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Tilting at Windmills

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May 27, 2010

POLITICS IS NOT A CRIME.... Add David Broder to the list of media voices who finds importance in the administration's possible job offer to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Obama cut his political teeth in Chicago, where the Democratic Party had held formal "slating" sessions at which the elder Mayor Richard Daley and his colleagues decided who was worthy of machine backing for jobs large and small.... But Daley's son, the current mayor, Richard M. Daley, has recognized that times have changed, even in Chicago, and in a system dominated by primaries, voters want to choose candidates for themselves.

Apparently, some operatives at the White House didn't get the memo.... It's not the only time that this White House has been caught ham-handedly trying to play party boss. The governor of New York and his appointee to the U.S. Senate have both been targets of such manipulation -- with Gov. David Paterson being shoved out the door and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand protected from challenge.

So, David Broder is complaining because the president is a politician, and his White House exerts influence in developments related to his political party. In 2010, this is what constitutes a political controversy worthy of scrutiny, and to some, special prosecutors.

Maybe it's me, but I get the impression that our political discourse is growing more farcical by the day.

Similarly, Slate's John Dickerson, whose work I usually enjoy, complained yesterday that a White House talking to a Senate candidate about a possible job offer is somehow inconsistent with the president's promises about "new levels of transparency."*

I'm not even sure what this means. Obama really has brought about the highest levels of transparency in American history. A phone call between an official and a candidate is evidence of secrecy? Is that where the bar has been set? Every conversation that takes place between a White House official and a member of Congress must be quickly made public or the president is violating a campaign promise?

This may be the shallowest, most vapid political controversy in years.

For what it's worth, Jon Chait makes the case against the story at a conceptual level: "There's no such thing as offering somebody a job in return for them dropping out of a Senate race. The acceptance of a job means dropping out of a Senate race. The concept of offering somebody a job "in exchange" for them declining to seek another job is like offering to marry a woman in exchange for her not marrying some other guy. It's conceptually nonsensical."

* Update: Dickerson emails to note that the reference to "new levels of transparency" was criticism of the White House response to questions, not the issue itself.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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If the Republicans retake the House, expect them to push this as an article of impeachment.

Don't think for a minute that they won't.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on May 27, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

It'll be a cold day in Hell when our puditocracy can actually celebrate our resilient demcracy instead of finding silly things to pummel those they disagree with, while Rome burns! Broder could help our polity by retiring, or by ceasing and desisting such tripe as his idiom would allow him to publish for so long! Oooohhhh boy, run for the hills, someone was offered a job! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 27, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a bit confused as to why offering someone a job to drop out of a race would be considered improper, yet it's entirely acceptable to offer someone a job to give up their seat.

Or is that going to be the new norm? Every time Obama offers a job to a sitting congressman, he'll be accused of bribing that congressman to leave Congress.

If offering someone a job which they can choose to accept or reject is considered the "Chicago" way, then I think I like the way they do things in Chicago.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 27, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's me, but I get the impression that our political discourse is growing more farcical by the day.


Posted by: whatever on May 27, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

More Republican "pot calling kettle black"ery:
"Hatch offering am(en)d(ment) to make false statements regarding participation in US military a misdemeanor", a twitter from "Senatus", Via Digby.

Broder? the guy who though Scooter Libby should skate?

Posted by: MR Bill on May 27, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

It's not you. Our political discourse has become the equivalent of middle school gossip. They just repeat what The Kool Kids say.

And where are the David Broder columns complaining about this under Bush?

What Digby said

Posted by: Andy Olsen on May 27, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Out here in Denver, Andrew Romanoff was rumored to have been offered a job in the administration when he was considering or had already announced as a Senate primary opponent to Senator Michael Bennet. Talk radio is already calling this a felony and demanding a special prosecutor.

The issue is complicated because the Democratic Party in Colorado has evidently taken a position on non-response to any of the radical criminal claims being made on talk radio - which blankets the state, and is now also the home of Michael "helleva job" Brown.

A back story is that OFA is backing Bennet, dictating strategy, and pissing off regular party activists who are by and large Romanoff supporters.

This is crazy making. I fear Colorado will go red. Tea party is strong. Illegal immigration is an issue. And, Obama administration is accused of bribing Romanoff to get out of the race.

Posted by: JoanneinDenver on May 27, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, I don't buy Chait's argument about "in exchange for", and the second comment on his posting (at the link you provided) makes a good case in this respect.

Posted by: DonBoy on May 27, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

The governor of New York and his appointee to the U.S. Senate have both been targets of such manipulation -- with Gov. David Paterson being shoved out the door and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand protected from challenge.

