It’s all about Charlie Rangel now.
Standing alone in the well of the House chamber, silver-black hair combed back, handkerchief protruding from his left breast pocket, the 80-year-old New York Democrat claimed special privilege Tuesday afternoon to deliver a rambling, half-hour oration with a simple motif: He doesn’t owe it to anyone to put their interests above his.
Not the president, not his Democratic colleagues, not his leadership and certainly not an ethics committee that has accused him of 13 counts of breaking House rules and federal regulations governing the behavior of lawmakers.
“You’re not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable,” the 40-year House veteran scolded as he asserted his right to a fair and speedy ethics trial. “If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot and get rid of me through expulsion.”
It was the most compelling and dramatic moment of a scandal that has bludgeoned Rangel’s reputation, his treasury and his spirit for more than two years — and one that already has cost him the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. The speech mortified some of his colleagues and upset Democratic leaders.