With his reported choice of Rep. Bob Menendez, D-Union City, to fill the remaining year of his U.S. Senate term, Gov.-elect Jon Corzine has taken the politically safe course.They suggest the $4.1 war chest Menendez has amassed, the pressure from political bosses and the overwhelming suport of Hispanic groups were among the reasons for the selection.
It's a disappointing selection, however. The governor-elect could have struck a blow for statesmanship and independent thinking in public office by naming Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, to succeed him in the upper house of Congress. But that obviously wasn't his primary consideration.
There are bunches of blog posts pro and con about Menendez so I won't attempt a full discussion here. There is an issue here that upsets me greatly with Menendez, however:
As a U.S. senator, Jon Corzine has courageously stood with the defenders of the Bill of Rights in opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that burning the American flag as a gesture of protest is symbolic speech and can't be prohibited by law. Last summer, that amendment received the two-thirds vote required for passage in the House of Representatives, with Rep. Menendez voting in favor (and Rep. Holt against). Now it stands ready for action by the Senate, where its advocates already count 65 senators - two short of two-thirds, if all 100 senators vote - on their side.And the Republicans jump for joy...
When the Senate acts next year, the newly appointed Sen. Menendez's "aye" will be the 66th vote in favor of this frivolous and harmful amendment. It could be the vote that will send it to the states for ratification if only one anti-amendment senator fails to show up and take part. Obviously, that consideration wasn't a deal-breaker for Gov.-elect Corzine. But it's an indicator of how much he's willing to put at risk to placate a powerful political pressure group.
(cross-posted on bluejersey.net)