The New York Times Editorial on the Sestak Scandal(yes I will call it that) expresses bewilderment; why on earth would the White House use former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to offer a non-paying job to Congressman Joe Sestak as enticement to get him to drop his primary bid against (now) Democrat Senator Arlen Specter. The times is sure nothing unethical went on (of course), but expresses its puzzlement of the political ineptitude of the Obama White House in a series of questions:
Why would the White House, using former President Bill Clinton as its agent, offer Mr. Sestak a job on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board for which he was ineligible as a sitting House member? (It takes about 30 seconds to Google those rules, approved in 1993 by President Clinton himself.)
Why would President Obama’s White House waffle and obfuscate about the matter for three months, allowing Republicans and the conservative blogosphere to hyperinflate it into the grave scandal it turned out, on Friday, not to be?
Why, finally, can’t the White House avoid such unforced errors and get its political act together? (And we haven’t even brought up the fact that William Jefferson Clinton does nothing quietly.)
Allow me to address all three questions with my theory on what happened:the White House explanation of this affair is a lie. If they're going to try to convince Sestak to drop out, this is the best offer they have? A non-paying, window dressing role? And you send a former President to make this offer? The legalese of the White House statement shows it was probably weeks in the making. They concoted a story that conceded that Sestak was offered something (which they had to do, or call him a liar, because he had said publicly he WAS offered a job to pull out). But their hope was they created a scenario that doesn't commit a felony by not offering him a paid position, and claim Clinton was the intermediary, so it's not directly tied to the White House. And Sestak could have, for weeks now, said what happened, but kept saying: I'll talk after the White House talks." It's likely that's what he was told to do, by the White House. They come out with their version of events and he swears to it. He could have said all along what really happened, but waited for a White House story to be concoted.
What's still puzzling to me is why it was so important to the Obama White House to clear the field for Specter; he was going to get KILLED by Pat Toomey. Was Specter, perhaps, PROMISED that the primary field would be cleared in exchange for jumping the Republican ship? And on that point, check out this gem by the Times:
Meddling in Congressional races is an expected and even an important part of any White House political operation, even those that claim to be different from their predecessors. If Mr. Obama had meddled a little earlier and more intensively in the United States Senate race in Massachusetts earlier this year, he might have been able to prevent the election of a Republican, Scott Brown, to the seat long held by Edward Kennedy.
But when the White House does get involved, it too often flails ham-handedly and winds up bruising only itself. Its attempt last year to get Gov. David Paterson of New York not to run for re-election looked like a brass-knuckled shove out the door, angering black leaders and many voters. The result: the angry governor refused for months to bow out.
The offer to Mr. Sestak, the White House said on Friday in a statement, was arranged by Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff and one of the most experienced political hands in Washington. Mr. Clinton, who is Mr. Emanuel’s old boss, said he knew Mr. Sestak would never take the offer, Mr. Sestak said on Friday. Next time, Mr. Emanuel should show the same sense and spare his current boss the embarrassment.
Excuse me??? "meddling in Congressional races is an expeected and even important part of any White House political operation?????" I actually have no response to that. I do find it hysterical that it never occurs to the Time's editorial board that the source of their confusion is that this whole story is bogus, a possibility that didn't escape the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.