Mired in Infamy by a Fossil Fuel

Mired in Infamy by a Fossil Fuel

Choose your culprit: Right or Left.
Yesterday The House censured Rep. Charles Rangel for among other things, bribes. And today Nigerian officials confirmed a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Dick Cheney… for bribes.

While the magnitude of the bribes is significantly greater in the Cheney than Rangel case, both involve oil, and both involve men at the highest pinnacles of U.S. power.

On the surface the two men couldn’t be more different: conservative and progressive, white and black, aristocrat and slum-boy. Yes, but the difference even stretched into their souls.

The one I’ve always liked is like your bumbling old uncle who nonetheless brings you the best Christmas presents. Rangel was a progressive, Harlem’s Godfather, articulate and loaded for bear in the public arena fighting for what he thought was right.

Cheney is the Joker incarnate. He appears public only when the vicious veils of his den of inequity are ruffled, and even then rarely says anything. He’s insensitive to public suffering, loved by no one.

But at the bottom of their souls all differences disappear. They’re both corrupt.

I’ve spent a good amount of my adult life explaining to critics of Africa that the popular notion that Africa is corrupt is upside down. Africa is a poor place, or at least has been for most of my life. Corruption usually takes the form of money. That has to come from rich places.

Like Haliburton and the U.S. Congress.

Rangel maneuvered into a tax bill a loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars to an oil-drilling company that pledged $1 million to build a New York city college named in his honor.

Cheney orchestrated up to a quarter billion dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials, there.

In my book Cheney was the bad guy and Rangel the good guy. Cheney was the elite if effete aristocrat masterfully deploying evil. Rangel was the underdog, wounded vet, loyal progressive slipping into the aristocratic comfort zone with little skill.

Cheney did things to get rich. I suppose Rangel did, too, but mostly to get honor. Cheney seems unmotivated by anything moral. Rangel was dangerously playful with The “Ends-Justify-The-Means” to enrich his down treaded community and obtain personal accolades.

Frankly, I actually think Rangel was also just tired of detail, arrogantly careless, ultimately criminally incompetent or incompetently criminal. That certainly does not describe Cheney. Cheney’s Nigerian crimes are ruthlessly calculated, focused from the get-go.

But they both broke hundreds of laws. The big stash was oil.

(Nothing has been proved in court. In both cases only unlitigated allegations exist, and likely will never move further. But let the truth prevail. Justice is often not revealing, just reflective: as opaque as the power that opposes it.)

Cover them both in oil, and you can’t tell them apart.

There couldn’t be two different characters. Mired in infamy by a fossil fuel.