Here In The Arena

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Open the average high school yearbook and you’ll see at least one quote from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech.

Roosevelt’s words have become so ubiquitous that they’re approaching cliché.  Roosevelt’s homage to enduring excellence evokes the image of the gladiatorial hero; the stout-hearted warrior who carries on with dignity and courage despite the dimly-aware-but-still-withering gaze of a Forum-esque crowd.  Roosevelt was doubtless NOT thinking of a greedy wire-puller who can be fairly described as “crooked as an arthritic whippet’s hind leg.”‘

Last week, the man in the arena was no hero.  U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) strode to the fore to receive the first official reprimand of Congressional Censure for a sitting congressman in 27 years.  The way ol’ Charlie behaved throughout this sordid saga, the unenlightened observer might have thought he was about to be the recipient of a year’s worth of free airfare to his beloved Dominican Republic.   

“I leave here knowing that everyone knows I’m an honest guy.”

Evidently, “everyone” is a smaller group than “people who watch MSNBC for the quality.”

According to David Broder of the Washington Post, watching Rangel’s wrist-slap moment on the floor of the House was “painful” and made him “weep.”  I’m inclined to agree, but I bet Broder wouldn’t lend me his hankie.  If I were the weepy sort, my tears would have fallen not for Rangel, but for the Republic.

But I won’t weep for Charlie.  This moment was 40 years in the making.  Forty years of pocket-lining, game-playing, race-baiting and abuse of the public trust so blatant that even the aforementioned Romans might scratch their collective heads.

For the sake of space, and common decency, I won’t regale you with the entire roster of Rangel-ian excess.  From Harlem lease violations to failure to disclose earnings from Dominican rental income, there’s simply too much real estate to cover.  Suffice to say, Charlie is as dirty as my dog after a rainstorm.  Some might call this edition of Outside the Asylum “mud-slinging,” but I somehow doubt Charlie would notice.

Should I decide to hurl dirt at someone in Washington, I’d prefer to pitch the peat at the entire circus, rather than limit my lobs to just one sideshow.  During the course of showing Charlie who the real boss is in the House (evidently, it’s Charlie), even Republican Peter King stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the formerly un-censured Representative from New York’s 15th.  Said King:

"Let us apply the same standard of justice to Charlie Rangel that has been applied to everyone else, and that all of us would want applied to ourselves."

You’ll note King didn’t mention the standards faced by us average citizens.  He should talk to Charlie — he doesn’t even “deal in average… citizens.” 

We elect these clowns, and then re-elect them.  Rangel has been speaking for the same general geography since before I began to shuffle my mortal coil.

And don’t fall into the trap of believing the congressional beat down the Democrats endured last month had any effect on the comic corruption that has become the Democrat Party’s guiding principle.  Putting aside the comprehensive lack of remorse displayed by Charlie in standing up to his under-powered punishment for four decades of unrepentant corruption, how about that moment Charlie walked into the House chamber to take delivery on his door prize for bottom feeder of the year? 

What a Hallmark moment.  The Congressional Black Caucus rising to applaud a man who would have been staring through the bars of the Federal Government’s finest eight by 10 cell were it not for his position at the top of the Democrat Party’s leadership pile.

Lest the partisans think I am merely ruminating on liberal lack of respect for the law, I will note that while Rangel was being pusillanimously punished by Congress last week, former Majority Leader Tom Delay was listening to a jury hand down a verdict of “that guy from ‘Celebrity Dance Fever’ did it” in his money-laundering trial. 

But there is no debating the fact that the Democrats, led by their Emperor Barack, have turned our nation’s capitol more fetid than the Okefenokee.  We learned last month that the power to drain the swamp rests entirely with us.  The GOP offers philosophical superiority, but only in theory — obviously not in practice.

WE are Roosevelt’s “man in the arena.”  November was merely the opening round.  We must continue to dare greatly and teach those cold and timid souls the difference between victory and defeat. 

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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