Charlie Rangel is a genius. His performance yesterday during the start of his ethics trial was so melodramatic that he actually pulled it off.

Even more impressive was that Rangel had foresight and ability to conceive of such a performance and believe it might work. At the very beginning of the trial, Rangel claimed that he was unable to obtain proper legal counsel, having exhausted the illegally obtained funds he initially used to pay them. This excuse doesn’t work for two reasons: first, Rangel had known about the impending trial for over 6 months, and could’ve arranged counsel in any number of ways; second, Rangel himself is an attorney and could have defended himself.

Instead of addressing these facts, Rangel claimed that he was receiving unfair treatment in the hands of the House Ethics Committee. Then he walked out of the trial. The Ethics Committee continued on without him, but it is unclear as to how exactly the trial will proceed. That’s the kind of con artistry that only the most talented politicians can pull off.