Go ahead. I just dare you to expel me. And you said you wanted me to go with “dignity?” Well, I may view “dignity differently than you do.”
That’s the gist of embattled New York Rep. Charlie Rangel’s comments to critics including President Barack Obama who are either not supporting him in his ethics violations battle or suggesting with varying degrees of delicacy and/or clumsiness that he might consider moving on — like moving out of the House so Democrats don’t suffer politically in November.
In comments that some cable and radio commentators are already comparing to Howard Beal in “Network” or the recent case of the disgusted Jetblue flight attendent who made what will go down in history as the most color job (and career) exit, Rangel essentially said there is no way he’s going to go quietly and served notice that he intends to fully defend himself against charges. The Hill reports:
Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel defended himself on the House floor Tuesday, daring members to expel him.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) maintained that he did not intentionally break any House rules and complained about the investigation and trial process conducted by the House ethics panel, which has brought 13 charges against him.
“It may be stupid, it may be negligent, but it’s not corrupt,” Rangel said in his unexpected speech that lasted more than 30 minutes.
In professing his innocence of all charges, Rangel also invited the ethics panel to take its shot at expelling him.
“I’m not asking for leniency, I’m asking for exposure of the facts,” Rangel said.
“If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot at getting me expelled,” Rangel said.
Last week President Barack Obama was widely quoted as saying he hoped Rangel could end his career “with dignity,” which many took to be a gentle hint/hint/hint to resign. More from The Hill:
Earlier in his speech, Rangel said, “I am not going away. I am here,” triggering light applause from some lawmakers.
It would require two-thirds of the House to expel Rangel.
The ethics committee nearly reached an agreement with Rangel for the House to reprimand him, but that deal fell apart last month.
“This has to stop sometime. It has to stop,” Rangel said, pointing out he requested the ethics probe more than two years ago. “I deserve and demand the right to be heard.”
Rangel noted that while other members will be at home this August trying to get reelected, he is facing a Sept. 14 primary with the schedule of his ethics trial still unclear.
Here’s CNN’s video:
Here’s Fox News’ video of his speech which is much longer and complete:
What does this mean? It’s not good news for Obama and the Democrats because it will keep the Rangel controversy front and center, particularly if Rangel continues to give good quotes and embeddable videos that really fit nicely on websites or blogs. Rangel is a highly colorful character who is reportedly well liked by many politicos and people in the media. So he’ll get ink and air time. And, in the meantime, newspaper editors will most likely not just cover any defense he offers but continue to go through his time in office with a fine tooth journalistic comb. It is a hot story.
Obama will take a lot of heat for his comments about Rangel ending his career in dignity triggering Rangel’s response, but it wasn’t a ham-handed wording or suggestion. In fact, many politicians at Rangel’s age would decide to go quietly with dignity and wind it down.
But those politicians aren’t Charlie Rangel…
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.