Tags: Bob Menendez

Senate Dem: The West Is Afraid to ‘Provoke Putin’


President Obama needs to rethink his unwillingness to provide Ukrainian military forces with lethal weapons to fight Russia, according to a Senate Democrat who scoffed at political leaders who fear “provok[ing] Putin.”

“I think that was his initial assessment,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) said on CNN’s State of the Union when asked whether Obama was right to withhold weaponry. “And there are those in Europe and elsewhere who says, you know, we don’t want to provoke Putin. Well, Putin doesn’t need provocation. In this case weakness is a greater provocation for Putin act than strike.”

Menendez was clear that some of the fearful political leaders are in Europe — where is “elsewhere?”

He sharpened the point during an MSNBC interview Sunday. “The West has constantly held back because we didn’t want to ‘provoke Putin,’” he said. “The European Union’s reticence to vigorously pursue sanctions and our reticence to provide the Ukrainians with the ability to defend themselves so that the cost to Russia would be so significant that they’d have to think twice about continuing this aggression has, I think, invited Putin to pursue the actions that he has done to date.”

Menendez then offered a peace-through-strength sort of rationale for arming the Ukrainians.

“Putin only understands two things and that’s strength either because of the economic consequences that we can levy upon Russia and hopefully the European Union will move with us into more significant sectoral sanctions,” he said. “And also the costs to Russians as they send their sons and daughters back in body bags to Russia and Russian mothers say, What is happening here?”

Tags: Barack Obama , Vladimir Putin , Ukraine , Bob Menendez

Menendez Approval Drops 15 Points in One Month


Boy, amazing what all of those favors-for-donors stories and “allegations of underage prostitutes” headlines can do to a lawmaker:

New Jersey voters disapprove 41 – 36 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is doing, a 15-point drop in less than a month, and say 44 – 28 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Today’s approval rating is down from a 51 – 33 percent score in a January 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University and is his lowest score since August, 2011 when he had a negative 39 – 42 percent approval rating.

Don’t worry, senator. There are still voters who think you’re swell:

Democrats approve of Sen. Menendez 58 – 19 percent, while disapproval is 63 – 18 percent among Republicans and 45 – 31 percent among independent voters. Women approve 40 – 32 percent, while men disapprove 51 – 31 percent.

Tags: Bob Menendez

The Media’s On-and-Off Corruption/Stupidity Narratives


The media’s disinterest in Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar, the latest politician to opine about rape and the proper options for women in response to the threat, illustrates a great deal about the recurring narratives in our political media, such as a “culture of corruption” or a “war on women.”

On Saturday, the Washington Post had separate page A1 stories about the scandals engulfing former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Throw in the accusations against Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts, the U.S. House Committee on Ethics’ investigation of a Taiwan trip by Rep. Bill Owens of New York, the committee investigation and fees paid for the Scotland trip of Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey, and the dispute as to whether Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts really lives in the district he represents...

..and you can see that if the Post or any other mainstream media institution could easily write up a story or a series of stories about the Democratic Party’s sudden ethical morass and the “culture of corruption.”

But the scandals of Jackson Jr. & Menendez – and the scandal of other Democrats – are rarely if ever deemed “symbolic” of any problems for the party as a whole. They’re just some stuff that happened.

But when Republicans are caught in scandals, coverage often suggests a “broader meaning” or “deeper context” or “powerful symbolism.”

There are currently 274 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or governors mansions (I’m counting independents who caucus with the Democrats in this mix). There are currently 307 Republicans in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or governors mansions.

At any given moment, at least a handful in each group are going to be in some sort of scandal or ethical hot water, or making embarrassing gaffes, or saying something stupid.

Then you throw in every lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and state legislator, not to mention members of the cabinet and members of the previous administration.

