Category Archives: Congress

Rangel – The Lion of Harlem Runs Again!

I don’t exactly remember the first time I met Rep. Charles Rangel. I do know his career in Congress and mine in radio have slightly overlapped. He was serving his second term when I began my radio career in 1973.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve interviewed him, through good times and bad for both of us. I’ve admired his work in the House of Representatives, and said so. I also said so when I thought he was getting the shaft, which he did more than once.

And so it was on Thursday, December 19th, that Charles Rangel announced he was running for a 23rd term in Congress. I for one was happy to hear it.

Charles Rangel

Charles Rangel has faced some formidable opponents in his time, including the person he first beat back in 1970. Last time around, in 2012, a state senator from Upper Manhattan came dangerously close to defeating the Lion of Harlem. That bid fell short.

The senator, Adriano Espaillat, has broadly hinted he’ll make another run. At least two Harlem clergy people have been the subject of media reports saying they may run. At his announcement news conference Thursday, none of this seemed to faze Charles Rangel (I can’t call him Charlie, not even in print). When asked about opposition, he said he was unconcerned about any opponent.

Through the years, I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism of Charles Rangel. I’ve been criticized for defending him, mostly by callers to my radio programs that never lived in his district. In fact, I was part of an effort to show citywide support for the congressman when the House Ethics Committee was breathing down his neck. There was a rally for him at City Hall, organized by my friends Ken Sunshine and the late Bill Lynch. As we waited for the rally to officially start, a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration walked by, on his way inside City Hall. I heard him say to Bill, “You do know Charlie Rangel brings about a half billion dollars in federal money to the city each year, don’t you?” Bill smiled, because he knew. My jaw dropped because I didn’t.

Critics will often ask “What has Rangel done for Harlem?” It may not be obvious, and hasn’t been all that obvious to me, even though I walk through the neighborhood regularly. I can think back 40 years, to the Harlem I work in when starting my radio life. I remember Sylvia’s when it was just a lunch counter, and the Chinese restaurant that stood where Sylvia’s Also is today (the old heads told me that Ho Chi Minh worked there was a college student back in the ’20s).

Yet when someone asks what Rangel has done for Harlem, it’s not about buildings or artifacts. It’s about people. Walking across 125th St. on this unusually balmy Thursday in December, I was struck by the number of middle aged and older black folks who still call the street home. Yes, there’s been gentrification, and the displacement it causes, but there are still vendors, and people walking along the street I’ve seen for decades. They still call Harlem home in large measure because Charles Rangel has looked out for them.

Charles Rangel shops Harlem

He hasn’t been able to beat back all market forces in the neighborhood, but he’s kept the community affordable for enough folks that Harlem still has its unique pulse and rhythm. You know, that which is created by people.

And so, Charles Rangel runs again. He’s not just running in Harlem this time. He’s got a good sliver of the Bronx that he’ll have to convince that he’s still the best man for the job.

I wouldn’t bet against him.

Would love to know your views…

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Are Tiger and Gate Crashers the Only News?

Forgive me, I was out of town the past few days, so I don’t know if there was a breakthrough on healthcare reform, or whether the House, Senate, or White House has come up with a magic bullet for the unacceptably high unemployment rate.

I do know retailers were cautiously optimistic about “Black Friday”. I went to a shopping mall out of town not to buy anything, but to see a movie with my daughter. There were plenty of people there, but checkout lines didn’t seem long, and lots of folks were leaving without being weighted down with packages.

What I did hear and see a lot about were two stories. Tiger Woods, Emperor of  All Golf , crached his SUV early Friday morning just outside his house. Apparently, it was early enough to cause all manner of speculation about the state of his marriage, the state of his mind (he was reportedly unconscious), and whether a tabloid report about his fooling around is true. Yawn!

Tiger’s right. He’s boring, and so is the frenzy that’s surrounding this incident. He ought to know better than to turn away state troopers trying to investigate the crash more than once. All that does is feed the media speculation. You and the missus ought to talk to them, release a statement, and be done with it already.

The other story that won’t go away is the one about the couple that crashed the White House state dinner Tuesday night. If  Michaele and  Tareq Salahi werre looking for 15 minutes of fame, they got five days. This one is amazing on several levels. Why would two people think they had the smarts and the guts to get past what most folks think is tough security at the White House?

What would they have done if they’d been turned away, just head to a fancy Georgetown restaurant? Of course, just like that “Balloon Boy” family, reports say the wife wanted to be on a reality television show. Was this supposed to be her audition?

The Salahis are reportedly talking to the Secret Service, maybe trying to avoid a possible criminal rap for their night on the town. Government security in general ought to be hanging their heads in shame, because it means security checkpoints literally mean nothing. All that stuff they make you do at the airport? Theater! Building security, where they make you show a couple of forms of ID? Meaningless!

And Sunday, here were two US Senators discussing the incident, and saying (with appropriate seriousness), that criminal charges are in order. Do I smell an investigation in the Upper House?

But hey, you tell me. Did anything else go on over this past weekend? (I do know about the awful murders of four cops in Washington state. Here’s hoping they nail the guy).

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Are Republicans Serious About a Purity Test?

It sure looks like they are. Conservative leaders in the GOP have put together a 10 point checklist they say candidates for office should adhere to. If they don’t follow the leader on at least 7, they’d be denied party funds and endorsements. WHOA!!!

Among the 10 so called “principles” is opposition to abortion, along with opposition to President Obama’s “socialist agenda”. Those aren’t my words, they’re the words of people who obviously long for the days of a senator named McCarthy.

This foolishness is even going to be presented to the Republican National Committee early next year. The inmates are truly running the asylum. What would they do about a Michael Bloomberg, who got the GOP line here in New York for the last mayoral election, but wouldn’t come close to hitting seven of the ten principles.

Suffice to say Mayor Mike wouldn’t have needed Republican money. In fact, they probably need his more. And what about the Republican’s resident homeboy, Michael Steele? Is he really ready to preside over a bunch of conservatives whose political strategy might well bury his party? Does any thinking Republican really want a litmus test?

It seems to me that at least in Congress, even the most moderate of Republicans toe the line, whatever the line is besides “no” on most legislation. Is this the next step for the tea party-ers, birthers, and Glenn Beck adherents? If so, Democrats ought to be licking their chops. That is, if they have the guts to articulate a different vision than a lockstep conservatism that I bet makes George Will cringe.

All this from a group of 10 members of the RNC who believe the Republicans have strayed too far from their conservative roots. It’s amazing they’ve gotten this far with their twisted initiative. But they have, and now it’s the party’s problem to fix, or maybe embrace.

I’m sure most of these folks haven’t read up on actual Republican history. It seems their memories only go back as far as Ronald Reagan. That people like Jacob Javits and Nelson Rockefeller once proudly called themselves Republican must have slipped their notice.

No matter. If this is the true vision of the Republican Party, Michael Steele ought to resign tomorrow and give the reins of the RNC to co-chairs Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. The sad part is that some of the people who follow these folks are under the mistaken illusion these GOP celebrities actually care about them. Many have a right to be angry, but they’re mad at the wrong people.

Obama’s socialist agenda isn’t the issue. Seven figure bonuses for incompetent bankers who won’t lend credit worthy small businesses a dime are the problem. Much of what is presented to them is smoke and mirrors. And now, a purity test.

But you tell me. Are the Republicans far gone enough to actually implement these 10 “principles”?

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