Sunday, May 23, 2010

White House stays mum on Sestak (failed) job offer

Today on CBS's Face the Nation, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs continued to stonewall moderator Bob Schieffer on allegations that an administration official offered Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak a job if he didn't run against incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, in possible violation of federal law.
BOB SCHIEFFER: One final question. Joe Sestak who beat Arlen Specter and the White
House, of course, was-- was backing Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary up there. All these reports that the White House offered him some sort of job, some sort of post in the administration, if he wouldn’t run, would you tell us what-- what post he was offered?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, Bob, I-- I’m not a lawyer. But lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak. And noting-- nothing inappropriate happened. I-- I think Republicans are continuing to dredge this up because if you look just a couple of days after this primary, the polling shows that Republicans are already behind in a very important Senate race.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Improper or not, did you offer him a job in the administration?

ROBERT GIBBS: I-- I-- I’m not going to get--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Okay.

ROBERT GIBBS: --further into what the conversations were. People that have looked into them assure me that they weren’t inappropriate in any way.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Robert Gibbs, thank you very much for being with us.
All righty, then.  Fantastically, on the very same program, Representative Joe Sestak stuck by his story that he was, in fact, offered a job by an administration official in return for skipping the Pennsylvania Senate Race.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Back now with one of Tuesday’s big primary winners, Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak, who took on the establishment, the Democratic establishment in Pennsylvania, and took on the White House and beat Arlen Specter, who had switched from the Republican Party

Let me just ask you first about what I was asking Robert Gibbs about this idea: did the White House offer you a position in the administration if you would not run

REPRESENTATIVE JOE SESTAK (D-Pennsylvania/PA Democratic Senate Candidate): Yeah.  I-- I was asked that question months after it happened. And I felt an obligation to answer it honestly. I said, yes. But, Bob--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Can you tell us what job--

REPRESENTATIVE JOE SESTAK: No, no, Bob, I-- and I said at the time, anything beyond that just gets into politics. And actually, that’s what I think is failing Washington, DC. Principle doesn’t seem to triumph over politics. Well, people come here, and be willing to lose their job over doing what they said they would do. And so, I just stay focused on what I had issued out there, which was a plan for Pennsylvania working families from retirement security to educational opportunities for their children and small business opportunities. That’s what I just keep on talking about.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let’s-- let’s talk about the race that you had with Arnold-- with Arlen Specter. The White House was for Specter, they obviously wanted you not in the race. But you took them on. Now will you ask for Barack Obama’s help?

REPRESENTATIVE JOE SESTAK: Well, I-- I have to tell you, President was the very first one who called me, and I welcome his support. And I have to also tell you Arlen Specter, when he called me set a standard for graciousness. Telling me, "Joe, congratulations, I’m going to support you."
The fact that Navy Vice Admiral Joseph A. Sestak, Jr., hasn't wavered from the story that he was offered a high-ranking job in the administration to abandon his run against Specter would be an amazing tribute to his integrity if he told the rest of the story.  The fact that he characterizes the whole episode as just politics, when it was likely a violation of federal law, and after the White House basically called him a liar, suggests that he is just another politician choosing his words carefully so as not to jeopardize his own political career.  Sounds identical to Arlen Specter, if you ask me.

To paraphrase my high school basketball coach when excoriating a player for a lack of effort, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer was "just happy to be there!"

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