The real humiliation falls, not upon eighty-year-old Congressman Charlie Rangel, but upon the House Ethics Committee for censuring him for rather minor infractions of House rules. Sure, during some twenty terms in the U.S. Congress, Rangel cut a few corners, probably fewer than the corners cut by his vengeful inquisitors. Charlie should have paid taxes on the rent received from his house in the Dominican Republic and should have handled some of his fund raising better than he did. But weighed against his distinguished record of public service, from the Korean War to the present, those matters are rather small potatoes. And weighed against what other U.S. representatives get away with, the Rangel censure has to be a horrid case of the Kettles censuring the Pot, to paraphrase that old proverb.
Take, for example, the horrid case of former Congressman Nathan Deal, recently elected Governor of Georgia in spite of profound ethical (and possibly illegal) violations of the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. Deal and his aides used public time and resources to lobby for a zoning change in Gainesville, Georgia which would benefit Deal personally. Deal's Gainesville Congressional office was even used as the venue of choice for meetings on this matter, which were intended to enrich Deal himself through his private salvage yard. Had this particular Kettle not resigned from the House to run for Georgia governor, he might well have been hauled before the same committee which censured Rangel. The Nathan Deal case is just one tip of a Congressional iceberg of profound ethical and legal issues needing attention.
Yes, the Rangel case also deserved attention -- and a reprimand to the Congressman would have been warranted. Instead, though, those pompous hypocrites on the House Ethics Committee sought censure, requring Charlie Rangel to stand in the Hall of the House while outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi reads the motion of censure to him, in the style of medieval excommunications and comparable techniques of public humiliation. Why not make Charlie wear a scarlet letter on his forehead, or perhaps place him the the Stocks as the Pilgrims did to minor miscreants?
Yes, there is shame in the sad case of this iconic Congressman, who has served his constituents, his state, and his nation so well for so long -- but that shame falls, not on Charlie Rangel, but on those who judged him without the mercy for which he was forced to plead. Let those who are without sin themselves cast the first stone at Congressman Rangel -- and there would be precious few stones, indeed.