Cracking the Whip


“I write today as a proud Democrat who maintains great hope that this fall a winning coalition will take back Congress from the Republican stranglehold it has struggled under for the last 12 years…..As such, I read with great displeasure the comments of your number one financial backer, Ken Langone, who a few days ago stated: "I can't tell you how critical it is that we preserve and protect the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and as well in the Senate. This is not a time to turn the asylum over to the inmates." ….As the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee I hope to one day represent this state as its Chairman. It is your lead and most public fundraiser who has dedicated resources to making sure that people like me do not assume these important leadership roles and that we as Democrats do not take back the House. …Some of us believe that the Republican party has taken our State of New York, as well as our nation, in the wrong direction. I certainly thought that you were one of us….I hope that your support of Democratic Congressional candidates, especially in New York State, would cause you to denounce Mr. Langone's statements of Tuesday evening. I call on you to return the money he has given you in the past, to express your support for a Democratic takeover of Congress and to renounce any further support from Ken Langone for your campaign. …I respect your role as an outsider. But there is a fine line between being an outsider and turning your back on the Democratic Party and what it stands for.”

Congressman Charles Rangel  in an open letter to Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Suozzi

            So many thoughts spring to mind. One is that Charlie Rangel apparently can forgive and move on. It was only a few months ago that he was calling Eliot Spitzer the “world’s smartest” man in the same manner in which Marc Anthony had labeled Brutus an “honorable" one. Spitzer, one may recall, had the temerity to hire a black man without first acquiring the Congressman’s permission. Apparently, Charlie is a racial moderate; he does not want to end “plantation politics”, just mend them, by changing the color of the overseers, provided he can be the straw boss. But, I digress.   

Since I have been outspoken in advocating that the Democratic Party punish disloyalty, and since I share the Congressman’s hope that he start the next year as Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I do not lightly criticize the efforts of folks like Rangel to crack the whip and enforce party discipline. In fact, I wish that the Dems in the New York State Senate had a Rangel of their own, unafraid of outing and exposing disloyalty among the unfaithful. However, in this case, I’ve had to conclude that Rangel’s efforts are misplaced.

If Charlie Rangel's so concerned about folks turning their back on the Democratic Party, Suozzi, who's never threatened to do so, and, in fact, rejected efforts to entice him into joining the Republicans, seems a secondary target, at best. Hell, it's not like Charlie's never taken a check from a Republican himself. Lots of them, in fact; and even more when he was in the majority; let’s hope he gets more opportunities to rake in large piles of Republican money in the near future. Frankly, I hope the House Dems take as much money from as many sources as possible, and only return checks when required to do so by law, or due discretion.  

On the other hand, if Charlie wants to crack the whip on potential Benedict Arnolds, this week has presented at least one appropriate target. Charlie’s Brooklyn colleague, Major Owens recently blurted out the following during a hissy fit:  "We're also going to go to the Republicans and say 'How about you. Do you support the principle of power sharing?' And we'll see what the Republicans say also." Now, that is a threat. Perhaps it's time Charlie gave Major a lecture on "turning your back on the Democratic Party".  Perhaps something like this:

Dear Major:

“I write today as a proud Democrat who maintains great hope that this fall a winning coalition will take back Congress from the Republican stranglehold it has struggled under for the last 12 years…..As such, I read with great displeasure your comments which seem to advocate that African-American voters  desert the party for the sake of an expedient deal with the Republicans on a local political matter. This strategy plays into the hands of Republicans looking to play the race card to elect far right wing candidates of color to the US Senate and Governorships in states like Maryland Ohio and Pennsylvaina against progressive Democrats….As the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee I hope to one day represent this state as its Chairman. …Statements like yours only make these efforts more difficult . …Some of us believe that the Republican party has taken our State of New York, as well as our nation, in the wrong direction. I certainly thought that you were one of us….I hope that your support of Democratic Congressional candidates, especially in New York State, would cause you to look at the bigger picture. I call on you to retract your statement, express your support for a Democratic takeover of Congress and to renounce any expedient allainces with the reactionary Republican Party . …I ‘ve long respected you as a colleague and friend,  but there is a fine line between being a good father  and turning your back on the Democratic Party and what it  stands for. 

                                                          Charlie

Frankly, if Suozzi does as Rangel suggests and returns Langone’s checks, Ken will only have that much more money to spend on Congressional Republicans (which, under the circumstances, would seem to be the likely place the returned money would land). For Charlie's sake (and the country's), it would be better if Suozzi kept the money.