Senator Robert Menendez was never a distinguished choice for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the position he ascended to this month by virtue of seniority. Concerns about that quality gap have sharply escalated amid new disclosures about Mr. Menendez’s use of his position to advance the financial interests of a friend and big donor. Instead of trying to protect Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, needs to remove his gavel, at least pending credible resolution by the Senate Ethics Committee of the swirling accusations of misconduct.
Which is to say that for what it is, it’s actually not too bad. A couple of points, though:
- The Times should have expanded on the minor detail that Menendez intervened in a five hundred million to one billion dollar contract dispute between Florida doctor and Democratic donor Salomon Melgen and the Dominican Republic.
- The Times should have not have categorized Robert Torricelli’s last-minute (September 30th) withdrawal from that Senate race as “decid[ing] not to run for re-election in 2002.” Believe me: the Torch didn’t jump. He was ruthlessly pushed.
- I do not say that the Times should have endorsed the idea that the entire hooker thing was an actual thing. But it’s a little rude to not at least mention that the entire reason that Menendez is in trouble is because the Daily Caller and CREW raised a stink about Mendenez, Melgen, and the former’s alleged use of underaged prostitutes while being the guest of the latter.
Then again: it really is a waltzing bear kind of situation. Strictly speaking, the New York Times should be calling for Menendez’s resignation, not just his being removed from the Foreign Relations chairmanship – no, really, why shouldn’t they? It’s not like the Republic will collapse if Menendez leaves the Senate. He’s not very interesting, he’s not particularly competent – and he’s a Hudson county Democrat, which means that he’s been steeped in a warm bath of corruption for decades. What’s the downside of getting rid of him? Particularly since Chris Christie has no intention of hurting his re-election prospects this year with a cross-party replacement*. But I suppose that we have to expect that the Times is not really in the habit of thinking clearly, these days…
*Nor should he, frankly. The smart thing in this theoretical case is to eliminate the looming Booker/Lautenberg primary fight by putting the former in the Senate and thus retaining the latter as a significantly weak candidate in 2014. Because right now Booker beats Lautenberg, and then probably beats whoever we put up in the general. Our odds of picking up a Senate seat are better in this scenario, in other words. Not great, but better.