What in the holy hell is the old fool babbling about? Paterson was always a weak candidate, and at worst, Paterson's own version IIRC, was that the WH told him they wouldn't support him in a re-election bid. From whom is the WH supposed to have protected Gillibrand?

Posted by: Jim on May 27, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Bush lying the country to war, outing a CIA agent or firing prosecutors for political reasons? Awww, isn't he cute and cuddly?

Obama making a phone call to Sestak? Throw him in jail!!!

Posted by: Ohioan on May 27, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, so in Broder's world, offerring Sestak a job for which he is obviously not only qualified, but very well suited = potential crime requiring investigation.

Lying the country into an illegal invasion of another country in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, torturing detainees, warrantless waretapping of American citizens...eh, nothing to see here, move along...

Let's end the fiction that Broder is ajournbalist and just call him out for what he is - a partisan Republican hack.

Posted by: Chesire11 on May 27, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Obama really has brought about the highest levels of transparency in American history. Even you can't believe this. The backroom deal with Pharma during HCR? Anyone?

Posted by: Rick on May 27, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

quid pro quos- in the GOVERNMENT? I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 27, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

"There's no such thing as offering somebody a job in return for them dropping out of a Senate race. The acceptance of a job means dropping out of a Senate race."

Damn, it's about time someone pointed that out. For Christ's sake.

I'm surprised someone hasn't started complaining that Obama offered Hillary Clinton the Sec of State post, but only if she resigned from her Senate seat.

Posted by: kc on May 27, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

You so clearly miss the point in your post that issue is not whether the Administration influences the Democratic party, but rather, whether a government job was offered in exchange for allowing the Administration's choice to go forward. Offering a government post in exchange for something of value is unlawful. Obviously its fine for the Administration to influence the Democratic party. I agree with you though that "our political discourse is growing more farcical by the day"... I just read your post.

Posted by: Bob on May 27, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

No, politics is not a crime. But offering someone a govt job to influence a political race IS.

Posted by: J on May 27, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is proof that there's no GOP accusation too nonsensical for some portions of the press to take seriously.

This sort of political jockeying is so common, it's got a name -- "clearing" the race. It's been the norm in politics for the lifetime of everyone currently on the scene. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of history is aware that every president of every party has done the same at some point. Yet the scandal-manufacturers at the RNC or Fox News (but I repeat myself) pretend to believe otherwise, and The Liberal Media fall right in line.

As John Cole calls it at Balloon Juice, Our failed media experiment.

Posted by: demtom on May 27, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

And Bush bringing in Colin Powell and Obama bringing in Hilary Clinton to serve at State had nothing to do with keeping them from challenging them in their respective primaries in 2004 and 2012.

Offerring people a job to keep them out of a political race is a very common practice. By this standard over half the VP selections would count as bribes.

Posted by: thorin-1 on May 27, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Probably this would be nothing if Obama had been as transparent in his presidency as he promised in the campaign, but of course Obama's promises often don't work (promise to vote against telecom immunity as a Senator, promise to end the sale of assault rifles, promise to end the US secret prisons for suspected terrorists, and so on.

People now simply are asking, "What was offered?" The simplest answer is for Obama to do what he promised and give us transparency here. That would end the whole thing. David Axelrod said that all questions would be answered, but it seems as though they are in fact trying NOT to answer questions and won't even now talk about it. That is NOT transparency.

Posted by: Leisureguy on May 27, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

You want a reason to engage with the coming election, this is it. Imagine this class of Republcians with subpeona power? Just imagine diving right back into the nightmare that was the Clinton Administration. Folks, I give you the future if we don't reelect a Democratic majority in both the house and senate.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 27, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"A phone call between an official and a candidate is evidence of secrecy? Is that where the bar has been set?"

Not to get into battling metaphors, but it's not a question of setting a bar, but of leveling the playing field. The Bush Administration has been accused of truly heinous acts from lying about reasons to go to war with Iraq to politicizing the Justice Department and using federal monies and property in campaigns to keep Republicans in power instead of the jobs and responsibilities for which they were intended. And there has been plenty of evidence to prove those claims true.

But when it comes to politicians breaking laws and using power incorrectly, They All Do It. Even when, or if, they don't. So yes, this absolutely must be an awful and illegal and improper thing for Obama to do. Because if it's not, it only makes the Bush Administration seem more corrupt and evil. So we must insist it's on par with the worst things that happened in the Bush years, despite evidence to the contrary. Because if voters think Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans, they'll be too worried about voting for the wrong guy to vote at all. And then Republicans win. Because the base never thinks about voting for the right guy. If they think at all. They always turn up and they always vote the party line. That's what it's about. That's what it's ALWAYS about.

