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by Peter Moskos

October 12, 2008

I was talking to Charles Rangel

I was. Last night. On the night train coming back from Boston. I met Charles Rangel in the cafe car. I was chatting with the cafe man and drinking a beer.

Here is one of the most powerful men in America. Taking the night train. Tired. No entourage. Willing to talk. We did. He knew my father a little bit. They were both proud draftees. Rangel was sad to hear of my father's death. "But he was young... well, younger than me!"

"I know," I said as I gripped his arm sympathetically.

Rangel got a cheeseburger. I offered to pay for it. I insisted because I knew my father would have loved any story that involved me paying for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's cheeseburger.

So there we are, Charles and I, each trying to get the cafe man to take our money. Because I already had an in with the cafe man, I won (it helped, as I later found out, that the cafe man didn't know who Rangel was). Rangel thanked me, said a few nice things, and returned to his seat.

At Penn Station I watched Rangel get off the train. There he was, gentleman, congressman, 78-years-old, carrying his own bags. I offered to carry them for him. But he politely declined. I figure in this day and age you could get in trouble for grabbing a congressman's suitcase, so all I could do was offer again. He declined again. We went up the escalator and said goodbye. I told him to keep up his good work. There he went, Charles Rangel, walking off alone into the night at 3am.

It made me proud to be an American.

It bothers me when people (politicians included) blame politicians and "Washington" for our nation's woes. Or when politicians encourage cynicism and promote the idea that running our country doesn't take any special skill set or intelligence.

Our system ain't perfect, but it's the best we got. And if we throw all the experienced bums out, we'll have mediocre bums leading a mediocre country. Churchill said democracy is the worst system except all other. And I wouldn't swap it for any other system in the world.

Two weeks ago I met Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes. He, a good and honorable man, told me not to be too cynical about politics. I'll try not to be.


BG said...

The kinder, smarter politicians are the ones that least understand my personal passion for individual liberty.

PCM said...


But mean dumb politicians are the ones that least understand my personal passion for a humane and civilized society--one that allows liberty to flourish.

Hey, I'm not saying that Sarbanes and Rangel would be everyone's choice to lead the free world. I'm just saying that they and others like them are hard working men and women who mean well. Sometimes we forget that.

BG said...

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

--CS Lewis

Far more eloquent than I can manage. I rarely accuse political opponents of bad intentions. Supper villains are for comic books. Its good people that get access to power.

Anonymous said...

shoulda got him a cab man !!!