Sen. Bob Menendez is running for re-election. Of course he is.
Doesn’t anybody have any shame anymore? Thirty years ago, Washington, DC, was a national laughingstock for re-electing Marion Barry mayor after he was caught on video smoking crack with a woman not his wife.
Today, Barry would fit right in.
Almost nobody quits in disgrace anymore, even when caught totally red-handed. The rare ones who do — such as Andrew Cuomo — go only when pushed and then immediately resurface totally unrepentant and looking for a new angle.
George Santos hasn’t quit yet and says he’s running again, too. It took 25 years to get rid of the Clintons.
In Menendez’s case, the New Jersey Democrat looked finished when he was indicted on corruption charges in 2015, from which he skated due to a hung jury. He still got re-elected by 12 points in 2018. This seems to have convinced him he was bulletproof.
Now, he’s the first senator in history to be indicted in two different scandals. Two more, and he can run for president.
The latest indictment reveals a man so comically crooked he’d have to be toned down to be a character on “The Sopranos.” Menendez is alleged to have interfered in criminal prosecutions in exchange for a Mercedes-Benz convertible, sold sensitive information to Egypt and taken payoffs for helping the country get American military aid.
Upon his return from one trip to Egypt, Menendez “performed a web search for ‘how much is one kilo of gold worth.’ ”
More than a year ago, a federal search of his home turned up (among other things) $100,000 in gold bars, the Mercedes and half a million in cash, some of which was stuffed into pockets of jackets with Menendez’s name emblazoned on them.
The gold bars had traceable serial numbers. Envelopes of cash had the fingerprints or DNA of people alleged to have bribed Menendez.
Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be needed to crack this case.
What’s Menendez’s excuse? Of course he’s playing the race card, suggesting that Joe Biden’s Justice Department is targeting him for being Cuban American.
Hilariously, the son of Cuban refugees claims that he was in the habit of hoarding cash in his house (in jackets?) due to his family’s history of facing confiscation by Communist governments.
And Republicans thought they had a dim view of what New Jersey is like under Phil Murphy.
The question isn’t just why Menendez has dug in after being indicted. It’s how he has managed, with a straight face, to remain chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 15 months after the feds found all that loot in his house. Did anybody tell Chuck Schumer in the interim? If not, shouldn’t Attorney General Merrick Garland have alerted the Senate to evidence of a security threat? If so, why didn’t Schumer do anything?
Murphy, who would stand to name Menendez’s replacement, has called for him to resign, and even some Democratic senators are now following suit. Democratic Rep. Andy Kim has announced a primary challenge.
But why would Menendez quit? Nobody’s going to make him go, and experience has taught him that brazening it out just might work.