Wrangling with Rangel

After you finish this article, be sure to read today’s bonus article, “Emptying the Attic.”

A while back, I compared Sarah Palin’s voice to bagpipes and nails on a blackboard. Predictably, a number of people leapt to her defense, while one guy of Scottish heritage leapt to the defense of bagpipes. I understand that, thanks to the media’s unrelenting attacks on Mrs. Palin, a lot of Republicans resent any criticism of their favorite Alaskan, no matter how benign. But, frankly, I can’t believe I am the only one out here who cringes every time she opens her mouth. Frankly, for conservatives, I think Palin’s annoyingly nasal voice is our own version of the emperor’s new duds.

Speaking of annoying, is there anyone less amusing and more irritating than Sacha Baron (“Borat”) Cohen? Of course when I say “anyone,” I am referring to anyone not currently holding elective office. Okay, I hear you; perhaps it is a three-way tie between Cohen, Michael Moore and Bill Maher.

The other day, a reader shared a study with me that concluded that incompetent people are not only incompetent when it comes to such things as logic and language skills, but even when it comes to their sense of humor. It seems that they really do have a tin ear, so to speak, when it comes to humor. Moreover, such people are far more likely to underestimate others, while holding themselves in ridiculously high esteem. The reverse was true when it came to competent people; ironically, they were the ones who tended to question their competence and under-rate their own abilities.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

I’m not sure the study revealed anything we didn’t already sense about those people who elected Barack Obama, but it certainly explains all those terrible jokes they persist in forwarding to everyone unfortunate enough to be in their email address book.

Although it is my practice to automatically delete jokes, links and attachments, sent to me by strangers, fortunately one occasionally slips past my spam filter and my eagle eye. One such was the following: “The food stamp program, which is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior, asks us to please not feed the animals because they may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.”

I know what you’re thinking and I agree.

In a recent article, as some of you may recall, I wrote, “After spending two million dollars and several thousand man-hours investigating Rep. Charles Rangel’s various crimes and misdemeanors, if those shmoes in Congress really wanted to impress us with their integrity, they would have thrown his sorry butt in prison. When you’re found guilty of 11 counts of misbehavior, it calls for more than a resounding tsk-tsk from your House colleagues. In certain precincts, after all, being censured by Congress is regarded as a badge of honor.”

The other day, I opened the following email from Ms. Hannah Kim: “Hello, Mr. Prelutsky: In your recent piece, you wrote… (and after quoting the paragraph above, continued) First, the Congressman did NOT commit any “crime” — In fact, the chief counsel of the Ethics Committee concluded that there was NO EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION and that the Congressman did not use his position to benefit himself. His most serious offense of trying to raise money for an education center in his congressional district could have been avoided if he had grabbed the correct stationary. I urge you to take out the word ‘crimes’ from your article.”

She then quoted Blake Chisam, a lawyer on the Ethics Committee, who apparently said, “I believe that the congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things he did. And sloppy in his personal finances.”

In writing back, I resisted the temptation to point out that she meant “stationery,” not “stationary.” Instead, I wrote: “Dear Ms. Kim: When we civilians are ‘sloppy in our personal finances,’ which, in Rep. Rangel’s case included chiseling on his income taxes, it’s a crime and we’re fined and we go to jail. I see that you are Rep. Rangel’s Communications Director, and here I thought you were just a concerned citizen.”

Ms. Kim, obviously being the sort of upstanding person who believes in earning her salary, wrote back to say, “None of his violations were intentional, but made unknowingly. We all make mistakes. He is 81. The Congressman is a genuinely great person; and contrary to what you may think, he does not line his pockets. In fact, I wake up each day thanking God for the great honor to work for Mr. Rangel. FYI, I almost died from a car accident and take life very seriously.”

I replied: “Dear Ms. Kim: Rep. Rangel is fortunate to have such a loyal employee. Speaking as someone who is not on his payroll, I acknowledge that we all make mistakes. Even I, and I’m just a kid of 72. However, the way mistakes work for those of us who aren’t in Congress is sometimes they’re in our favor and quite often they’re not. However, it appears that all of Mr. Rangel’s mistakes, aside from the votes he casts, profited him in a very real way. I am glad you recovered, but just for the record, I, too, take life seriously. Which also happens to be the way I take the transgressions of those fortunate enough to be endowed with the public trust.”

For good measure, confirming Ms. Kim’s bona fides as a liberal partisan, she concluded her message by providing a list of 11 Republican congressmen who continue serving in Congress in spite of “reports” and “allegations.”

I didn’t bother pointing out the differences between allegations and convictions. Maybe next time.

©2012 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write BurtPrelutsky@aol.com!

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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
Author website: http://www.burtprelutsky.com/
  • Crwcpa

    Crooked Charlie Rangel didn’t understand that he was cheating on his taxes in much the same way that the Secretary of the Treasury (who oversees the IRS),  Tim “Turbo Tax Cheat” Geithner, didn’t understand that he was cheating on his.  These people think they are above the law.  At least most Republicans who are caught have the decency and humility to resign.  Not so, Democrats.

