By the time Rep. Jo Bonner, the top-ranking Republican on the House ethics committee, was halfway through his commentary about the alleged wrongdoings of veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel (at right), it was clear that what was at issue was more than Rangel's activities. Rather, his character was being called into question, as well as his "honor," as Bonner put it. So old-timey!
After a brief nod to Rangel's four-decade congressional career and distinguished military service, Bonner pressed the onslaught, lamenting that the ethics committee's findings weren't made public before the Nov. 2 elections and giving the committee's chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, his final judgment:
As an aside, I found it especially ironic and troublesome that on the very day that almost 100 newly elected members of the 112th congress were arriving in Washington for their freshman orientation, in another room just a few steps away was a man who once wielded one of the most powerful gavels in town and at one time was one of our most highly regarded colleagues and yet who was showing so little regard and respect either for the institution that he is claiming to love or for the people of his district in New York that he has claimed to proudly represent for more than 40 years.
[...] Sadly, Madame Chair, it is my unwavering view that the actions, decision and behavior of our collague from New York can no longer reflect either honor or integrity.
For his part, Rangel appeared cautious and contrite while defending himself following Bonner's indictment, calling on his "friend" and colleague Rep. John Lewis to speak for him -- but not before he used the old lawyerly trick of saying he wasn't going to say something and then saying it anyway. "I have brought my friend here, John Lewis, because I wanted him to share who I was," Rangel said. "I felt awkward in giving self-serving statements as to how I've dedicated my life to my country and to this Congress and to my community."
Despite this very public spankfest, and in spite of Bonner's barrage, Rep. Rangel isn't going to lose the seat he's occupied on behalf of Harlem for 40 years. As of Thursday afternoon, the exact form that his recommended censure would take was still undecided. --KA
Video of Bonner and Rangel follows excerpt below.
The Washington Post:
Appearing before the House ethics committee as it met to consider sanctions against him, Rangel, 80, said he "admitted wrongdoing," as well as "irresponsible behavior as it relates to violations of the House rules." He argued repeatedly, however, that he "didn't try to hide anything from anybody," and he cited a statement at his House trial this week by a prosecutor who said he saw "no evidence of corruption" in Rangel's actions.
The prosecutor, committee chief counsel R. Blake Chisam, recommended that the full House ethics committee impose a punishment of "censure" against Rangel, a more serious penalty than a reprimand but one that falls short of the maximum available sanction: expulsion from the House.
Rep. Rangel responds: