In yet another instance of political inevitability, Rep. Joe Sestak has apparently decided to play ball.
A scant three months ago, Sestak was telling anyone who would listen that the Obama White House offered him a high-profile job if he would drop his primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter.
That accusation, along with the public’s weariness regarding politics as usual, paved the way for Sestak’s decisive victory over the five-term incumbent.
Now that he has secured the Democratic nomination for Senate, Sestak has no desire or need to waste any more time discussing an incident which, if not outright illegal, is certainly unsavory.
When the scandal first broke, even Specter - who was at the time enjoying the whole-hearted support of the Obama administration - said Sestak’s allegations were very serious and that he needed to disclose the details of the offer.
"I'm telling you it is a federal crime punishable by jail," Specter said, "and anybody who wants to say that ought to back it up."
Darn straight they should, but it is not going to happen because now the political winds have changed.
Instead of being the upstart congressman bucking the establishment, Sestak is now the Democrats’ standard bearer in the Pennsylvania senate race. Now, it is in party’s best interest to see that he defeats Republican Pat Toomey in the general election.
Sestak currently has a slight lead in the polls, but his four percent lead is still within the poll’s 4.5 percent margin of error.
So, if you are Joe Sestak, what are you going to do? Throw the President under the bus or follow orders?
The answer: Sestak is going to toe the party line.
From this point forward, expect Sestak to say whatever his party bosses tell him to say. Right now, the administration claims that Rahm Emanuel asked former President Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an unpaid advisory position within the administration to bow out of the primary. In their report on the matter, the White House said there was no “impropriety” involved.
Republicans disagree and are going to do their level best to make a federal case out of this - using 18 USC 211 to be precise:
“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.”
Judiciary Committee Republicans have already asked the FBI to investigate whether or not “the White House intentionally sought to manipulate the outcome of a Democratic Senate primary.”
The FBI has not yet said whether or not it will investigate.
Obama, Emanuel, Clinton and Sestak have apparently spent the past few weeks making sure their stories were straight. They are going to ride this particularly version of events all the way to November and hope Sestak prevails in what could be a very tough year for Democrats.
They may very well succeed. Democrats argue that other administrations have made similar offers in what they describe as politics as usual.
On the other hand, maybe this time the Obama spin doctors will fail. Offering a job to the sole opponent in a primary in exchange for their withdrawal from the race would seem to be an overt attempt to influence the outcome of the election.
Was it illegal? Are the parties involved telling the truth or will this be Obama’s Watergate? Only time and the FBI will tell.
Kristi Reed is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.