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If Sen. Bob Menendez loses in November, September 28 will be remembered as the day his campaign "jumped the shark." This phrase refers to an episode of "Happy Days" when Fonzie, wearing water skis & a leather jacket, jumped over a shark. Fans of the show generally agree it's the point at which the show began it's long, final decline, & so the amusing phrase has passed into the popular lexicon as signifying the tipping point for a TV show or a career.

The election is no longer Menendez's to win or lose, if it ever that sure a thing.  It may now depend on his colorless opponent with the high name recognition, Tom Kean Junior, managing to avoid any major faux pax. If Senator Menendez desired the worst kind of national attention for his campaign, he could hardly have picked a more effective way to do it than to vote "yea" on S. 3930. For his vote, he receives absolutely no credit from Republicans. He's no Joe Lieberman. But for the liberal left, what he did was scandalous. For Menendez is not the President's war hawk pal or a Democrat representing a solidly conservative midwestern state, but a Senator from New Jersey, which twice soundly rejected George W. Bush for President. New Jerseyans were never bamboozled into believing Saddam ordered the attacks on 9/11. New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.

I could go into other reasons Senator Menendez is struggling. He was not a clear popular choice for Senate when Gov. Corzine had to appoint his own replacement; it was an open field. Many of us wanted some kind of primary campaign, with another candidate running to the left or right of Menendez to test him in debates, on current issues. His 13th Congressional district is urban, geographically small, controled by three of this state's strongest county machines, including the two that allied & conspired to give us former Gov. Jim "Parkway Rest Stop" McGreevey. Menendez was practically unknown to voters outside of a narrow zone bordering the rivers that divide Jersey from New York City. & he was associated, fairly or unfairly, with the Hudson County Democratic organization, the nastiest & historically most notorious in the state.

So there you have it. Given one clear, beautiful & obvious opportunity to inspire & solidify his support from Democratic voters throughout New Jersey, who are already united in opposition to the current adminstration in the White House, but many of whom felt some other congressman or state legislator would have been a better pick for the senate seat Menendez is trying to keep, & he managed to blow it. He proved us correct. There were better choices.

Originally posted to DJ Rix on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:06 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's been most unfortunate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope, JohnGor0

    that Menendez hasn't been able to get his act together.  It'll be a real shame if the Dem control of the Senate is lost because of this guy.

  •  the NJ race is scary (10+ / 0-)

    I wish Menendez would pull a Torricelli and drop out. Replace him with Kristin Breitweiser!

  •  nj (13+ / 0-)

    nj is a liberal leaning lefty base, where dems outnumber reps 2 to 1.  So why the hell would you vote for torture and play for the other guys base? (never mind that voting for torture in and of itself is disgusting)..WTF, who is counseling this idiot.  Play to the mid to left in Jersey and you NEVER lose.

    Guy's a fucking disgrace.

    With a Government like this, who needs enemies

    by pissedpatriot on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:16:41 PM PDT

  •  I think he will pull it out (9+ / 0-)

    Although I may be in a "state of denial."

    Still, I think that NJ often polls to the right of how it votes.  Remember when the GOP was saying that NJ might go for Bush in 2004?

    Sometimes you cover your ass with the lame excuses you have, not the lame excuses you wish for.

    by litigatormom on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:17:21 PM PDT

    •  I agree. The cement hasn't set around his shoes. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamfan, JohnGor0, Sanuk

      Not a good situation but this kinda shit is a virtual right of passage in Jersey.

      WIN ELECTIONS or Buy Guns.

      by Robert Davies on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:30:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  sure (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhillyGal, JohnGor0

      but Bush gained sevaral points from 2000..IIRC he got around 45% of the vote in NJ...

      They may poll to the right, but there's no question that the corruption and entrenchment issue is coming to a boil after a series of what seems to be perpetual scandal since McGreevy got elected in 2001. Menendez is not helping.

      "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." --J.R.

      by michael1104 on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:33:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree, he'll pull through (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamfan, JohnGor0

      It's the only Democratic Senate seat that is endangered, I hope the Republicans don't get the consolation of victory in NJ, even if Menendez isn't the ideal Democratic candidate. There are 10 other Democratic Senators who voted for the torture bill as well, including two women, Landrieu and Stabenow, go figure!

      That's it. I've had it with these @%#& Republicans in the @%#& House and the @%#& Senate.

      by wakemeup7nov06 on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:33:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hope you are right, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I expect that this is exactly what the R's are saying about Tennessee and Virginia.  

    •  Denial is... (0+ / 0-)

      Denial is the mind's most powerful coping mechanism.

      •  The mind's most powerful coping (0+ / 0-)

        mechanism might be to black out. It happened to me once and I was glad to have missed the moment of impact.

