The Sestak Affair (bribegate?) has the potential to destroy the Obama Presidency. Here are the facts that we know as of this date. On February 18, 2010, Joe Sestak was being interviewed by a radio talk show host, Larry Kane. Kane had been hearing a lot of rumors about Sestak being offered an appointment as Secretary of the Navy, in exchange for him dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, clearing the way for Arlen Specter. Here is the question, and the answer:
Kane: “Is it true that you were offered a high ranking job in the administration in a bid to get you to drop out of the primary against Arlen Specter?”
That would be bad enough, but Sestak continued talking:
“Let me just say that, both here in Pennsylvania and down there, I was called quite a few times. And all I said is, look, I felt when a deal was made, that it was hurting the democratic process. I got into this because I think that deal started getting us off the track where the Democratic Party should go. I would never get out for a deal.”
The media sat on this story until after the primary election. Perhaps they thought Specter would win and the problem would just fade away. But, Specter didn’t win, Sestak did. That creates a problem. It is pretty obvious that either Sestak is lying, or someone in the Obama administration tried to bribe him out of the Senate race in a failed effort to save Arlen Specter. Even the main stream media has figured that out. Roberts Gibbs is getting pointed questions on this, which he has simply refused to answer. Both David Gregory and Bob Schieffer asked Sestak directly if the Obama White House offered him a job to end his primary challenge. His response was yes. Following is the quote from the Schieffer interview:
Schieffer: “Did the White House offer you a position in the administration if you would not run?”
Sestak replied: “Yes, I was asked that question months after it happened. And I felt an obligation to answer it honestly. And I said yes.”
Today, President Obama was asked about this by Fox News. Following is the transcript:
Secondarily, can you tell the American public, sir, what your White House did or did not offer Congressman Sestak to not enter the Democratic senatorial primary? And how will you meet your levels of expressed transparency and ethics to convey that answer to satisfy what appear to be bipartisan calls for greater disclosure about that matter? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions.
Q From you, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: You will get it from my administration. And it will be coming out — when I say “shortly,” I mean shortly. I don’t mean weeks or months. With respect to the first –
Q Can you assure the public it was ethical and legal, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But, as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue.
Clearly the Obama administration is in full damage control mode. Note that Obama did not deny offering Sestak a job. He just said that nothing improper took place. That is the spin the White House would like to sell. Several top Democrats are saying this is just politics.
If the main stream media agrees, this story will quickly fade away. But the problem for Obama is that even some Democrats are unwilling to ignore such a blatant attempt at bribery. Offering someone an appointment to be Secretary of the Navy, in exchange for dropping out of an election is difficult to spin away. Keep in mind that Rod Blagojevich is on trial for trying to obtain a job for himself in exchange for appointing someone to Obama’s old Senate Seat. Prosecutors in that case are not exactly amused.
Just recently Dick Durban joined Republicans in demanding an answer. That is significant. Durban is the Senate Majority Whip. He was one of the first key Democratic players to back Obama. If he turns on the Obama Administration, that is big trouble in River City.
Also, don’t be surprised if Arlen Specter joins the chorus.
Specter is already on record as saying that offering Sestak a job in exchange for dropping out of the race would be a felony. Specter is royally pissed that he lost his Senate seat. That is why he switched from Republican to Democrat. He is angry at the Obama administration because he felt he did not get enough support. He is even more angry at Sestak. So, from Specters viewpoint, he probably really wants to pursue this.
If he proves that Sestak is lying, that is good for Specter, because it may even put him back in the Senate race. At least he would get the pleasure of sticking it to Sestak. In addition, Specter is angry at Obama because the White House ignored Sestak’s claim. Specter wanted the White House to take on Sestak over this. He believes that Sestak got unfair political mileage from making this charge, and the White House let him get away with it. Now, even if Sestak’s story holds up, Specter will get some revenge against the Obama administration for throwing him under the bus. Win – win.
It is important to remember that Specter is a former prosecutor and he has the potential to be a formidable legal advocate on this case. I wonder if Specter would be interested in being Secretary of the Navy? (Probably too obvious)
Sestak is hardly a saint. When Admiral Mike Mullens took over as Chief of Naval Operations in July of 2005, one of his first official acts was to fire Admiral Sestak. Sestak had been a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, a three star admiral position. The reason given by Mullens was “poor command climate.” This resulted in Sestak being demoted to a two star admiral and ultimately resulted in his resignation from the Navy.
Since Admiral Mullens is pretty highly regarded, it is pretty difficult to argue with a straight face that Obama offered Sestak the position of Secretary of the Navy based on his outstanding performance.
Here is what I expect. First, the Obama administration will stall as long as possible. Then they will try to issue some vague statement saying no one did anything wrong. They will refuse to provide specific details, based on some vague legal reasoning. Odds are that Holder will be asked to deliver this turkey.
The Republicans are going to push for answers and are likely to get more and aggressive. If other people besides Durban and Specter get on board, then it will become impossible for the Obama administration to sweep this one under the rug.
The liberal left is starting to worry. They are consoling themselves that this is just about politics, so no one will care. But, so was Watergate. It was a two-bit burglaryof a political campaign headquarters. What was new about that? It didn’t matter, until it did. Then it mattered a lot.
Other liberals are desperately trying the standard: “everybody does it defense.” But the problem is that everybody else was smarter about it.
It is likely that every administration has cut political deals to solve problems. But, there is a fine line between politics and bribery. The real problem for Obama is that his tendency to reveal absolutely nothing about anything has come back to haunt him. Remember that Nixon wasn’t even accused of a crime with regard to the Watergate burglary. All his problems resulted from trying to cover it up. Sound familiar?
The Sharks are circling and Obama is bleeding like a stuck hog. Don’t be surprised to see a feeding frenzy. Frankly, right now, I honestly think Obama would rather be answering questions about the BP oil spill. It is that bad.