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Thursday, May 27, 2010

"It Depends Upon What The Meaning of 'Job Offer' Is"

Joe Sestak says "I was offered a job" by someone senior in the Obama administration in exchange for getting out of the Democratic primary against Arlen Specter.

"Joe heard what he wanted to hear," said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on Greta last night (video below):
"And I believe Joe heard what he wanted to hear because, you know, he's a former admiral. And you know, when they said something like, This is something in your background or your experience level, he must have interpreted -- I guess the position at that time was open and it hadn't been filled."
Rendell, who seems to be the designated Democratic point man on Fox News, did not claim to have inside knowledge of what was said. But Rendell repeated that line of attack on Sestak several times during the interview, a clear talking point.

Rendell treated Joe Sestak the way the rest of us treat Joe Biden; that's just Joe being Joe, he says things, you know.

Rendell's talking point is similar to David Axelrod's statement that there was "no evidence" that conversations took place as related by Sestak, and Robert Gibbs statement that any conversations were "not inappropriate."

The White House is spinning a narrative that a conversation or conversations took place (because the fact of a conversation cannot be denied), but that there was a misunderstanding on the part of Sestak. Admit what cannot be denied, and muddle the rest based on imperfect memories and the frailty of human perception.

The story will go something like this: There may have been discussion of a "job," but it was only about what types of jobs might be appropriate for someone with Sestak's background; there never was an "offer" or "promise" of a specific "job."

The contortion necessary to paint Sestak as confused, but not a liar (which would be bad for the general election) explains why it is taking the White House so long to identify the person who didn't make the job offer and what was said that didn't constitute a job offer but might have been misunderstood as such by Sestak.

I was taught, and teach my students, that people who tell the truth don't need to remember which story to tell. Someone at the White House is trying to remember which story to tell.

And remembering which story to tell is all the more difficult here because of the possible criminal nature of the job offer. Politically, a huge mea culpa combined with a resignation might be enough. Legally, public contrition would be dangerous.

We appear to be heading towards a defense of "it depends upon what the meaning of 'job offer' is."

Related Posts:
Admiral Sestak Needs Loose Lips To Save His Sinking Ship
A Clintonian Defense of Our Nixonian President
"I Did Not Serve In That Country, Vietnam"

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  1. So they are calling Joe Sestak a liar? Hmmm..... wonder how the Admiral feels about that?

  2. Why did Sestak make the job offer public to begin with? And why has the WH let the issue linger for months? Did neither realize the offer was illegal, so Sestak (I assume not guilty of a crime if true) is sticking with his story while not feeling obliged to recall who, what, where and when; and the WH (I assume someone guilty of a crime if true) is left trying to make it go away?

    What does seem to give Sestak some credibility is that the WH did back Spector for re election and has been evasive in directly responding.

  3. Not that I don;t enjoy watching them squirm, but I don't understand why this should be illegal. Parties make decisions about who they want running where. To make those decisions work, they offer plums. To prevent total hacks from getting the top plums, there is the approval process for cabinet members. It's illegal to kill two birds with one stone-- pick a qualified candidate for one job and thus get him out of the way of someone else? That seems like basic politics to me, and not necessarily bad unless the candidates are bad.

  4. "Wonder how the Admiral feels about that?"

    Obviously, not too bad, since he is running as a Democrat.

  5. Sure. A man who made it all the way to ADMIRAL got there by being the type of guy who is easily confused by the dazzling Obama administration.

    I don't buy it for a minute.

    Someone somewhere will get to the bottom of this. And then Impeachment fun will commence.

    I personally can not WAIT!!!

  6. "The contortion necessary to paint Sestak as confused, but not a liar (which would be bad for the general election)...."

    Question - why is it not "bad" if the senator-to-be (if he wins) is "confused"?! We have enough of those in office already! I know, I know, he's a Democrat. Happens all the time in Washington, DC. But isn't that part of the problem? We keep electing people who can't read or understand bills, that don't know what the word 'truth' means, that are easily swayed by a forceful majority.

