To Trust or Not to Trust: The Dilemma with Senator Menendez

I remember my first AIPAC Policy Conference in 2004 when Republican Congressman Tom DeLay spoke. He had a way with words and brought the crowd (Republicans and Democrats) to a standing ovation numerous times. I had always seen DeLay as a champion for Israel. In 2006, however, I was uncertain whether to applaud DeLay for being so pro-Israel or heckle him for his implication in a scandal with Jack Abramoff, in which Abramoff provided DeLay with trips, gifts and donations in exchange for favors to his clients. As one who tends to vote Democrat, it was easier for me to side against DeLay.

I have the same dilemma after hearing Democratic Senator Robert Menendez speak at the 2015 AIPAC Policy Conference. Menendez stole the show with his defense of Israel and his accusations against Iran. He proclaimed, “Give Iran the choice of nuclear weapons or the welfare of its people.” However, just five days later I read in Newsday about a scandal with Menendez and Salomon Melgan, in which Menendez defended Melgen against Medicare, after Melgen overbilled them. In return, Menendez received gifts and vacations from Melgen. In addition, Menendez is accused (separately) of hiring underage prostitutes  in the Dominican Republic. 

What does this teach us, besides the fact that corruption can be found within both parties? For me it demonstrates all the more so the danger in believing politicians’ claims. If someone comes out in support of an issue, are they really just saying it to “buy votes”? Did Menendez co-sponsor a bill to increase Iranian sanctions because he believed in it or was it a political ploy to back a donor? Can I take Menendez at face value for what he said in his AIPAC speech on Monday (and what he has said at previous conferences)? Do Menendez’s words mean less now that his corruption has become evident? Once again I have more questions than answers.

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