- Last Updated: 4:03 AM, May 13, 2012
- Posted: May 13, 2012
A rather remarkable moment occurred last week: Rep. Charlie Rangel showed up for work.
Yes, after convalescing from a back injury, the 81-year-old dean of New York’s congressional delegation voted on the House floor — for the first time since February.
Congress being the clubby place it is, the Harlem Democrat was warmly welcomed back.
But he shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that means much. He’d be smarter to accept the accolades — and retire, instead of running for election to a 22nd term.
Surely, the man’s had an amazing life and career: He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for Valor in the Korean War, after leading 40 men in his unit away from a Chinese encirclement.
In Congress, he would eventually become the first black chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.
But then came his censure last term in the well of the House — a humiliation that followed multiple ethics infractions, many exposed by The Post.
That alone should have sent an important signal: Time’s up, Charlie.
For Harlem itself has changed: His district has been redrawn and now contains a majority-Hispanic population.
He faces a crowded Democratic primary field that includes well-organized and well-funded opponents like state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (endorsed by former mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer) and ex-Clinton administration aide Clyde Williams, who’s racked up healthy support and money from several former White House colleagues.
In addition, the Campaign for Primary Accountability — a national superPAC working to defeat incumbents in both parties — declared its support for Espaillat.
In short, it’s not the usual bunch of pushovers that Rangel’s dispatched in recent years.
His prolonged absence from his duties makes it abundantly clear that he’s physically no longer up to the demands of the job.
In 1971, Rangel was the young dedicated pol who defeated living-legend incumbent Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who had lost touch with the public.
You’d think he might note the similarity and see the writing on the wall.
Maybe he’s serious about serving another term; maybe he intends to (try to) muscle past November and then (also try to) hand-pick a successor in a special election.
But if Charlie Rangel is interested in preserving a shred of the scant dignity remaining to him, he should just pack it in.Follow @NYPostOpinion