Can House Dems Wrangle in Charles Rangel?

Arena contributors discuss how Dems should deal with Rangel's corruption case.

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, assistant professor, Northwestern University

Is the era of Tammany Hall politicos over? Inappropriate financial maneuvers will exist as long as politics exist. Charles Rangel is not the first, nor will he be the last. However, Rangel will be the last of a breed that engages in questionable ethical behavior with not much energy being put into covering tracks. In the age of the informational glut, shady dealings will continue to occur but will adapt to their environment.

Victor Kamber, vice president, American Income Life Insurance

Rangel, who has been a leader and served the party well, should step aside for the good of himself and his party. At this point in his career, he doesn’t need a trial and the publicity associated with it. Republicans will try to make a major political issue of his activities and the 24/7 cable shows will try to breathe life into the trial. But in the end, most Americans can’t be bothered. They already have their opinions of Rangel and Congress, in general. The one who will suffer is Charlie Rangel. He has done so much good over the past 40 years, he shouldn’t put himself through this torture. Leaving Congress, the career he loves, would be punishment enough.

Ross Baker, professor, Rutgers University

Rangel is the living embodiment of Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and makes the most powerful case for the misguided term-limits campaign. Nothing would so become his congressional career than the leaving of it.

Tevi Troy, visiting senior fellow, Hudson Institute

Even if now, after two years of investigations, Rangel were to step down quietly, it still would not change the problematic political dynamic for Democrats. Voters already associate the Democrats with the various scandals on their watch. And they won’t have a chance to forget, as the Republicans will be only too happy to continue to remind the public about Rangel — and Eric Massa, John Edwards and Rod Blagojevich, et al. — in the lead up to November.

Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Rangel may decide to fall on his sword, gracefully immolating himself for the sake of his party. But I wouldn’t bet on it. That’s not the philosophy that has guided him through a long political career. Rangel is a “one hand washes the other” kind of guy. He makes deals, and he keeps them. He knows that the last thing the party needs in the runup to what could be its toughest midterms in a generation or more is an ethics blowout in the House. He knows that the party desperately wants to keep him out of the limelight this fall. Even without the ethics trial, an urbane, African-American, deal-making, old-style politician from New York is not what Democrats want the national electorate to be looking at this fall.

Bradley Blakeman, Republican strategist

This sense of entitlement that “rules are for everyone else” is exactly what the public deplores. Those in Congress charged with preventing it and stopping it when it has occurred have long ignored the arrogance of power that manifests itself in wrongdoing. Democrats — and Republicans — must police their own in a just and speedy way. There is no question that politically, morally and ethically, Rangel must go.

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