Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
I have reached my limit with the New York Times: I think it would be a better world if it shut tomorrow--all of the best and some of the good journalists would go elsewhere and do their work, and a lot of bulls--- would vanish from the public debate.
In the summer of 2009 President Obama and his administration reached out to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA): "the wingnuts are going to beat you in the Republican primary next year," they said. "But we have a way for you to win another term: switch parties, abandon your support for Republican obstructionism, and we will smooth the way so that you can be the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2010." Specter bit. The Democratic head count in the Senate reached 60. Obama's legislative victories were made much easier, and more complete. And thereafter Obama and company kept their word to Specter by trying to do what they could to smooth his path to the Democratic Senatorial nomination in Pennsylvania.
A daring and successful political coup, right?
The New York Times does not think so:
Unintelligent Design of Mr. Sestak’s Job Offer - NYTimes.com: There doesn’t seem to be anything terribly unethical about the White House offer of an unpaid advisory position to Joe Sestak if he would bow out of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, in which he later defeated Senator Arlen Specter. There does, however, seem to be something strikingly unintelligent about it. Why would the White House, using former President Bill Clinton as its agent, offer Mr. Sestak a job on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board for which he was ineligible as a sitting House member? (It takes about 30 seconds to Google those rules, approved in 1993 by President Clinton himself.) Why would President Obama’s White House waffle and obfuscate about the matter for three months, allowing Republicans and the conservative blogosphere to hyperinflate it into the grave scandal it turned out, on Friday, not to be? Why, finally, can’t the White House avoid such unforced errors and get its political act together?...
Convincing Specter to switch and then keeping your promises to him by trying to lure Sestak out of the Senate race is not an "unforced error," is not "strikingly unintelligent," is not "unethical" to even a minor degree.
And it piles on, in the form of Peter Baker:
The Politicking Behind an Offer to a Specter: For Mr. Emanuel, such political maneuvering is instinctive. As a Congressional leader and President Obama’s top political adviser, he has spent years trying to position what he considers the strongest candidates to run in various races across the country, even if it means enticing or pressuring other Democrats to get out of the way. But the conversation with a two-term congressman from Pennsylvania has now grown into a dispute over whether business as usual is good enough for a president promising reform.... Republicans escalated their calls for a criminal investigation and dismissed the everybody-does-it defense. “What does that have to do with the campaign pledge and the repeated pledges by this president that this would be a more ethical White House?” asked Representative Darrell Issa of California...
And more Peter Baker:
Sestak Case Casts Light On Murky Political Boundaries: When the White House enlisted former President Bill Clinton to see if Representative Joe Sestak would accept a presidential appointment to drop out of a Senate race, there is no question it was committing politics. But was it committing a crime? The dispute surrounding the White House effort to nudge Mr. Sestak out of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary has once again cast a harsh light on the murky boundaries that govern American political life. When does ordinary horse-trading cross a line? When does behavior that may violate sensibilities actually violate federal law?
The law does ban promising any position to influence an election and Republican lawmakers have called for a special prosecutor or the F.B.I. to investigate whether Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, or his colleagues made an illegal quid pro quo proposal. So far, the Justice Department has rebuffed such calls and, as of a few days ago, officials said neither the department nor the Office of Special Counsel, which looks at politicking by federal employees, was investigating. The White House and independent Democratic lawyers have scoffed at the notion that anything illegal happened and accused the Republicans of trying to criminalize politics. Even former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, appointed by President George W. Bush, said on Fox News on Friday that it was “highly questionable if there’s any crime” and that a prosecution “really is a stretch.”...
William Burck, a white-collar defense lawyer at Weil, Gotschal & Manges and the former deputy White House counsel under Mr. Bush, said it did not matter that the position being discussed with Mr. Sestak was unpaid because a prestigious presidential appointment was itself a thing of value and the law made no distinction between paid and unpaid.... Joseph Gibson, former chief counsel to House Judiciary Committee Republicans and author of “Persuading Congress,” dismissed the defense that claims that everyone does it. “Most parents do not accept that excuse from their children and the public should not accept it here,” he said. “A line may have been crossed. But we do not know all the facts right now, and we cannot fairly judge the situation until we do.”