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tv   Representative Charles Rangel Discusses His Congressional Career  CSPAN  December 27, 2016 7:08pm-8:02pm EST

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and you didn't even once consider firing her ahead of her retirement? of theemember some political figures that passed away including nancy reagan and antonin scalia. friday night at 8:00, our program continues with shimon peres. john glenn. this week in prime time on opens c-span. >> we talked to some outgoing congressional members. new york-- representative charlie wrangle is retiring after 46 years in congress. he was the first of american chair of the ways and means committee. rangel.sentative
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23 terms in office. when did you decide this was going to be your last term? rep. rangel: i never thought about it. this must've been about three years ago. i went to a local hospital for what they call a procedure that was supposed to take a few hours. then i got a spinal infection, and i was in intensive care for i don't know how long. but it is the first time i can remember i was totally alone. i worried about the wife and the kids and all of these things. i thought, what about this? what happened? she was telling me these things, and i said, "why don't you tell me about it?" it sounded so exciting. she says, "charlie, i knew your commitment before we got married.
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i knew your passion. i knew you were good at what you do. i just wasn't certain i should give you the alternative. i love my wife, but i felt so awkward. it felt like i was being so selfish. i knew then. so i didn't have enough time to recruit a candidate, to take two and a half years, but i can say that the rest of my life is to make my wife happy. that too is selfish, because that is going to make me happy again. that kids, the grandkids are doing different things. they are raising money. quite frankly, i was so close to that category, of this kid can never succeed, and that g.i.
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bill and my wife opened myself to a world that nobody in my family or community knew. and i'm going to have so much fun trying to see how many kids with my wife's permission, which she has given money to -- to raise money by going out to the private sector and giving talks, but only going places that my wife would want to go. i don't think i could lose. >> and that is next for you? what exactly will you be doing? rep. rangel: well, i was approached by several speaking agencies. corporations encouraged that they would like breaks from politicians. what is it really like? what caused this? i have been involved in
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impeachments of nixon, and it changed republicans and democrats. that is the story. i said, "no, no, no." they showed different places that these people have their conventions. they were all places on our bucket list that we wanted to see. they were willing to pay me, and the last thing i needed was a whole lot of problem with taxes. the city college of new york is right on the hill overlooking harlem. when i was a kid i thought it was riverside church. nobody told me that is where you could go to get an education. the same time i was reading in a local newspaper that kids could make $6,000 a year tuition. $6,000.
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that is because the median income was $35,000. so, between the speaking agencies, the fees, the services, the kids, and they want to make a replica of my congressional office so the kids can come in and i can tell them stories about it. there is no salary involved, but, like i said, if the wife says it makes sense, i owe her big-time. >> you have been here for 46 years. why did you decide to run? do you remember? rep. rangel: you don't want to hear all of that. [laughter] i was in the state assembly for four years. i was happy then. we were only in session three months a year. i was helpful in getting a very
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important guy a judgeship. he was helpful in saying "i would join a law firm." i called my wife and said, we made it now. i got his clients and everything. but in the course of being in the assembly, governor rockefeller was giving a lecture to the members of the assembly on why he was going to congress. i said, "i wish you'd let my congressman come back home." that is another story. adam clayton powell, he left the district and the country. i learned then never try to be a wise guy. if you are not in control of the mic. he said, "if you can bring your congressman back home, i welcome that you go there.
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we move the criminal sanctions because we need him in new york state just as bad as you want your congressman back." i really did it this time. but we did go. i tried to make it clear to congressman powell that the last thing in the world that i wanted to do was go to washington, d.c. and i was so happy being in albany, almost part time, but a law firm, and beginning to learn what life was all about, and when he got finished embarrassing me in front of my wife, and told me how invincible he was, i knew that i had no choice. he kept me waiting. he kept my wife and i waiting for 12 hours. he ridiculed me.
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i was trying to tell him there were six people running. i would be in trouble if one of these other people won, because i was supporting him which would make me part of the machine for four years. so, i ran and, six other people ran. and of course, i had a good wife, and we did not know what the hell to do. a friend of mine, who later became governor, he says to my wife, "whatever you do, you have to bring the family here because he lost family, friends and everything. his wife had just passed." so the wife came down, and i guess that should answer that question. because it was exciting.