Permit me to paraphrase a profane rant from the site,  in an article about how to spot “B.S Political Stories,” urging wariness about any article that has the word ‘lawmaker’ in the headline:

In every single group of human beings, you have a certain percentage of crazy [poop-heads]. Find me an organization of a million charity workers who have devoted their lives to saving homeless golden retrievers, and I’ll bet my life that within that group I can find a faction of crazy [poop-heads]. Hell, I’ll bet I can find at least one in any group of a dozen people. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, weed advocates, anti-drug advocates, cupcake bakers, window washers. They all — all — have their crazy [poop-heads] that can be pointed out. I bet I can find at least one in your family.

Therefore, their existence proves nothing about the group as a whole. And, therefore, it is always wrong to dismiss a political movement by simply pointing at their craziest [poop-heads] and saying, “See! That is what (insert group here) is REALLY thinking.” It’s a cheap shot, anybody can do it and it’s an outright lie.

In other words, “lawmaker” is a signal that the article is about a politician you’ve never heard about before. If you knew who this person was, they would have used the name in the headline.

So does Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar deserve national attention for his comment, suggesting that women shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun to protect themselves from rape because whistles and call boxes are sufficient? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the mainstream media institutions have already established the rules of the game – any lawmaker at any level can be considered a spokesman for the party if the statement is outlandish or damaging enough.

If the press wants to treat comments like Salazar’s as a state-level news story at most, that means they can’t use every yammering yokel as easy fodder for cable news segments and columns about how awful the GOP is. Next time, perhaps it will warrant the headline, ’Lawmaker You Never Heard Of Speaks Off Cuff, Says Something Stupid.’

Tags: Bob Menendez , Jesse Jackson Jr. , Joe Salazar

Bob Torricelli Thinks Bob Menendez Will Be Just Fine


The first Morning Jolt at the week looks at the persistent evidence of a struggling American economy, wraps up a chaotic and weird Super Bowl, and…

New Jersey Senator Bob ‘John’ Menendez, Still Embattled

Great news, Senator Menendez. Harry Reid has your back.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he has the “utmost confidence” in fellow Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and says he has confidence the New Jersey senator “did nothing wrong” in associating with a prominent political donor who appears to be under investigation by the FBI.

Reid adds: “But that’s what investigations are all about.”

Notice the lack of the traditional, “these allegations are preposterous and laughable, and I see no need to dignify them with a response.”

Reid might as well have said, “I’m pretty sure Bob didn’t know they were underage.”

The editors of the Asbury Park Press are suggesting that their home state senator cannot step into a committee chairmanship he has long coveted until the air is cleared:

The allegations are ugly, and, thus far, unsubstantiated. But there is no doubt that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has lots of explaining to do. Every passing day seems to bring new details about possible improprieties.

The FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee are investigating charges that Menendez accepted free plane trips from a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, a friend of the senator’s and a major contributor to his campaigns. Melgen’s offices were raided this week by the FBI.

In addition, claims have been made that Menendez spent time with possibly underage Dominican prostitutes provided by Melgen.

As if these allegations weren’t enough, The New York Times reported Thursday that Melgen, despite an apparent lack of experience in border security issues, bought an ownership interest in a company that had a contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security. Menendez urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the $500 million contract would be enforced.

Menendez’s imminent promotion to chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee needs to be put on hold until all of the allegations against him have been fully investigated by federal authorities and the ethics committee. If any of them turn out to be true, he should suffer the consequences, whatever they might be.

More great news for Menendez in the Star Ledger:

“Six years is a long time,” said Democratic former Sen. Robert Torricelli, who left the Senate a decade ago under his own ethics cloud. “I think Bob Menendez is a very tenacious person, and he has the advantage of six long years and a fairly forgiving political environment in New Jersey.

“I wouldn’t be wasting time on a Bob Menendez political obituary,” he added.

Ari Fleischer with the line of the weekend: “I don’t know of Sen. Bob Menendez belongs in the Senate, but he definitely belongs on the foreign relations committee.”

Also this morning, the Miami Herald offers another update:

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The shadowy tipster who made explosive allegations involving U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic named names. He gave descriptions of the women, and in some cases, phone numbers and addresses.

