Is it Charlie Rangel’s last stand?
His political enemies hope it is. But in his speech on the House floor he seemed to indicate strongly that he won’t go down without a fight.
In his long life, he won a medal for heroism on a frozen Korean battlefield when he led a group of men to safety. He has served 20 terms in Congress. And, now facing charges of ethics violations, Rangel says: “I am not going away. I am here.”
For Democrats anxious about their chances of re-election in November -- this is unwelcome news. The co-founder of the Democratic Black Caucus in Congress, Rangel is determined to retain his seat and triumph over his enemies.
He faces charges from the House ethics committee. And a trial on the accusations will be held in the fall. Rangel wants a prompt hearing. He told fellow House members in an emotional speech that the charges had been swirling around him for two years -- and he is impatient to have a trial so he can clear his name.
“I am 80 years old,” he declared. “This has to stop some time. If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot at getting rid of me through expulsion.”
I talked to one of Rangel’s major supporters, former State Comptroller Carl McCall. “The charges have been laid out,” McCall said, “and he’s entitled to a speedy trial. He has admitted to some mistakes due to sloppy practices. But he says he committed no criminal acts and I believe him. Those people who have demanded that he be tried owe him a speedy hearing...As Charlie says, he should not be left twisting in the wind.”
The danger here is that some Republicans, anxious to score points on Democrats may seek to delay the process to bring it closer to Election Day. We can hope there are enough fair-minded people on both sides of the aisle to give Charles Rangel the fair hearing he deserves -- promptly.
Rangel deserves that -- and so do his constituents in New York.