They’re two of the most powerful African-American politicians in the land. And by most accounts, President Obama and Rep. Charles Rangel hate each other.
The most recently revealed salvo in their war of words — Obama’s assertion that Rangel is a “hack,” according to the political tome “Double Down” — is just one element of a long-dysfunctional relationship.
Rangel supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, but the seeds of mutual disdain were planted before that, according to Democratic insiders and staffers for both pols.
“There’s a cultural difference. There was always a pecking order of who [Rangel] perceived as being part of the struggle during the civil-rights movement,” said Vincent Morgan, a Rangel aide from 2001 to 2004 who campaigned for Obama in 2008 and ran against the Harlem congressman in 2010.
“The younger people were constantly reminded that they were the beneficiaries. Every conversation with him was a one-sided conversation. It was like, ‘That’s a good idea, but you haven’t been in the game long enough.’?”
That worldview, and his loyalty to the Clintons, motivated Rangel, a Korean War veteran who has served in Congress for 44 years, to dismiss Obama in 2008.
“There’s just no question in my mind that Hillary would be in a better position than a freshman senator,” he was quoted as saying in January 2008. “This ain’t no time for a beginner.’’
But once Obama surged ahead of Clinton, Rangel took credit for urging Clinton not to challenge Obama’s nomination. The damage had been done, though, and it wasn’t all about Hillary.
“It’s a little more style than it is politics,” said one Harlem insider and Rangel confidant. “There are members of Congress who backed Hillary who Obama now has a decent relationship with. The thing with Charlie — a lot of it is style. There’s nobody more old-school than Charlie. And Obama is not.”
The result: Rangel didn’t get the kind of access to the president he assumed was his right as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
You know what I think? I think they’re both right to a certain extent about each other: Rep. Charlie Rangel IS a shameless political hack, and President Obama wasn’t ready to be President in 2008. And now into his second term, he still isn’t. That much is very, very clear.
Make sure to read the whole thing for some inside-baseball type stuff you typically don’t see about Obama and his relationship with party leaders.