Despite those details, the women are nowhere to be found.

A week after the claims made headlines in the United States and on this Caribbean island, the alleged prostitutes have disappeared. An attorney who once represented two of the women said he hadn’t spoken to them in months, and then stopped returning phone calls himself. A two-bedroom apartment where some of the alleged liaisons took place is now vacant. Little remains here beyond hazy memories.

No concrete links have been made between Menendez and any prostitutes. Still, the allegations from the tipster, who identified himself as Peter Williams, were serious enough to launch an FBI probe. And shreds of evidence in Santo Domingo show that, at the very least, the women Williams described exist.

Tags: Bob Menendez , Bob Torricelli

Heralding a Bad News Cycle for Senator Menendez


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Words ‘Underage Prostitutes’ in a News Bulletin Can Ruin Any Senator’s Day

So, I guess Senator Bob Menendez will be canceling his Miami Herald subscription, huh?

Stringing up crime scene tape and using a locksmith, the FBI on Tuesday and Wednesday raided the West Palm Beach business of an eye doctor suspected of providing free trips and even underage Dominican Republic prostitutes to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez — who has denied what he calls the “fallacious allegations.”

Agents hauled away boxes and bags of evidence from the medical-office complex of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a contributor to Menendez and other prominent politicians, to start hauling away potential evidence in several vans.

On Wednesday, the FBI agents were joined by an inspector from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, indicating the search-and-seizure raid has ties to a possible Medicare fraud inquiry. Melgen has also been the subject of a parallel federal investigation into his relationship with Menendez, D-N.J., who was first accused of improprieties in the conservative Daily Caller website.

“Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years,” Mendendez’s office said. “Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen’s plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false.”

Funny how when “the office” starts talking, “the office” can get things wrong:

Menendez’s office did not say whether the three trips were to the Dominican Republic or elsewhere. The statement also did not say how the trips were reported or how Menendez paid for them — with his own money or through his senatorial or campaign accounts.

The Associated Press reported it found no records reporting payments to Melgen or trips aboard Melgen’s plane in six years worth of office and travel-related expenses for Menendez’s Senate office, or in six years worth of campaign expenses on file with the Federal Election Commission.

Care to revise your statement, Senator?

Tags: Bob Menendez

A November Surprise for Senator Menendez


No poll this cycle has shown incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) ahead by less than 9 percentage points, and he’s ahead by 18 to 22 points in most recent polls.

Of course, all of those polls were taken before the Daily Caller reported that two women in the Dominican Republic are claiming he paid them for sex earlier this year. The senator denies the claims.

November surprise!

Menendez’s Republican opponent is Joe Kyrillos.

UPDATE: By the way, if you’re looking for three big arguments that this story will not make a giant splash . . .

1) Prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic. This doesn’t make it right or any less sleazy, but it takes away the most vivid “senator accused of illegal acts” angle. Although I suppose paying only 20 percent of what you promised could get you in legal trouble . . .

2) Menendez is not married.

3) Most New Jersey residents have much bigger issues on their minds right now, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. In fact, this might be the very best possible time for this story to break for Menendez.

Tags: Bob Menendez

Bob Menendez Gains an, er, Interesting Primary Challenger.


New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has a primary challenger!

Er… who’s running on the platform, “I have proof the NSA was behind 9/11.”

You scoff, but this candidate, Jeff Boss, received more than 2,400 votes -  in the 2010 Democratic primary in New Jersey’s 13th Congressional District, more than 11 percent of the total.

Tags: Bob Menendez

Christie’s Job Approval: 52 Percent


This morning, Quinnipiac brings good news to both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and President Obama:

New Jersey voters approve 52 – 40 percent of the job Gov. Christopher Christie is doing and say 54 – 35 percent that his first year in office is a success, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This compares to a split 46 – 44 percent job approval in a December 21 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

In today’s survey, Republicans approve of Gov. Christie 82 – 11 percent and say 85 – 10 that his first year is a success. Independent voters also approve 55 – 36 percent and give him a  59 – 30 percent thumbs up for his first year.  Democrats disapprove 66 – 27 percent and say      59 – 27 percent the governor’s first year has been a failure.