        Notice, by the way, that for those suffering from the worst cases of denial (Bush & Co.)'s as if they had blacked out and the moment of impact never registered at all.

  •  Picturing Menendez on water skis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jxg, JohnGor0

    in a leather jacket...

    Something's happening here today -- a show of strength with your boys' brigade. Paul Weller

    by jamfan on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:18:59 PM PDT

  •  no money from me (6+ / 0-)

    He has the makings of a Lieberman redux.  Spineless, humorless, and Republican lite.  Reid should resign his leadership position because a leader is supposed to be followed.  I assume Lautenberg was riding shotgun, and for compromising the constitution, he should resign and return to retirement.

    That both NJ Senators sold out makes all Dems look pathetic.  If you can't have balls in NJ, then where?  Disgusting.

  •  Bluntly (7+ / 0-)

    The primaries are over. Menendez is the candidate. Maybe there could be better people running. Maybe Rush Holt would have been a better candidate, but that time has passed. The reality is that Menendez is the Democratic nominee.

    Kean represents everything that most people here oppose. He would support the agenda people here want maybe 10-20% of the time. Menendez probably would vote the right way 80% of the time. I'd rather have the former than the latter.

    The choices are imperfect, but that's the nature of this race. So the blunt point is this: It's either Menendez or Kean. I would hope that you would realize that the latter's best day would still be worse than the latter's worst day. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

    by jiacinto on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:25:50 PM PDT

    •  If I still lived in NJ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I would vote for him but I sure as hell wouldn't work for him. I forgive all kinds of things, but not that.

      I was born and raised in NJ and cast my first vote there (and joined the Dem party in the 1960s) so I was going to give to Menendez, but he dropped off my list of five that I gave to today.

      If he wins someone should run against him in a primary six years from now.

      •  Then (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JohnGor0, mang glider

        How about this? Get Menendez elected and then spend the next six years working at the grassroots level to find a more competetive primary challenger? Or, at the same time, why not work at the grassroots level to create Democrats more supportive of your issues who can be competetive in the long term? For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:45:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A vote for Menendez is a vote for subpoena power (0+ / 0-)

        and for Democratic control of commitees, agendas.

        What more could you want?!

        Too much to be gained, too much to be lost if NJ does not elected Menendez.

    •  That line just doesn't work fo me any more. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I feel the same way about my senator, Stabenow.

      The are certain lines that one just doesn't cross. Subverting the Constitution is one of those lines. So is voting for gross violations of human rights.

      I'm willing to bend, but I won't bend so far that I break.

      I had given money to Stabenow earlier in September, and she will probably win; but she will win without my vote.

      "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it." - Jon Tester

      by slatsg on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:43:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then you support Bouchard and the rest of the (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rockhound, JohnGor0, arbiter, mang glider

        Republicans. It's that simple. Really it is. And the people who lose are the citizens of Michigan.

        So you would rather have Bouchard in the Senate because of Stabenow's one vote even though she has been right on the vast majority of the other issues?

        I don't see the logic. How does having Bouchard in the Senate advance your issues?

        See, this is the problem that I have with those on the left. The right wants to win. Apparently too many on the left don't--and would rather "send messages".

        So then are you going to vote for Bouchard? For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:47:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I haven't insulted you. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Don't insult me by even suggesting I would vote for Bouchard.

          I overlooked a lot of votes that run counter to my belief system, including the flag amendment and that idiotic wall building thing. But I will not be complicit in the destruction of the rule of law.

          Look, I don't expect the whole loaf; a couple of slices maybe. But from my perspective they just gave the loaf away.

          Let me ask you: Do you honestly believe that if the Democrats win back the Congress and then the presidency in '08 that they will repeal this odious assault on the fundamental law of the land?

          "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it." - Jon Tester

          by slatsg on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:12:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JohnGor0, arbiter, mang glider

            First of all I am not "insulting" you; but, in all honesty, we live in a winner-take-all electoral system. We don't like in a parlimentary system. Thus, whomever gets the most votes, wins. And not voting for Stabenow is basically the same as voting for Bouchard. You can't get around that.

            What I do know is that, with continued Republican control, things will get worse in terms of these laws. At least with a Democratic Congress you have the chance of changing things for better. Without that you are basically closing off all opportunities for change.

            Didn't people like you learn anything from the Nader campaign in 2000? What did that do? For that is what you are proposing by not voting for Stabenow, which is enabling these right-wing politicians further.

            Unfortunately, when it comes to voting, it is honestly a matter of "being with us or against us". There is no gray area. Not voting for Stabenow is basicaly the same as supporting her opponent.

