Sestak Scandal Update: President Bill Clinton Made Offer

On Friday the scandal involving Rep. Joe Sestak took a new turn this time staring the former President of the United States Bill Clinton. From the Washington Post:

Party leaders and campaign operatives — on nearly a daily basis — approach challenger candidates seeking to disrupt the established political order with a simple message: Get out or else.

And so, the report this morning that former President Bill Clinton was tasked by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to make such an approach to Rep. Joe Sestak — allegedly offering him an unpaid advisory role on an intelligence board in exchange for getting him to drop his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — would not normally raise much of a stir in official Washington.

That the story has become a major controversy, a regular fixture on cable news chat shows and a momentum-killer for Sestak following his come-from behind victory against Specter in last week’s Pennsylvania primary is evidence of how the White House mishandled the controversy, according to conversations with several high-level Democratic strategists.

“How do you make something out of nothing?,” asked one such operative who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the matter. “By acting guilty when you’re innocent.”

Another senior party official said that the White House “has a lot of egg on their face” and described the events as a “PR nightmare”.

Sestak problems started in an interview with Philadelphia Newsman Larry Kane :Voice of Reason

The unfolding of events since Sestak told a local television host — albeit obliquely — in February that he had received a job offer from the White House speaks to one of the oldest political adages about the presidency: stonewalling almost never works.

The White House did not do it’s self any favors by stonewalling:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was repeatedly asked in the intervening months about Sestak’s allegation but deflected comment. As the story became a bigger deal in the wake of Sestak’s primary victory, the statements out of the White House grew more and more opaque — as Gibbs insisted over the weekend that “nothing inappropriate happened” but refusing to engage in the more basic “what happened question.”

The matter reached a head during President Obama’s press conference yesterday when, asked by Fox News Channel’s Major Garrett about the details of the Sestak job offer, the President said only: “I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue.”

Republican smelled red meat in the white house answer:

Republicans gleefully highlighted every incident of the White House’s practiced silence on the matter, using the Sestak allegation to undermine one of the pillars of the Obama brand: transparency and accountability.

“This issue goes to the heart of Obama’s claims to have a different kind of White House and that he would usher in a new era of transparency and accountability,” Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye told the Fix earlier this week.

Chris Cillizza The Washington Post has the rest of the story.

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