Got No Time for the Corner Boys

With Cory Booker working overtime to position himself as the logical candidate for Frank Lautenberg’s seat and to stay in the limelight (latest example: he rescued a dog), and Lautenberg letting his inner dom show through the liver spots by saying Booker needs a spanking, let me just ask what the fuck is going on here? Frank is the oldest guy in the old man club — he just turned 89. It takes a lot of money to run for Senate. No matter what you think of Booker, setting up a run two years out for a seat held by a guy who will be lucky to live to the next election is a reasonable thing to do. Running against Christie post-Sandy would be a death trap, a suicide rap. Yet Frank and his people are pretending like it’s some kind of insult to expect him to retire, and that Booker is a wuss for not wanting to be steamrolled by Christie. Do any of you Jersey boys and/or girls have any insight?

59 replies
  1. 1
    The Dangerman says:

    Lautenberg “trapped” in “glory days”?

  2. 2
    Jerry says:

    It’s also important to remember, Frank Lautenberg retired in 2000, so it’s not like he hasn’t thought about retiring already.

    At some point he’s going to go. Were he to die in office, what are the chances Chris Christie would nominate a Democrat to replace him? Haven’t we been through this with Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd and others?

    Further, it says some really sad things about being a Senator that it’s still a cush job for an 89 year old man.

  3. 3
    Zifnab25 says:

    Lautenberg’s not dead yet, dude. Yes, Booker is being reasonable in his next steps. No, running for Governor against a wildly popular and not-entirely-Democrat-unfriendly Christie would not be wise at the moment. But get in Lautenberg’s shoes. This has been his life for – what? – the last 30 years? Maybe he’s not ready to be hauled out back and tossed in a ditch, just because his 90th birthday is on the horizon.

    Beyond that, its not like his Senate seat is going anywhere. If Lautenberg does make it to reelection (which, to be fair, isn’t unreasonable – it’s not like the guy is voting from the ER) then NJ will happily rubber stamp him for another term. And when Booker gets his ass handed to him by Christie, he’ll be free to hop into Lautenberg’s seat with the special election.

    So I have a hard time getting mad at a guy that’s been serving my native state since a little before I was born.

  4. 4
    danimal says:

    You’re overthinking here. What else do the Frank L guys have besides spanking Cory B. for that unheard of sin in politics: exhibiting naked ambition? If they can’t bluff him out of running, their candidate is in real trouble.

    Booker will either be the next senator from New Jersey, or a fairly interesting pillar of the New Jersey community. Advice for Booker: If you aim to take Atlantic City, take Atlantic City.

  5. 5
    Amir Khalid says:

    Why does an 89-year-old man want to continue in politics? I have not heard of Lautenberg being much of a player in Senate politics or in its votes. I don’t know if there’s some worthwhile legislative cause he’s associated with. And hasn’t he qualified for a generous Senate pension by now?

  6. 6
    Ahasuerus says:

    Lautenberg is of the generation when most white folks didn’t even CONSIDER that a black man could do a “white man’s job”. I’ve seen this in several white people around here of that age; they’re decent enough, mostly long-time Democrats, and even somewhat liberal about most things, but they just can’t get past the race thing. Please understand that I am most emphatically NOT claiming that this is the reason for Lautenberg’s behavior, but I believe it to be a reasonable hypothesis.

    ETA: It could just be that Lautenberg has been planning to nominate his successor in his own time, and Booker stepped on his timetable.

  7. 7
    drj says:

    “Yet Frank and his people are pretending like it’s some kind of insult to expect him to retire.”

    They have to go over the top in order to mask the fact that 89 year olds really, really shouldn’t run for office anymore.

    At 89, everyone is just too far past it.

  8. 8
    PeakVT says:

    @Amir Khalid: Why? Ego, as always.

  9. 9
    srv says:

    Maybe Frank is spending too much time with white people?

    Seems the GOP is considering that in their navel-gazing:

    On Thursday, committee members took part in a closed-door panel discussion on minority engagement. Edward Cousar, a black committeeman from South Carolina who sat on the panel, said white Republicans struggle in part because they spend too much time with other white Republicans. They have little idea how to speak or interact in a way that appears welcoming to outsiders who come from different ethnic and social backgrounds.

    “People get set in their ways, and maybe they don’t have a diverse set of friends and they say things,” Cousar told Yahoo News in an interview before the panel. “It’s not that they’re being racist. They just don’t know.”

    Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, was even more blunt.

    “We need to understand that we can’t come off as a bunch of angry white men,” he said.

  10. 10
    schrodinger's cat says:

    How old is McCain, he looked very old when he was interrogating Hill, when she was on the Hill.

  11. 11
    Aimai says:

    While I wouldn’t factor out race has there ever been a time when an d bull of the senate let himself be pushed aside by a younger man of any color without putting up a chest thumping show of masculine power? Lautenburg clearly thinks he owns the seat and plans to try to die in harness and rule his replacement. As an ex cop said to me ” when you are on the job you are the best. When you retire you are just a pest.” lautenberg doesn’t want to end up like bob dole:praised to his face and stabbed in the back. And he doesn’t want to hang what he no doubt thinks is his personal luster on an insolent young whippersnapper. Again: not discounting race. But age and seniority ate as much a factor. Senators always act as though they are irreplaceable.

  12. 12
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Why does an 89-year-old man want to continue in politics?

    The reason could be as simple as Lautenberg fears that if he retires then his death will follow soon after. That’s a legitimate fear when you reach an advanced age.

  13. 13
    IowaOldLady says:

    Been on a Bruce binge, mistermix?

  14. 14
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Cory is trapped between The Great White Whale and a mad old sea captain who won’t give it up. I think somebody wrote a book about that once…

  15. 15
    John Arbuthnot Fisher says:

    As a lifelong NJ resident, I can tell you that Lautenberg is reflexively sensitive to being pressured into retirement – it’s been happening practically from the day he first took office (dating back to 1982 – even then he wasn’t exactly JFK 1952 or Obama 2004).

    While he was a no-brainer choice for progressives in 2008 against Rob Andrews, he’s now six years older at 89 (plus another six after 2014), and I think it’s fair to worry about his future, no matter how progressive he may be. He simply wants to go out on his terms – Democrats begged him to come back in 2002 after retiring less than two years earlier, and as a result, he’s now something of a “Senator Emeritus,” his fate his own to decide, and only when he wishes to decide it. Unless it appears he’ll get embarrassed in the primary by Booker, I could easily him run again to avoid being pushed out one last time.

  16. 16
    gvg says:

    We are mostly talking about him as if he were nearly dead. That probably seems like a threat to him and gets his back up. Like kids telling dad, time to make your will out….

  17. 17
    Gary says:

    A lot of people are skeptical of Cory Booker, and rightly so.

  18. 18
    Jamey says:

    Lautenberg is so old, he already has a train station named in his honor. He came back out of retirement to keep the seat blue after Torchy (Torrecelli) stepped down to face RICO charges spend more time with his family back in ought-two.

    I seem to recall hearing at the time that it was a temporary thing, to bring along the next generation.

  19. 19
    Chris says:


    I’m somewhat shocked by how many of them are candidly admitting their problems now, just still not sure it’s meaningful. I remember some talk in the immediate aftermath of 2008 about how the Republican Party needed to moderate itself, calm the fuck down, come to terms with the reality of the Obama election. Never happened. By that summer, the Tea Party Movement had risen and we had a new GOP that made the Bush administation look like Dwight fucking Eisenhower.

  20. 20
    mistermix says:

    @IowaOldLady: I always think of Jersey Girl (post title reference) as a Tom Waits song (he wrote it and I first heard it on Heartattack and Vine, though I know Bruce covered it later).

  21. 21
    John Arbuthnot Fisher says:

    I also think the Democratic establishment in New Jersey is reluctant to engage in the all-out primary battle that would follow a Lautenberg retirement. Several Democrats (Pallone, Andrews, Holt, maybe Rothman and Pascrell plus a whole slew of state senators) are simply in a holding pattern for this seat, hoping to avoid a 2008-style primary, while Booker is trying to skip the line by setting up a direct confrontation with Lautenberg.

    Bottom line: more people support a Lautenberg re-election bid (and oppose Booker’s candidacy) than you might think.

  22. 22
    Warren Terra says:

    The solution is obvious. Recent polls show that if there’s a special election in MA Cosmo Brown will stroll languorously back into the Senate. So, keep Kerry where he is and sent Frank Lautenberg to State, where he can draw on the lessons personally imparted to him by Talleyrand and Metternich, back when Lautenberg was a young man.

