The hint of a White House bribe helped U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary for the Pennsylvania US Senate seat. But it will be a liability in the general election.
In an environment of massive anti-incumbent sentiment, it was advantageous to Sestak to differentiate himself from the self-serving Arlen Specter, who had switched parties to gain Obama’s sponsorship in hopes of saving his place in the Senate. One does not reach a high level in the military without being socially and politically prudent, and Sestak rose to the rank of three-star Admiral. He was also street-savvy enough to win two terms in Congress after that. Yet one can understand how he was tempted to let the story of the White House job offer, purportedly made last July, slip during the taping of a mid-February public affairs television show.
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak … stands behind his contention that the Obama administration offered him a federal job if he would back away from a Democratic primary race against Sen. Arlen Specter.
“Yes, I was offered a job,” Sestak said….
Sestak said top party officials urged him to abandon his Senate bid when Specter joined the Democratic Party….
“Look, I am comfortable that I answered honestly,” Sestak said. “I said I would never agree with the type of deal that was done with Specter, so I would never go for a deal for myself.”
As early as last June, establishment Democrats were lining up against his then unannounced candidacy.
The public mulling of a Senate bid by Sestak – a retired admiral who’s just begun his second term in the House – is giving heartburn to many influential Democrats in Washington and in the Keystone State. Democratic leaders painstakingly worked to recruit Specter, potentially the Democrats’ filibuster-breaking 60th vote in the Senate, under the assumption that the former Republican would be able to coast through his adopted party’s primary on his way to another term.
Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell personified the great disconnect between Democratic incumbents and public sentiment, and proved himself a dismal prognosticator, when he assumed a loss for Sestak last June:
Gov. Ed Rendell (D) offered especially blunt words against a Sestak candidacy, telling MSNBC that “Joe should not run for the Senate in the Democratic primary. He would get killed. … [If] Joe Sestak runs against Arlen Specter, he is out of the Congress after just two short terms. We will lose a terrific Congressman and when he loses to Arlen, he fades into political obscurity.”
Now Sestak has handily won the primary, and the spectre of Specter has instead faded into political obscurity. Within Democratic circles, Sestak is diametrically opposed to the incumbent administration. He was a Hillary Clinton supporter. And there is a more painful fact, one that most political pundits overlook — Obama’s minion Admiral Michael Mullen, currently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was responsible for ending Sestak’s 31-year naval career.
Sestak’s Navy career ended in a less-than-ideal fashion. In July 2005 – within a week of Adm. Michael Mullen’s swearing-in as chief of naval operations – Sestak was dismissed as deputy chief of naval operations due to a “poor command climate,” according to the Navy Times…. The ouster represented a stunning (albeit temporary) reversal of fortune for Sestak.
In fact, Mullen fired Sestak his first day on the job, so it most likely was a political move, and not based on performance.
So much for the machinations of the Democratic primary. The story of the job offer, potentially a bribe intended to interfere in the electoral process, has taken on a life of its own. The White House denies it, but Sestak is sticking by his story.
Democratic Senate Nominee Sestak Repeats Claim: White House Offered Him Job to Drop Out of Race Against Specter
Friday, May 21, 2010
Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, said again this week that the White House offered him a job to keep him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.
Darrell Issa, a Republican Congressman from California, wants to find out whether Obama committed an impeachable offense.
Rep. Joe Sestak’s allegation that the White House offered him a job to drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Arlen Specter is a crime that could lead to the impeachment of President Obama, Rep. Darrell Issa said….
Issa, R-Calif., is one of many inside and outside Washington who want the Democratic Senate primary candidate to explain in detail what offer the White House made.
“It’s very clear that allegation is one that everyone from Arlen Spector to Dick Morris has said is in fact a crime, and could be impeachable,” said Issa, who is threatening to file an ethics compliant if Sestak doesn’t provide more details about the alleged job offer.
….Sestak, a former vice admiral in the Navy, first alleged in February that the White House offered him a high-ranking position in the administration last summer if he would sit out the primary against Specter, who won the backing of the White House and state Democratic leaders for switching parties.
If this event happened as described, here is the legal basis for impeachment:
U.S. Constitution Article II, Section 4 – Disqualification – The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
And here is the definition for impeachment:
Impeachment – Impeachment, in the U.S. and Great Britain, proceeding by a legislature for the removal from office of a public official charged with misconduct in office. Impeachment comprises both the act of formulating the accusation and the resulting trial of the charges; it is frequently but erroneously taken to mean only the removal from office of an accused public official. An impeachment trial may result in either an acquittal or in a verdict of guilty. In the latter case the impeached official is removed from office; if the charges warrant such action, the official is also remanded to the proper authorities for trial before a court.
