Charlie Rangel on Gingrich: 'His biggest challenge is himself'

Rep. Charlie Rangel recently spoke to theGrio about Newt Gingrich saying his “biggest challenge is himself.” As Gingrich jumps ahead in the polls to take the lead with his support at 37 percent, the seasoned Congressman had stern words for the recent antics of Gingrich, Herman Cain and other GOP leaders.

He believes the headline-grabbing gaffes and partisan political games perpetuated by popular right-wing figures will hurt Republicans in the end. As we move towards election season, we can learn much from Rangel, who has served in Congress for over 40 years and resurrected himself from political scandal.

TheGrio: Thanks for speaking with us, Mr. Rangel. What affect will Herman Cain’s withdrawal have on the 2012 election?

Rep. Rangel: I wish I had some idea what impact Herman Cain’s withdrawal from the presidential campaign will have, but I have yet to figure out how he got to where he was in the campaign. Everyday is a new day for Republican politics with Herman Cain. The fact is that he has about $5 million, and he says he’s going to endorse a candidate. He says he’s going to be a player. It was an interesting chapter in presidential politics, but I don’t think it’s over until he says its over. I cannot possibly foresee what we will be seeing next from Herman Cane. Except he probably will have a bestseller.

What do you make of Newt Gingrich, the new leader in the Republican field? Do you think he could beat Obama?

I really don’t. Newt Gingrich’s biggest challenge is himself, quite frankly, as well as all of the other candidates. At some point in this campaign, I suspect that no matter how unpleasant their lives have been under the current fiscal crisis, Americans are going to be better able to select candidates based on reason than emotion. And I really don’t believe America’s prepared to accept the candidacy of Gingrich.

Speaking of Gingrich, he’s made statements about the poor that many people find offensive. How do you feel about his statements suggesting that poor people don’t want to work?

I feel sad, not because those types of expressions haven’t been heard, but because Gingrich knows better than to make such an appeal to prejudice and bigotry at the expense of the poor. He’s been around and he knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. It is sad that he would have a following for that type of hatred.

Speaking of sad, now that Barney Frank has retired, some think the mood among Democrats is low. Do you feel discouraged?

Why would I feel discouraged? I feel disappointment in Barney Frank taking a look at his Congressional district and deciding that he is not going to run for re-election. But there is absolutely no reason to feel discouraged because of one member.


That’s true, but on top of that the president’s legislative agenda seems to be stalled, especially surrounding the payroll tax cut. Do you think the president will be able to create a compromise on that issue?

I don’t think it’s going to be a question of the president. I think it’s a question of the legislators. The president has laid out what he wants. I don’t see how the president is a player here. I think the American people are players. Soon, and I hope that it’s sooner rather than later, I suspect that middle class Americans are going to get fed up with this circus that has been put on by the Republicans. [We must] get down to business to make our economy grow and get people back to work.

Let’s shift our focus to a discussion of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), of which you are a founding member. Is it still relevant?

That’s a long story and certainly is not compatible to the shortness of this interview. But anybody whose imagination can say that over 40 voting members that have a vote in the House of Representatives don’t have a great political influence… I truly don’t see how they can say we don’t.

Politico.com did a report questioning why so many members of the CBC have been brought up on ethics charges. Do you think that there is a racial bias in these probes?

I wish I could comment on that, but as you know presently the Ethics Committee is under investigation by an independent, outside source on just that question. I think that fairness would dictate that we wait until that investigation has been completed.

Do you think that there’s a special pressure on African-American members to be ten times above board because of this kind of pressure?

I just answered the question talking about the racial problems that the Ethics Committee has. It’s already been reported on. And in my case, they said that all of the charges would have been dismissed if it weren’t for the conduct, which involved the racial slurs of the staff. These charges are being presently investigated by a well-known attorney in the District of Columbia. It would make sense for me that I would wait until they complete their work. Then you and I will get better answers.