Menendez Needs To Go

[ Posted Tuesday, September 26th, 2023 – 15:35 UTC ]

This has been a notable week for Labor. President Joe Biden today visited an autoworkers' Union picket line in Detroit, in what is being described as "the first time ever" for a sitting president (nobody seems to have any definitive word on whether Biden truly is the first or not, but then again nobody has yet come up with another example from American history either). The week started out with the news that the Hollywood writers appear to have come to a deal with the studios to end their strike. And I have to say that while I applauded seeing Biden visit a Union picket line, I really cheered the news from Hollywood, as I have been seriously missing late-night television comics in my life. I look at politics all day, every day, and it is almost necessary (for my sanity) for me to decompress with some good political humor at the end of the day (or, for Saturday Night Live, at the end of the week). But that hasn't been an option for months now. The good news is that late-night will be the first part of the industry to recover, so we could start seeing new shows within days of the agreement being finalized.

What will the comics talk about? Well, they've certainly got plenty of material to work with. A lot of Trump's legal developments happened after the strike began, just for starters. Just within the world of politics, there have been plenty of juicy stories just ripe for ridicule over the summer. But at some point they'll also pick up on the most current events; the most current easy low-hanging targets for political ridicule. Which, in a very roundabout way, leads me to the subject of this article: Senator Robert Menendez needs to resign his seat -- and for his own sake, he should do it before Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers and all the rest of them get back to work. He might spare himself a boatload of ridicule by doing so. Admittedly, that's a rather strange angle to see it all from, but it's what popped into my mind when the scandal broke almost simultaneously with the writers striking a deal.

Menendez, so far, is hanging on. He hasn't come out and said whether he's going to follow through on his plan to run for re-election yet, and coincidentally enough (for his constituents in New Jersey), he'll have to do so next year. Perhaps New Jersey voters would be content with him simply announcing his impending retirement, and hey (who knows?) perhaps he could even win re-election. But this seems like a case where the obvious move is to just step down now rather than stick around until the end of 2024.

At first, only one Democratic senator called for Menendez to resign, after the charges against him were announced: John Fetterman. Two more then joined Fetterman, but today (as the Senate reconvenes its session) the dam burst. As of this writing, seventeen Democratic senators have called for Menendez to go -- including the other senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker. That last one is especially notable since during his first court case for corruption (in 2015), Booker stood by Menendez. In that case, there was a hung jury and the prosecutor decided not to re-try the case. This case, however, looks pretty damning, as it involves oodles of cash stashed all over the senator's house, a free Mercedes for his wife, and gold bars -- some of which contain fingerprints and DNA evidence from the people accused of bribing Menendez.

Menendez, so far, remains defiant. He gave a speech to the press where he tried out his defense: he had, over the course of 30 years, quietly withdrawn that half-million dollars and cached it around his house because his parents fled Castro's Cuba. Um, OK. He didn't address the "fingerprints and DNA" part of the charges, or the Mercedes or the gold bars. It seems a pretty basic thing to say, but when you are so obviously grasping at straws to explain a half-million in cash lying around your house, you are not convincing much of anybody of your innocence.

Menendez has, quite obviously, lost the confidence of his own party. I expect to see that list of his fellow Democrats calling on him to step down quickly grow, to put this another way. I don't happen to live in New Jersey, but it's kind of hard to believe that many of the people who voted for him are now thrilled to hear all of this evidence which points to what can only be called naked corruption. I'm sure, if he does try to tough it out, we'll soon see some polling from New Jersey on what the people back home think of their senator now.

He shouldn't wait until it gets to that point. He should just step down now, for the good of his own constituents (who assumably want a senator who isn't consumed with his own legal fight) and for the good of the Democratic Party.

Running through every election since 2016 has been one theme: Donald Trump is not only completely corrupt but an actual con man. Democrats have politically capitalized on this to great effect. Trump is not popular with independents and it gives Democratic voters a lot of motivation to get to the polls. Republicans have realized (especially with the 91 federal felony charges lodged against Trump) that the only answer they have is to try to smear Democrats as somehow being just as bad as Trump. They're mightily trying to gin up Hunter Biden's legal problems as some grand conspiracy (for which they still have zero evidence), and Menendez would only allow them to have another "but what about..." red herring to toss to the media. The only way to avoid this, in the case of Menendez, is for him to step down. The fact that the dam has burst and so many Democrats are calling for him to do so is a sign that the party is closing ranks around a very simple idea: corruption is bad no matter which party it comes from. That is markedly different than the position Republicans have taken.

If Menendez does decide to gracefully exit the political stage, it would allow the (Democratic) New Jersey governor to appoint a Democrat in his place. This would probably even guarantee that the person appointed would win next year's election, as well (it is always easier to run as an incumbent -- even an appointed one -- than it is to survive an open primary and open general election).

Hanging around and toughing it out, however, means an endless supply of material for the late-night comics. We'll hear about every development in his case in hilarious detail, each and every night. Menendez will become, quite literally, the butt of a huge national joke. The only thing that has prevented this from already happening is the fact that the shows are all still on hiatus. He's got a window to get out while he can, where he can largely avoid this fate, but it's closing fast. Senator Robert Menendez needs to step down now, for lots of very serious moral and ethical reasons, but also for one very silly one: if he doesn't, he's in for an absolute boatload of late-night ridicule.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


4 Comments on “Menendez Needs To Go”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Menendez is shameless and corrupt. There's no reason to believe that he'll do anything that benefits anyone other than himself.

    This is a five alarm fire for the Dems. They need to MAKE him go away. Can a senator be expelled?

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    McCarthy said that Menendez should resign and then backtracked when a reporter threw Santos in his face. Hilarious, but how can he be so idiotic that he didn't see that coming?

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Fat Donny's dementia is worsening. I'm not sure why he thinks a "right to work" rally in a non-union factory during the UAW strike is a good idea. Dementia is the only plausible explanation.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Indeed. And, welcome back, JFC!

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