Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sestak stonewall

Last month, Pennsylvania Representative Joe Sestak told Larry Kane, Philadelphia's "Dean of Broadcasting," that someone from the White House had offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from running for the Senate seat currently held by Arlen Specter.  In the The Washington Examiner, Byron York points out how the White House has dodged answering questions about this likely criminal behavior:

At Friday's White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak's charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally. [snip]

On February 23, Gibbs was asked whether he had "any comment" on Sestak's charge. "I was traveling for a couple of days, as you know," Gibbs answered. "I have seen some stuff that he said, but I have not looked into this."

Later in the briefing, a reporter pointed out that the White House had "vociferously" denied the story. "When you said, 'I haven't looked into this,'" the reporter asked Gibbs, "I want to make sure you're not contradicting that denial."

"I just -- because I was on the road and dealing with different things on the road," Gibbs responded, "I've not had a chance to delve into this….Like I said, I was on the road and I don't really have a whole lot of knowledge on this."

On March 1, the subject came up again. "Last Monday, you were asked twice about the claims of Congressman Sestak, that he had been offered a high-ranking administration position -- " a reporter began.

"I have not made any progress on that," Gibbs said.

The reporter pointed out that the Pentagon had said there was no discussion of any job, but that Sestak stood behind his charge. "Can you check if the White House made any offer?" the reporter asked.

"Yes, I was remiss on this and I apologize," Gibbs said.

"Can I follow up on that?" asked the reporter.

"There's not much to follow up on," Gibbs said. "Let me check into that."

On March 9, the issue came up again. "You told us a couple of times you’d check back on this," a reporter asked. "Can you give us an update?"

"I don’t have the update with me, but let me check and see if I do have anything -- " Gibbs said.

On March 11, Gibbs was asked, "Last Tuesday you told us, 'I don't have the update with me on Sestak.' Two things have happened since then -- "

"I don't have any -- " Gibbs said.

"[Rep.] Darrell Issa sent a letter to the White House counsel -- "

"I don't have anything additional on that," Gibbs said.

And finally, on March 12, Gibbs was asked, "Do you have an answer yet on Mr. Sestak's charge?"

"I don't have any more information on that," Gibbs said.

Sestak's charge is a serious one that could potentially involve criminal conduct on the part of someone in the administration. And Sestak, while not offering any new details, is standing by his story. "Something happened last July before I got in the race," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program March 9. When he was asked about it on the radio program, Sestak continued, "I answered it honestly; I just said yes, but I didn't go beyond that. And actually, Joe, I don't think I should. That's politics." Just to clarify, Sestak said, of the radio interview, "They said to me, have you been offered a job not to get in the race, or to get in the race? And I said yes."
This has to be a new low in the abject failure of Obama's commitment to transparency and open government.  It's obvious that Sestak did not want this controversy, but when asked a direct question, he told the truth.  You see Sestak is a veteran midshipman of the U.S. Naval Academy and committed himself to living by the institution's Honor Concept which states, in part:
"Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.

They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie."
When this story came out, the White House immediately denied Sestak's account.  Now the Obama administration is in the tough spot of reaffirming its smear of a highly decorated three-star U.S. Navy Rear Admiral or admitting that someone on his staff committed a crime.  U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 11 Section 211 states:
Whoever solicits or receives, either as a political contribution, or for personal emolument, any money or thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

Whoever solicits or receives any thing of value in consideration of aiding a person to obtain employment under the United States either by referring his name to an executive department or agency of the United States or by requiring the payment of a fee because such person has secured such employment shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. This section shall not apply to such services rendered by an employment agency pursuant to the written request of an executive department or agency of the United States.
Sounds like a slam dunk to me.

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