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NYT: White House Used Bill Clinton to Ask Sestak to Drop Out of Race; Updated

By Doug Powers  •  May 28, 2010 12:02 PM

**Written by guest-blogger Doug Powers

Bill Clinton met with President Obama yesterday — reportedly to discuss how to handle damage control from the oil spill in the Gulf — but it’s a good guess that a heaping helping of “getting our stories straight” was the featured item on the lunch menu:

President Obama’s chief of staff used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to see if Representative Joe Sestak would drop out of a Senate primary if given a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, people briefed on the matter said Friday.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, asked Mr. Clinton to explore the possibilities last summer, according to the briefed individuals, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the politically charged situation. Mr. Sestak said no and went on to win last week’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Senator Arlen Specter.

“Did you get Joe Sestak a job yet, Daddy?”

It seems like a believable story — I mean, who wouldn’t be convinced to give up their quest to become a United States Senator in return for a spiffy, uncompensated job title in an administration that may well be swept out of office in just over two years — sooner if nobody buys their explanation for this?

If it’s that easy I’m going to call Nancy Pelosi and convince her not to run for re-election by offering her a job as an unpaid volunteer at her plastic surgeon’s office and give her the title “Queen of the World.”

According to the New York Times, one of the “jobs” being dangled in front of Sestak was a position on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. One of duties of PIAB members is to bring to the president’s attention activities that are not being adequately addressed by the Attorney General — things like, oh I don’t know… the White House orchestrating a bribery to get somebody to drop out of a Senate race.

For those of you keeping score at home, “nothing improper took place” usually bats two or three spots in the lineup ahead of “mistakes were made.”

Rahm Emanuel couldn’t be reached for comment because he was in the middle of a dine-n-dash at an Israeli restaurant.

Update: Via Ed Morrissey, White House Counsel has released a memo (who’s up for another Friday document dump, holiday weekend edition?) attempting to offer an explanation, which Sestak has naturally corroborated.

Morrissey sums it up:

Excuse me, but a position on a Presidential Board is not a “job” in any sense of the word. Sestak has repeatedly insisted that the White House offered him a job to get him to withdraw from the race. Now we’re at the who’s-lying stage, and it may well be everyone.

If there is so clearly no evidence of any wrongdoing, then why didn’t they just have Robert Gibbs come out and explain it away a long time ago instead of dodging any and all press inquiries?

This is starting to get Nixonian.

Update II: As you can see, Bill Clinton was very forthcoming after being asked about the Sestak story while working the line after an event today:

**Written by guest-blogger Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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