In S.C., Rangel Girds for Campaign, Lunch

012408 rangel web In S.C., Rangel Girds for Campaign, LunchWEST COLUMBIA, S.C.—We were at a community center attached to a megachurch-ish place called the Brookland Baptist Church. No one seemed to know we were coming. Charlie Rangel ambled in, looking Ranglian. He took three questions. The first, from a Greenville news reporter, was basically, what are you doing here.

“I have no idea,” Rangel responded. “I’m campaigning for Hillary Cllnton and this is my first stop…I’m here to do what campaigning is all about.”

The second question was about why people should vote for her versus Obama.

“I know Senator Clinton. I knew her when she was the wife of the governor of Arkansas, worked with her campaign to get her elected as Senator, I worked with her during her term her outstanding term as the New York State Senator…Therefore there is no question in my mind that she can best serve our great country. As relates to Obama, I have a great deal of racial pride as relates to his candidacy and I would assume that someone better than I would be better able to compare the candidates.”

Then I asked him a question—if he’d been in South Carolina before, maybe when he was in the military—mostly in an attempt to get him to say something interesting.

He seemed displeased.

“Goddam, there’s a lot of cities I’ve been in!”

I followed up by asking if there was any difference in campaigning for black votes in Harlem or South Carolina.

He said, “I just got off the plane. … I’m here for a campaign now and you’re asking me if I’ve found a difference. I haven’t talked with anybody different yet but I would invite you to talk to me on Saturday.”

He also said that he hoped that there was no lasting harm from the racial stuff going back and forth between the campaigns, and that all the Democrats would come together behind the eventual nominee.

Some other state legislators from South Carolina, all black, where lingering around. One of them, State Senator Robert Ford, a rotund fellow in a camel-hair coat, said he expects Obama to win tomorrow based on Jesse Jackson’s performance in 1984 and 1988. Ford said about the Obama campaign: “It was good before they started playing the race card. Now it’s about racial pride. You can’t beat that.”

Ford added about Obama: “His whole campaign switched to black, black, black, black.”

Then the legislators and Rangel went off to a conference room where there was a buffet set up. There were maybe five or six other tables in there—I guess it was a restaurant-type setup. He shook hands with some people. It looked to be about 50-50 white and black. Then the Clinton deputy press secretary on hand, Darrel Jackson, Jr., kicked us all out, explaining that the state lawmakers wanted Rangel to themselves.