By Todd Steven Burroughs
First, it was Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) going to trial in front of the House Ethics Committee for 13 alleged ethical violations. And now Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) makes two—two of Black America’s most powerful politicians in the crosshairs. So, more examples of a conspiracy to attack powerful Black politicians? Not according to the most powerful one.
“I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served his constituents very well, but these allegations are very troubling, and, you know, he’s somebody who is at the end of his career, 80 years old,” President Obama said in an CBS interview last week. “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens.”
Damn. Even if he’s right this time, that bus that Obama keeps throwing controversial Black folk under is still rolling. That clip was played all over the Sunday shows yesterday.
Rangel, 80, deserves to be in trouble. He has to prove a few things. Here’s just three: one, that the chair of a powerful tax writing committee did not mean to avoid paying taxes on his Dominican Republic villa and to fail to publicly disclose six-figure amounts of personal income; two, that he did not remember that it’s not cool to use four rent-subsidized Harlem apartments for office space; and three, that he did not give tax breaks to a donor to a center in his name at City College of New York.
In contrast, Waters, 71, a member of the House Financial Committee, has to prove that she did not favor a bank with bailout money because her husband had connections with it.
Rangel is one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, while Waters had served as chairwoman. Both have worn the Red, Black and Green well over the decades against Reaganism and Bushism. Now, they’re fighting for their good names in an election year.
One CBC member told Politico that there was a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans.” CBC members have been saying this for a while. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the Office of the Congressional Ethics, a new body set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has investigated eight CBC members in its one year of operation. Rangel and Waters might have messed up, but that’s a lot of CBC members.
On one of those Sunday shows, “ABC’s This Week With Christine Amanpour” (her first week as host), white male panelists and Donna Brazile, the sister who led Al Gore’s 2000 Election campaign, argued over whether or not there was a double-standard going on:
BRAZILE: It would be politically expedient for Mr. Rangel to just step down and resign, but he’s not the kind of lawmaker that would do that. These are serious allegations, and Mr. Rangel would like to have his day up on the Hill to defend himself, defend his honor, and answer to some of these charges.
Again, it’s easy to drain the swamp if you have some type of Drano, but it’s clogged up, and I think Mr. Rangel and others would like to have their day to clear their names.
AMANPOUR: What about the president making that pretty…
PAUL KRUGMAN, Liberal Columnist, New York Times: Yes, well, they…
AMANPOUR: … dismissive statement?
KRUGMAN: No, I think it’s fair enough. But, you know, let me ask — there’s something I don’t understand about this whole thing. There are actually two major investigations of members of Congress underway right now. There’s Charlie Rangel, who’s accused of some fairly petty, although stupid and wrong, ethical violations, and there’s Senator John Ensign, who’s facing a criminal investigation and which actually — it’s even a story that involves sex. And you get no publicity whatsoever on the Ensign investigation.
Why is Rangel getting all this attention?
AMANPOUR: Is that fair, George?
GEORGE WILL, Conservative Columnist, Washington Post/Newsweek: Well, Rangel is much more important, because he’s chairman of an important committee [the House Ways and Means Committee].
More important, or darker? Obama would think the former, while many Black Americans, used to having to ignore white corruption for centuries, would surely think the latter.
Todd Steven Burroughs is co-author with Herb Boyd of the forthcoming book “Civil Rights, Yesterday and Today.”