    This guy better start speaking out specifically about the who, what, when, where, or his career is dead in November (which I want anyway, since I want a Conservative in there). At least then he'll have some integrity.

  7. One doesn't rise to Flag Officer rank in any branch of the service without knowing how to play hardball politics.
    Obviously one can rise to the rank of Commander in Chief with only a background in community organizing.
    Sestak may end up backing down on this and eating some crow, but it will be to protect that political naif we have as a president.

  8. Oh, gosh. There's an Instalanche in progress. Guess I'd better RT my tweet that you will not touch:


    What hath Twitter wrought?

  9. Bwahahaha! We're way ahead of you, here.

  10. Watch the other hand!!! Watch the other hand!!!

    i smell a redirection tactic.

    Sestak is smarter than that.

    this corrupt regime really torques my jaw.
    never again will I abstain from voting!

  11. Pentration, however slight. . .

  12. Mike - Those 'plums' are positions whose salary and authority is owned and paid for by the American people. Allowing an incumbent party to literally bribe candidates for office on the people's dime is self-reinforcing corruption of the worst sort. More cynically, positions which can be converted to cash (so to speak) are probably not going to be 'wasted' on competent candidates with the skills and experience to do the job. That's really bad when the rumored 'plum' is something as important as Secretary of the Navy.

    You're thinking of doing this preemptively, removing a problematic pol by giving them a 'safe' appointed position. That's perfectly acceptable realpolitik; what matters is the quid pro quo.

  13. If Sestak's offer of a bribe by Obama (or his staff acting on his behalf) is a violation of the law, and Sestak alleges to have declined the offer, how then would one characterize the offer made to John McHugh (NY 23rd) in order to secure his "bipartisan" vote for the House cap and trade bill? McHugh TOOK the offer (he is currently Secretary of the Army).
    This practice, although I am sure it originates in Chicago Democrat politics, is now the common coin of the Obama administration.

  14. Caution. I think the whole thing is a rope-a-dope, or will be made to look like it soon.

    After weeks of Republicans making hay with this, the WH will just come out with something like "Yes, we said he could be Secretary of the Navy. Naturally that's a full-time position we'd want to have filled for more than 9 months, so everyone knew that taking it would require him to drop his campaign. That's not a quid pro quo, especially as that job, or a similar job, may still be offered him if he loses in November. Once again the Republicans have let partisan animus cloud their judgement and led to false accusations."

    The press would eat this up, the Republicans would be painted as hatchet men, and the Dem's base would be encouraged.

  15. What's illegal is offering Sestak the job in return for him dropping out of the race. If you just offer him the job, and don't talk about him dropping out of the race, then you haven't broken the law... even if the natural consequence of him accepting the job would be him dropping out of the race. Congress could have written the law to prohibit offering a job to anybody while they were campaigning for office, but they didn't. It's only the explicit quid pro quo which makes it illegal.

    I feel fairly confident that the White House folks were careful to follow the law, and thus have no legal reason to lie about what was said, nor will telling the truth put them in legal jeopardy. "Q. Did you offer him a job? A. Yes." "Q. Did you at any time condition the job offer on Adm. Sestak dropping out of the Senate primary? A. No, sir." As long as the government doesn't have proof that the second answer is a lie, then there's no crime.

    Frankly, I think Rendell is probably right. The WH official went through all the normal and usual circumlocutions, and Sestak, being ex-military, described the discussion far more bluntly than it actually occurred, because he was ignorant of the legal consequences and the legal reasons why the discussions about the job were so circumscribed. After that was explained to him, however, it was too late to easily walk back what he said.

