The White House has now responded to simmering concerns surrounding Joe Sestak. And it turns out Bill Clinton played a role in what was supposedly a job offer to encourage Sestak to drop out of the race.
The most important thing here is that White House is claiming that what Sestak was offered was an unpaid position, on an advisory board. ("The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak ... would have been uncompensated," the memo reads.) In fact, the memo notes that Democratic leadership had "legitimate concern about the Congressman vacating his seat in the House." And Ed Rendell and others did, in fact, argue that Sestak shouldn't run for Senate partly because his old seat would be vulnerable to Republican takeover. Hiring Sestak to work full-time somewhere else would, then, defeat much of the purpose for urging him not to take Specter on.
The memo also addresses speculation the position Sestak was offered was Secretary of the Navy. In fact, though, "The President announced his intent to nominate Ray Mabus" to that job last spring -- "over a month before Senator Specter announced that he was becoming a member of the Democratic Party."
But the memo has a downside as well. Because of all the ex-presidents in all the gin-joints in all the world, the White House had to recruit President Bill Clinton as a go-between.
"White House staff did not discuss these optoins with Congressman Sestak." Instead, they "enlisted the support of former President Clinton."
As we all know, nothing sets Republican hard-liners at ease like the apperance of Bill Clinton. And I gotta say -- the fact that the White House released this today, on the Friday before a three-day holiday, suggests a bit of uneasiness.
UPDATE: Indeed, I can already see plenty of "meaning of is" type verbage bouncing around the interwebs. Though the more frequent response is, "Sestak said he was offered a JOB. That's not the same thing as an unpaid advisory post!"
Naturally, the assumption is that this is a White House cover-up. Though even if you assume someone has been acting in bad faith here -- rather than speaking carelessly -- it's certainly possible Sestak was exaggerating the offer to burnish his credentials. Anyway, here's the Sestak response:
Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background. He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. 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. The former President said he knew I'd say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.