Sad Day for Charlie Rangel

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 16, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL, D-N.Y.: Ever since the Magna Carta, the constitution, the hearing, I don't care what it is, a person should have the right to counsel if they're accused of anything, and in addition to that, have the opportunity to prepare.


BRET BAIER, HOST OF "SPECIAL REPORT": Congressman Charlie Rangel responding to Fox News after a day in which a House ethics subcommittee found him guilty of 11 counts of violating House rules, 11 counts of 14 originally. There was a split vote on the third count that had to do with the House gift rule, therefore it was cleared, and one count for violations of congressional postage, the franking statute was rolled in one. But guilty on 11 counts on the substance.

We talked about that numerous times, the charges that Rangel has been facing and had been facing. Now they're meeting to talk about sanctions and where to go from here. What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel. Fred Barnes, executive editor to of The Weekly Standard. A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When you have to appeal to the Magna Carta, you're officially pathetic. His defense is he couldn't afford a lawyer. What is he indigent? He has got a villa in the Dominican Republic.

It's not that he doesn't have counsel, it's he doesn't have a defense.  The committee was unanimous on the facts. The only issue now is going to be the level of punishment. Won't be expelled and probably get reprimand. Why he didn't settle it months ago I don't know. But obviously he thought he might run out the clock or dodge it in some way.

But he really is sort of a sad footnote on a great, iconic political career.

BAIER: The full ethics committee we’re being told A.B. will meet Thursday and this is the next phase to go over sanctions. What are the possibilities here? Charles mentions he doesn't think it’s going to go the full expulsion from the House.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: It doesn't look like he’ll be expelled from the House. There will be a letter that he will admit wrongdoing. Mr. Rangel did not have to invite the trial. He's so full of bluster and made a huge scene unnecessarily. And Charles is also right that when you are drowning, the Magna Carta cannot save you.

But this is the least of the Democrats' worries. We have the Monday after thanksgiving we have the trial of Maxine Waters. That's coming up. We have the caucus reelecting Nancy Pelosi minority leader. Nancy Pelosi, as everyone knows, was very protective of Charlie Rangel for a long time in the beginning. And then ultimately, he did have to step down from the chairmanship of the House ways and means committee.

This is embarrassing theater at this point. I don't think the committee will recommend expulsion. I think they'll give him something, a slap on the wrist, but for that he didn't have to put on such a show.

BAIER: Fred, the ethics committee council said the congressman was overzealous in many of the things he did, and yet he's guilty of violations of House rules.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He wasn't disputing the facts at all. They were there and they were clear violations.  Obviously when he says I haven't had time to build a case or get a lawyer.  These charges emerged more than two years ago. That was purely a delaying tactic. It wasn't as if they were just Republicans on the panel of ethics committee. The chairman was a Democrat.

The most amazing thing was when he acted like the guy who kills his parents and then pleads for the mercy of the court because he's an orphan.  Famously, as A.B. said, he stormed out of the meeting on Monday. And now he complains today, how can they act when he wasn't even in the room? It was his choice not to be there.

This is all -- he committed the violations and he’s made it much worse by what they are doing now.

BAIER: A.B., you mentioned the turmoil for the Democratic caucus.  One of the elements to that is Congressman Jim Clyburn from South Carolina.  He is up for what is a created position, assistant leader created by Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker. Take a listen to this, a Congressional Black Caucus member.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, D-MO.: We don't know exactly what Jim Clyburn's portfolio would look like, and so we’re just try to make sure there is meaning to it. So we will find people simply in a non-threatening way to get closure from what exactly Jim Clyburn is supposed to do.


BAIER: What exactly is he supposed to do, A.B.? He was running against Steny Hoyer, and this was an effort to essentially take that race away.

STODDARD: That's right. Jim Clyburn did not have votes to be number two. He is the number three now and he wanted to be number two. And Steny Hoyer, what he has done for the caucus is incomparable and cannot be matched. He has the votes.

And so in a play of raw power on Friday, the speaker gave him a special position. This is illustrative of the upset and frustration in the ranks not only on the conservative side of the caucus but on the liberal side. You see the Congressional Black Caucus questioning the deal she gave Jim Clyburn and saying they’ll take a longer look to see if it's really for real.

Again, she has called in every chip. This is a raw you power play.  She will probably win minority leader election tomorrow, but unhappy people all across the spectrum in the caucus.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think of the appearances here at a time when the Democrats are defeated, Republicans rallied around banning earmarks, a popular form of symbolism. If you look at the Democrats you see petty arguing over how much the office that Clyburn will get will receive in funds. That looks pretty sort of introspective and selfish and sort of clueless on part of the Democrats at the time the country is in turmoil.

And they are expecting something new out of the House and this is what they get out of the Democrats.