   For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

            by jiacinto on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:28:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You didn't answer my question (0+ / 0-)

              Here is the problem. We've just had a monumental paradigm shift. (I hate that word,but I can't think of another.) You know as well as I that this law will not be revoked in the near future. We can hope for a SCOTUS ruling in our favor, but I'm not holding my breath.

              This country has now more or less made a major move toward rejecting the rule of law. It cannot be easily undone.

              When any legislator does something so totally opposed to our basic Consttutional foundations, they must be held accountable.

              You admitted that there is a line that you wouldn't cross. This is mine.

              I understand your viewpoint. I also appreciate the civilty of your remarks.

              "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it." - Jon Tester

              by slatsg on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:40:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  you are presenting a false choice (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The choice is not Menendez or Kean Jr?  If I have to choose one of those two, I will take Menendez every time.  But when I am choosing where to give my limited dollars, I am looking across all the "toss up" races and I imagine my donation will make the difference in the race I choose.  Right now I would rather have Webb and Kean over Allen and Menedez.  I would rather have Tester and Kean than Burns and Menendez.  Those are the real choices that Democrats face when deciding who to help and Menendez's vote just made that decision easier for a lot of people.

  •  Jersey is an angry place (5+ / 0-)

    I grew up there and know that most people there have no problems responding to violence with more violence.

    For a state so deeply affected by 911 (moreso than NY) I suspect that supporting the government's right to torture "terrorists" will be received well by the voters.  Sure, he may lose some of the liberal vote, but he would have lost a lot of the angry blue collar vote (which can swing Dem in NJ) if he voted against it.

    The best analogy is Bill Clinton allowing a mentally retarded individual to be executed in Arkansas. Morally repugnant, but effective politically.

    The bigger question, in my mind, is why Lautenberg voted for torture.  He had nothing to gain.

    •  Still here, and I totally concur (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      about the anger level. Xpatriated Texan, who posts here sometimes but also is on the actual staff of TAPPED under his real name (Thurman Hart, IIRC), said much the same thing. Menendez just took the wind out of the sails of the liberal base here, but probably made up for it with the Dem-leaning unaffiliateds, according to him.

      Something's happening here today -- a show of strength with your boys' brigade. Paul Weller

      by jamfan on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 04:41:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Or you could say that the NJ Senate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jiacinto, PBJ Diddy, JohnGor0

    candidates decided to take a pre-election punch in order to frustrate Rove's strategy of trying to bait them into voting no, in order to bang Menendez over the head with it in the last weeks of the campaign. Here's hoping that there are a couple of million dollars worth of ad time paid for with only outdated political hit commercials now due to gather dust on the shelf. The alternative theory is that the Dems are playing to win in the key states, and that Lautenberg cast his vote so that Menendez wouldn't be flying solo on his vote.
       In theory, your moral position is absolutely right. But this is politics, where theory deviates considerably from the golden mean, so you have to give the elected guys some leeway to do the best overall job possible.
       In theory, I detest the vote for torture too. But I haven't had time to analyze all the ins and outs of the measure. As Rummy says, "You have to go to war with the Army you've got, not the Army you wish you had." Sometimes you just have to trust the guys on the front line.
       Do you really want the Repub alternative, village idiot Tom Kean Jr.? Then my vote for Menendez will cancel out your vote for Kean Jr? After all the times your diary pounded KKKarl Rove and Doug Forrester (ex-Repub candidate for NJ Gov., grouchily yielded to the ballot pummeling he took from Dem candidate and now NJ Gov. Jon Corzine)? Really?

  •  The word idiot isn't too strong... (0+ / 0-)

    for the people who think there is a third choice in this race, or that the two choices are even comparable.

    You have BUSH-Toadie #1 in Tom Kean, or "Not-Bush-Toadie" in Menendez....yes, it's sad that saint Progressive the wonderful isn't running -- but, and I can't say this loud enough, HE ISN'T RUNNING.

    You are either against the republicans or you are for them (I believe that's their motto). The only way to be against them in NJ right now is to vote -- enthusiastically -- FOR Menendez. Anything else is giving the devil what he wants.

    Come November 8, upon the victory of Menendez, I will be the first person in line to sign a petition to kick his ass into line -- but if he loses, I'd like to line up the negative Kossacks here and kick theirs. If we don't regain the majority we haven't got a prayer of change....wake the fuck up.

    Let a smile be your umbrella...and let horrific terror be your codpiece.

    by PBJ Diddy on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:27:57 PM PDT

  •  shocked by Lautenberg... why why why (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was shocked by Lautenberg. He has been so good on calling Bush & Repugs. He is not up for election this cycle and probably never going to run for office again given his age. Why why why?

