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The Sestak anticlimax

June 1, 2010 | 12:02 pm

So  the Obama administration did offer Rep. Joe Sestak a job to drop out of a Democratic primary race against Sen. Arlen Specter. And the offer came from Bill Clinton! But it wasn’t a good job, like secretary of the Navy. No,  Sestak’s consolation prize would have been unpaid membership on a presidential panel, probably the president's Intelligence Advisory Board.

The administration’s better-late-than-never revelation raises the question of whether anticlimax equals absolution.  Before the statement’s release, Rep. Darrell  Issa (R-Vista) was pressing for a criminal investigation, citing a statute making it a crime to offer a job to someone "as consideration, favor or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party."

Issa wasn’t mollified by the White House statement, which he called “a defense attorney's legal spin.”

In theory, the revelation that Sestak was offered an unpaid and obscure job shouldn’t affect the legal question. In fact, the relative insignificance of the job would incline a prosecutor even further in the direction of not proceeding with a criminal charge. Such “prudential” decisions are made by prosecutors all the time.

But President Obama doesn’t totally beat the rap. He stands convicted by his own White House counsel of engaging in the “old politics” he long has decried. That’s probably punishment enough.

-- Michael McGough

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