Krauthammer: Rangel Undone by Arrogance

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 2, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, D-N.Y.: Has anyone ever suffered the humiliation of a censure when the record is abundantly clear and never challenged that in those two years of investigations, which I called for, counsel and the committee found no evidence at all of corruption, found no evidence of self-enrichment, found no evidence that there was intention on my part to evade my responsibility.


BRET BAIER, HOST OF "SPECIAL REPORT": The House overwhelmingly voting to censure, the most serious House punishment short of expulsion, Charlie Rangel, New York Democrat. Here is the rap sheet -- failure to disclose income, use of office letterhead to solicit funds, use of rent controlled apartment, conduct unbecoming, filing misleading financial documents, disclosure forms, and failing to pay all of his taxes.  We'll start with the panel. Let's bring them in, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, the congressman didn't sound too remorseful in that news conference after the censure vote.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But he looked pathetic in the dock. He was paying for his sins. That was the wages of his sin and his sins were the sins of excess and entitlement, which comes to many folks later in life when they become big shots. And I think that's what happened to him.

Now, I know when I display any sentimentality or leniency toward Charlie Rangel, Steve will go ballistic, pointing out as he did a few weeks ago, correctly, that he pays his taxes. Everyone does, but Charlie didn't, which is true. I'm with Steve on the law.

But I'm with Portia on the quality of mercy. It is not strained.  It follows like the gentle rain from heaven, and it is twice blessed, et cetera, et cetera. But now I'll let Steve correct me and blow a gasket.


BAIER: All right, Steve.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Let me not be one without mercy, and that was as eloquently stated as it could possibly be, the most eloquent statement of a fundamentally wrong position that you could have.


Look, it's clear what he did, the 11 of 13 counts, as you said.  What was to me the most telling as you watched the supporters of Charlie Rangel attempt to make a case on his behalf, which they failed to do, was that they were referring repeatedly to history and precedent.

Nobody has been censured in this body for 27 years and wouldn't it be a crime for us to censure Charlie Rangel for these misdeeds which they acknowledge? And to me, that speaks to the problems with Congress and their self-administering of whatever kind of law they have in the body than it does to the seriousness of Charlie Rangel's offenses.

I think if you ask somebody else who hadn't paid income taxes for 17 years what he thinks of the scorn or the shame of having your charges read to you in Congress, I think that person, perhaps answering from a jail cell, might say, I would take that actually.


BAIER: Nia, his is the 23rd member of the House of Representatives to be censured.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And he made the case and his supporters made the case that other folks had done much worse.  I think some of these people had sexual offenses and some of them way back in the day sided with the Confederacy.

I think one of the things that Charles talked about, this whole idea of having some sympathy, Charlie Rangel seemed to have that early on across the aisle. But I think there was a sense that he had this sort of bring on attitude with the Ethics Committee, and early on it seemed like he might be able to escape this thing with a reprimand, but as it went on and he kind of had this sort of tearful statement on the House floor, and then he walked out of the early ethics committee hearings and claimed he didn't have is a lawyer. I think people were kind of like; here’s a guy who is throwing a temper tantrum.

BAIER: Last word on this.

KRAUTHAMMER: In the end, that's the irony. That same arrogance which caused him to commit all these sins is the one that had him turn down a simple reprimand, which he could have had, and suffer the censure, which is a true humiliation and a disgrace.

BAIER: I want to talk quickly about what happened in the House of Representatives before all of this. The House voted to move forward a bill extending the Bush era tax cuts only for $250,000 and below. This is the middle class version. The House moving forward with this and that was some of the reaction that we heard today. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER R-OHIO: Trying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, alright? But this is nonsense!  Alright? The election was one month ago. We're 23 months from the next election, and the political games have already started trying to set up the next election.

REP. NANCY PELOSI D-CALIF.: What my Republican colleagues are saying is, unless you give an additional tax break to the wealthiest people in our country, adding to the deficit and not creating jobs, we are not going to vote for middle income tax cuts.


BAIER: Bottom line is this doesn't have a chance in the Senate, Steve, and an interesting back and forth with "chicken crap" thrown in.

HAYES: Nice of John Boehner to try to restrain himself before using the word that he didn't want to use.

Look, the fundamental reality of this is Democrats voted today to raise taxes. That is the inescapable reality of what happened in the House of Representatives today.

And look, I like the idea of a clean up and down vote. You'll remember that during the health care debate, this is one of the things that Republicans asked for repeatedly, an up and down vote on a matter of principle, and here we had it.