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>> what would you say your legislative achievements have been over these years? rep. rangel: that question is asked so many times. it is almost like saying what was the best day of your fifty-year marriage? i can tell you, i have never had a bad day that i regretted running for congress. i never had a day that i really felt i couldn't make a positive difference. and never found that i ran out of challenges. when nelson mandela got out of jail and he called it the bloody rangel amendment because so many white south africans called it that, and because in the u.s. firms if you want to stay in south africa, you have to pay the united states taxes. they left.
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when they came to the common sense thing, that no american should work 40 hours a week and get paid and still be in poverty. we were able to create the earned income tax credit to say "no, we give you a check for your commitment." most of the housing we have for low income was an initiative. i can't tell you to work with a president like clinton to get a bill passed for communities like mine that would provide incentives for people to come. so being in the majority, being able to say someone should do something about it, people say that someone should be you, constantly, you know, you don't -- you come here every day with
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your hopes. the atmosphere was entirely different. as i look over the photographs now, it is hard for my wife and i to remember sometimes who were the republicans and who were the democrats. they were friends who worked together. i remember, he and tip o'neill protected the rights of republican senior members who went on trips and said "do what you want to do but don't hurt him." it was an entirely different atmosphere. and the best part of my life. >> you were named the first african-american to serve as chairman of the ways and means committee, one of the key committees in the house. [coughing] but we are seeing taxes. what do you think your legacy will be on the ways and means committee? rep. rangel: everything that i mentioned, and many things that i didn't.
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also, when they talk about the affordable care act, my name is on it as a primary sponsor. all of those have different ways and means. so, i was named the congressman that had more bills signed into law than anybody else in congress. but that is because i chaired the committee, and we were able to get so many things done together -- republicans and democrats -- most of the time. so, it was awesome. and people would say, "charlie, when you get that job they are going to come after you." and that couldn't have been bottom of my feeling about politics except, when the final story is told and is public, you didn't steal any money, you paid
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your taxes. when you were trying to raise money for those kids, you ignored the fact that you could not use the paper that had the picture of the eagle in the united states congress. you should've use the stationery that had the capitol of the united states congress. you know how many times you did that? thousands of times. you know how many laws that would break? you mailed each one, violating the law, asking people for money to do it. when the question was asked, i didn't even attend the hearing. one democrat asked, "what is the worst thing that congressman rangel did?" he said, "his people did not keep good books and he was just too active in trying to raise money for those kids."
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this is not a press release, this is the public record. we fought the thing to the supreme court. there was no question that the way things went where you were not allowed to call witnesses. the supreme court said, "whatever the house of representatives would do, it did not have to be fair or equitable, that due process is part of the constitution but it does not concern itself with the house of representatives." how could you exclude the taking away of reputation and say that due process ends? because we have the separation. they don't tell us what to do, and we don't tell them what to
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do. so, my lawyer said, if it was kangaroo court, that they just wanted him, it was just going to get him for reasons that were totally unfair. the court was blind to whatever they say, when they know it is up to them to select their membership. >> you are referring to the house censuring you for ethics violations? rep. rangel: yes. >> any regrets? rep. rangel: i should have known the difference between the stationery that you use for soliciting. it never entered my mind if i was soliciting for the college and the city of new york, not for me. it was a public college. what regrets could i have had? yes, i should have said, "before i send out these letters, would you please approve it?"
