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.They call Menendez's relationship with his multimillionaire jet-setting Florida friend Dr. Salomon Melgen "curious."
Mr. Menendez’s interventions on Dr. Melgen’s behalf were not limited to port security. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Menendez personally raised concerns with top federal health officials in 2009 and again in 2012 about the fairness of their finding that Dr. Melgen had overbilled the government $8.9 million for care provided at his eye clinic. The Post also reported that Dr. Melgen invoked the senator’s name repeatedly to exert pressure on federal fraud investigators.And then this:
The relationship between Mr. Menendez and Dr. Melgen was drawn into the spotlight following recent reports that Mr. Menendez had accepted two round-trip flights aboard Dr. Melgen’s jet for personal vacations in the Dominican Republic in 2010. In January, Mr. Menendez sent Dr. Melgen a check for $58,500 to reimburse the cost of the flights, which he had failed to report as gifts at the time or reimburse, as required. It appears Mr. Menendez has learned little from his own previous ethics issues or from the fall of a former New Jersey senator, Robert Torricelli, who decided not to run for re-election in 2002 amid allegations that he had inappropriately aided a big donor and accepted expensive gifts... a prompt and thorough review [Senate Ethics Comm.] is surely called for. In the meantime, Mr. Menendez needs to relinquish his leadership role, at least temporarily.For the Times to make such an extraordinary move, clearly one of two things is happening here. The Democrats have some internal polling suggesting the Menendez scandal is hurting other Dems, and quite possibly Obama and his early term agenda. Or, there's much more to the scandal, that's about to drop, quite possibly snaring other top Dem pols, Reid, Obama? And they want to get rid of Menendez before things gets too ugly.