Worst Week in Washington

Who had the worst week in Washington? Rep. Charlie Rangel.

By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, August 15, 2010

What do you do if you are a longtime Democratic House member just weeks away from a congressional trial over alleged ethics violations that threaten not just your political career but your party's majority?

Why, you throw a party! Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York did just that Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel in the Big Apple. It was a celebration of his 80th birthday, which was actually in June, and a strident statement against the 13 charges leveled against him by the House ethics committee.

(Apparently overcome by the show of support, Rangel danced solo onstage during the party, a moment -- thank you, YouTube! -- forever captured on video.)

His statement wasn't limited to dancing while his party's political fortunes burned. With Congress back in session for a single day Tuesday, Rangel -- ignoring pleas from his party leadership, his close friends and, most important, his lawyers -- took to the House floor to deliver a 31-minute attack against those who would have him ride quietly into the night.

"If I can't get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion," he said at one point.

"I'm the guy that was raising money in Republican districts to get you here," he reminded his colleagues at another.

Democratic strategists -- already beset by a slow economic recovery, the flight of independents from their party and grim historic midterm election trends -- could not contain their indignation. "The selfishness and arrogance of Charlie Rangel has no end," thundered one top operative.

Republicans were gleeful, sending out releases and robo-calls highlighting vulnerable Democratic lawmakers who had accepted (and not returned) campaign cash from Rangel.

Rangel's political kamikaze mission might be gratifying -- in a score-settling sort of way -- for the New York Democrat, but a high-profile ethics trial less than two months before the November elections could undermine his party's promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington.

Charlie Rangel, for dancing onstage when you should be stepping off of it, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

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