Comedy or tragedy? Washington Goes Shakespearean

Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Comedy or tragedy? Washington Goes Shakespearean

Top Line

Washington, oh Washington, art thou a tragedy or a jest? That is the question that hung before Members of Congress and journalists who participated in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual “Will on the Hill” play that benefits arts programs for low-income students.

Before donning a crown and taking part in the comical play himself, Top Line’s Rick Klein posed that very question to fellow “Will on the Hill” participant Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who replied: “I don't joke about Washington.”

“I'm frightened to death for my country,” Rangel said. “I've never seen the polarization that exists and a handful of people are committed to destroy or to stop the president and a party doesn't make sense.”

Rangel went on to offer some tough words for the Republican Party, saying “that nice people go into Republican conference and they come out mean spirited and not satisfied with themselves.”

“I predict the end of the Republican Party, maybe not in my lifetime, but soon,” Rangel said. “You cannot ignore the change in population of the United States of America and be a viable national party.”

Top Line also caught up with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who said the “Will on the Hill” event offers a rare opportunity “to get to know members of the other parties.”

“This is one of the few bipartisan things that we really do,” Wicker said. “There will be Republicans down there making fun of themselves and Democrats making fun of themselves. We dress up in really gaudy, funny outfits with funny hats, and we do it on a bipartisan basis.”

The Mississippi senator has recently been caught up in a real-life drama after ricin-laced letters were sent to his office and the White House. Wicker and his staff were not harmed in the incident, but the senator told Top Line that he actually knows the suspect who is now facing federal charges.

“Mississippi is a small town,” Wicker said. “I know all of them…I've got a picture of me and the current suspect. He came by the office and wanted to present me with a plaque, so yes, we all know each other.”

For more of the interviews with Rangel and Wicker, and to hear how Rangel says Washington has changed over the years, check out this episode of Top Line.

ABC's Eric Wray, Freda Kahen-Kashi, and Alexandra Dukakis, Paul Dougherty, and Pat French contributed to this episode.