Friday, November 19, 2010





(Nov.19, 2010 – Harlem, NYC) Standing on the corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue one finds themselves in the figurative if not geographic center of the New York's 15th Congressional District represented for the last 40 years by the Democrat Charlie Rangel. The 15th is geographically the smallest Congressional Dstrict in the nation as well as one of the poorest. It is comprised of famous neighborhoods such as Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, as well as a slice of Astoria Queens. From this corner one can walk in any direction and find themselves on streets named after icons of the Civil rights Movement such as Malcolm X, Percy Sutton, and Martin Luther King. Hollowed halls such as the Apollo Theater and The Audubon played key rolls in the tumultuous history of Black New York in the sixties and seventies.

Charlie Rangel's political career was shaped as much by the issues that resonated with the residents of these communities as it was by his own opportunism, greed, hubris and blatant exploitation of his own constituents. After years of rumors and innuendo the House Ethics Committee began an investigation into allegations related to Rangel's income, taxes, and political influence peddling in 2008. Just today, after being found guilty of 12 out of 13 charges, the Ethics Committee voted to have the 80 year old Congressman censured. This action would basically be a slap on the wrist. Rangel made a tearful plea to the Committee asking for leniency. What the ultimate outcome will be remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though; finally, after a 50 year run in politics, the gravel-voiced Puerto Rican's legacy will forever be tarnished. And rightfully so.

If one were to plot the course of Rangel's political ascendency, it would become clear that his career has been defined by crass opportunism. At every step of the way he was able to launch forward on the backs and ideology of other far more gifted, noble men.

While it is true that Rangel performed with valor in the Korean War, was wounded in combat and received decorations for his meritorious service, so did tens of thousands of other men. The overwhelming majority of them returned home after the war and went about the rest of their lives in obscurity; toiling to raise their families and provide a better future for their children. Rangel took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college and law school and worked as an Assistant Federal Prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. He ran for Assemblyman and quickly threw his hat into the ring running for Congress against the very popular Harlem icon Percy Sutton. Rangel was victorious and has never looked back. The story of how he managed to become a multimillionaire on a Congressional salary of 40 years is one that largely played out in the shadows of the NYC Democratic Machine. Representing Harlem, an iconic neighborhood to African Americans for over 100 years, Rangel leveraged that position into one of power, influence, and wealth. That he exploited his own constituents and African Americans at large, never seemed to give him pause.

Rangel is Puerto Rican, albeit dark skinned. His appearance in Congress in 1971 coincided with the first true representation of “people of color” in the House of Representatives. His complexion was “close enough”, as one long time Democratic operative recently noted. Rangel immediately aligned himself with the Civil Rights movement and the brutal struggles that played out across our Country in the sixties, particularly, in the South, despite the fact that he never participated in it. His ambition and egotism was unbounded and he stood on the shoulders of true Civil Rights heroes such as John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and so many others who sacrificed in the Jim Crow South promoting himself as a “Black Leader”. He was a charter member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was “tolerated” by the other members simply because “...they needed numbers. They needed all the help they could get in those days”, said former Washington DC Mayor, Marion Barry.

If there was one talent that Charlie always demonstrated, it was his true gift for “talking a good game.” Rangel could schmooze, bullshit, back-slap, intimidate, threaten, and simply produce such an avalanche of boilerplate rhetoric, race baiting incendiary, and trash talk, that he became a favorite of the press always ready to grab one of his sound bites. Gabe Pressmen, the legendary newsman at New York City's NBC Flagship Station WNBC, who covered NYC politics for over 50 years once said, “Charlie has never found a camera or microphone he didn't like. I remember when he first ran for Sutton's seat in Congress. He was ruthless in his attacks and with money from who knew where, he was able to win. Throughout his years in Washington he became so far removed from the people and issues of his District that it was quickly apparent he was in it (Congress) for himself. Journalist's in town (NYC) knew decades ago that he was a crook. A real smooth talker with a true mean streak. He used his 'race' as camouflage and to accuse his detractors as racists. He was always basically a scum bag.”

The specifics of Charlie's guilty charges are not unique; he is but the latest hack politician to be caught with his grubby dirty hands in various cookie jars. The one charge New Yorker's are most sensitive to and angered by is his blatant abuse of the Holy Grail of your average New Yorker's life – rent controlled apartments. If not for NYC's strict “rent stabilization” rules there would be no working class, blue collar people living in the fFive Boroughs. The people who keep that City afloat and running only live there by the grace of rent control. Rangel used several rent controlled apartments as offices and for nepotistic gain while his declared residence is in Washington, DC. “The income and property tax structure in the District of Columbia is far more favorable to a bum like Rangel than it is in New York City”, commented Filbertto de Leone, a prominent tax attorney in The Bronx.

African American's in New York City have always been protective of and loyal to the politicians who look like them. This is only natural. It was always easy for Charlie to go back home and bemoan how all the “redneck White Republican's” in Congress “have it out fore.” But, ask the man or woman on the street here in this neighborhood about Rangel's rent controlled hijinks and a truer picture emerges about hos they feel about “Our Charlie.” DeShawn Thigpen, a 42 year old father of two , an unemployed carpet layer and a self described “Old time Democrat and lifelong supporter of Charlie Rangel”, said “This deal of his with the apartments. That is a slap in the face to all of us who live up in here. He oughtta be punished for that if nothing else.”

TAGS: Current Events, News Commentary, Opinion, New York City Politics, Charles Rangel, Charlie Rangel Scandal, Charlie Rangel Censure, Charlie Rangel Ethics Violations, Editorial, Sarcastic Commentary, Political Satire


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