The Menendez scandal enters Stage Two

Washington scandals have a certain trajectory, which naturally differs based on the party affiliation of the subject.  When it’s a Republican, you get intense media coverage, followed by intense media coverage of the subject’s evasive answers or defensive silence, followed by intensive media coverage of the intensive media coverage.  Right about the time you see a talking head marveling at just how extensive the coverage of the scandal is – while hardly anyone is still talking about the original scandalous behavior, or whether the hapless Republican buried under the media steamroller actually did it – you’ll know the story has dropped its third-stage booster and achieved orbit.  From that point forward, the media will begin freely mentioning the scandal in stories only tangentially relating to it, even when they’re talking about entirely different Republicans.  Any similarity, relationship, or common policy interest between Scandal Guy and other members of his party will invariably be remarked upon.

The Democrat scandal trajectory is very different.  In Stage One the media ignores it completely.  In the unlikely event some conservative dissident actually gets to ask a prominent Democrat politician about it, the whole affair will be dismissed as a creation of obsessed right-wing bloggers.  Stage Two begins when something happens that drags the scandal into the mainstream newspapers, although the liberal TV networks will continue to tastefully ignore it for a while.  The sure sign of Stage Two ignition comes when Democrat politicians suddenly begin refusing to discuss the scandal, instead of using it to bash conservative bloggers and alternative media sources.  Stage Three comes if the lefty TV networks are finally pressured into covering the story… at which point network pundits who never mentioned it before will begin loudly declaring that it’s old news, and everyone should just move on.

The Bob Menendez affair is officially in Stage Two, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suddenly doesn’t want to discuss his colleague from New Jersey any more.  It was literally just yesterday that Reid was running around and dismissing the story as a fabrication cooked up by the Daily Caller.  But today he told reporters, “Any questions in this regard, direct to him.  I don’t know anything about it.”

Bob’s a little too busy writing checks to field questions right now, as related by NBC News:

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez has written a personal check of $58,000 to reimburse a donor for two round-trip flights he took on a private jet to the Dominican Republic.

Menendez’s office said Thursday the three-year delay in paying for the plane trips with fundraiser and friend Dr. Salomen Melgen was an ???oversight.???

???This was sloppy,??? Dan O???Brien, Menendez??? chief of staff, told NBC News about the senator’s failure to pay for the 2010 flights at the time. ???I???m chalking it up to an oversight.???

Several Republicans have accused Melgen, a West Palm Beach eye doctor, of improperly providing Menendez with free flights on his private jet as well as stays at his luxury villa in the Casa de Campo resort.

Asked whether the senator has been contacted by the Senate Ethics Committee about the matter, O???Brien said, ???We can assume the Senate Ethics Committee is looking at the allegation.???

I don’t know how many times I’ve forgotten to reimburse a friend for several years’ worth of flights on his private jet, only to think “Dang, I owe that guy money!” right when the FBI is raiding his office.  It’s awkward.

Also awkward: a letter ostensibly written by one of the charming young hostesses who showed Senator Menendez how much the Dominican Republic has to offer, and released onto the Internet by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  A translation of the really interesting part was provided by the Daily Caller:

???That senator also likes the youngest and newest girls,??? the woman wrote on April 21, 2002, according to an English translation provided to The Daily Caller by a native Spanish speaker.

???In the beginning he seemed so serious, because he never spoke to anyone, but he is just like the others and has just about the same tastes as the doctor, very refined. I think they were taking us more often to get us checked [medically] because of him.???

I’m old enough to remember when we ran people out of Congress for acting raunchy in a bathroom stall, or writing saucy emails to young aides.  But then, Larry Craig and Mark Foley had the wrong letter after their names, didn’t they?