BAIER: Quickly down the row, if I could, about this schedule change.  This was all this looking forward to the big bipartisan meeting at the White House. Now we get a release confirmed on Capitol Hill, that because of the scheduling issues with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and House minority leader John Boehner the meeting has been moved from the 18th to the 30th. What about that?

KRAUTHAMMER: I can assure you if McConnell had won the lottery and awarding it depended on his appearing that night he would have undone his scheduling difficulties.

Obviously this it’s a delay. We spoke about this off the air and it looks as if the ideas are the Republicans are not quite prepared to deal on the tax cuts. They'd rather wait and stall as the first of January approaches.

The pressure is on the president, and then he’s the one who has to cave.  It gives them, perhaps they're thinking, gives them slight negotiating advantage if they hold out, and run out the clock.

STODDARD: I would agree its delaying tactic. This is interesting.  The Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate for the tax cuts. If the Democrats have the vote they would have passed them before the election.  This is why it's been punted to the lame duck so they can force him to cave now. I can't imagine why else they would have rescheduled.

BAIER: There is talk of an up or down vote on the middle class tax cuts, talk floating around today about that, Fred. Could this be a pushback on all of that talk?

BARNES: Of course it's pushback on that. The Republicans, their best offer is to extend all the tax cuts for four years. That's what they want.  And with the clock ticking and more pressure on the Democrats and President Obama, they think they’ll get a better deal and they'll get closer to that.

And scheduling difficulties, that's when I told the other people I had tonight. That's why I'm here because I told them I had scheduling difficulties.

BAIER: We're happy you are.

KRAUTHAMMER: And they had no idea.


BAIER: No idea. Now they know.

Next up, TSA pat-downs and x-ray screening.



JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We want to be sensitive to people's concerns about privacy, about their personal being and things while ensuring that everybody on every flight has been properly screened.

BRIAN SODERGREN, ORGANIZER OF OPT-OUT DAY: I don't think that the government has the right to look under the clothes of anyone it wants without reasonable cause. I think we need to set some sort of limit between security and privacy. And I think it takes it a step too far.


BAIER: That is one Virginia man who says the TSA is going too far at the airports and he's organizing an opt-out day next Wednesday before Thanksgiving, saying air travelers should opt out of the full body scans in favor of a pat-down and slow things down. That should be fun.

Meanwhile, the TSA is defending its efforts to keep people safe.  We're back with the panel. Fred?

BARNES: This cannot go on this way, for sure. The people who run TSA have to get a grip here. When you go on the Internet it's bubbling over with video of a three-year-old for heaven's sake going "please don't touch me, please don't touch." And guys are talking about how the TSA people have gone down inside their underwear. And some of them have much more graphic than that.

Then a lot of people for perfectly good reasons that I don't share do not want to go through the scanners. They don't want the x-rays and so on.  That's fine. But insisting on them is crazy.

And then if the alternative is that you are going to be frisked in a way you've never been frisked before in your life -- look, they have to do something to get a grip there.

It's not all their fault. One of the problems is they're not allowed to do what is obvious, what they need to do, and that’s profile. They have to -- look, it's easy to find out, to be able to go in and say look, this three-year-old girl she probably someone we can let go through, the 80-year- old grandfather but it's different when you have the Muhammad Atta look alike. You want him to be someone you do frisk.

BAIER: Under 12 is supposed to be exempt, 12 years old. There have been a lot of stories on the Internet,  a lot of videos, A.B., yet the security folks are saying we need to do this because the threat is real.

STODDARD: Right. This has been determined by the enemy that would put explosion in places that invasive pat-downs would not detect. Fred is saying -- we're without a good answer here. You either accept the dose of radiation that you receive in full body scanner and the government, Janet Napolitano, the director of Homeland Security is maintaining it's a low enough level of emission, from those scanners. And if the government believes that that’s true they need to campaign about that and convince us that the scanners are safe.

But this is really obviously something determined by the fact that people who pack explosives and get on planes and kill hundreds of people at a time. I think probably it's fair to come up separate rules with pilots.  I understand why they are feeling a bit traumatized. Maybe they should be examined in private.

But this is not something that the TSA and the government have come up with because they want to have a good time. This is something they've come up with because they literally feel that these explosives escape detection.

KRAUTHAMMER: Out of all this, an American hero emerges, a guy refusing the pat-down and scanning by saying, "Don't touch my junk." That’s the banner of the year 2010. It doesn't have the elegance of "Don't tread on me," but that was the age of the musket. This is the age of Twitter. It’s got a directness that I really like.

And over the ages people have come up with hundreds of words to describe the private parts. This guy just invented a new one. It's quite remarkable.

Look, the point he's trying to make here is we're completely insane.  The Israelis understand how to do it. You look for not the object, but the terrorist. Unless we do that, it's insanity. Everyone in these lines knows that 90 percent of these inspections are completely worthless and done for political correctness and for appearance. You cut it out and you can have real inspection and safety.

BAIER: Meantime, cargo screening is lacking.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. It makes no sense at all.

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