    At this point, if that's what really happened, Sestak ought to get out there and say that. He could use it to help position himself as a non-DC guy. "Look, they were hemming and hawing all sorts of ways when they called me, but it was obvious to everybody what was going on; that's how it's done in Washington by the politicians. As a new guy to all of this, I didn't understand all the legal and political reasons why they were beating around the bush so carefully. Nobody came out and directly offered me a job to quit the race. That's what they were doing in reality, of course, but they dressed it up like they had to to make it legal. Still stinks to high heaven politically, though."

  16. Even in the Godless, hate filled world of the American leftists, one would think that one could accept the word of a retired Admiral that he was offered a job if he did a certain thing. If one was not willing to believe that statement, why would one be willing to vote for him to be their US Senator?

  17. "Sure. A man who made it all the way to ADMIRAL got there by being the type of guy who is easily confused by the dazzling Obama administration. "

    Counter-example of someone who made it all the way to Admiral who was easily confused: Admiral James Stockdale, VP candidate on Ross Perot's 1992 Presidential campaign.

  18. The left, crooks and liars.. They are shameless.

  19. Vice Admiral Stockdale, One of our greatest
    But that doesn't matter to the leftists.

  20. "I feel fairly confident that the White House folks were careful to follow the law, and thus have no legal reason to lie about what was said...."

    I disagree, PatHMV. This is part of a recurring pattern of the administration acting with impunity and/or carelessness beginning with the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin, and the ham-handed way the administration created its post hoc rationale for doing so.

    I think Sestak messed up because he couldn't keep a secret- we all know people like that- and didn't know the laws himself. Problem is now, Rendell is basically coaching him and putting words into his mouth.

    An aside: This whole controversy sounds like a wonderful opportunity for diligent reporters to become the next Woodwards and Bernsteins instead of nobodies going down on the old MSM sinking ship. (hint, hint)

  21. Thank you "I". We should all be this confused. *From Wikipedia*

    Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005) was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy.
    Stockdale led aerial attacks from the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On his next deployment, while Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16 aboard the carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34), he was shot down over enemy territory on September 9, 1965. Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was awarded 26 personal combat decorations, including the Medal of Honor and four Silver Stars. During the late 1970s, he served as President of the Naval War College.

  22. I don't know if Charles Krauthammer reads your blog, or if it's a case of sharp minds thinking alike, but he just explained on Special Report with Brett Baer on Fox News how the administration will likely spin the Sestak job offer by using your argument. That is, the White House lawyers will probably use a "Clintonian" technique to spin and redefine what a job offer is it appears no laws were broken. He also mentioned they may suggest Sestak misunderstood or misconstrued what was actually said.

  23. I agree that Stockdale was a genuine American hero... but the point remains that his fantastic and utterly laudable life story and accomplishments didn't stop him from BECOMING someone who was easily confused later in life.

    I raised the point specifically to call out the fallacious nature of the earlier comment, which implied that being able to reach a rank of Admiral somehow gives one lifetime immunity from ever being confused at any point for the rest of your life.

    The decline of Stockdale and his eventual dealth from Alzheimer's is a genuine tragedy... but let's not delude ourselves into believing that someone's prior service and history of good work makes them somehow perpetually immune from the same sorts of completely human failings and frailties that everyone else is subject to.

    Stockdale was brilliant... but I stood in front of him and watched him speak in 1992, and he was having some significant issues with staying on topic, coherence and generally tracking what it was that he was trying to say. He was very clearly getting confused. It was unsettling to watch live.

    Sestak also made it to Admiral, and for that he is to be commended. That doesn't make him some perpetual razor-sharp mind for all of his life. It is utterly fallacious to act as if his reaching Admiral earlier in his life means that he could not possibly have been confused over exactly what was being said.

    I fully believe that there was a very deliberate hint at a quid pro quo being offered by the White House if he dropped out of the race, and I have no doubt that they weaseled their way around the legality of it with carefully structured phrasing. It's still scummy, IMO.

    But none of that makes Sestak immune from being confused about what exactly was being said, just because he made Admiral before.

    Admirals are often heroes. They are never gods.