It is not without a certain degree of sadness that I pen this article to urge embattled New York City Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to set aside his ethics troubles and resign from the House of Representatives. Having spent the better part of 8 years working on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, I, like many Members of Congress and staff alike, grew fond of the Korean War hero and long time legislator.
And yet, having been under investigation for a number of years for allegedly violating the ethics rules of the House, Rangel finally had the opportunity to appear before his colleagues on the Committee of Standards and Conduct (Ethics Committee) to clear the air and his name. And he punted. Badly.
Putting his own reputation at risk is one thing: Members of Congress, like the public at large, are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in legal proceedings. But for Mr. Rangel, having put the reputation of the House of Representatives in question due to his own behavior and then walk out of his own ethics committee hearing this morning is nothing short of inexcusable. The Congressman claimed that he didn't have enough time to obtain a lawyer and that being given only one week's notice to prepare for today's proceedings was somehow unfair.
What is truly unfair is that certain elected officials in Washington, D.C. have forgotten that it is We The People they were elected to serve. Competitive elections to the House of Representatives are now the exception rather than the norm. Even in aftermath of the Republican tsunami a few weeks back, the fact of the matter is that gerrymandered Congressional Districts almost always ensure that once a person is elected to Congress, he or she is almost always coming back.
Sadly, a few Members forget why it was they engaged in public service in the first place and begin to look out for their own best interests while preserving their hold on power. Following a distinguished 50-year career in the Army, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and a Member of Congress, Rangel's presence now tarnishes, rather than enhances the electoral body to which he was elected and the constituents he vowed to serve.
Sorry, Charlie. Despite all you've done, for what you've done in recent years and the myriad of ethics charges currently pending before you, the honorable option for you to exercise is to resign from the House of Representatives and maintain both your dignity as well as the House of Representatives to which you were elected to serve.
Ron Christie is Founder and CEO of Christie Strategies LLC, a full-service communications and issues management firm in Washington, D.C. A former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Christie is the author of the just published book, Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur (St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books).