The Censuring of Charles Rangel

Charles Rangel was censured yesterday by the House. In a solemn voice, Nancy Pelosi led the censuring. It lasted a whole 45 seconds, after which Rangel spoke to the House and held a press conference (where his defiance and arrogance returned) talking about what a swell guy he really is, accusing the censuring of being politically motivated, etc.

This entire process makes a mockery of the idea that our politicians are actually subject to any sort of accountability, and to the news media who continually use the word “severe” in the same sentence as censure. As Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post:

But if it’s any consolation, Rangel should know that however harmed he was by the censure, the entity that was really disgraced was Congress itself. This is because Rangel’s two-year battle with the House ethics committee exposed the woeful state of lawmakers’ abilities to police their own.

The rules governing members’ behavior were proven to be so lax as to be irrelevant. The vast majority of transgressors are never punished – Rangel was only because he himself asked the ethics committee to investigate some of the allegations against him.

After being found guilty of over 10 different violations (some of them admittedly benign), his severe and humiliating punishment is a 45 second announcement.

When asked how he responds to the criticism that the average American would be punished more harshly for this type of crime (17 years of light tax evasion, nothing serious), Rangel said that he doesn’t “deal in average American citizens.”

A swell guy indeed.

Image credit: pamhule’s flickr photostream.