11/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Charlie Rangel Suffers From Congressional Sclerosis: Richard Cohen

Once upon a time, before I began an interview with Rep. Charles Rangel, I was warned by an aide not to bring up the 1970 race in which the upstart Rangel defeated the virtually legendary Adam Clayton Powell to gain his House seat. In the intervening years, Powell had gone from has-been to icon, with both a state office building and a boulevard named for him in Harlem, and it did Rangel no good in his district to be remembered as the man who brought down Powell -- a little bit of history that desperately needed airbrushing. This, we are now learning, is Rangel's true vocation.

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