Keen observers of the D.C. circus have been eagerly anticipating the day when Charles Rangel (D-NY 15) would finally take the stand in his own defense on a laundry list of ethics charges. On a cloudy day in November, the wait finally came to an end.
All the players were in place. The ethics panel, led by Congressman Zoe Lofgren (a fellow Democrat from California), had allotted a full ten hours for the elder Harlem statesman to mount his defense against a variety of allegations. Some dealt with rent-controlled apartments of dubious utilization and properties he owns in the Caribbean, but most stemmed from his vigorous fundraising efforts on behalf of the Charles Rangel Center for the Advancement of Charles Rangel.
(I’m sorry … I’m being told by the editor that the proper name for the facility is the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.)
Many of Congressman Rangel’s colleagues from both sides of the aisle were in attendance. No expense had been spared in expert consultants, with Abbe Lowell — an attorney who represented Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment — standing by to mount a vigorous defense. All that was missing was Raymond Burr in a wheelchair, ready to roll forward and decry the unjust system seeking to bring down a venerable voice of the people.
And at last the moment had arrived. Charlie took the stand to clear his good name, but his opening was more of a surprise than anyone had anticipated. After declaring that he required more time to prepare his legal footing (ignoring the fact that this process has been playing out for a couple of years now), Congressman Rangel pulled the equivalent of grabbing two beers and heading for the emergency exit slide.
Charlie Rangel walked out the door.
“All I am asking for is fairness,” Rangel later said. “Can you tell me under what theory of fairness would dictate that I be denied due process, that I be denied an attorney, because it’s going to be the end of the session? How far does this go to a person not having counsel, not having due process, because we don’t have the time?”
Some of our readers might be thinking that such a response sounds rather crazy. But I maintain it’s simply crazy like a fox.