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Charlie Rangel's an Embarrassment, But the GOP's Corruption Is Far Worse

11/17/2010 04:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York Rep. Charlie Rangel was found guilty on 11 of 13 ethics violations Tuesday, despite the fact that he tried to stall proceedings claiming he could not afford legal counsel.

At this point, the ethics committee has a host of punishments they could throw Rangel's way, the worst of which would be expulsion from Congress. That clearly won't happen. Another thing that won't happen: He won't be voted out of office anytime soon as his peeps back in New York continue to have his back regardless of how he misbehaves.

What will happen, however, is this will ruin the legacy of one of the longest-standing members of Congress. It will further taint the image of black political leadership. Most importantly, however, this will give the Republicans ample ammunition to paint the Democrats as being entirely corrupt. This is an entirely false premise.

The Democrats -- far from perfect or beyond criticism -- are nothing when compared with Republicans.The problem is Americans have Reality TV short memories. The other problem is folks like Rangel. He has been so full of himself during these proceedings. He has cared little about the larger picture. Ultimately, he has not fought to preserve his own legacy -- his personal story and history are quite compelling. He has simply fought tooth and nail for his own political survival, regardless of how ridiculous it has made him appear.

Politicians are often criticized for hubris. In the case of Rangel, it couldn't be more appropriate. Sometimes, it's just best to say, "Look, I screwed up. I'm sorry," and take the punishment.

The Republican case for Democratic corruption

Rangel's defense all along has been that he was targeted for investigation. He played the race card then the partisan card, before throwing up his hand and crying poverty. There is likely some truth to both the race and poverty card. But the facts are the facts. And the fact is, he is not the first Democrat to be embroiled in scandal.

There was Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, from western New York. He made inappropriate advances towards male staffer. On his way out, after giving some pretty kooky interviews, he said he was leaving office with "a profound sense of failure."

There was the Governor, David Paterson, accused of interfering in a domestic violence investigation. "I am ending my campaign for governor of the state of New York," Paterson said Feb. 26.

In addition, there is the ongoing investigation into Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Ca., who like Rangel is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. There was John Edwards and his paternity problems. There was Jesse Jackson Jr., of Illinois, and his involvement in Gov. Rod Blagojovich's investigation. There is Blagojevich himself. There has also been Alan Mollohan of West Virginia.

"I think when a party comes in saying they are cleaning up corruption and they're going to run the House differently than the last party, I think you really have to have your feet held to the fire," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Unless Rangel resigns -- and I have no faith that he even has an ounce of the humility necessary for that -- he will help to validate this anti-Washington, throw-all-the-bums-out narrative that just stripped the Democrats of a majority in the House. If the Republicans pursue their pledged agenda of investigating the Obama administration, his own political hubris will -- through the guise of history --- be a benchmark as to why when facing unprecedented problems we as a country were unable to step up to the challenge.

I know it sounds pretty ominous, especially considering one member of the ethics committee even said the charges against Rangel looked for more sloppiness than outright corruption. But politics are not usually about the facts but how the facts are perceived by a malleable electorate and spun by the opposition.

Can the Republicans run away from their own ethics woes?

Republican have worked hard and been pretty damn effective at keeping the Rangel investigation on the front burner. They were even better at tying Rangel's woes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, "Pelosi's swamp just got dirtier," the National Republican Congressional Committee said back in August in a statement to Fox News. It was a strategy that led to them reclaiming the House of Representatives.

But how effectively can they continue to force feed amnesia to the electorate? Well, how about a stroll down the not-so-long-ago memory lane.

The Republican Dirty Dozen

Head to TheLoop21.com for dirty details of their misdeeds

  1. Tom DeLay
  2. Rep. Robert Ney
  3. Sen. Conrad Burns
  4. Mark Foley
  5. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham
  6. Lewis "Scooter" Libby
  7. Ted Stevens
  8. Larry Craig
  9. David Vitter
  10. Gov. Mark Sanford
  11. Nathan Deal
  12. John Ensign

This is by no means an exhaustive list on current and former GOP scandals. There has also been John Ensign, Pete Sessions, just to name a few. The point is, the Democrat ethics violations are exhaustive and at present only really number three. Yet, somehow their image is tarnished. And Republicans are trusted with oversight?

Devona Walker is TheLoop21.com's senior financial/political reporter and blogger. Email Devona at devona@theloop21.com. Follow her on Twitter @DevonaWalker.

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