Paterson's next job: Charles Rangel's seat?
Rep. Charles Bernard Rangel (D-Harlem) might have been tempting fate when he chose to call his autobiography "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since."
The memoir, published two years ago, describes his experiences in the Korean War, in which he was wounded by shrapnel in subfreezing cold and led his unit out of an enemy encirclement amid heavy casualties.
So for Rangel, the bar for a bad day is set pretty high. Still, these cannot be the best of days for him - nor for the Democratic majority in Congress that keeps him in power as chairman of the crucial House Ways and Means Committee.
At 79, the dean of New York's congressional delegation is slogging through a multifaceted mess surrounding his financial conduct. The trouble is trumpeted by detractors and rooted in the good life that followed his hard-knocks beginnings.
There's talk of exit strategies, retirement, stepping aside.
One interesting notion drawing chatter on the political circuit: That Rangel would retire midterm, with party leaders paving the way for a poll-vexed Gov. David A. Paterson to step in and succeed him in the Harlem congressional seat.
Some Democrats see this as solving a pair of problems in one move.
"There's absolutely nothing to it," Emile Milne, Rangel's Washington spokesman, said yesterday of the idea. He insisted his boss is deeply engaged in health care and other issues and will hang in there.
"I believe David Paterson is running for re-election and that Charlie Rangel will do so in Congress," said state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem). "Frankly, I believe the question is a very cynical distraction from the challenges the governor and the legislature face . . . "
Such a discussion, though, highlights the uncertain future afflicting two powerful Democrats, of different generations, from Harlem, traditionally the capital of African-American politics in New York.
Paterson - who with his prominent father, Basil, goes way back with Rangel - is famously fending off forces in Washington, D.C., but from within his own party.
Not that party unity always reigns at home. Three years ago, Rangel, Basil Paterson and several other Harlem party elders were backing Buffalo's Leecia Eve, a one-time staffer for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for lieutenant governor. Governor-to-be Eliot Spitzer instead tapped David Paterson as his preferred running mate, and Rangel made his annoyance known.
Paterson's problems since he was thrust into succeeding Spitzer have involved governance, legislative relations, preparations, budgets and administration.
Rangel has a different type of trouble.
He failed to pay taxes on rental income from property in the Dominican Republic, and he didn't disclose assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also is accused of using official letterhead to solicit contributions for an education center named for him and maintaining multiple rent-controlled apartments in Manhattan.
Those are bad issues for someone with big sway over tax laws.
The other day, Rangel held a Manhattan news conference on stimulus at which the story morphed into how he shunned questions about his troubles.
Even for a self-made man who earned the Purple Heart, this had to qualify if not as a bad day, at least as a bad hour or two.