Rep. Charlie Rangel (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., is horrified when he looks at the Republican presidential field.
Rangel, the second longest serving member of the House of Representatives, absolutely unloaded on the GOP candidates in an extensive interview Yahoo News conducted in his office last week. He claimed the dominance of current Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson is proof of a “dangerous” political phenomenon.
“When people support people like Carson and Trump, they’re not condemning just the Republicans, you know, Jeb Bush and [Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas]. They’re saying this for the whole damn country,” Rangel explained. “That’s dangerous, because when people give up on the country, to me… I truly believe that being American makes a difference because you believe in your country. I think that makes you work a little harder. It gives you a little more hope.”
Rangel is especially worried about the potential for a Trump victory in the election.
“Now we’re hearing people on television and the pundits saying, I didn’t know it was possible, but mathematically, you know, the guy really could win,” Rangel said. “That’s like a nightmare. It could be the end of the republic as we know it.”
Rangel described Trump’s strategy as “bluster” — and suggested it could be a potent one.
“I’m a poker player, not big money, but I’ve seen people with big money come in and raise the ante and push people around. … All they do is raise, and they screw up the whole game because no one can call. They just steal every pot,” Rangel said.
Rangel went on to impersonate how Trump, who is a billionaire, has been behaving during the campaign:
“Yeah, I’m Trump, and this is what I’m prepared to say. This is what I’m going to do. I don’t need your money. I don’t need the rules. I don’t need the protocol. I’ll talk about you and your wife.”
Rangel, who has been in the House for more than four decades, said both Trump and Carson are indicative of a lack of civility in modern politics. He further suggested support for Trump and Carson, who are political outsiders, proves voters are “really frustrated” and want to send a message.
“The people are saying, ‘You tell them, Don, goddamn it, and you, the black one, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but, hey, you tell them too,’” Rangel said in an apparent reference to Carson, who is African-American.
Rangel specifically criticized Carson, a prominent neurosurgeon, for his lack of political experience.
“If he wanted to tell me that he was interested in becoming a martial arts instructor in China, I would say that’s very interesting because he’d have just as much talent at doing that as running for president,” Rangel said.
According to Rangel, there’s “no question” the success Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is enjoying in the Democratic primary is evidence of the same public anger. Though he’s running as a Democrat, Sanders is an independent lawmaker who describes himself as a “Democratic socialist.”
“If you take a look at Trump and Sanders, all they’re really telling you is what they’re against, not what they’ve done,” said Rangel. “I mean, I love Sanders. I sure would like to have him for me rather than against me, but if my life depended on it, I could not think of a bill that he passed.”
Rangel went on to qualify his assessment of Sanders somewhat.
“I’m not saying that he didn’t pass any bills,” Rangel explained. “I’m just saying I can’t think of anything that he’s known for. I don’t remember him involved in any civil rights struggle.”
Rangel believes Sanders’ New York roots have something to do with how he conducts himself in the political arena.
“He’s from Brooklyn, you know, so I don’t understand half of the Brooklyn people anyway. You know, they don’t have to win, they just talk,” said Rangel, adding, “In a sense, it’s good that he’s stirring the pot for the Democratic Party, but I never did take him seriously.”
After his long political career, Rangel has said this term will be his last in Congress. Yahoo asked him what he plans to do on his first day out of office. He answered after a long pause.
“I don’t want to deal with that, because I’m not certain,” Rangel said.