Ben Stein: Charlie Rangel Still a Hero to Me

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. makes his statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
A recent high-profile Congressional judgment has prompted Ben Stein to make a judgment of his own:

By now everyone who follows politics knows that Charles Rangel, the 20-term representative to Congress from New York's Harlem district, has been found guilty of ethics violations by the House ethics panel.

He apparently failed to report rental income from a dwelling in the Caribbean, used his office stationery for fund raising for a school named after him, and used a rent stabilized apartment for a political office.

For this, the punishment is publicly shaming by being censured.

Now, just to me (whom you all know as a lifelong Republican), Rangel's misdeeds seem like extremely trivial matters. The IRS has not prosecuted him for tax evasion. When you are a busy man, small tax issues can get lost in the shuffle.

The other two matters just seem like total and utter nothings.

But what I really want to say about Charles Rangel is that this man is a genuine American hero.

In unbelievably difficult service in the Korean War, his unit was swamped, cut off, overwhelmed by hordes of Red Chinese crossing into Korea. In the worst cold weather imaginable, under fire, starving, acting Sergeant Charles Rangel, in a black unit led mostly by white officers, took a large group of men, led them by example, lifted their morale, as they fought their way out to safety. Men were being shot, freezing, getting captured all around him, yet he got most of his men out.

For this leadership, sacrifice, and courage, Mr. Rangel was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for Valor.

After that, he served as a prosecutor, and then for 20 distinguished terms, as a member of Congress, for a time as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. His erudition and fairness earned him high marks throughout his career.

Now, he has been humiliated over what seems to me like almost nothing.

Just for me, I hope that history will record that a truly great man, Charlie Rangel, a hero of the first rank, was laid low by trivial, no-account matters, censured by people who mostly have no clue of what true courage, fighting, blood and frostbite mean.

Charlie Rangel does know, and to me, he is still a hero.

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