Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fallen Angel

Cory Booker has joined the growing chorus of New Jersey public officials who have called for the resignation of the state's senior Senator, Robert Menendez.

There must be two (2) men named Cory Booker in New Jersey politics because shortly before an eight-count indictment was handed down for Senator Menendez in 2015

Mr. Booker held up a different New Jersey politician as a paradigm of civic virtue: Robert Menendez, the state’s senior senator.

“I knew him well when I was a mayor, because every time Newark needed something, he would show up — sort of like a superhero,” Mr. Booker told a select audience at a breakfast hosted by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on March 25, about a week before Mr. Menendez, a fellow Democrat, was indicted on bribery charges.

Describing the “respect and reverence” he felt for his colleague, Mr. Booker hailed Mr. Menendez as “one of the greatest advocates for justice on the planet Earth.”

A scant three years later, all had been forgiven, if not forgotten, because

Every major Democratic power broker in the state quickly endorsed Mr. Menendez for re-election in 2018: Philip D. Murphy, the governor-elect; Senator Cory Booker; Stephen M. Sweeney, the senate president; Craig Coughlin, the incoming speaker of the State Assembly; George E. Norcross, an influential political leader in southern New Jersey; and the county chairs in northern Democratic strongholds such as Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex and Middlesex.

There was, however, one individual who challenged Menendez in the party's primary that June, Lisa McCormick, a virtual unknown who did not report spending any money on the race, received the support of almost 4 in 10 Democratic voters.

While Menendez, D-N.J., was never seriously threatened with losing his party's nomination for another Senate term, his performance wasn't a good sign coming on the heels of his Senate Ethics Committee admonishment and a criminal corruption trial that ended in a hung jury before the charges were dropped.

Once it was clear Menendez would be seeking re-election in 2018, the old boy network swung into action and everyone fell into line. Six years later, society has changed and it need not be a boy (man) and most Democrats would prefer someone reasonably young.

But it's the same idea, a refusal to challenge an incumbent because he or she is an incumbent.  They don't meet in smoke-filled rooms anymore but Democratic officials could have found any one of a number of legitimate individuals to run against Bob Menendez. 

Now they have found their beer muscles. Democratic U.S. Representative Andy Kim, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, has announced that he will run for the seat. With Democrats jumping ship on Menendez, the party has de facto announced that challenges to the incumbent are welcomed. In the unlikely event he actually does survive to run for a fourth full term, Menendez would be defeated in a primary.

The Democratic Party is thereby missing an opportunity to leverage to its advantage the corruption charges against the Senator. They could stand united, recommending that Senator Menendez agree in writing that he will resign- at the same hour of the same day that Clarence Thomas resigns.

Of course, the GOP would reject this arrangement. Still, it would give Democrats an opportunity to switch the narrative, diverting attention to the far more grave accusations against a far more important figure, a United States Supreme Court Justice.

And of course, Democrats wouldn't consider doing this. Turning the tables on Republican wrongdoing when they can more easily adopt virtue signaling would be against their religion of turning on one of their currently disfavored own. Fingers held in air, they have determined which way the wind blows, just as they did when they gave full-throated support to their colleague in his last re-election bid. Wind direction has shifted, and so have their principles. Menendez is reminiscent of the snake who noted "now you knew darn well I was a snake before you brought me in."

In 2015, Robert Menendez not only was acceptable, he was "one of the greatest advocates for justice on planet Earth," high praise from a powerful, black public servant. In 2023, he would be thrown under the bus- were there still room under that metaphorical bus, where lay the likes of Al Franken, Anthony Weiner, and Van Jones.


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