Let me get this straight: The president’s chief of staff dispatched a former president to talk to an aspiring senator about dropping his primary bid in return for … a spot on some no-name unpaid advisory board? Does that sound remotely plausible? (Surprisingly, lefty sedition expert Joe Klein says no, before quickly adding that it doesn’t matter anyway.) Does that even square with what Sestak’s said in the past about having been offered “a job”?
Why, no, it doesn’t:
Let’s look back at what Rep. Sestak told local TV host Larry Kane in February.
KANE: “Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?”
KANE: “Was it secretary of the Navy?”
SESTAK: “No comment”
Later Kane asks again, “Was there a job offered to you by the White House?” to which Sestak nods and replies “yes, someone offered it.”
Kane asks “It was big right?” Sestak replies, “Let me “no comment” on it.”
“Was it high-ranking?” Kane asked. Sestak said yes.
Watch the clip. I don’t see the part where Sestak says it was high-ranking, but according to interviewer Larry Kane, “he admitted that it was a ‘high up’ job.” Anyone seriously think Sestak considered some lame “advisory” title to be something “high up”? Oh, and another thing: If all that was at stake here was an innocent li’l advisory position, why would the White House initially deny to Kane that any offer had been made? Jonah Goldberg sums it up:
I can only conclude that Sestak is either lying or a blowhard. Because, if he’s telling the truth, that means he mistook a casual offer for a seat on some advisory board (Maritime Commission for the Rules of Card Games on Both Sides of the International Dateline or the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Perils of Accumulated Naval Navel Lint) as some kind of serious bribe to stay out of the Senate race. Right? I mean the whole point of Sestak spilling the beans about the “job offer” was for him to bolster his independent-against-the-machine cred. If it wasn’t a job offer but instead was some third-rate perk, he shouldn’t have pretended otherwise to seem like the one honest man in the whorehouse of politics.
The GOP’s not buying it — “The White House got Bill Clinton involved for this?” — but there’s really no recourse to getting answers short of relentless media pressure, and we all know how likely that is. In fact, the CW has quickly settled on a “this is how D.C. operates” narrative, with the White House’s only sin lying in the fact that it acted guilty even though it wasn’t. Two things in response. One: Per the terms of the governing statute, pretty clearly they are guilty. 18 U.S.C. 600:
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
It doesn’t have to be a paid position and it doesn’t have to be a direct promise. Which brings me to point two: Why do we even have federal statutes that criminalize this sort of thing? If it’s all about the Beltway and horse-tradin’ and deals and handshakes and blah blah jaded politico blah, then repeal section 600 and embrace the smoke-filled room in earnest. In fact, I vaguely recall that we were promised, circa Fall 2008, that the culture of D.C. was going to Change. Enlisting Slick Willie to bribe an upstart candidate and then lying about the position he was offered, as they’re obviously doing right now, is the very antithesis of that. And yet, I’d bet cash money that this story will be allowed to sink beneath the waves next week.
Via RCP, below the Sestak clip you’ll find video of Slick himself clearly not wanting to talk about this. With good reason.