Commentary: Rangel should have stepped down sooner

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York finally quit as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee this week, but his resignation was neither honorable nor graceful.

He was admonished by a congressional inquiry last month for violating House gift rules by accepting free trips to the Caribbean from corporate sponsors in 2007 and 2008. The report found that his staff tried on at least three occasions to warn him that the trips had corporate sponsors, yet he still claimed he didn't know.

The inquiry concluded that Mr. Rangel was responsible for the violation because the actions of his staff are his responsibility. Was Mr. Rangel contrite? No way. First the New York Democrat crowed that the inquiry cleared him. Then he had the nerve to blame his staff for getting him in trouble.

What nonsense. Mr. Rangel should have owned up to his mistake immediately instead of hiding behind the "staff error" dodge. This newspaper first called on him to give up the gavel nearly 18 months ago, when serious questions arose about possible tax violations. Those are still pending, by the way.

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