Examiner Editorial: White House playing politics the Chicago way 

Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy admiral who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary, provided a shocking revelation during a radio interview last week. Sestak said an unnamed official in the Obama White House, desperate to keep a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, offered him a plum federal appointment if he would drop his bid against Specter.

When the host of the program asked Sestak if the job in question was secretary of the Navy, Sestak declined to answer. Put another way, somebody who represents President Barack Obama offered Sestak a bribe.

The official denial by a White House spokesman that this ever happened is particularly unconvincing, since this is the second credible report that Obama administration officials are using presidential appointments to dissuade intraparty challenges in their efforts to keep Democrats in power in the Senate. In September, “several sources” told The Denver Post that the White House made a similar offer to former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff if he would drop his primary challenge against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

In the Bennet case, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina, a well-known political operative who reports directly to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions,” including a job at the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the Post.

It’s not hard to figure out where somebody in the Obama White House gets such ideas. It’s the corrupt political culture of his home state and city — the “Chicago Way” exemplified by Emanuel.

Disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whom both Obama and Emanuel enthusiastically helped elect in 2002, similarly understood the value of a Senate seat. He attempted to sell the Senate seat formerly occupied by Obama to the highest bidder, an act that resulted in his indictment, impeachment and removal from office.

There are no reports that Obama has personally stooped to Blago’s level, but somebody working for the chief executive clearly views government jobs as bargaining chips to be used to extract political favors. It almost seems unfair that Blagojevich should now suffer such disgrace when somebody representing the president of the United States is similarly abusing the public trust.

It’s difficult to see how the offer of a job in return for a political favor is anything other than a violation of the law. There are now two credible reports that such a crime has been committed by an Obama administration official. Isn’t that enough for somebody at the Justice Department to start asking some serious questions? 

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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