    ETA This isn’t really meant to endorse Booker; I strongly suspect he’s a total phony, and his heartfelt sympathies for the oppressed vulture capitalist bankers of the world last spring did him no favors in my mind. But Lautenberg is hella old to be hanging on to a seat that he isn’t noticeably using to advance any worthwhile cause.

  23. 23
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    89? Shit. Didn’t Strom Thurmond serve 4 terms after he reached that age?

  24. 24
    Keith G says:

    Three commenters in twenty bring up race without there being a tangible reason.

    Not a good thing, I think

  25. 25
    Altus says:

    As long as Booker wants to be D-NJ rather than D-Wall Street, it’s ok

  26. 26
    Raven says:

    @Keith G: Say what?

  27. 27
    MobiusKlein says:

    It’s too bad Booker didn’t move out to Cali and take on DiFi. We missed that opportunity this time around. And at least she’s not a Gun Squish.

  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:

    There is also the old strain of ugly racial/ethnic identity politics, that hasn’t entirely died out among NJ Democrats, at play here. Neither the Italians nor the Jews are terribly happy that the schvartzes are upsetting their long-standing division of power. It’s ok for the schvartzes to hold the mayoral jobs in Newark, Camden, Jersey City, Atlantic City, and Paterson; nobody else wants those jobs, anyway. But a statewide office? Not so fast.

  29. 29
    22over7 says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    McCain is 76. Lotta old white guys in the senate.

    And to echo the commenters above, 89 is hella old to be working at anything. I’m reminded of that wonderful state of the union speech that Bill Clinton gave, when he walked into the chamber with Strom Thurmond. All the pundits gushed about comity and bipartisanship; all I could think of was that Bill was walking down the hall and spotted Strom wandering around, not knowing in which door he was supposed to go.

  30. 30
    Peregrinus says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    Yes, but given his political beliefs, ol’ Strom was as gone at 55 as he was at 89 as he was by the time he died.


    Count me in for now. What I’m hearing from him in terms of educational policy is not setting my heart aflutter. I’d love to see that change, or to know that it has, though.

    (On the other hand, unless he decides to make it his showboat issue, Senator Booker would almost have less power to affect education than Mayor Booker.)

  31. 31
    Peregrinus says:


    Hell, given my people’s small part in this shitshow, where do the Cubans fit in here?

    All I’ve got to offer is that my grandmother (may she rest in peace) was the one Cuban relative I had who didn’t refer to the President as “el negro de mierda ese” or “ese negro maricón.” (The former is more or less “that fucking ni-CLANG!,” the second “that ni-CLANG faggot.”)

  32. 32
    Peregrinus says:


    I’d say FYWP, but in all seriousness my last comment is best left moderated. (Includes discussion of the less than flattering nicknames some relatives of mine have for the President.)

    Where do NJ Cubans fit into this? I’d like to know if my people have a small part in this shitshow.

  33. 33
    Keith G says:

    @Raven: Comments 6, 9, and 11.

  34. 34
    Mike E says:

    Frank: too old. Chris: too fat. Cory: too um, er… too cheeky?

  35. 35
    Calouste says:

    I’m for a mandatory retirement age for Congress of 80. Even in the Vatican, as conservative and hierarchic an organization you could think of, cardinals don’t get to vote for the new Pope if they’re past 80.

  36. 36
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Jamey: that’s my recollection, too. He was supposed to come back for one term while the dems got the scandal sniff off their candidate because the scandal broke late in the game.

  37. 37
    MaximusNYC says:

    @Peregrinus: NJ’s other Senator, Menendez, is of Cuban extraction, no?

  38. 38

    I might be off here, but I think that a lot of it has to do with Booker’s not running this by Lautenberg first. I know he has no obligation to do it, but it’s just kind of bad form, or at least that’s how I think most politicians see it. There have been other cases of oldish senators holding on to their seats because they felt like some younger whippersnapper congressman was waiting for the old man to retire or die. I think there’s a feeling, especially among older senators with younger would-be successors waiting in the background, that it’s kind of like the snotty kids waiting for grampa to keel over so they can get the inheritance.

  39. 39
    Peregrinus says:


    He is, which is why I’m wondering – the relatives I have in NJ are incredibly committed Republicans and would never vote for Menendez anyway (though they do give him a bit of a “pass” when insulting Dems), so I don’t have a view into how Cuban NJ Democrats might function.