Posted by: slappy magoo on May 27, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Every night before I go to bed, I pray that I may live long enough to see the Kaplan Test Prep Daily go out of business. Has there been a single day in the last twenty years when the Post has not disgraced journalism.

Posted by: Alan on May 27, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder left the arena of relevance a long time ago.

Posted by: rbe1 on May 27, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone doubt that if Sestak had accepted the offer, the White House wouldn't have issued a press release about it? When they made Jon Huntsman the Ambassador to China, the political press lauded it as a brilliant political move. No foul play was claimed, and none would have been claimed here if Sestak had accepted the job offer.

Chait's right. Sestak's potential dropping out is not a shady, negotiated quid pro quo condition of accepting the job. Rather, it's an automatic, obvious and above-the-board condition of ANY job. And the administration is allowed to offer people jobs, even if it's politically convenient for them to do so. Accepting a job equals rejecting other jobs. And being politically clever does not equal being nefarious.

Posted by: dug4000 on May 27, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Pres. Obama is wrong on healthcare and immigration and hopefully he will be a one time president. Illegals have broken the law and should be deported, they are draining the resources of all the tax payers. It is time to stop all this socialism.

Posted by: jose on May 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Jose -- utterly off-topic, full of bogus spin points, and poorly written (I assume you meant "one term president"). You're a triple threat.

Posted by: demtom on May 27, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder is a right-wing sycophant.

John Dickerson is hackneyed purveyor of conservative centrist pablum.

And being offended that the Obama administration would attempt to protect a former Republican at the expense of a more progressive ally does NOT make it illegal

Honest legal experts have repeatedly confirmed there was nothing illegal about the job offer.

And as harsh a critic as I am of Obama's right-wing tilt, there is significant political utility in having it trumpeted that he went out of his way to help new-Dem Specter.

Specter was a crucial vote on multiple pieces of very important Democratic legislation.

And since Specter jumped the fence he was significantly more progressive than at least a half-dozen of his purported Democratic Senate allies.

Posted by: Annoyed on May 27, 2010 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well Mr. Dickerson, this was an issue so irrelevant it didn't even deserve mention much less be relevant to "new levels of transparency". Shame on you. With so much going on here you are giving credence to stupidity. Best point the finger where it deserves to be pointed rather than going along with such trivia intended only to demean the president. You write for "Slate"...act like it.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 27, 2010 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

The real corruption comes when sitting senators and congressmen are offered lucrative positions by those same corporations who have legislation before their committees etc that need their votes.

Leaving your seat to become a lobbyist for those who wrote legislation for you and bribed your vote with such offers for you and your family is unethical and should be made criminal to prevent this legal bribery from continuing(as should the revolving door between the private sector and the government like Paulson, Geitner and countless others).

btw...Rove should be in jail not on TV or penning op-eds and the countless crimes of the Bush administration prosecuted. Benen had an excellent reference yesterday to the enormous unethical activities and crimes of the Bush administration that republicans refused to even allow to be discussed.

The nerve of those 7 republican members of the judiciary committee to rant over such pettiness shows their raving hypocrisy and just how low they'll go to demean this democratic president. Anything to rouse the fecal spreaders huh.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 27, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Posted by: jose on May 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Sounds like trolling opinions. Translate "wrong" as in not going far enough but certainly not "wrong" on HC or immigration. Better than doing nothing but encouraging the status quo which is what repubs have been doing for years.

What a nightmare it would have been if McCain and the mindless one would have one...but that is why they won the nomination...they were such a lousy choice that dems would win hands down because no republican wanted to walk into the huge mess left by the Bush administration. Best to sit back and blame, obstruct and accuse than to try to help clean up this mess. name one thing repubs have done for the people in 30yrs and the past 8 have been nothing but disaster. There is no place for them in governing this nation any longer they have become so pathetic. They don't learn and grow but merely refuse to change and grab all they can at the nation's expense.

They have jammed up congress and nothing will get done as long as the senate rules remain unchanged giving them the power to obstruct the majority...which is all they do besides making petty accusations...unbelievable with their recent history of ruining every thing they touched.

Obama may not be all we wanted but I'm proud to have an intelligent competent president who is actually acting for the good of the people against such huge odds and with such a toxic inherited environment.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 27, 2010 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK


Yeah, it is.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on May 27, 2010 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

A phone call between an official and a candidate is not evidence of secrecy but it would be business talking or say any solutions of business problem between official and a candidate.

Posted by: anthony morrison on May 28, 2010 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK



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