Calling A You-Know-What A You-Know-What

When the tide finally started turning against Congressman Charlie Rangel, one of his last staunch defenders was the Congressional Black Caucus. They sent a strong letter to Speaker Pelosi objecting to his removal from his chairmanship of the Ways And Means Committee..

This sounded oddly familiar to me. I don’t spend much time thinking about the CBC, but every now and then they make the news — and in ways that don’t reflect very favorably upon them.

Back in 2006, when Representative William “Cold Cash” Jefferson was at the heart of a major FBI investigation for corruption (that resolved with a conviction, and William Jefferson Clinton (dammit, I thought I was over that!) was given 13 years in prison), there was a move to get him off the very powerful and influential Ways And Means Committee. The CBC, again in the strongest of terms, protested the move.

Also in 2006, when the Democrats took control of the House, there was a bit of a squabble about who would get chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. The ranking member, Jane Harman, is a rival of Pelosi’s (as well as being insufficiently partisan, I hear), so she got passed over. Next in line was Alcee Hastings, who had the fierce backing of the CBC — to the point of almost demanding he get the position.

Representative Hastings used to be known as Judge Hastings, until he was impeached and removed from office in 1989 for taking bribes and other offenses. Enough of a stink was raised that Pelosi did manage to not appoint Hastings to the powerful seat — but the CBC remembered that she had slighted one of their members.

Then there’s their pesky membership requirements. Officially, they’re open to all black members of Congress. But — in clear contravention of Congressional rules — ideology also counts. When the exceptionally conservative J. C. Watts was elected, he chose to not join, citing their de facto status as a subset of the Democratic caucus — and the CBC agreed with him that he would not be welcome.

But to say race trumps ideology would be inaccurate. Representative Pete Stark is white, but a liberal’s liberal and represents a district that is mostly black, but he was denied membership, too.

No, it’s fairer to say that with the CBC, race and ideology hold equal sway — one must measure up on both counts for membership.

And it’s even fairer to say that race and ideology trump everything else — including ethics. It’s beyond dispute that Charles Rangel is one of the most corrupt politicians currently holding office. William Jefferson’s corruption was compounded with remarkable arrogance and stupidity, and sooner or later he’ll report to prison to begin serving his sentence. And Hastings was removed from office on a 413-3 vote by the House and 69-36 69-26 in the Senate, at a time when Democrats held both houses — a thoroughly bipartisan decision.

So the next time someone brings up the Congressional Black Caucus, keep in mind their core belief — that being black and liberal is the only thing that matters to them. If you’ve got that going for you, you can do no wrong.

And if you cross them, you’re a RAAAAACIST.

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