08.19.10 The Case Against Charlie Rangel
When Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson claims that Rangel is no crook, he misses the essential difference between private individuals and public officials. The former have a responsibility only to themselves and those who suffer as a result of their actions – they deserve full due process and punishment only when they have broken the law.
Public officials, on the other hand, have a responsibility far beyond themselves. Their actions impact not only thousands or millions of their direct constituents, but – indeed – the entire body politic. When elected officials even give the appearance of impropriety, they are selling out all of us. Whether it is having sex with an intern in the Oval Office (which is certainly not a crime) or failing to report income on a tax return (which is), politicians must be held to a higher standard.
Bill Clinton’s behavior put at risk his entire political agenda. Charlie Rangel’s adds to a public perception of Democratic malfeasance that is worsening already grim prospects for the party this November. It matters little to me whether or not Rangel could be successfully prosecuted in a court of law. Due to his lack of care of concern for it, the court of public opinion has already condemned him, putting at risk Democratic policies he claims to support.
Democratic officials (and op-ed columnists friendly to them) should be more interested in purging the ranks of those who threaten desired policy results than splitting hairs to defend them.
©2010 Keith Berner