  40. 40
    Warren says:

    @Warren Terra: The recent polls of which you speak are all low-sample-size name recognition tests. Brown is damaged goods and our party establishment is already firmly behind one candidate. It’s going to be a fight, but Brown strolls? Bull-fucking-shit.

  41. 41
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I think I’d rather have Lautenberg in that seat than Booker. I think if Booker makes it to the Senate he’ll be kind of like Schumer-good with lots of stuff, but you somehow always find him making excuses for Wall Street. And I don’t think Lautenberg should have to retire just because he’s really old.

    That said, if he were to die in office between now and 2017, Chris Christie would be in charge of appointing him, no? And wouldn’t it be one of the state’s suburban GOP congressmen? Maybe Obama could give him a ring and say “I helped you win a second term by letting you be Mr. Rising Above Partisan Difference after the hurricane. So how about you repay me by keeping Frank’s seat blue, hm?” That’s what I would try, certainly.

  42. 42
    novum says:

    @op I think its basic protocol really. Lautenberg is the oldest Democrat in New Jersey, has been a consistent liberal, and an attack dog on the R’s in his return to the senate. Booker publicly speculated about the run without first clearing it, or asking, Lautenberg. So Lautenberg is insulted and is going to give Booker some shit for a month or two.

    Basic politics, really.

  43. 43
    Maude says:

    The Mayor of Newark has a nasty habit of insulting people in a crass manner and in front of the media. He did this with Christie and also Senator Lautenberg.
    Booker is a train wreck. He is histrionic, has a sporadic relationship with the truth and whines when he gets caught being in the wrong. He does this publicly.
    Booker wants to be rich and famous.
    Senators Lautenberg and Menendez have done well by the people of NJ.
    Occam’s razor.

  44. 44
    ruemara says:

    When you consider this battle, it should give some insight into the nature of the Senate and those who have been in it for a while. Lautenberg should step down, to avoid a Kennedy scenario. If he cared about the party, he should do what I’ve seen a number in my local area do, cut a deal. Use their power structures behind the scenes to support the candidate, issue polite statements and public viewing opportunities while pretending to be non-committal. Booker is being a young (relatively) opportunist, no question. But he has a right to be. Never seen anyone get anywhere without taking the opportunity and frankly, fuck the anointed successors. But engaging in the stupid spanking talk, while Booker has not said anything worth getting riled up about? Not a good look. He is an emeritus. He should go out like one. Instead, it’s about an old guy clutching those reins of power like it will prevent death. His right to do so, unless the local party chairs put some pressure on him, but it’s a stupid vulnerability when you have pretend moderate Republicans who are more than willing to play reasonable to take that slot.

  45. 45
    shortstop says:

    I didn’t think “inner dom” with the spanking remark. I thought “outwardly patronizing.” Wildly, wildly patronizing.

    Not much of a fan of Booker’s, but Lautenberg was totally out of line with that comment. Calling Booker “disrespectful” for daring to run against him? Mister, please. Ordinary citizens hear that stuff and don’t think about the inside-baseball rules of The Senate Club. We hear “entitled and arrogant.”

  46. 46
    Ed in NJ says:

    It’s as simple as Lautenberg feels Booker jumped the gun here. He didn’t pay proper respect by declaring his intentions to run for his seat without allowing him to retire and bask in the attention he would get. Now when Lautenberg does in fact retire, it’s going to appear Booker pushed him out and the coverage won’t be as fawning.

  47. 47
    shortstop says:

    @Ed in NJ: Right, but again, that perspective is primarily of interest to Frank Lautenberg, and secondarily to other superannuated fixtures of the Senate. To average citizens, it just sounds spiteful and idiotic. Lautenberg ought to know that by now.

  48. 48
    Al says:

    Got to see Senator Lautenberg give a floor speech advocating for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief when we were touring the Capital Building back in November. First off, every congressman looks about two decades older than they do with all the TV make-up plastered on; in other words, their real age. Talk about a walking dinosaur museum. Second, we were dumbstruck at how incoherent this elderly man sounded. It took us awhile to realize who he was. Senator Nelson from Florida appeared out of nowhere to rescue him with a speech that used words actually strung together in their proper order. My strong sense is that someone needs to speak truth to illusion to the Senator.

