Charles Rangel's wild ride has ended in censure. The Democratic congressman from Harlem, and former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, stood before his fellow representatives on Thursday to hear an official declaration of censure--the strongest punishment the House can give, short of expulsion. Rangel had been found guilty of 11 counts of ethics violations, and while some onlookers feel the censure amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist, many others seem to think that Rangel got exactly what he deserved.
Why Censure Is a Big Deal Thursday marked the first time since 1983 that the House has censured one of its members, and the 23rd time overall. David Kocieniewski for The New York Times notes that at one point, "Mr. Rangel's allies forced a floor vote on a motion to reduce the punishment to a reprimand. They argued that his misconduct did not approach the seriousness of others who had been censured, and that such a sanction would be extreme. The last two members who were censured, for example, had each been found guilty of having sexual relations with a Congressional page."
It's Great That This Happened, declares an editorial in the Daily News. "The House of Representatives was right yesterday to censure Charlie Rangel, and he was equally correct in saying, 'I brought it on myself'... Voting for censure established a new and higher standard of conduct, a most welcome development. After the leniency effort properly failed, Rangel faced the consequences of his long irresponsibility as well as of the bellowing and blustering that needlessly dragged out his ethics committee investigation for two years."
Rangel's Just a Symptom of the Larger Disease "The entity that was really disgraced was Congress itself," writes Dana Milbank at The Washington Post. "This is because Rangel's two-year battle with the House ethics committee exposed the woeful state of lawmakers' abilities to police their own. The rules governing members' behavior were proven to be so lax as to be irrelevant ... In the 30 minutes allotted to him for his defense on the House floor Thursday evening, Rangel and his friends made a compelling case that he was being punished for doing things that lawmakers do routinely."
Let's Hope the Investigations Continue, says an editorial in The New York Times, which points out that "this week, Representative Maxine Waters was supposed to go on trial for alleged ethics violations. That has now been postponed after the announced discovery of additional e-mail evidence. What the committee has not explained is why the two chief investigators on the case were also removed this week. Ms. Waters... is understandably demanding an explanation for the sudden sidetracking. Taxpayers disgusted by Mr. Rangel’s actions and Congress's go-along-get-along attitude must demand more, too."
He Doesn't Exactly Seem Chastised, notes Guy Benson at the conservative Web site Townhall. "If you can bring yourself to slog through his insufferable pity party of a speech, you'll reach an inescapable conclusion: Charlie is not the least bit sorry for his actions. He attributes the chamber's vote to the prevailing 'political climate' (apparently people these days don't much care for elected officials who break the very tax laws they impose on the rest of us), and defiantly assures the nation that he's 'not going to be judged by this Congress.'"
Time to Rethink the Punishment System, argues Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "The House needs another form of punishment, one that fits in the range between strongly-worded memos spoken aloud and expulsion. Anyone who thinks that a public scolding is some sort of cruel and unusual punishment for corruption and ethics violations has marinated in Beltway stew a little too long."
This Shows How Race Dynamics Have Shifted Since 2008, says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. "Two years after the election of the first African-American president, some senior members of the civil rights generation of African-American elected leaders are coming under scrutiny and found to have fallen short," Avlon writes. He cites the investigations of other black representatives William Jefferson and Maxine Waters, adding that "after Obama's election, there has been a leveling of sorts" and that "reflexive attempts to play the victim don't work they way they used to. Accountability is now colorblind. That is a sign of progress as a nation, more evidence that we are constantly in the process of forming a more perfect union."
Rangel: This Still Isn't as Bad as the Time I Almost Died In Korea In his remarks following the censure, Rangel seemed unfazed. At one point in the clip reel below, he explains that "sixty years ago, I didn't think I'd be alive. Matter of fact, as I said on November 6, I was pretty certain it was all over. But because I was able to survive that combat situation, I'm here, I'm strong, and I made a vow not to complain about any events that have happened... I haven't had a real day that's worse than the one I had on November 30, 1950."