The Corner

The Sestak Smell Test

A tip of the cap to White House counsel on preparing a memo that, on its face, would appear to let a bit of air out of charges of wrongdoing. But some of it just isn’t scanning.

Let’s look back at what Rep. Sestak told local TV host Larry Kane in February.

KANE: “Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?”

SESTAK: “Yes.”

KANE: “Was it secretary of the Navy?”

SESTAK: “No comment”

Later Kane asks again, “Was there a job offered to you by the White House?” to which Sestak nods and replies “yes, someone offered it.”

Kane asks “It was big right?” Sestak replies, “Let me “no comment” on it.”

“Was it high-ranking?” Kane asked. Sestak said yes.

That was February. Since then, Sestak has mostly “no commented.” But as recently as last Sunday, he confirmed: “I was offered a job, and I answered that.”

Contrast that with the White House memo, which says that Sestak was considered only for non-compensated “advisory positions” and that he had no direct contact with White House officials.

But Sestak confirms to Kane that the White House offered him a job, or at least he fails to disabuse Kane of that notion in his affirmative answer. And note Sestak assents that he was offered a high-ranking federal job. Each word here is important.

There are more than 60 boards, commissions and committees that at one time or another have advised the president. Most are not considered “high-ranking” administration positions, nor upgrades from a House seat, let alone a seat in the Senate. Besides, though vague on details, both the White House memo and Sestak use the words “Advisory Board,” of which there are only two currently active: The Economic Recovery Board and the Intelligence Advisory Board. Sestak is no economist, so the most logical conclusion to draw from the White House memo — that “By virtue of his career in public service, including distinguished military service, Congressman Sestak was viewed to be highly qualified to hold a range of advisory positions. . .while holding his House seat” — is that Sestak was being considered for the Intelligence Advisory Board. The only problem with that option, as the NYT reported, is that Sestak could not have retained his House seat while serving.

In short, it appears that there is no “advisory position” in existence that Sestak would 1) be qualified for and 2) consider preferable to a Senate run and 3) allow him to retain his House seat. Which brings us to the word “job.” Sestak uses it himself, not “position” or “role” or “advisory capacity” or anything else. Federal jobs pay (just ask Derb). Jobs bring clout.  Jobs open up, in the language of the White House memo, “alternative paths to service” (read: power) that could give a man second thoughts about a Senate run. Could this just be sloppy language from Sestak? Maybe, maybe not.

UPDATE: Larry Kane gives a behind-the-news blow-by-blow off the question that set this whole business off, and reveals he was prompted to ask the question after two reliable sources told him the White House had “dangled a high level job offer to Sestak, to give a clear path to Senator Specter for the nomination.” If only we knew those sources.

Recommended

The Latest