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i should not have had confidence in the people that normally take care of putting it together. but i don't have any regrets. no regrets about my intent. like the prosecutor said, "sloppiness is something that i could have been blamed for. i'm the guy that signed the letters." >> according to observers you could have gotten a minor punishment from the committee. rep. rangel: i could have, yes. but first of all, i was the one that called for the hearing. i was the one that called for an examination for 20 years of my taxes and my conduct. it took them years before they came to a conclusion. i would challenge them on the floor and say, "whatever you got, just bring it out so i can clear my name." they said, "you want us to bring
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it out? we will bring it out." but i certainly would have negotiated if i knew that they would have had blinders on and knew that they were complete, in charge of the process. i just could not believe you can have a constitution and just due process is taken out of the member's rights to determine the content of its members. let me make it clear. members had to vote on the censure. during a political time. i was in the news as someone that was being censured, and they had to vote on it. the question became, like my predecessor when they kicked him
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out of congress, and i came down here and i found nobody was angry with adam. how the hell did he get kicked out? they loved adam. but they love themselves more. they were not thinking about going back home, explaining to their voters at the time they were up for election that they condoned in any way adam's conduct. while they started off defending me, the closer the election came, the more people would believe that -- what do you want to do? protect charlie rangel or get reelected? i have never had to make that decision, but i could not get angry with somebody. because most people who had no election problems were with me. nobody in the congress -- when they hung my picture up, all the republicans were there. former speakers and past
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speakers, they all said what a wonderful guy i was, and, even today, no one would ever think about saying my conduct brought any shame to anybody. >> we are talking about the ways and means committee. your picture hangs in the committee room. rep. rangel: they were talking about what a great guy i was. >> what will you miss about congress? rep. rangel: i have already missed -- i don't know whether this comes back in my lifetime. the camaraderie. to be able to say that you have a job -- i never looked at it that way. where people said that in this great country we have got to pick 435 people that don't look alike, have different backgrounds, came to this
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country in different ways, and the only thing they have in common is that they love this country. and they want this country to be great. that in a few hundred years, they allowed people who look like you to go from slavery to the highest court in the land and you are part of that. your job is to learn about what these other americans are thinking so that we can get a fair shake in this great country. what a concept -- i don't see how these guys thought it up, quite frankly. to have a constitution where they weren't even thinking about people of color, weren't thinking about women, weren't thinking about poor people, but it had the elasticity to build and to grow and even today, i do not think you could have a more clear example then this last
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election. i put in a bill to get rid of the electoral college only because people should understand that things have changed since that document was written. we ought to constantly review the parts that don't make sense and keep the parts that allowed us to have such a great nation. >> what won't you miss? what will you not miss about congress? rep. rangel: well, if they were really trying to chase me out politically -- if they were saying the whole thing is going to be a nightmare and your party is not going to win the house or the senate, and you will not believe the republican they
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selected for the presidency. and republicans won't talk with democrats and democrats won't talk with republicans. as you are taping, there's someone who wanted to impeach the missionary of the internal revenue service who only got a couple of days left. i have been through the impeachment in 1974 with president nixon, how can you end this term and impeach? i am not going to miss that. i'm not going to miss how people just want to be mean when they don't really believe that they can do anything. how they can vote 60 times to repeal a bill knowing that it is not going to work. no, ever since i had been here, people who have fought hard and work hard -- i told a guy today, "since you have been here, i don't even know whether you
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passed a bill. but you fought for the things you believe in, that you knew it was possible for you to do it. i would hate to be in your shoes today." and he grabbed and hugged me, because he didn't mind being a loser as long as he knew he was doing the right thing. he knew it was possible. but democrats and republicans will say now it makes good sense for the country, and i'm going to support that. now, he knows that as long as he is in this congress, republicans are not going to let him see the light of day for his ideas. that is painful. that is painful to tell that to a representative of 600,000 or 700,000 people. >> you have worked with many presidents over the years. which one stands out?
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rep. rangel: i wish, really, i was here when president lyndon johnson was here. i was with him partially what i was counsel to the select committee. but more importantly than that, i have so many prejudices. one of them was accents. i didn't even know i had an accent when i came here. i thought everyone else had an accent. with the south, even though i married a southerner, when i heard lyndon johnson say that we shall overcome, i could not believe i was in america. i marched from selma to montgomery with john lewis, and i never believed that the supreme court would ever allow voting rights in all those
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states. i would have loved to have known or talked with lyndon johnson. but, i guess it is who you have the closest relationship with, and that would have been bill clinton. when i was chairman, i had the first bill that dealt with trade to africa. i had the empowerment zone and so many other things. so, it has never been that i been a buddy to the president, because the situation socially never presented itself. but lyndon johnson, i really don't believe gets the credit for the political courage he had when he passed these voting rights acts knowing that it would hurt his party and save this great nation. >> when you think back over the
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years, tell us a story that you are fond of telling constituents or other people about what happens up here on capitol hill. rep. rangel: well, one of the stories would be when bill clinton said he was considering the empowerment zone bill. and he wanted me to come over to go over some of the details. i thought i could make an impression if i didn't go over there with staff or notes. so, for hours, and for days, and for nights, i studied this complex piece of legislation. i was so exhausted when the time came for me to go, but i stood tall and said, "mr. president, i am ready to discuss this outstanding piece of historic legislation."