  • BurtPrelutsky

    FloridaJim: The problem, as I have written elsewhere, is that people like Rangel don’t get replaced by better politicians, merely younger ones.  Rangel replaced the corrupt Adam Clayton Powell and when Rangel passes away, he, in turn, will be replaced by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

    Glen: I should have friends like yours.


  • Glen

    Burt, one of my Facebook friends posted the Park Service/food stamp story.  Good for a laugh and eye openning thought.  Good post!

  • FloridaJim

    Charley Rangel is a great advertisement for Term Limits. Charley has been abusing the system for many years being the arrogant Representative he is Charley and his employees have come to believe they are entitiled to continue their thievery until death. There are many, many others who are just as bad but their constutents keep electing them.

  • BurtPrelutsky

    Terry: It wasn’t Bernie who wrote about Palin’s voice, it was I.   But, really, she’s the only one who’s honest and good?  The only what?  The only woman?  The only ex-Alaskan governor?  You may have a real thing for her, but she is hardly ready for sainthood.


  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PPL2AXPXJMWPEJWFN34MPC5RNY terry


  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PPL2AXPXJMWPEJWFN34MPC5RNY terry



  • BurtPrelutsky

    Will: First, I’m assuming you meant that Rep. Rangel “pays” well.   Next, I am of mixed feelings when it comes to term limits.  On the one hand, I would like to see an end to folks like Rangel, Henry Waxman and Maxine Waters, spending decades in Congress.  On the other hand, I’m really in no rush to see Paul Ryan, Darrel Issa or Michele Bachmann packing their bags.  Also, while I have no reason to imagine that whoever would replace Ryan, Issa and Bachmann, would be half as good as them, I could safely wager that whoever replaced Rangel, Waxman and Waters, would be every bit as bad; they’d merely be younger.

    • DOOM161

      I believe that elected officials should be allowed no consecutive terms, but should be allowed as many total terms that they can convince people they deserve.  This would accomplish two things:

      1. The American taxpayer would not have to fund any incumbent’s campaign mail, and

      2. They would have to spend at least one term living under the laws they pass.

  • Will Swoboda

    Hi Burt,
    Pointing out inappropriate behavior to justify inappropriate behavior seems to be the norm with most politicians.
    Charles Rangle is probably a nice guy to work for and probably lays well considering it doesn’t cost him anything but him, along with all the others, need to be limited in how long they stay.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GC36UFUX3FP57OIQ74YHHQUL3M wally


  • BurtPrelutsky

    Dear readers: What I found most fascinating about my exchange with Rangel’s director of communications is that she did not attach one of those confidentiality notices to her email.  As a result, she provided me with actual grist for my mill, thus ensuring that instead of merely including Rangel in my usual list of terrible liberal office holders, I got to focus my full attention on her boss.


  • DOOM161

    If I’m ever in court, I’m going to explain to the judge that I didn’t mean to commit the crime.  It was just a series of mistakes that happened to benefit me greatly.

    There’s something wrong with a system in which the second worse thing you can do when you convict someone of a crime is stand him out front and call him a bad boy.

    And you can list republicans all you want, but It’s Pelosi that promised to drain the swamp.  I guess Ms. Kim forgot about that.  I’m sot surprised, democrats generally have a terrible time remembering campaign promises that democrats fail to keep.

    Much like when Obama spoke at OSU and was talking about gas prices, lambasting the Republican field for even approaching the subject of lower gas prices.  Apparently, all but one person in the audience forgot that in his 2008 campaign, President Obama blamed $1.86 gas on President Bush.

  • Paul Borden

    Don’t waste our time pointing out the difference between allegations and convictions. She’ll find a way to twist it around. On a recent forum, I recently made the comment that conservatives/Republicans generally are more generous in charitable contributions than liberals/Democrats. A liberal responded saying there was no way I could know such a thing. When I referenced him to my source and suggested he do a Google search for even more references, he ridiculed the fact that it was from 2008, the last year such information seems to be available. He then restated that I had no information to back up my claim (even though it was right there in front of him) and as an aside added that Republicans have such “hateful” policies. I came to my senses then and realized I was wasting my time and thanked him for keeping the conversation at such a high level.

    • DOOM161

      Leftists won’t admit that because they truly believe that other leftists help the poor by siphoning my money to Washington.

  • Bruce A.

    Well done Burt.  I understand Rangel is credited with writing the tax code while he was chairman of  Ways & Means in the house.  He later claimed he did not understand the tax code… I know people who spent time in jail for doing what he did & I know plenty of  people who are also dependent on the food stamp program.  I also know two seafoodf dealers who sold 60% of thier New Years Eve lobster tails on food stamps this past year & a meat market which sold lots of expensive steaks on Valentines Day this year.

  • cmacrider

    Burt:  The foodstamp/park animal story has to rank up there with your best.

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