White House admits using Clinton to pressure Sestak

Former President Bill Clinton (AP)

Forced to disclose backstage political bargaining, President Barack Obama’s embarrassed White House acknowledged on Friday that it enlisted Bill Clinton to try to ease Rep. Joe Sestak out of Pennsylvania’s Senate primary with a job offer.

The admission left many questions unanswered, however, and Republicans aren’t likely to let the issue rest. For Obama, the revelations called into question his repeated promises to run an open government that was above back room deals.

Seeking to quiet the clamor from Republicans and some Democrats over a possible political trade, the White House released a report describing the offer that was intended to clear a path for Sen. Arlen Specter to win the Democratic nomination.

Presidential Counsel Robert Bauer rendered his own verdict in a two-page report that said there was no improper conduct. No one in the administration discussed the offer with Sestak, Bauer said. The report did not say what, if any, contacts or promises the White House had with Specter on the matter. It also did not reveal whether Obama was aware of the former president’s role.

The report didn’t impress Republicans.

“Regardless of what President Clinton or Congressman Sestak now say, it is abundantly clear that this kind of conduct is contrary to President Obama’s pledge to change ‘business as usual’ and that his administration has engaged in the kind of political shenanigans he once campaigned to end,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House oversight committee who unsuccessfully had sought a Department of Justice investigation.

Specter declined to comment.

The report said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel enlisted Clinton’s help as a go-between with Sestak. Clinton agreed to raise the offer of a seat on a presidential advisory board or another executive board if Sestak dropped his bid, “which would avoid a divisive Senate primary,” the report said.

Under the proposed arrangement, Sestak would have been able to remain in the House while serving on a board. It was not clear why the White House — which has the power to offer Cabinet posts and sought-after embassy jobs — believed Sestak would be interested in just an advisory position.

Sestak declined the offer. He defeated the five-term Specter, who had switched from Republican to Democrat last year at the White House’s urging, in the May 18 Democratic primary.

Sestak, who had said a job was offered but had provided no details, acknowledged Friday that he had had the conversation with Clinton. He said the former president told him he should stay in the U.S. House and perhaps join a presidential board.

In a statement released by his campaign, Sestak said, “I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer.”

Emanuel and Sestak both worked in the White House when Clinton was president in the 1990s, and both remain close with their former boss. Sestak was a supporter of Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her 2008 presidential bid.

Bauer, in the White House report, argued that previous Democratic and Republican administrations, “motivated by the same goals, discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office.” The report said such actions aren’t illegal nor unethical.

For weeks, the White House had insisted officials did not behave inappropriately but had declined to elaborate. But after Sestak won the nomination, Republicans renewed their questions of the administration and White House lawyers prepared to release a report they had been compiling for months.

At a White House news conference on Thursday, Obama told reporters a full accounting would be forthcoming.

“I can assure the public that nothing improper took place,” he said.

Two top Democrats — party chief Tim Kaine and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the party’s second-ranking leader in the Senate — said during the week that the White House and Sestak needed to address the questions. So, too, did Sestak’s Republican challenger in Pennsylvania, former Rep. Pat Toomey.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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9 Responses to "White House admits using Clinton to pressure Sestak"

  1. griff  June 1, 2010 at 8:47 am

    “We can’t keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expect a different result – because it’s a game that ordinary Americans are losing.” – Barack Obama, February 12, 2008

    “We can’t keep mortgaging our children’s future on a mountain of debt. We can’t keep driving a wider and wider gap between the few who are rich and the rest who struggle to keep pace. It’s time to turn the page.” – Barack Obama, February 12, 2008

    “In two days, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.

    In two days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.

    In two days, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.

    In two days, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.” – Barack Obama, November 2, 2008

    We can talk about what happened for a few days in 2005. And we should. We can talk about levees that couldn’t hold; about a FEMA that seemed not just incompetent, but paralyzed and powerless; about a President who only saw the people from the window of an airplane. We can talk about a trust that was broken – the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe.

    But we also know the broken promises did not start when a storm hit, and they did not end there.

    When President Bush came down to Jackson Square two weeks after the storm, the setting was spectacular and his promises soaring: “We will do what it takes,” he said. “We will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.” But over two years later, those words have been caught in a tangle of half-measures, half-hearted leadership, and red tape. – Barack Obama, February 7, 2008

    Had enough already?

  2. hologram5  June 1, 2010 at 9:48 am

    The pressure that the WH brought to bear should be and I believe it is a direct violation of the election process which if I remember correctly amounts to treason.

  3. Carl Nemo  June 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Great post Griff and even greater “supporting material”…! / : |

    It seems prevarication is part and parcel to modern day presidencies. We must assume they are lying 24/7, expect nothing from them, and prepare for the worst outcomes in the months and years to come.

    We’re going down and hard with the likes of the Bush’s, Clinton and now Obama at the helm. : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • griff  June 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

      But wait, there’s more…

      “It’s a crisis that’s been years in the making – the result of greed and irresponsibility that stretched from Wall Street to Washington. And the truth is, it will take more than a few days to repair the damage. Yesterday, the Fed took another unprecedented step to cut rates together with nations around the world, and those nations will soon be gathering in Washington to deal with this crisis. The next President will have to manage this recovery. The question is, will that President be looking out for you?

      But I also said at the time that this should not be a vehicle to reward banks and lending institutions that recklessly wrote bad loans. It should not be a bailout for the high-rolling real estate speculators who took those loans to make a quick buck.

      We have to act to fix our broken economy and restore the credit markets. But taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pick up the tab for the very folks who helped create this crisis” – Barack Obama, October 9, 2008

      “Many of you have been disappointed by politics and politicians more times than you can count. You’ve seen promises broken and good ideas drown in the sea of influence, and point-scoring, and petty bickering that has consumed Washington. And you’ve been told over and over and over again to be cynical, and doubtful, and even fearful about the possibility that things can ever be different.” – Barack Obama, May 20, 2008

      I still find it hard to believe so many millions fell for this crap.

      • Almandine  June 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm

        And still do…

        http://neithercorp.us/npress/?p=512

        • Carl Nemo  June 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm

          Thanks Almandine for the superb link. I urge others to read the material as well as the reference links within the article. Sobering indeed! : |

          Carl Nemo **==

        • griff  June 3, 2010 at 12:39 am

          Geez almandine thanks for the reality check. I think I need to turn on MSNBC and be cooed softly to sleep.

  4. paulb6  June 2, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I must agree with Nemo, usually do, however all the posting in the internet ( not by Nemo) must be made clear. There has not been a crime committed ( if true) that could possibly lead to impeachment. It is only a federal misdeamenor of minor significance.

  5. AustinRanter - AKA Gregg  June 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    A few questions to ponder…

    At what point in our nation’s history did the “truth” become irrelevant to political machines and elected officials?

    Why did “truth” become irrelevant to politicial machines and elected officials?

    Has our nation surrendered itself to believing that we are subsisting in some infinite state of powerlessness and hopelessness and that we’ve somehow lost our priviledge of choice?

    All I would like to see is that somebody flip off the light switch as we exit the Great Hall of the Republic that stores the founding principles and values once treasured by all Americans.

Comments are closed.