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he had all of these people, with him. he asked where my staff was. i told him, "i don't have staff." he looked at me and dismissed the staff. i sat down, ready for the first question, and he says "how do you think hillary is going to do in new york for the u.s. senate?" i almost died, because totally unrelated to the empowerment zone bill. i had recruited hillary clinton to run against a politician that was running for the senate. that it would have pained me. do you know what his name was? rudolph giuliani. that was my local nightmare.
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every democrat was saying, "don't you have a candidate? why can't we get a candidate?" and so, i was in chicago and she gave a speech. i said, "you know, we need you in new york." someone asked, "you mean that?" when i get the idea that she would even entertain it, i would have said a regular labor meeting. they were saying, what will we do now? hillary clinton was the candidate, but we did not have hillary clinton. i said, what if? they said, that would be different. i reported back to hillary. they said, "well, you have the
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congressional delegation." i told them -- i said, labor would support hillary clinton, would you?" and they said, you don't have hillary clinton. they said they would support her and so would we. i reported that. then we had an association of businessman that would meet once a month. i gave a talk to them. labor has ideas, congressional has ideas, people have ideas, but we have to raise money. we need people who truly believe rudolph giuliani is not the person to represent us in the united states senate. i said that these people want hillary clinton. it was bigger than me. it was bigger than life. my god, she was such a great
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united states senator. it was how all of these things were so totally unrelated. so, when people say -- she is responsible for this, and bill clinton says, "my wife did not have the slightest idea of going into politics until charlie rangel talked her into going into politics." it is like my wife said, i was just begging her for seven years to marry me. but as long as it worked out. [laughter] host: what do you think your legacy will be on new york politics? representing the harlem district? rep. rangel: having the ability to have the support of the people to really be able to say
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what was on their mind. and not have the heavy burden of thinking about political consequences. my constituents allowed me to talk out against the war in vietnam. to do trade in ireland. to deal with the pain in haiti. to negotiate trade agreements in africa. to support the korean people after the war. and knew all the time that i could produce for them, because i was born in the base of my support. i think they will remember that they trusted me and i could not have done any of those things unless i knew they had my back.
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it was a great relationship. and it builds up over a period of time. it staggers me when i guys telling me, and he is 50 years old, and he says, "you know, you are the only congressman i knew in my life." but the ability to know that, at 86, i cannot think of one bad day. and at 86, i have the opportunity to try to make my life better by making my wife better, my kids better, my grandkids better, and a whole bunch of kids out there, that they think city college is a church. and i can get them to just take the veil over their eyes and see
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what this country really has. i think so many young people and adult people act out when they do not think the door is going to open for them. and they are going to raise hell about it and really find out where the key is to open up that door. if they do not believe they are going to be accepted, then what do they really have to lose? and so, i fight for those kids. one of the things that i'm most proud of is i had to wrangle the international scholarship program with the state department. when i first came to congress in 1971 and was traveling, especially tip o'neill, the white folks that would be in the embassy would see me and ask which congressman did i work for. it wasn't their fault. there was just a handful of black congressman.
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they had never seen a black congressperson. i knew then, and my wife knew then, that it was in the interest of the united states of america that our embassies looked like the united states of america. and i talked with every secretary of state, and i would give them a hard time. this was before mexico and african diplomats grew. and finally, between the secretaries of states, colin, law, rice, and whatnot, they started a program where they would send kids to get advanced degrees. but they also would train them to be foreign service officers. and i go around the world and some kid is following me, and i wonder what is wrong with them. and they say they are a rangel scholar.
