bronze Star and Purple Heart); a civil rights activist who marched in Selma with Dr. King; a street-smart guy who graduated from St. John’s School of Law; practiced law and then became Assistant Attorney General and worked his way up through Harlem politics to serve first in the New York State Assembly and then to ultimately unseat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as representative from the 15th congressional district in 1971 – by exploiting the incumbent’s ethics violations of all things (irony alert!).

But that 1971 number says it all doesn’t it? His censure reveals what can happen to anyone when they have been ensconced in the smoke-filled backroom that is the U.S. Congress for four decades without ever once stepping out into the sunlight of the private sector in which the rest of us dwell. For the other 300 million Americans who aren’t members of Club 535, hiding seven figures of taxable income in two undisclosed checking accounts is an offense punishable by prison. Mr. Rangel by contrast is getting a relative slap on the wrist that only a man elected to Congress when I was getting ready for kindergarten could receive from his fellow lawmakers.

And so his demise is a shame yes, but not a surprise. He is but the latest symptom of an elitist syndrome that has infected so many in Congress with a belief that the laws they write somehow do not apply to them. Power can corrupt even the best of us. That is the risk of staying in Washington too long — Democrat or Republican. I have always thought that the Constitution is a document that should be fiddled with as little as possible. Yet Rangel is the poster child of the one big mistake (besides condoning slavery of course) that I think the Framers made: they should have put in term limits so that those who make the laws must one day be cast outside the white city to live under them. But men like Washington, Franklin, Morris, Madison and the rest never imagined that anyone would willingly subject himself to a life of permanent public service when so many more noble pursuits beckoned. To be fair, they never got a free junket to the Caribbean.

Nor did they have Mika, Chuck and Nora watching their backs either.


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