It was supposed to be a day of victory for the House Democratic Caucus, they were called back from vacation to give a giant gift to their union friends, but instead of victory they got a shot of reality when Charlie Rangel took the House floor today and went on a half hour rant that could only be described as sad. It was a whiny, rambling discourse. It was almost as if he was begging for his job, but the recommended punishment he faces is to be called out in front of his House colleges to be censured on that same house floor.
Rangel maintained that he did not intentionally break any House rules saying “It may be stupid, it may be negligent, but it’s not corrupt,”
“I am not going away,” the former Ways and Means Committee chairman declared in a combative tone. “If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion.”
Rangel, who is 80, spoke without notes in an extraordinary, often emotional 37-minute speech that defied his lawyers’ advice to keep quiet about his case.
“You’re not going to get me to resign to make you feel comfortable,” he said, before offering a word of advice to his colleagues.
“Don’t let this happen to you,” he said. “Not all of you would be able to withstand it.”
More than anything, today’s rant showed the depths to which Rangel had fallen. He made this crying rant over the advice of his friends in the house leadership.
A Democratic lawmaker — who requested anonymity — told The Hill that House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “tried to talk [Rangel] out” of addressing the chamber on the ethics charges that have been lodged against the New York Democrat.
It’s unclear if Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) or Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) led the effort to persuade Rangel to reconsider.
Shortly after the speech, which lasted more than 30 minutes, Hoyer said Rangel had the right to address the chamber, but wouldn’t comment on the political ramifications of doing so.
“Every member has a right to express themselves. He availed himself of that right,” Hoyer said, refraining from commenting on whether Rangel helped himself politically.
Hoyer said he didn’t think the “ethics committee is going to be swayed,” by Rangel’s speech.
Clyburn told The Hill he was aware Rangel would give a speech on the floor. He declined to comment on his reaction to the address.
Some Democrats applauded Rangel’s speech, but others — particularly those who are politically vulnerable — panned it, with one going so far as to call it a “train wreck.”
That’s what it was, a sad self-serving train wreck. Mr. Rangel talked a lot about dignity during his rambling speech today sadly, his oratory today stole a good measure of that dignity.