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and believe me, i don't care what exposure you have as an american. you don't know what this world is about until you have lived in other people's shoes and seen other people's cultures and foods and whatnot. when congressmen visit a country, the embassy normally has a reception for them. and at that time, there were not too many women that were members of the house. and they would have special people in the embassy take the wives out to see things. and at the end of the day, you meet up with your wife and asked how did your day, how did your meeting go? and they would say, oh, we had the nicest people who let me around. and he or she would bring their spouse to the reception tonight. and we would smile. why would we smile? because you had no idea what that wife or husband would look
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like. these people go overseas and forget who they are. they just become human beings of the world that have fallen in love. and it is amazing to see how getting out of the prejudices that have built up -- not prejudice of hate, but prejudice that emphasizes differences. to go there and see that love, really, without the barriers, would build people that everyone from new york to san francisco and in a foreign country say, what a lovely couple. and so, to have this program, which is growing, other people would be able to, perhaps, go to the embassy and say, at long last, american can be a sophisticated enough to be in that class where color is not an issue. we still have such a long way to
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go. but we are on the right path. as the strongest nation in the world, and one that the world is depending on, if we can only get that idea out that it does not really make any difference what your color is, it is your character is really what counts. we are moving in that direction. but not even when president obama, who i really believe is the best president we have ever had, there was a little hope that i thought that this would make a hell of a difference. but the last election proved it really did not. host: is that his fault? rep. rangel: heck no. heck no. to be able to last a second term in eight years with the environment that existed in the
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last election -- it would not surprise me if he could walk on water. i do not see how he did it. no, it is not his fault. i cannot think of one thing that he could've done that would improve the race relationship in this country. if i had to find fault, it would be with our spiritual leaders. because they would allow me to believe that they deal with a higher source. if all of us are made in god's image, they ought to really talk about that more. if saint matthews, which is in all of these spiritual -- it is in the koran, it's in the old and new testament, it's in the torah. it all says how do you treat
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your fellow man. do you feel his pain when he is sick, when he's hungry, when he's naked, when he is in prison? that is how you should treat people. every religious person says that is how our maker wanted it. and that's why there is all these sparkling different cultures and colors, which makes you say what a beautiful job he did. politicians have no mandate to follow that wonderful thought. but with all that we have, with people killing each other all over the world, drones flying, people starving, remove health insurance, problems of the homeless all over the world, i cannot think of one priest, one minister, one rabbi, one imam who is saying, "in the beginning, don't you remember?" and that is sad because, we carry such a political burden not to lose our constituents in their place of worship.
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host: founding member of the congressional black caucus. has the cbc had an impact on race relations in the country? what are its victories? rep. rangel: well, let's say this. getting back to the constitution, and one man, one vote allowed us to become a little closer to equity. so therefore, the nine black members of congress, that i had joined then to make it 13. it was then that we said, collectively, we can be a major force of influence, rather than individually. and that it would make no difference what part of the country that we came from.
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basically, we had the same problem. you could walk into any town or village, and they would not ask you whether you were from mississippi or whether you were from new york city. when we come together collectively, and have a voice to say about anything, people may not look at our colors and say, oh, black is beautiufl. but they sure look at the votes. this is one place where one man, one vote means something. even in areas where no one asks us how we feel, before people start thinking about what we can do in the house, they now have to think about how are we going to get these 45 votes. they may not say black, they may resent black. but the same way that people talk about things concerning ireland or israel or other parts of this world, they know that we come here with the instincts of having a concern. because we are not just one homogeneous group of people.
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and to be able -- i used to tell people that, when i was chair of the congressional black caucus, i would have meetings, and they would say, "mr. chairman, what is the agenda?" i said we do not have an agenda, but as long as it scares them, but we meet every week. and every time we analyze a bill, we have to be able to say -- he had the powell amendment where he would vocally say, and it has to be free of discrimination. we now say, shouldn't it be coming out of the committee unless you are certain you can do this without democratic votes? and so, any bill that we have passed, we are proud of. whether deals with housing or health care or opportunity, women's rights, gay rights, if it is moral.
