The Obama White House must be going nuts trying to get past the story of whether it offered a bribe to Congressman Joe Sestak a bribe to cede the Pennsylvania Democratic primary to Senator Arlen Specter. It just won’t go away. After months of saying nothing untoward occurred and that no offer was made, while Sestak insisted one had been made, the administration finally got its lies straight admitted that, yes, there was some discussion of a job – an unpaid advisory position. The kicker? The intermediary was former President Bill Clinton:
President Obama’s chief of staff used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to see if Representative Joe Sestak would drop out of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary if given a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, the White House said on Friday.
Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, asked Mr. Clinton last summer to explore “options of service” on a presidential or senior government advisory board with Mr. Sestak, the White House said in a statement. Mr. Sestak said no and went on to win last week’s primary against Senator Arlen Specter.
The White House disputed Republican claims that the conversations might be illegal or improper. “There was no such impropriety,” Robert F. Bauer, the White House counsel, said in a memo released to reporters. “The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the congressman vacating his seat in the House.”
Mr. Bauer went on to say that such horse-trading has been commonplace through history. “There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior administrations – both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals – discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office,” he wrote. “Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”
You know what? I agree with Bauer. This kind of thing has gone on as long as the Republic itself and, as I understand the law, talking over options and considering an unremunerated position doesn’t cross the legal red line.
If that’s what happened, and that’s a big “if.”
Consider: the day before this news comes out, Obama and Clinton had lunch together. On that same day, Sestak’s brother, who’s also his campaign manager, talked with White House officials about the bubbling controversy. It could be all on the up and up, in fact it probably (barely) is. But, toss in the pot an administration steeped in the Chicago Way of politics, an ex-President with a flexible sense of ethics, and a candidate who’s sorry he ever opened his mouth and really wants help winning his race, stir all that together, and you get… Something that smells.
After all, if the truth was so anodyne, why’d it take so long to come with this stupid lie explanation? Experienced politicos aren’t buying it:
“I don’t believe that. That may be what they’re concocting as a cover story. But the idea that…Sestak is an Admiral in the Navy. This is a smart, competent professional. The idea that he misunderstood a free, unpaid job for the offer of Secretary of the Navy. I mean, don’t you find that sort of boggles your mind?”
Not that Newt Gingrich would be biased or anything ( ), but I think he has a point.
And, just as Team Obama hopes this will all go away, Bill tosses red meat in front of reporters and bloggers by refusing to comment about the official explanation.
It may be that the Obama and Sestak camps are now telling the truth. It could be that White House Counsel Bauer is right that there’s smoke, but no fire. Yet something still smells here.
And I bet we’ll find out what before election day.
POSTSCRIPT: Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been bulldogging this issue admirably since it first came up, but now he’s crossing the line into Dumb Land by bringing up the “I-word:” impeachment. Darrell, dude. Sit down and relax. Breathe deeply. Calm down. Remember the last time the Republicans went for impeachment? It took years to recover from that self-inflicted embarrassment, even though Bill really was guilty on at least one charge. To go for it again would be to take a shotgun to the party’s one remaining foot. The public is worried about jobs, the economy, crazed jihadis, and oil slicks, and won’t have any patience with us trying to force Obama from office before 2012. We’re trying to prove we’re responsible enough to be trusted with government and not a bunch of frothing putschists, remember? If it gets bad, he’ll just throw Rahm under the bus and that will be the end of it.
Besides, you do recall who’s next in line, don’t you??
RELATED: A Colorado candidate for a Senate seat says he got a job offer, too.