The Plot to Bring Down Bob Menendez Was Actually Brilliant

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 8 2014 10:26 AM

The Plot to Bring Down Bob Menendez Was Actually Brilliant

Was7231065
Further thoughts

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

This morning's post about the great Bob Menendez turned into an epic prose poem about how a fake story got out of hand. It happens. But on the way out the door, it's worth considering what the Cubans—if they were behind the story, as Menendez and investigators now think—hoped to get out of the operation. (I hope the operation had a good code name.)

In November 2012, when the Daily Caller ran its first story on the anonymous prostitutes who claimed to have serviced Menendez, the senator was being re-elected to a full term. He was next in line to run the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if two things happened—if his party held the Senate, and if John Kerry became secretary of state. Jackpot, jackpot

Advertisement

All of a sudden, the top Democrat on Foreign Relations was a Cuban-American with a deeply felt and idiosyncratic support for continuing the embargo on the Castros' state. Next in line was California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who had called the embargo "deeply foolish." But really, any Democrat would be less resolute on the embargo than Menendez.

And Menendez takes some hits to the body. The salacious rumors draw attention—political reporters are aware of it, if skeptical of a story they can't confirm—and in early 2013, there's more heat than there would have been otherwise when an office belonging to Menendez's travel buddy/donor Salomon Melgen is raided by the FBI. In February 2013 the New York Times calls on Menendez's Senate colleagues to strip him of his gavel. The biggest newspapers in New Jersey question Menendez's fitness for office, to say nothing of his heavy new responsibilities. Had Menendez stepped away from the committee, or had he resigned, the most powerful Cuba hardliner in the Capitol would have been replaced.

Whoever was behind this took advantage of rumors about Menendez in an attempt to make an Anthony Weiner* out of him. Very clever—doubly clever, when you consider that the story was laundered by Republican operatives (who flogged it to ABC News) and a conservative website.

(Some insights here were provided by my friend, former colleague, and on-the-record Cuban source Matthew Yglesias.)

*Maybe the plotters were unaware of Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who was ensnarled in his first term by the D.C. Madam scandal, won easy re-election in 2010, and is the odds-on favorite to become governor in 2015.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 11:23 AM Two Impacts, One Landslide … on Mercury
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.