The Chairman steps Down
In his autobiography Congressman Rangel – the embattled Harlem Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee – recounts his experience in one of the bloodiest encounters of the Korean War in which he was one of few survivors and observes “I haven’t had a bad day since.” In fact, to underscore the point he even named the book: “I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since.” Well…on the Ides Of March, Charlie Rangel finally had a bad day! After 39 years of devoted service to his Harlem constituency, in which he has been a model public servant in terms of bringing home the goods and providing progressive leadership on national policy, the Chairman was forced to temporarily step aside due to pressure from his colleagues, spooked by an ongoing investigation of his financial affairs by the House Ethics Committee.
I live in Harlem and have written about Congressman Rangel for twenty years. And I have penned only one critical piece: when he attacked President Chavez of Venezuela for hinting that George Bush might be The Devil. Although I understood that Charlie was playing politics, I nevertheless felt compelled to point out that he was not speaking for all Harlemites, because many of us feel that Bush is The Devil. The only reason this writer does not concur with that opinion is because I don’t believe in God or the Devil. If I did I’d have no trouble concluding that George bush would be exactly what The Devil would look like at the beginning of the twenty first century.
On the other hand, at the time Citgo, the oil company owned by the Venezuelan government, was providing fuel oil to Harlemites who couldn’t afford it and would otherwise have been suffering in cold homes while Bush, a product of the American oil industry, offered nothing to Rangel’s constituents. He was too busy cutting taxes to the rich, hanging out with ENRON con man Kenneth Lay and allowing big oil executives to write the nation’s energy policy. So many of us believed President Chavez deserved applause not condemnation. And I felt he should be reminded of that.
The Congressman At Home
Attending a Recent Concert at the Dwyer Center In Harlem
The allegations against Congressman Rangel include falsely disclosing his personal assets, failing to pay federal income taxes on a vacation property, and renting rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem at rates far below market value; which his accusers claim violates House rules prohibiting members from accepting gifts that cost above $50. Rangel has asked Speaker Pelosi to grant him a leave of absence until the committee completes its investigation. Since the Republicans are using the fact that a black Harlem Democrat who heads the committee that writes tax policy may not have paid his full taxes against incumbent Democrats, the Chairman says he decide to step aside “in order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections.”
Since Charlie Rangel is the right man to chair Ways And Means at this critical time – by virtue of his knowledge of the issues, legislative skill and commitment to serving the people rather than corporations – it will not be his tragedy alone if the Congressman is forced is to permanently resign his chairmanship.
Harlem New York
March 4, 2010
*Photo 0f Congressman Rangel and Me by: