Charlie Rangel's Humiliating Birthday Flop

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For his 80th birthday, Rep. Charlie Rangel may get an embarrassing flop of a party. The Harlem Democrat is known for his elaborate annual birthday bashes, places for politicians and celebrities to see and be seen. But now that Rangel will face a high-profile House ethics trial in the fall, his guests are beginning to back out.

According to the New York Times, this year's party will be especially luxe:

Organizers reserved the gilded main ballroom at the Plaza Hotel, booked Aretha Franklin to serenade Mr. Rangel and sent out an elaborate video invitation featuring a testimonial from Bill Clinton (who, as it happens, was also invited but said he had to be in Arkansas that day).

But far from being a moment of celebration, the gala, planned for next week, is becoming a painful and public embarrassment for the 80-year-old congressman, and a brutal test of friendships and loyalties that are decades old.

High-profile guests have either bailed out or are publicly agonizing about whether to show up at all. In a striking illustration of the discomfort coursing through political circles over Mr. Rangel's soiree, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he did not know if the party was still on when asked recently if he would attend.

"I don't know what the facts are," Mr. Bloomberg said. "I was planning to go, but...."

This hesitation has prompted outrage from Rangel's many loyal supporters, who reminded the Times of Rangel's generosity to his colleagues over the years. "Since 1989," the paper reports, "he has showered $250,000 in campaign money on New York members."

But as politicians gear up for the midterm elections, many are choosing between showing gratitude to an old friend and distancing themselves from a political liability.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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