An article in the Washington Examiner details the dilemma facing Sestak in the general election:
During his bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania Sestak claimed that he was offered a job in the Administration if he would agree to drop his bid to challenge the incumbent, Arlen Specter.
This is a felony according to the law.
The U.S. Code specifically forbids anyone from seeking to tamper with an election by offering a bribe or anything else of value or substance to a candidate. This is known as ‘quid-pro-quo.’ And it is a serious offense for which a person who is convicted of the crime could spend up to 5 years in prison….
How could the White House claim that nothing inappropriate took place when the very fact that Sestak was engaged in conversations with Administration officials during a hotly contested campaign is a highly suspicious act in and of itself?
Why would the White House even wish to talk to Sestak at all when it had clearly thrown its support to Specter?
Someone in this sordid mess is lying. And there are only 2 choices–Sestak or Robert Gibbs at the White House, who as press secretary must state to the public whatever he is instructed to say by the President and his advisers.
If Sestak is lying and the entire story is bogus, then his chances of beating the Republican in the Fall will drop like a lead balloon. But if he is telling the truth and continues to refuse to name the parties at the White House who offered him this deal, then he is protecting a felon. Either way Sestak loses.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement:
This latest bribery allegation reflects a disturbing pattern by the Obama White House. We still don’t have all the details about involvement of Obama administration officials in the sale of Obama’s former Illinois U.S. Senate seat by Rod Blagojevich. And we still don’t have answers about the charge that Obama Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina offered a federal job to Colorado Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff to keep him out of the Senate race. There is also the report that President Obama tried to push disgruntled White House Counsel Greg Craig out of the White House by offering a federal judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. And now we have Joe Sestak.
The Chicago Machine has truly come to Washington.
Other than impeachment, other parts of the law might be relevant, according to Judicial Watch:
According to Judicial Watch, the following laws (among others) may have been violated in the Sestak matter: 18 USC 210: Offer to procure appointive public office; 18 USC 211: Acceptance of solicitation to obtain appointive public office; 18 USC 595: Interference by administrative employees by Federal, State or Territorial Governments; and 18 USC 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity.
That legal opinion is reinforced by Jay Sekulow of The American Center for Law & Justice, who said in an interview:
Well, article 2, section 4 of the Constitution is there for a reason. And … this is spinning out of control, as far as the White House is concerned right now. This is getting big coverage and it’s getting big coverage because something’s wrong here. It’s undercutting democracy if, in fact, offers were made to have someone not run.
And it’s not just one or two sections of federal law that’s been violated here. We’ve done an analysis of this. There could be four or even five sections of the federal criminal code that was violated….
These are serious allegations here. …. I understand why Mr. Sestak is trying to not say anything right now because he’s now obtained the nomination and he may want the White House support. But the reality is, somebody’s going to have to speak. And if, in fact, it is established that an offer of employment was made so that he would not run, that is interference with a political campaign, it’s interference with elected office, it’s the promise and solicitation of a job opportunity in order to forego something. That violates … not only the Constitution, it violates federal law….
The opinion by most legal observers seems to be that Obama must have known if a job offer was made, but that someone else in the administration will take the fall for it. We, as ordinary citizens, watch this play out and have to decide who is not telling the truth — a high ranking military officer or a community organizer from Chicago. Hard choice that!
Michelle Malkin — Obama responds to Sestak scandal: Just trust me
Dick Morris.com — PENN AG TOM CORBETT SHOULD EMPANEL GRAND JURY IN SESTAK AFFAIR
Hyscience — Just ‘trust him’
UPDATE, May 28 3PM: I can’t do any better than this. Go visit The Right Side of Life to read Phil’s excellent compendium detailing the progress of the White House spin machine. They have elected to throw Bill Clinton and Rahm Emanuel under the bus on this one.
This whole affair stinks like a pile of rotting dead fish. The preposterous story being put out by the White House may prevent a legal challenge, but the whole mess will probably hurt the Dems in the general election. By saving Obama’s bacon, they have damaged their candidate and made him look like a liar.
Nancy Matthis is the publisher and executive editor of the weblog format news magazine and multimedia outlet American Daughter Media Center.