There will always be politicians you like, and there will always be politicians you dislike; and then there are some that fall in between like and dislike: that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Many, you may like, not because of their sterling accomplishments, but more because of their personalities: and this is the category in which I placed Charlie Rangel years ago. He has done a few good things in Congress but he is overrated like hell. When you look at what has devolved into black communities all across the nation, you have to consider that it happened under Charlie’s watch (along with many many other high-profiled blacks in Congress) over the last forty years. Sure he has done wonderful things for Harlem; and for that matter New York City and New York State. And he has surely done well for himself when he fails to disclose rental income on investment property on his tax returns.
Look, even some of the worse electeds get a few things done in their districts: it’s inevitable once they show up with a few budget requests to the speaker, and make a few civil overtures to leadership: it’s the nature of the game. But is that imagination and creative thinking? Especially when communities of color are in crisis all over the USA.
Look, Charlie Rangel even served his country via the military. As far as I know he risked his life during the Korean War. Let me even go further: his position on reinstituting the draft (though I have questioned how totally committed he was to the position) is brilliant once you examine his reasoning. I have seen the man on “Face the Nation” and umpteen other television programs over the years: he is usually on the right side of the issues as far as I am concerned; thus his politics isn’t too far off from mine. This is not some politician I reflexively dislike because he or she is obviously a piece of crap. The man is an icon for Christ’s sake: he has single (first) name identification.
But just because Charlie is a “nice guy” type doesn’t exonerate him from the serious charges he now faces. Like so many who stayed too long in public office it appears that Charlie (probably) messed up big time here. And if he did -and he will know it- then he needs to spare us all this drama by doing the right thing: RESIGN.
As personalities go, Charlie is as warm a politician as they come. I loved to hear and see him laugh -even when he was squirming. I loved to hear him tell his jokes. There was a time when I found him to be inspiring: so too his sidekicks David Dinkins, Basil Paterson and Percy Sutton. But you cannot analyze these guys, their accomplishments and contributions, without looking at where we are as a community (black) compared to when these guys came along and picked up the reins.
When only 1 in every 40 black males alive graduated from college last year; when one in four black male students graduated from high school in NYC last year; when joblessness in the black community was at record highs last year; when blacks made up nearly half of all murder victims nationwide last year; when black victims of gun violence runs way over the natural demographic; when blacks made up a little more than half of all those incarcerated nationwide last year; when black wealth diminished when compared to whites (since 1980 BTW); when last year it was commonplace to find everyday discrimination in banking, housing, employment, insurance, education, business opportunity, etcetera, etcetera; we as a race (negroes) must step back and evaluate the job being done for us in the legislative and administrative corridors of justice, government, business and power, by our so-called leaders and our elected officials. It is that simple. And it is not about blame: it is about the reality. We have to look at all three levels of government and all three branches too, and evaluate how well certain people are performing in our interest: especially the ones we elect to high positions.
Unfortunately in the politics of most black communities, we throw up personalities more so than true leaders. We create a political class which does quite well for certain individuals, their relatives, friends, cronies, backers and enablers; but not so well for the black masses at large: the people they purport to represent at the highest levels of power. What saves the day for all of us in US society, is that the black masses haven’t been recently mobilized, agitated, politically educated and organized for rebellion and social unrest.
A lot of these black politicians are now wealthy beyond their wildest beliefs (pre-election). Politics in the black community has evolved into a self-aggrandizement exercise. And as the power of the black voting base erodes it will be even harder to address the myriad issues facing our community as we elect less and less blacks to office in the future.
Day before yesterday, while Charlie Rangel boogied-down at his birthday bash and rubbed shoulders with so-called celebrities and apologists, thousands of blacks were standing in line in Atlanta trying to get applications for a few hundred public housing units. It was some sight. The wonderful thing was that the crowd behaved in an exceptional manner (given the circumstances) and no one was hurt or arrested. The irony here is that for years on end, Charlie used his credits as a longtime Harlem congressman to confiscate at least three rent-controlled housing units for his own personal use: something that is in itself “problematic”, if not illegal.
Here is the context in which I bring this up: after 37 years living in NYC, I am yet to hear Charles Rangel advance one progressive idea in economics that relates to alleviating the economic plight of the black man in the USA. I don’t know if he even backs Congressman’s Conyers (Michigan) bill HR 40, which has lain in committee for years on end.
