U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, the underdog who beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, says he turned down a nice job offer by the Obama administration that would have kept him from challenging Specter.
That news has Washington Republicans all up in arms, outraged at such blatantly criminal and unethical behavior at the highest levels of American government.
Well. Kinda sorta. They are at least going through the motions of pretending to believe it’s an outrage, including calling for appointment of a special prosecutor and uttering that magic word they do love so well: “Impeachable.”
It just sounds so juicy and full of promise, doesn’t it? “Impeachable.” Certain mouths begin to water at the prospect.
But it’s laughable, and Republicans in Washington know it. You can see it in their body language and hear it in their voices, even as they profess to be appalled. These are people who can look the camera in the eye and tell you with a straight face that the sun will rise in the West tomorrow, but even they can’t work up much feigned anger at this.
Nor can the experts. Listen to Melanie Sloan, the head of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics):
“There has never been a prosecution based on such facts and I find it impossible to believe there would be. I think this is really just politics as usual. Parties routinely do what they can to clear the field for preferred candidates.”
Listen to Richard Painter, chief ethics officer under the last President Bush, who says this “is nothing new and it hardly rises to the level of a major ethics controversy”:
Congress gives us plenty of genuine ethics concerns to worry about – particularly the role of campaign contributions which are de facto “bribes” (watch carefully what happens to the banking reform bill when it goes to House-Senate conference). Voters should not be distracted by media generated sideshows having little to do with what goes on in Washington.
Listen to Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity unit:
“Talk about criminalizing the political process! It would be horrible precedent if what really truly is political horsetrading were viewed in the criminal context of: is this a corrupt bribe?”
On the other side, of course, are such legal giants as Dick Morris, Sean Hannity and Karl Rove (who I see described on one conservative blog as “Carl Rove, who was George Bush’s legal adviser…).
If the White House had offered Sestak a job so that he would vote a certain way on a bill, or to buy his silence about an illegal or unethical act, this would have legs. But it’s nothing like that, and Washington Republicans know it. They also know that every administration since George Washington has tried to arrange the political landscape to its liking in exactly this manner. You’ve got a lot of people with ambition and talent jostling in Washington for position, and the folks at the top, at the White House, have always tried to stage-manage the process to protect their best interests. The same is true of every governor’s office in the country and in many a mayoral office as well.
What you’re seeing is the national GOP playacting — and playacting pretty poorly, with no heart in the performance — just to get the folks back home stirred up and full of hope.