    DrSteveB "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." PK Dick

    by DrSteveB on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:28:20 PM PDT

  •  Meh. (0+ / 0-)

    We're talking Republicans, here.

    Avoiding error is not something that concerns them much; they depend too much on favorable media coverage.

    Somewhere out there, George Washington is wondering why he even bothered.

    by cskendrick on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:29:30 PM PDT

  •  The lesson: contested primaries are our friend. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I agree with the diary in its central thrust that Mendendez's vote illustrates why Corzine should have appointed a different replacement, not even if that meant there would be a primary but precisely because that meant there would be a primary. (Essentially, Corzine appointed Menendez because Menendez threatened to mount a scorched-earth challenge to any other Democrat Corzine appointed, so Corzine felt he pretty much had to name Menendez to prevent intra-party bloodletting.)

    But what Corzine's logic discounts is the basic arguments people made countless times here at dailykos during the Connecticut Senate primary. These represent some general truths: primary elections are important because candidates have more to them than the R and the D after their names, and voters should be more involved in the political process than a single vote in which they face an either-or choice. New Jersey voters deserve better than either Menendez or Kean, and the fact they don't have the opportunity to vote for better represents the poverty of our contemporary politics.

    Mendendez's support by New Jersey's political machines, his war chest and his endorsements would have made him a formidable candidate in that Democratic primary had he run as a challenger, but he would have been forced to appeal to the Democratic base and to make promises to that base that New Jersey Democrats could now hold him to. And of course, had he lost then the victor (Imagine your favorite New Jersey Democrat in the role: Nia Long? Frank Pallone? Even Corey Booker, I guess could be a possibility) would now be better off than Menendez is now.

    Appointed candidates have an awful track record. Of course poor Jean Carnahan is the poster child for this tendency to throw out Senators who were not elected in their own right, but do people even remember the appointed Senators Dianne Feinstein defeated to win her seat in 1992 and Rick Santorum defeated in 1994?

    Real primaries give voters a voice, winnow out weak candidates, prevent the appearance of kingmakerism, and force candidates to sharpen their messages and develop their understanding of the issues. It sounds like junior high civics, but its true and it works.

    Of course, Menendez doesn't deserve to be Senator. Of course, New Jersey deserves better than Tom Kean Jr. People making their choice as to whether to vote, who to vote for, who to campaign for, and who to give to will have to navigate their own course of action through those propositions. But the lesson we should take away from the New Jersey debacle, win or lose, is that the Democrats must unlearn their fear of contested primaries and not be afraid to fight it out in order to make sure the pary picks the right candidate. Because we can be certain that when it comes to who will pick the better nominees between a party establishment and the voters, the voters will be right nine times out of then.

  •  Brown in Ohio is using it to say (0+ / 0-)

    He is using his pro-torture/anti-Habeas vote as example of his independence from his party, as opposed to Dewine's being a lock-step automaton puppet of party and Bush. Anyhow that is one political argument for what they did.

    DrSteveB "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." PK Dick

    by DrSteveB on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 05:56:42 PM PDT

  •  So true about primary challenges (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We should learn from the thugs- take what you have then feel free to knock them off in the primaries with more base friendly candidates. I really think we need our candidates to be fire tested before assuming their posts so that they are conditioned to responding to BS- I think that was Kerry's greatest weakness (assuming that things would fall his way if it was a tie because of his Mass. experiences.)

    I'd hate to ose the NJ seat but at least it would be the easiest to regain of all of them.  Still- I'm hoping that great rightward lurch to pull out the nat'l fundies will be the wedge for the Northeastern voters.

  •  2 things (0+ / 0-)
    1. I didn't realize people still said "jump the shark"
    1. As others have mentioned, I have a feeling that a lot of people in New Jersey probably agree with his vote on the torture bill. 9/11 was very personal to them, obviously, and although this bill is pretty awful, I can see how many of them may end up seeing this as acceptable legislation.
  •  Thanks all (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for all the comments. It will be a damned shame if this is the year New Jersey - which has elected bad Republican as well as bad Democratic governors - gives the State Democratic establishment the smackdown it has been asking for for years;  from asking us to  pull the lever for Robert Torricelli, & for Corzine buying Lautenberg's seat, for McGreevey, for Torricelli again until he dropped out, for Lautenberg again, for McGreevey again. Ask Jersey Democrats why women are so under-represented as candidates.  Ask Jersey Democrats why we don't have a really equitable & comprehensive domestic partnership law in this state. Ask about George Norcross. Ask how wingnut Mike Ferguson won his first election to Congress. Ask ask ask.

    "Only poets know how many poems end up as pies."

    by DJ Rix on Sat Sep 30, 2006 at 09:31:20 PM PDT

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