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and i am not saying that we are more moral than anyone else. that we call ourselves the conscious of the congress. but the truth of the matter is that these are basic american ideas. and everyone where someone may say that this is the right thing to do, you can bet we were their leadership or we were supportive, or they could not do it without us. it is unfortunate that, today, it is how many votes have you got for impeachment. how many votes have you got to repeal, and you know you cannot do it? how many votes do you have just to make mischief, show who you are, rather than how can we get together and, just for one inch more, make us work together and make the country better. but the governors and the state legislators who said we would rather have all blue -- that is
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all democratic states and congressional districts -- or the republicans who said, we would rather have all red. what does that mean? it means that, if democrats start speaking differently than the people in that district, they are going to be challenged by democrats. and republicans that tried to be fair have challenged and lost in the primaries. that is something that we have to think about, where people can do and say the right thing without fear that they will lose in a political scene. host: finally, congressman, what is your advice to be successful in congress? if a freshman is looking at a 46 year career, what is the key to be successful? rep. rangel: young people can't look at you because you are old,
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and they say give me some advice. the one thing that has kept me going -- i have written a book about it and i have not had a bad day since. behind the book is that a 20-year-old guy finds himself in korea, 20 below zero, shot, left for dead, and praying in latin and tongue that if anyone is home, please give me a break. i promise to you, if you can just give me out of this, i will devote my life to trying to do everything right. there is the odds against me surviving this, and november 30, 1950 can bring tears to my eyes to see how people were captured, wounded, and killed by tens of thousands of chinese. we were completely surrounded. but i survived.
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and every time i think i am having a setback, somehow i survived. there is so much for me to be blessed and happy about. then this thing that is about to tear me apart. when i lost my brother soon after i was elected, i was ready to talk to god. this guy was my best friend, my campaign manager. a father, was 52 years old, he had three kids. before i could complain, someone reminded me of how many people have never had a brother, a friend, or a buddy like that? and i lost my mom, and, before i could scream out -- 94 years old, and you got a complaint? and believe me, i have been able to see people that have been able to say that before you even
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think about complaining, just start thinking about how blessed you are. and if that does not work, just think again. because the fact that you know that you have blessings cuts the problem in half. but the more you think about the problem, it doesn't go away. but your ability to not talk about misery and pain but think about solutions. and i don't know how long it was after november 30, 1950, but now i just don't even think about it. if you would had asked how many people do you have on your enemies list, i cannot think of anybody that i thought enough about that i was going to take my time to make him or her -- well, my wife may have her list about people i should remember -- but i tell freshmen that if you think you have a problem
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with this congress, why don't you start thinking about how the hell you got in congress and how lucky and fortunate you are that you recognize you have a problem. and there has to be other opportunities and challenges. so, they talk about the president-elect to me. i say think about those slaves. you know? they did not know who was taking them or selling them. their own people were selling them. they did not know where they were going. half of them died. then they got here, and they could not assimilate. they got lynched, you could not vote. people would just shoot you in the streets. and you are in the congress, where you can do something about these things? so, the advice i give is take a deep breath. just take a deep breath. and reward yourself with the idea that you know that you have
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a problem. host: congressman charlie rangel, thank you for your time. rep. rangel: thank you so much for this interview. us on tuesday for the opening day of the new congress. watch the official swearing in. coverage of the events from capitol hill begins at 7:00 eastern on c-span. or you can listen to it on the free c-span radio app. library is a video good way to view and search c-span programs., the main front page.k on the on the left side are all the hearings and the presidential events of that day.
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thathen right underneath is a link that says, recent events. in the order they were on the network. you can search for a person posner name. pages thatple have contain video. you can put in a word. let's say, you want sheila jackson lee. let's say they talk about climate change. members of the congressional black congress tomorrow will receive the signatures and public statements of those developing -- demanding this body support the clean power amendment. >> you can put in those words and that will get you to particular small pieces, almost like paragraphs. >> the soldiers were members of
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the third battalion. of thearmored brigade first cavalry division. these american soldiers were volunteers that swore to protect the united states. >> across the top, we have links. you can find all the clips that people make, they are available for other people to look for. >> i certainly hope it is a ssad. >> i do too, but i don't think so. >> what a bizarre decision by president -- to invite donald trump down there. , therehe far left side are breakdowns much like you would find on any other shopping website. you can say, i want to see a particular person's name.
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particular senate committee or a tag for policy votes. the left side is very valuable for narrowing down. c-span,r: tonight on president obama and japanese prime minister shinzo abe a at the pearl harbor memorial. then we hear from former president george w. bush on national security and north korea. then former first lady laura bush on the plight of north korean refugees. then we talked to the newly elected representative of florida. seven months after president obama made his historic visit to hiroshima, he was joined by japanese prime minister shinzo abe at pearl harbor in honolulu, hawaii. the two leaders laid wreaths at the uss arizona memorial.
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pres. obama: thank you, everybody. [camera shutters]


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