Tag Archives: Harlem

Will GOP Jihad Dethrone Charles Rangel?

Don’t bet on it. The Republicans have a two pronged approach to dealing with the Manhattan Congressman’s admitted bookkeeping lapses. On the one hand, they would revel in the chaos that would follow if they were successful in forcing him out as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. At the same time, they’d like nothing better than to use Congressman Rangel as a symbol or litmus test in next year’s congressional elections.

Neither will work. They’ve already tried to pass a resolution calling on Rangel to step down.

It failed miserably. Now, one of the congressmen leading the GOP jihad, John Carter of Texas, has had to admit to failing to disclose nearly $300,000 in profits from oil stock sales in 2006-2007.

Congressman John Carter, Texas
Congressman John Carter, Texas

While some might look at this as the height of hypocrisy, Carter and his friends in the House say they’ll press on trying to push Charles Rangel out as chair of Ways and Means.

As is typical when the pot calls the kettle black, Republicans try to differentiate between Carter’s failure to disclose and Rangel’s.

It doesn’t hold water, and they know it. But they press on, because in  the end they have little else to run on next year but the twin fears of Charlie Rangel and Barack Obama. Now be honest. Other than the nonsensical effort to insert health insurance co-ops in place of a public option, what new ideas have you heard from Congressional Republicans?

The answer is few if any. In fact, Charles Rangel has introduced and helped pass more legislation important to the American people than all his detractors combined.

Charles-Rangel

He has admitted to sloppy record keeping. It was Charles Rangel who asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate him, and it was Charles Rangel’s forensic accountants that found the tax and disclosure discrepancies in the first place.

So let John Boehner and John Carter do their worst. Charles Rangel has a distinguished history of service to his country (as a US marine) and his congressional district (take a walk through Harlem if you don’t believe me).

demchairs

The Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful in Congress. That’s why they’re trying to take Charlie Rangel down.

Expressions of support, now a whisper, will turn into a deafening roar. Republicans will have to come up with more than just nit-picking to explain their own ethical problems. And in the end, no matter what you think of the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, he’ll prevail.

That’s what I think. How about you?

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Remembering Ted Kennedy. Will Last Lion have Last Laugh?

My most vivid memory of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy wasn’t the tumultuous reception he received at last year’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. Although to say he received a hero’s welcome would be the height of understatement. No, my memory goes back three decades earlier.

I was covering a rally to keep a hospital in Harlem open. It was 1977, and New York City was still trying to cope with a mammoth budget gap. Cops and teachers were being laid off, and a place called Sydenham Hospital was scheduled for closure. Normally, this was the kind of issue that attracted local politicians and health activists. But as I walked toward the hospital, I sensed something different. The crowd was larger than normal for a hot summer day. It was also louder.

I asked someone what brought all these people out, and she turned and said, “Haven’t you heard? Teddy Kennedy is here!” Those words alone were magic. There was always something about the relationship between black America and this family that was a close to royalty as you’d find in this country.

The Kennedys
The Kennedys

After all, it was Bobby Kennedy who walked the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant back in the late ’60s, and from that walk, Bed Stuy Restoration was born.

Bob Kennedy in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Bob Kennedy in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

And here was his kid brother, walking to the podium on the back of a flatbed truck. Ted Kennedy unleashed a torrent of words that day. I wish I still had the tape of his remarks.

I do remember he was one of the earliest politicians to link shortened black longevity to a lack of affordable healthcare. “We are going to fight to keep this hospital open”, he thundered, and the crowd believed his every word.

Years later, Sydenham is a health clinic, not a full blown hospital. But were it not for Ted Kennedy and the people of Harlem who fought that battle back in ’77, Sydenham would be little more than a memory.

And now, the Lion of the Senate has left us, left us to fight his last battle. That would be the battle for healthcare for all Americans. Unlike so many others, Ted Kennedy believed that poor and working people ought to have access to the same quality of care he had.

In the end, that’s what made him different, different 30 years ago, and different until the day he died. Ted Kennedy believed part of being American was wanting the best for all Americans. And so his passing should steel the resolve of those who believe the battle for affordable healthcare is a battle that must be won.

You tell me . Will healthcare reform be a part of Ted Kennedy’s legacy?

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