Thingish Things

Feting a Crook

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Sep• 22•11

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) will be feted today at the unveiling of a portrait he, himself, commissioned with $64,000 raised from special interest PACs while he briefly served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Everyone will be there – the House Republican leader, Nancy Pelosi (D), New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, et al.  

They all like Charlie Rangel.  A lot of people like Charlie Rangel.  He is smart, funny, and gregarious, and, he will remind you, he is a decorated Korean War veteran.  The only problem is that he is crook. He effectively stole money from low-income New Yorkers by illegally using rent stabilized apartments for political use – those apartments are for families to live in – he failed to pay taxes on a secret Caribbean villa, and he hid significant financial assets from his House Ethics Report. He was censored in the House for those ethics violations by a vote of 333-79 ten months ago, and he was forced to step down as Chairman of the very committee for which his chairmanship today is being celebrated.

Where to start?

Charlie Rangel has a forceful personality no doubt.  He used every means at his disposal to save his own hide when his secrets were exposed. He badgered the press, flashed his famous wit, patted the old boys on the back – and used the race card like a stun gun against inquisitors.

In The Hill today is a typical example.  When questioned about the appropriateness of using campaign dollars for the portrait, Rangel, referring to other paintings hanging  in the Capitol retorted “the only black folks I see are slaves holding the goddamn horses.”  

That’s Charlie Rangel, ever-quick with the oblique.  It is the reason hundreds of high-profile people, including Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg attended his gala 80th birthday party at the Plaza, smack in the middle of his House ethics trial.

Of all the things Rangel was found guilty of, his use of four rent stabilized apartments bothers me the most.  It is impossible, as a New Yorker, not to know you are doing wrong if you are illegally using a rent stabilized apartment.  It would be like Jay-walking on Rodeo Drive. There is no way you don’t know you’re doing it. Yet Rangel did it for years while his constituents struggled to pay rent.

No one is ignoring the good things Charlie Rangel did for his country. What they are ignoring are the bad things.  And that is wrong. 

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