Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23, 2010

       A couple of generations--forty years--ago, Harlem's Congressman was the flamboyant Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who, as chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, helped ensure passage of major legislation during the presidencies of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.  Powell broke boundaries, dining, for instance, in the previously all-white Congressional dining room.  He battled racism, saw the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts become law.      Most reporters who covered Congress liked him.  He was accused of various improprieties--unreported campaign contributions and so on.  He always denied the charges, usually adding "I don't do anything the white guys don't do," which was almost certainly true.  In his later years, absenteeism dogged him; he had a house in the Bahamas that he saw too often.  The House kept voting not to seat him, but the voters kept re-electing him until, in 1970, they replaced with a much younger African-American, Charles Rangel.      Reporters liked Charlie, too.  He rose, through his forty years in the House, to become chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, though recently he's had to resign the chairmanship.  Like Powell before him, he's been charged with financial irregularities and will now have to face a trial before members of the House Ethics Committee.      I have no idea whether he's innocent or guilty.  I hope he is innocent;  it would be a shame to have such a fine career smudged at it's end.      And what goes around, comes around?  Sure seems that way sometimes.  Mr. Powell today might revive his signature phrase for Charlie Rangel:  "Keep the faith, baby."
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