Maybe Byron York has discovered the reason that the Obama administration released its response to the Joe Sestak scandal in a Friday document dump. They may have hoped that no one would take the time over the holiday weekend to thoroughly parse their tortured explanation of how they offered an unpaid position to Sestak as an enticement to drop his primary challenge to Arlen Specter. Unfortunately for them, the New York Times still had enough time to check the eligibility requirements for the Intelligence Advisory Board, the offer that Sestak hinted he got while rushing to corroborate the Oval Office spin. Byron York catches it buried in the Times report:
In a little-noticed passage Friday, the New York Times reported that Rep. Joe Sestak was not eligible for a place on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the job he was reportedly offered by former President Bill Clinton. And indeed a look at the Board’s website reveals this restriction:
The Board consists of not more than 16 members appointed by the President from among individuals who are not employed by the Federal Government. Members are distinguished citizens selected from the national security, political, academic, and private sectors.
As a sitting member of Congress, Sestak was not eligible for the job. And since the White House intended for Sestak to remain in his House seat, he would not have been eligible for the board after this November’s elections, provided he was re-elected to the House.
The statement from White House counsel Robert Bauer did not specifically mention the intelligence board, but speaking to reporters Friday, Sestak said of his conversation with Clinton, “At the time, I heard the words ‘presidential board,’ and that’s all I heard…I heard ‘presidential board,’ and I think it was intel.” In addition, the Times reported that “people briefed on the matter said one option was an appointment” to the intelligence board. But the White House could not legally have placed Sestak on the board.
If that was indeed the offer, then Sestak would have had to withdraw from his House race as well — leaving him without any income. How exactly would that have convinced Sestak to leave the race? It sounds more like a threat than a warning. We’ll appoint you to this board unless you play ball!
This looks more like an ex post facto attempt to shoehorn the known facts into any kind of exonerating framework than the truth. And the ambiguous statements surrounding this release also sound like an attempt to leave as much wiggle room as possible. Oh, we didn’t mean the Intel Board, a rebuttal will almost certainly insist. We had a number of options in mind for Rep. Sestak. The intel board was just a brainstorming suggestion.
But that would mean we would have to believe that the White House believed that Sestak would leave the race for some ambiguous promise of an unpaid position on a board without any specifics on what he’d be doing or the influence he would have on policy. Maybe Sestak isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but why would anyone sentient enough to get himself elected to Congress in the first place even entertain such an offer as a serious proposal? Nor is that what Sestak consistently alleged over the last few months; he said that the Obama administration had offered him a job, something specific.
If the White House thought this gambit would put the matter to rest, they have a bigger competence problem than anyone first thought. Don’t Chicago pols get trained better than this? Well … probably not.