Published August 10, 2010
They are calling it "must see congressional TV."
In an unprecedented move today, embattled New York Congressman Charlie Rangel took to the House floor to argue his case to Congress in what is called “a point of personal privilege,” and convince his colleagues, and the public, that he has done nothing wrong.
Now it's even more clear: a politician he is, a skilled public relations tactician, he is not.
Despite advice to rethink the move from friends, Rangel used his seniority and popularity to argue against his alleged corruption charges in the very public political forum. There couldn’t be a worse message when the country is disgusted with incumbent entitlement and power plays.
In what, at times, was as hard to follow as a Jessica Simpson autobiography, Rangel demanded that the Ethics Committee expedite things so that he’s not left hanging. Apparently, and inconveniently, the committee is not moving fast enough for Charlie.
Despite calls from Democrats for his head, Rangel boasted, “I am not going away” and even defiantly dared the House to throw him out.
His colleagues sure wish he would, especially to not have this cloud hanging over them in an election year, but Democrats have Speaker Pelosi to thank for that. She had the opportunity over a year ago to act, but instead she stonewalled and stalled action on her good friend and longtime ally's many scandals. Now, the bipartisan Ethics Committee is expected to act near Election Day.
Despite the often incoherence of Rangel’s ramblings on the House floor, there was a common theme that speaks to the many ethical charges Rangel is facing: Rangel. It’s all about him. His feelings, his career, and now, his fate. For decades he has put himself before the needs of his constituents and it’s time they have a leader who puts them first.
“That’s all I’ve ever done is public service,” Rangel pleaded.
Right again. And that’s why you should know better after decades as a career politician.
You’d think a man with so many troubles would have little reason to celebrate. Think again. Tomorrow evening Rangel is throwing himself a belated 80th birthday party that doubles as a fundraiser for his reelection campaign at the Plaza hotel in New York City. The RSVP list is thin, and according to reports, former President Clinton is among the many who backed out to avoid backlash.
As the man running to unseat Rangel, former N.Y. Jet Michel Faulkner, told me, “The role of public servants is to serve the public in their best interest and not their personal self-interest. While no one is perfect we do expect to have our elected officials be law abiding citizens. When our elected officials do not abide by the law they create an atmosphere of distrust that undermines the very fabric of our democracy and robs people of the American dream. These officials, whoever they are, whatever their party affiliation is, need to be held to higher standard of accountability in order to restore our faith and hope in our government.”
There is a very simple saying in politics: "when you’re explaining, you’re losing."
Today's display on the House floor showcased that Rangel is losing.
While he may not have lost his re-election, he’s lost all credibility with his constituents, with the Democratic caucus and with the country. Sorry Charlie, today's political theatrics did nothing to restore it.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and FoxNews.com contributor. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros.
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