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The Menendez Conspiracy Theory

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Wall Street Journal editors have outdone themselves:

So it speaks volumes about the lost credibility of President Obama ’s Justice Department that last week’s leaks to the media that federal charges are being prepared against Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has produced skepticism across the ideological divide.

It’s funny that the WSJ editors should talk about a lack of credibility, since they remind us here why they have none. The truth is that the skepticism about the charges against Menendez has been concentrated almost entirely among dead-ender opponents of diplomacy with Iran. What started as lame conspiracy theorizing on Twitter among the usual hawkish suspects later became Ted Cruz’s preferred set of talking points. Republican Iran hawks appear to be the only ones that seriously question the “timing” of the corruption charges against Menendez, since they are the only ones that claim to see anything amiss. The editors naturally provide no evidence that there is widespread skepticism about the merits or timing of these charges, since no such evidence exists. In general, quibbling about the details of corruption charges against a New Jersey politician is usually a losing proposition, and were it not for their sympathy with Menendez’s hawkish views it is very doubtful that the WSJ would have any doubts on this score.

The idea that Menendez is being charged now as punishment for his opposition on foreign policy in general and the Iran deal in particular is especially laughable when we remember that Menendez has lately stymied the efforts of Iran hawks to push through new sanctions legislation. In the wake of Netanyahu’s stunt, Senate Republicans were eager to push through new Iran legislation, but Menendez and his colleagues would have none of it despite Menendez’s substantive agreement with the hawks in the other party. While he has often been very critical of diplomacy with Iran and other administration decisions, Menendez has most recently been siding with the administration against its partisan critics. The timing of these charges makes absolutely no sense if one assumes them to be driven primarily by political considerations.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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