I really haven’t followed the Joe Sestak/Barack Obama/Arlen Specter story because I didn’t care about the outcome. Now that the full story has been told — at least, according to the White House — it is weirder than I thought it would be. According to the report, President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, dispatched former President Clinton to approach Sestak and offer him an unpaid position on an obscure advisory board if he would drop out of the primary against Specter. Sestak declined, then disclosed that decision in an interview where he suggested the job that he turned down had a bit more meat — like the Secretary of the Navy, for example.
What is strange about this story is that the White House thought that Sestak would ditch his chance to run against a weakened, mush-mouthed, party-changing hack for a chance to get a coveted seat in the U.S. Senate in exchange for a seat on the 36-member Federal Advisory Board on Widget Construction, or something similar. Did they really think even a master arm-twister like Bill Clinton could sell such an empty and one-sided bargain? And it is weird that Sestak would trumpet his decision and make it out to be some incredible act of intestinal fortitude, when the actual offer was about as tempting as 2010 season tickets to the Cleveland Indians at a five percent discount off face value. If the White House account is true, both sides look pretty stupid.
The AP has a story today about how this episode really hurts President Obama’s reputation as a “different kind” of politician. I don’t agree with that, because I really doubt that any voter has viewed him from that perspective for months. His effort to portray himself as a squeaky clean, “transparent” anti-politician took a few mortal hits below the water line and sank like a stone during the crass, endless “health care reform” horse-trading and deal-cutting. No, the people who support President Obama right now do so because they agree with his agenda and think he can accomplish the policy initiatives they support. To me, the harm for President Obama is not that this incident hurts his reputation as a pristine politician, but rather that it hurts his reputation as a capable politician. Why in the world was President Obama running interference for a hopeless and undependable dish rag like Arlen Specter? Specter must have driven some kind of seriously unholy bargain with the President to create that kind of political obligation. Why would the President agree to such a bargain under the circumstances?