What Was Rangel Doing?

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Charlie Rangel is getting the headlines he wanted, but he's not getting the news he arguably deserves: at the end of his bewildering, passionate, and attention-grabbing 37-minute speech, Rangel admitted guilt -- not so much that he deliberately broke ethics rules, but enough that ethics rules had been broken, and that it was a serious matter:
 

Now I apologize for any embarrassment that I might have caused. I'm prepared to admit, and to try to let young people know that you never get too big to recognize that these rules are for junior members as they are for senior members, and you can't get so carried away with good intentions.

He allowed that his violations were "serious," although not corrupt. "I have always tried to play by the rules," he said -- but also, "I have been losing a lot of sleep over these allegations."
 
What does this mean?
 
It means that Rangel wants a deal. He's extending an olive branch to the ethics committee. He's probably been told that he needed to make some sort of statement to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, to not pretend that the committee would string him up over a simple paperwork error.
 
It's not clear whether Rangel's theatrics helped or hurt his cause.  He had points to make:
 
1. He's Charlie Rangel, damn it. Been in public service all his life.
2. He's not going to let the ethics committee take away his dignity.
3. He's ready to bargain if they're ready to be transparent about what they want.
4. Dignity, damn it. Dignity.
 

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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