2023 Man of the Year: Bob Menendez

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
December 28, 2023

God bless Bob Menendez. When federal prosecutors indicted the U.S. senator from New Jersey (where else?) on corruption charges, Menendez refused to cave to the mob and go the way of Al Franken, the former Democratic senator and accused breast-groper who resigned his seat in 2017—a decision he "absolutely" regrets—before a jury of his peers could render a verdict in a court of law.

At the very least, we're inclined to agree with Menendez's assertion that Joe Biden's Justice Department is guilty of racial profiling. "Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction," the senator wrote eloquently in a statement proclaiming his innocence.

Even more suspicious and alarming is the fact that the Democratic political machine appears eager to replace Menendez with Tammy Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive and wife of New Jersey governor Phil Murphy (D.), a former Goldman Sachs executive himself who is bursting with presidential ambitions despite being far too ugly to win a national election.

All that said, Menendez probably is guilty of being a corrupt scumbag. He is a Democrat, after all. But we do think Menendez deserves credit for bringing old-school corruption back to American politics and showing members of his own party what real "collusion" looks like.

The federal indictment alleges that Menendez provided state secrets to and lobbied on behalf of Egyptian government officials in exchange for piles of cash, gold bars, and other gifts furnished by two New Jersey middlemen. Law enforcement agents found more than $480,000 in cash in Menendez's home—"much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe"—along with more than 100,000 dollars' worth of one-kilogram gold bars bearing the mark of the "Swiss Bank Corporation."

The corruption of which "Bullion Bob" Menendez stands accused is so blatant that it is almost quaint, harking back to Tammany Hall and the glory days of Democratic transactional politics. This retro, analog form of corruption is almost adorable, eschewing the elaborate digital web of shell companies Hunter Biden used to launder his bribes. Should it even be a crime? Maybe?

It certainly is fitting that Menendez was colluding with Egypt during the Trump administration, when journalists and other Democratic activists kept insisting (without evidence) that then-president Donald Trump colluded with Russia to alter the results of the 2016 election—something most Democrats still believe actually happened—and was financially beholden to foreign interests. Their toxic anxieties created a lucrative market for Robert Mueller prayer candles, for crying out loud.

We hope this Man of the Year award will give Menendez the confidence he needs to stand strong and delay his trial long enough to win reelection in 2024. He may be a corrupt Democrat, but he is about as good a U.S. senator as one could hope for from New Jersey. He's right about Israel and he's right about Iran, which is more than you can say about most Democrats these days.

Here's to you, Bullion Bob. Godspeed and good luck!