Say what you will about Charlie Rangel, the disgraceful representative from New York, but he has shown the light on something that needs to be fixed.
Back in elementary school, if you manage to pay any attention at all to what they're teaching you in the eighth grade, there was a little blurb in your American history books about Tammany Hall and the political machines of the 19th and early 20th century. We like to think that our politicians are the product of a better system these days, but how else to explain the how Congressman Rangel has managed to stay in office despite flaunting the law which is supposed to help craft and create. Back in the day, the graft and corruption of those political machines undermined our republic.
When President Obama ran for office, one of his promises was that he and the Democrats were going to restore ethics to our government. In fact, he was made, while senator, the Democratic point man for ethics in the Senate. Congresswoman Pelosi, back when she was Speaker of the House, also promised that the Congress would be a more ethical place.
So how has that worked out? Well, Charlie Rangel with the test case and the Democrats failed miserably.
Its always easy to point out the faults in the opposition. as a matter of fact, in politics that's exactly which are supposed to do. Your commitment to values that you say are ones you hold dear, however, are tested the most when they are tested against those whom you like and respect. Congressman Rangel is one of the longer serving representatives in the House of Representatives. He's one of the most liberal. He was a political ally, and may still be, but Congresswoman Pelosi.
But he's also corrupt. He's abused his office. He's abused the public trust. He has violated the law.
So what did the House Ethics committee do about this? And how will the House Ethics committee going to do about this?
Well, they ensured that any investigation into Rangel's ethical violations was prolonged and extraordinarily slow. Despite the fact that the media has been publishing reports of Congressman Rangel's failure to abide by the law since 2008, Congress seemed unable to convene a hearing on his actions. The first reports that I know of, were published in August of 2008. Coincidentally, the Democrats were in control of the House of Representatives at that point.
It was not until July of this year, two years later, that charges were finally submitted to the House Ethics committee. Why they take so long? That's simple. Ethical violations are only good when you swing them at the other side. And for some reason, we keep letting the politicians get away with this mentality.
So what will the ethics committee do about Congressman Rangel's transgressions? His fellow Congressmen are going to, most likely, go to impose the quote dreaded" and humiliating censure against Rangel. What is a censure? Essentially, it is, when applied to a member of the House of Representatives, stern lecture given in public to the guilty by the Speaker of the House.
Where I went to school, I received a stern penalty for failing to turn my homework on time.
Unfortunately we have the Congress that we as a people, collectively, deserve. For the most part, it seems that Americans are content to allow corrupt politicians to continue to serve. The politicians of both parties cannot be trusted to police themselves.
This man violated the laws that he swore an oath to uphold and protect and defend. He has shown no remorse about his actions, instead maintaining that not only was he innocent but that he was unable to present a defense. The acts are more heinous because of his position as a representative of the people in the government that is supposed to help, to send, and empower the people. Not so that Mr. Rangel can maintain his power, his income, and his legacy.
If our representatives in Washington had any sense of honor or decency, they would expel this man and turned him over for prosecution. Unfortunately, a large majority of those serving in the Congress are loath to do so, most likely because they have committed the same acts as Mr. Rangel.
Congressman Rangel's censure is a meaningless and hollow act because it does not carry with it any real punishment, nor does it act as a deterrent to anyone else who would do wrong and abuse the public trust. This should and needs to change.
The House Democrats were tested. They failed.