  49. 49
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @MobiusKlein: My dream is that sometime this decade, Kamala Harris makes it to the next level (governor, senator) and starts getting some attention.

    As for Lautenberg – I suspect he is more old-school liberal that Cory Booker is. On a pure policy level, frankly I’d probably take Lautenberg over Booker, who really comes off as a bit phony (seriously – does the guy have a police scanner next to his bed like Spider-Man?). But from a purely political standpoint, it’s time to get some fresh blood into the Senate, and Booker is young enough (and hopefully ambitious enough) that he could do some good there before chasing a national ticket spot.

    That said, Lautenberg’s a very nice person; when my middle school took a trip to Washington, D.C. in 2000, he was very cool to listen to stories about the Capitol. And frankly, I just do not trust Cory’s political instincts at all. Very much get a Harold Ford vibe from him.

  50. 50
    steverino says:

    I suppose it’s too late to get out while we’re still young.

  51. 51
    Sayne says:

    I’ll take the bait.

    Running against Christie post-Sandy would be a death trap, a suicide rap.

    He’s gotta get out while he’s young. Because tramps like him? Baby, they were born to run.

  52. 52
    Suffern ACE says:

    Note to booker: the election is a bit away and it is premature to talk about it at this time. Jumping in like this before Lautenberg has retired is the kind of thing that you do when you are a teabagger. Are you upset with Frank? Then perhaps you should whisper those intentions.

    Booker may be a showboat, but nothing about his performance last year indicates that he has any discipline to be an asset to the national party.

  53. 53
    negative 1 says:

    I’m curious – will Christie return to post Sandy numbers ever? My recollection is that he wasn’t exceedingly popular before the storm.

  54. 54
    Jim C. says:

    Here’s my thoughts.

    I don’t like Cory Booker. Pretty much all I know about him is his screwing over his own party by backstabbing Obama during the middle of the Bain attacks. My entire impression of him is someone who cares about Cory Booker first and last.

    Basically, he strikes me as this generation’s Joe Lieberman. Someone who is too much in bed with certain interests that are not aligned with liberal causes and therefore will not be as liberal as the place he represents deserves.

    I agree on the general point that Lautenberg is WAY too old to run again.

    I just think Booker is a tool and can’t believe he’s the best that we can do to represent NEW JERSEY.

    Now, admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Booker other than his disastrous run as an Obama surrogate, but so far there’s nothing I actually LIKE about him other than the “D” next to his name.

  55. 55
    El Caganer says:

    I’m not much interested in Manhattan Institute Democrats, but since I don’t live in Jersey it’s none of my business.

  56. 56
    liberal says:

    @El Caganer:

    I’m not much interested in Manhattan Institute Democrats, but since I don’t live in Jersey it’s none of my business.

    Bullshit. Every Senator votes on matters which affect us all. So it’s very much your business.

  57. 57
    liberal says:

    @Jim C.:

    Pretty much all I know about him is his screwing over his own party by backstabbing Obama during the middle of the Bain attacks.

    Exactly. He’s a whore and a shill and a backstabbing rat.

  58. 58
    Bob h says:

    Lautenberg is a great spokesman for and supporter of progressive causes, and if he wants to stay, he’ll have my support. There is no one better ideologically than him.

    What kind of fool picks up a large Rottweiller puppy he doesn’t know?

  59. 59
    OGLiberal says:

    Even though I’m in NJ I don’t have any inside info but I think a previous comment touched on part of the problem – Booker didn’t run this by Frank first. Nothing race related here…just the old sense of senatorial privilege and respect. Second, I wonder if Lautenberg would prefer another successor, perhaps Frank Pallone, who would probably be a more consistent liberal/progressive vote than Booker and who is supposedly considering a run after spending quite some time in the House. (Lautenberg and Pallone, given their time together in Congress, probably also know each other better.) Whoever gets the nomination is going to win the seat but I’d like to see Lautenberg go out gracefully since he’s been a good guy for the party and NJ.

    As for his age, I don’t see Lautenberg making it as long as Strom. Strom was full of piss and vinegar and probably lived as long as he could because he wanted to see the South rise again…and he knew if would someday. Lautenberg has already retired so it’s not as if he really wants to do this until his dying day. (unless his short retirement made him realize that he does) Plus, he just recently beat back a cancer scare. That gets harder to do each year you get older and there’s no guarantee it won’t come back.

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