The problem is the way the Democrats got there. They had to use all sorts of procedural maneuvering to do something that they didn't do by choice before the election because they didn't want their most vulnerable members to be on record voting in favor of tax hikes.


HENDERSON: I mean, I think again, it's all over but the shouting in terms of what is actually going to happen. I think everybody is pretty much on the table, on the record saying that what's going to happen is that there is going to be a temporary extension across the board of all these tax cuts, and all of this pretty much amounts to political theater.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I agree. And I would just add that the speaker-to-be has signaled us that we are not going to have rhetoric at the level of John Calhoun and Henry Clay in the coming Congress.

BAIER: It was interesting rhetoric.

KRAUTHAMMER: It was a new kind of syntax.

BAIER: Next up, the escalating drug war on the southern border with Mexico. We'll talk about that with the panel coming up.



BRUCE BAGLEY, DRUG TRAFFICKING EXPERT: They have one of the highest murder rates on the planet, higher than Baghdad right now, higher than Kabul in Afghanistan.

HECTOR DAYER, CUIDAD JUAREZ JOUNALIST: The worst days are when you wake up and there are already ten or 15 people dead. As the day goes on, it’s another ten, sometimes 25 people killed by the end of the day.  Those are the hardest days. You realize how ugly this city is.


BAIER: According to Steve Harrigan, who has been down there, spent a couple of days down there in Juarez just across the border from El Paso, Texas, he says the central government of Mexico has lost control in that city. Some 5,000 houses abandoned in Juarez in the past six months as the drug war continues there.

We're back with the panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: This is extremely serious stuff. There’s really not an international consciousness. Of course, people in Texas and the border states know about this. But the idea that we would live next to a country that has lost control of some areas which are on our border are really quite strange for us.

We've had this two century existence where we're protected by two oceans, have Canada which is at peace with us and Mexico as well. This is essentially parts of Mexico becoming like what parts of Colombia were in the 80s and 90s, and even small areas of it today which are essentially controlled by drug gangs or even, if you will, by like parts of Pakistan, which are outside the control of the central government.

And 3,000 killings a year in Juarez where you have ten a year on the Texas side is astonishing. I think in the end if this continues we're going to end up within a decade or so with American soldiers on the other side of the line working with the federales to actually just keep it under control and not a no man's land.

BAIER: Texas Governor Perry has already called for that. What about how this administration is responding to this and working with or dealing with Mexico?

HENDERSON: Yes. You see -- in some ways they've been reactionary. You have Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor have a stricter immigration bill over there and then immediately after that, the president ordered more troops on the border. And it was a $600 million bill, there is like 1,000 troops ordered on the border.

But it hasn't reached the national conversation. You almost think that what has to happen, sadly, is for more Americans to be caught up in this. I think something like 39 Americans were killed in 2009 and 36 so far this year in this rampant drug violence, and you almost think it's going to take more of that kind of real cost to actual Americans for this to happen.

BAIER: I don't know. You talk to people along the border and they are into it. I get e-mails all the time.

HAYES: They know the names. You've had high profile cases, this consular official that was killed with the spouse. You've had some high profile killings, but it hasn't sort of crossed into the national consciousness, I think.

In the short-term, I think what the U.S. government has to do is continue to provide the back up and the resources for the Mexicans to fight the problem on their side of the border. That involves I think first and foremost, securing our border, particularly in towns like El Paso that are the most likely to see the bleed-over effect of this kind of war.

And I think it is a low grade war when you're talking about cities like Juarez, like Monterey, like Guadalupe where there was eight police officers there a year ago, and now there is one who has no training whatsoever in police tactics and basically has no one to call on for help.

It's a situation that's slowly spiraling out of control and it’s the kind of thing that if we don't get in front of it we're likely to see a greater U.S. government intervention down the road.

BAIER: Is this administration capable of a tough love with Felipe Calderon and Mexico who came to the U.S. and spoke to Congress and essentially talked about the immigration bill in Arizona and scolded America for moving forward that way?

KRAUTHAMMER: We ought to say, you've got to get your house in order. That's a separate issue, immigration is a separate issue. This is a crime issue. This is a national security issue.

But I would add there is one element on our side of the border.  American demand is driving the drug trade, always has. Nancy Reagan had a campaign against drugs, it was considered corny, old-fashioned. I think the government ought to have a stronger campaign as it does against smoking and obesity. We ought to renew that and to make it, if we can, over time, unfashionable. That's the only way you'll reach young folks, and we have to do our part by decreasing demand.

BAIER: They have to do their part by fighting and enforcing it.

KRAUTHAMMER: And not being corrupt about it as has happened so often.

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