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Jewish World Review June 30, 2005/ 23 Sivan, 5765

Larry Elder

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Durbin is sorry, but what about Rangel?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | So Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., finally apologized. Now where is the apology from Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.?

Durbin, on the Senate floor June 14, 2005, attacked the Bush administration for its alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. After reading from an FBI report purporting to describe mistreatment of prisoners, Durbin said, "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings."

Durbin at first refused to apologize, blaming the criticism on the "right wing." Two days after his remarks, again on the Senate floor, Durbin "clarified" his earlier words: "Now, sadly, we have a situation here where some in the right-wing media have said that I have been insulting men and women in uniform. Nothing could be further from truth."

But the criticism continued. Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said, "I think it is a disgrace. He is a good friend of mine, but I think it is a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military acts like that."

Durbin finally apologized. "After reading the horrible details in that memo which characterized the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo," said Durbin, "I then, on my own — my own words — made some characterizations about that memo . . . I have come to understand that was a very poor choice of words. . . . I'm sorry if [emphasis added] anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. . . . I'm also sorry if [emphasis added] anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military."

This brings us to Rep. Rangel.

Only eight days before Durbin's remarks, Rangel, on New York City's WWRL radio, attacked Bush for the "fraudulent" case for his War in Iraq: "It's the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country. This is just as bad as six million Jews being killed [emphasis added]. The whole world knew it and they were quiet about it, because it wasn't their ox that was being gored." When the host asked Rangel to clarify, the congressman said, "I am saying that people's silence when they know terrible things are happening is the same thing as the Holocaust, where everyone would have me believe that no one knew those Jews were killed over there."

The Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology. But where are the screaming editorials or the outrage from the pundit class? You see, Democrats like black attack dogs such as Rangel. They help to keep the black electorate angry and hostile toward Republicans, the better to ensure their 90 percent monolithic black Democratic vote.

This explains the Democrats' silence. But what about Republicans? Where is their demand for an apology from Charlie Rangel? This explains one of the reasons why Republicans fail to attract the black vote. Republicans remain unwilling to challenge irresponsible accusations of racism — especially from so-called black leaders — which allows the Democrats to continue to define the Republican Party as a party of bigots.

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When Rangel, back in 1994, said of the incoming Republican Congress, "They don't say [racial epithet for Latinos] or [racial epithet for blacks] anymore. They say, 'Let's cut taxes'," Republicans said little.

When Al Sharpton sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination, having reached national prominence by falsely accusing a former district attorney of rape, Republicans said nothing. When Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., former chair of the Black Congressional Caucus, called former President George Herbert Walker Bush a "racist," Republicans said little.

Rangel's remarks should have engendered the same kind of outcry brought about by Durbin's insidious remarks. Yes, Rangel made the comments on a radio show, as opposed to the Senate floor. But Al Jazeera and extremist websites would still have carried Durbin's remarks had the senator made them while standing in line at Starbucks. And Durbin serves as the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. But Rangel is the ranking member on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He is serving his 17th term in the House.

The Democratic Party "earns" its 90 percent black vote by refusing to look at blacks as individuals, as opposed to members of an aggrieved group. Republicans make the same mistake by refusing to respond to "black leaders'" often silly accusations of racism.

When Republicans say nothing in the face of irresponsible charges by "black leaders," many other blacks quietly say to themselves, "They didn't fight back. Maybe they've got something to hide."

Rep. Rangel, your turn to apologize.

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America." (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2005, Creators Syndicate