Breaking the law

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When all else fails, there's always the race card.

With ethics probes under way on Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus floated the notion over the weekend that the investigations were race-based.

Unfortunately for the anonymous members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the facts simply don't support the charge. But since playing the race card is the bastard child of hypocrisy and arrogance, facts matter little.

It's no secret, in either Washington or New York, that Rangel plays footloose when it comes to New York politics. His brush with ethics troubles have boiled under the surface for a decade or more. Waters failed to mention her husband's substantial financial interest in a California bank her committee helped.

Rangel and Waters -- much to the chagrin of the Democratic party -- have pledged to take their cases to full trial sometime this fall just in time to make headlines as a run-up to the mid-term elections.

When the unnamed members of the Congressional Black Caucus tried to spin the race card, they were met with silence for the most part. It's hard to find anyone who believes that race played a part in the two investigations. But for some in this nation, playing the race card is just too automatic.

This time the plan fell flat.

Perhaps the lack of traction stems from these recent cases: Sen. John Ensign, under ethics investigation; Rep. Pete Visclosky, lobbying investigation; Rep. Eric Massa, resigned following ethics probe; and Rep. Mark Souder, resigned following ethics probe.

All are white lawmakers.

President Obama's quest for a color-blind society is a goal readily embraced by all Americans. Or at least it should be. But that goal swings both ways. When you play the race card at the drop of the hat, you don't advance that noble goal.

But let me be clear on this point. There have been and there continues to be instances of racial discrimination.

To think otherwise is to ignore the obvious. But not everything is tainted by race. That, too, should be obvious.

Rangel and Waters may well have committed ethical violations that could end their life in politics. That's why we have the process. At this point, their issues are simple accusations.

But what these two prominent lawmakers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus need to keep in mind is that this story is about violations of the law. It's not about race.

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