Monday, July 26, 2010

Rangel, Espada, and Due Process

Over the weekend, Charlie Rangel made the following point-courtesy of the NY Daily News: "Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel said Saturday it would be unpatriotic to resign rather than fight his pending ethics charges - despite a call that he do so to save the Democratic party. "Well, it wouldn't be the American thing to do \[to step aside\]. I think I owe it to the process to find out first what the investigative committee finds out," Rangel told reporters after speaking at Harlem Hospital."

And then Rangel, who we are obviously not a big fan of, spoke about his right to defend himself against charges that are, at this moment merely allegations: "He responded, "I really never heard of that concept that if someone accuses you of something, why don't you just step aside so you don't embarrass anybody and admit to something that you don't believe is true."

We agree with the congressman, but pause to note just how differently his situation is being treated in comparison to that of State Senator Espada-whose sins are-as with Rangel-in the same category as unproven allegations. Calls for his ouster from the Democratic Party for allegations of wrongdoing?

So, the Rangel investigation and trial should proceed-and if it embarrasses the Democrats than it is a dilemma of their own making. It was, after all, Speaker Pelosi who swept into office saying, "Maybe it will take a woman to clean up the House." Given that the Rangel mess is simply Exhibit 1 of the proliferation of ethics scandals under the Dems, "maybe not."

But Rangel has served for a very long time-too long in our view. And his tenure is as good an argument for term limits as we could imagine. Clearly, he became enamored of his own self-importance and was transformed into the same kind of arrogant character that was epitomized by the late Leona Helmsley, who infamously declared that, "only the little people pay taxes."

That doesn't mean he should be unceremoniously pushed out just because it might hurt the party's chances in November. Like Espada, he deserves the right to self defense; we just wish that the standards were being applied evenly, rather than selectively.