There is one thing I always do when I write hard hitting articles like this one: I challenge my detractors to destroy my truths. I do so again today. It is not enjoyable to write articles like this one; after all: Charlie Rangel is a friggin icon in the black community.
The charges laid out against Charlie Rangel by the House Ethic committee are nothing to scoff at. They demonstrate a pattern of cynicism, sloppiness, laziness, arrogance and ignorance. They also suggest that Congressman Rangel when fully apprised of some of these violations seemed to not give a fuck. They also signal that he must have felt in his mind a sense of entitlement beyond what average folk feel. Look, no one is perfect but there are simple rules congress-members have to follow: Charlie broke some of those rules. And that is obvious.
If you follow what he has been saying lately, he keeps talking about a “deal”. Read between the lines folks: you don’t make deals if you are totally innocent of the charges laid. There are rules for all of us: that’s life. We don’t need tainted leaders like Al Sharpton (Sharptongue) grandstanding at Rangel’s birthday bash and talking about Rangel’s resurrection. I can give you twenty to one odds, that Charlie wins re-election: which only reflects sad intellectual state of the black electorate. What we need is the Al Sharptons of this community to have the guts to call a spade a friggin spade. Too many times black leaders refuse to call out black electeds when they do wrong. Too many times they surrender the moral high ground. We need Sharpton to inspire blacks to rise up as the great people we are, and do the things that we need to do, to get ourselves back on track to collective greatness. Presently we are in real bad shape- in case you haven’t looked lately.
We really don’t need to see or hear any more black (or even white) apologists for Charlie Rangel; these folks have no guts, no credibility, no balls and no strength of convictions. Charlie Rangel has been here before: apologizing for bad behavior instead of condemning it. Do you remember Dan Rostenkowski-that old crook who once headed up the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives? Well, when he was exactly where Charlie is today (under investigation and such), Charlie himself was out there defending him like it was the Alamo. Charlie Rangel was one of his biggest defenders. Eventually Dan did his time in prison and kept a low profile until his recent death.
Remember when all the stuff was happening at the Apollo (relative to the accounting, etc.) well Charlie was defending his old buddies (Percy Sutton et al) like nobody’s business. It is hardly ever about getting to the truth; it is usually about standing up and sticking up for your cronies no matter what they did. Mother Hale’s daughter was another crook that many in the black political establishment came to defend. And always some one will say it is some racist conspiracy to discredit black leaders: bull! When you mess up, it is just that simple: you messed up. And in this instance Charlie Rangel has messed up big time. It is time for TRUE leaders to stop acting like he hasn’t. Even Pulitzer prize-winning columnists have now gone on record -staining/tainting their prize- in order to defend Rangel.
The best thing one can do for a friend is look him or her in the eye and tell them the truth: “you fucked up”. Simple as that.
This whole sordid episode reminds me of a former vice-president named Spiro Agnew. One Sunday night back in the seventies, I was watching the television news and there was Spiro in front of a group of female Republicans (mostly old ladies). He was telling them how innocent he was of all the charges of corruption that were being made against him. The ladies were on their feet in a frenzy; they were shouting and screaming and beamingly happy: their hero was announcing his innocence and denouncing the media and the “nabobs of negativism”, for spreading all the lies, etc.
Truth be told, Spiro Agnew’s lawyers were at the very moment trying to negotiate the best plea deal with the Justice Department, which could keep him out of jail. He later pleaded guilty to a few counts of corrupting behavior and went off into the sunset (discredited).
And now, former NYC mayor David Dinkins -a man I always considered classy- who generally carried himself in a real dignified manner, gives the NY finger to protesters outside Rangel’s birthday bash: as if protest isn't guaranteed in the first amendment. As I said before Black leaders lack the moral courage to call a spade a spade when one of their own has erred. It happens too often.
If as charged, Charlie lied on his taxes, lied on his federal disclosure forms, took perks instead of paying for overseas trips and such, and did other things in violation of what congressmen should legally do while in office then he needs to resign: now. PERIOD.
Stay tuned-in folks. I may have to revisit this issue later.