Congressman Charlie Rangel, who is fighting what appears to be the toughest re-election battle of his life, said today that “qualifications” aren’t what matter in the race.
Speaking to the Observer before a rally on City Hall steps, Mr. Rangel instead focused on his claimed partnership with President Barack Obama–a connection Mr. Rangel invoked multiple times during last night’s debate against his two rivals, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Pastor Mike Walrond.
“It’s clear that now the legislative body, instead of just legislation, has to work out a strategy to support the president of the United States,” Mr. Rangel said. “It’s also clear that one of the people that the president lauds for doing the work, whether it’s the economic recovery bill, or the affordable health bill, it’s me. And so, I don’t think the question in the elections is–I don’t really think–is who is the best qualified. As a matter of fact that’s not the issue.”
After the rally, Mr. Rangel declined to elaborate on what–if not qualifications–should be the determining factor.
“I don’t think I have to share with you, or anybody else, as to what the issues are,” he argued. “All I’m saying is that it’s not qualifications.”
Mr. Espaillat has repeatedly questioned Mr. Rangel’s proclaimed alliance with Mr. Obama, charging the congressman has taken “cheap shots” at the president instead of working with him, and repeatedly referring to comments made by the president two years ago, following a congressional ethic investigation, encouraging Mr. Rangel to exit the stage.
Mr. Rangel today also took time to accuse anti-Obama federal lawmakers, whom he has blamed for the gridlock in Washington, of being linked to slave-holding states in the Confederacy.
“It’s just a small group of people who are holding the Republican Party hostage, and the country hostage, and they’re called the Tea Party,” he said. “It’s very interesting, though, if you take a look at the members of Congress that are, for the most part, that are active in the Tea Party, they all come from Confederate states. They all come from slave-holding states. They all were once Dixiecrats and now they’re all Republican.”
“It says a lot about something that our spiritual leaders ought to be talking about, because the facts are clear,” he added.