Moral relativists may argue, “Well, others do it, so why punish Rangel?” Other people’s bad behavior is never an excuse to engage in the same destructive conduct. Ask any mother and they’ll tell you the, “Mikey did it,” excuse doesn’t fly. I’ve heard this constantly from both Democrats and Republicans over the past ten years. It’s either “Clinton did it, so why are the liberals castigating (insert GOPer here)?” or “Bush did it, so do they criticize Obama?” Please! Both are wrong, and both need to be condemned for it. Reprobation is never excusable nor negligence easily dismissible, even if your side or hero is guilty. We can’t simply disregard Rangel’s conduct because others do it.
Rangel’s greatest sin is his failures to live up to the virtues the public expects of its political leaders. We can forgive many things, especially personal matters where the politician seeks public forgiveness. However, we cannot abide by someone that uses his positions for purely ego-driven legacy, monetary gain, and tax evasion while preaching the evils of the wealth and the need for harsher taxation.
If you're a fan of Spiderman, you know this quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” As an elected official and head of the Ways & Means Committee, Charlie Rangel had great power, but he gave into the temptation to use that power for selfish gain. It is a sad story that gets repeated over and over- those that go to Washington to help others and reform the system eventually fall to its corruption. Many of these crimes would have been avoided if the official had taken some time out, stepped back, and considered whether the venture he was entering into was virtuous or, at the very least, would his constituents approve? It doesn’t take much common sense to derive that tax evasion and soliciting funds from those you have power over is immoral behavior.
It is unfortunate that this abuse of authority and his long-winded, tangential, and bizarre screeds defending himself will be what most Americans remember of this- dare I say it- great American. He helped found the Congressional Black Caucus. He led the way for progressive policies. Though tarred, Rangel's legacy will hopefully endure even this embarrassment. He could take to the well of the House and use that moment, not to defend the indefensible, but rather graciously thank his colleagues, the institution of the House of Representatives, and the American people for allowing him the great distinction of serving his country honorably in the Korean War and then serving his fellow Americans in public office.
That should be the legacy of Charlie Rangel - one that we all can be proud of. Not some surly, scandal-laden punctuation to an otherwise noble career of public service. Don't let this episode dictate how you leave this chapter in your life, good sir. Define it on your own terms.