There’s fairly good news for the state’s Democrats, as well:

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is growing in the Garden State and now stands at 55 – 41 percent, up from 50 – 45 percent in a December 21 Quinnipiac University poll and a negative 50 – 46 percent November 9.

Democrats approve 90 – 8 percent and independent voters give him a narrow 49 – 45 percent thumbs up, but disapproval is 83 – 15 percent among Republicans.  There is a gender split as men approve 50 – 46 percent while women approve 59 – 37 percent.  White voters disapprove 50 – 45 percent while black voters approve 91 – 7 percent.

“A bit of an up-tick for Obama.  Black voters approve enthusiastically and he gets a slight negative among white voters,” Carroll said.  “New Jersey women like the president a lot more than men.”

New Jersey voters are feeling better about their two U.S. Senators, as well:

•     Sen. Frank Lautenberg gets a 45 – 40 percent score, up from a 42 – 43 percent split December 21;

•     Sen. Robert Menendez gets a 44 – 36 percent score, his highest approval ever and up from a negative 38 – 42 percent December 21.

Senator Menendez . . . what have you been doing to have 44 percent your highest approval rating ever?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bob Menendez , Chris Christie , Frank Lautenberg

Bob Menendez: Polls Don’t Really Capture How Popular I Am


File this away for the next time the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cites a PPP survey: “Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling found that only 37 percent of New Jersey voters think [New Jersey Sen. and former DSCC Chair Bob] Menendez is doing a good job. But despite this lukewarm approval rating, Menendez would easily trump several challengers in hypothetical 2012 match-ups, the polling company found. During a recent editorial board meeting earlier this month at The Jersey Journal, Menendez said he respects polls, but thinks ‘they don’t do the right sample sizing’ to come up with correct numbers.”

(By the way, have I complained about PPP’s sampling? Sure. But I have a hard time believing PPP’s recent efforts in New Jersey are undersampling Democrats or Menendez fans. Their sample broke down 43 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican, 27 percent other. Beyond that, New Jerseyans are traditionally dissatisfied with their elected officials…)

Tags: Bob Menendez

Yes, the 2012 Attack Ads Are Beginning Already.


The Agenda Project is running an attack ad against Scott Brown, declaring him “full of it” and suggesting he violated a pledge to lower taxes . . . by supporting the Bush tax cuts. You see, in the mind of the Agenda Project, if you support tax cuts on the highest earners, you’ve violated a pledge to lower taxes, because you didn’t vote for the Democrats’ plan to only lower taxes for some people.

The ad closes, “Tell Mr. Tough Guy to start acting like our senator, or come 2012, he won’t be.”

I wonder if they’ll run the same ad against Democrats like New Jersey’s Bob Menendez who are signing on to the tax deal, which extends the Bush tax cuts for all earners for the next two years.

Tags: Bob Menendez , Scott Brown

Only 47 Percent of N.J. Democrats Like Sen. Bob Menendez


Obviously, it’s very early, but these are some interesting numbers for Sen. Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey:

With one more national election behind him, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez now faces one ahead — his own. And according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 31% of his New Jersey constituency have a favorable opinion of him and 25% have an unfavorable opinion. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him at all (15%).

“Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.Menendez, a Democrat, was appointed to the seat in January 2006 by then-Gov. Jon Corzine and was elected in Nov. 2006. His seat is up for election in 2012.

Among Democrats, 17% say they don’t recognize Menendez’s name, 26% say they are unsure or have no opinion of him, 10% have an unfavorable opinion, but 47% say their opinion is favorable.

With the election and continued popularity of blunt-speaking, spending-cutting Republican governor Chris Christie, it’s possible Menendez will find himself running for reelection in a state where the political environment is extremely different than it was in 2006.

Tags: Bob Menendez

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