Dignity for David Paterson
There’s a fascinating quote from Assemblyman Keith Wright in an article on Congressman Charlie Rangel in today’s New York Times.
Wright, who also serves as Chair of the Manhattan Democratic Committee, said of Rangel: “He can’t go out like this…It’s about protecting and enhancing his legacy.”
This candid comment was meant to explain the groundswell of support for Rangel’s re-election in the face of a series of scandals, but it raises an interesting question: Why has the Harlem community rallied around Rangel and abandoned David Paterson?
Yes, Rangel has served longer – some 40 years, compared to Paterson’s 25 years. And yes, Rangel was a hero in the Korean War. But isn’t Paterson the first African-American to serve as governor of New York? Isn’t his story of triumph over disability inspiring?
Perhaps there is a qualitative difference in the problems the two men face: Rangel is said by the Times to have “dodged taxes, hoarded rent-stabilized apartments and accepted corporate-sponsored junkets to the Caribbean.” He faces numerous investigations.
Paterson, meanwhile, is faced with only one ongoing probe, which involves accepting tickets to a baseball game where it could be arguably said that he was performing official, albeit ceremonial, duties.
Perhaps there’s something about the two men’s character: It is sometimes said that Paterson, who has been the subject of numerous unflattering stories about his personal life and management style, and occasional verbal gaffes, was not up to the job and that he somehow was an “embarrassment” to his community.
But what about Rangel, who blamed his wife for his tax problems, who was grotesquely featured on the front page of the New York Post passed out in a beach chair at a tropical resort, and who is infamous for making off-the-cuff remarks?
What are we missing here? Why the apparent double standard in both the media and the minority community?
The Times reporter writes: “The talk in Harlem is not of ethics investigations and potential penalties, but of dignity — Mr. Rangel’s and, by extension, Harlem’s.”
What about David Paterson’s dignity?