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Psst, buddy, want a (legally murky, not at all a bribe, oh so innocent) job?


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NY Post:

Is there a political errand that requires skirting the law and resorting to lawyerly evasion should it come to light? William Jefferson Clinton, reporting for duty, sir!

With the addition of Bill Clinton to a mix that included a Friday news dump and an exquisitely crafted exculpatory document from the White House counsel's office, the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal acquired a retro feel. Who knew "hope and change" would feel so 1998?

The Sestak affair boiled over during the last week. The Democratic congressman said months ago that the White House had attempted to keep him out of the Senate primary in Pennsylvania against party-switcher Arlen Specter by dangling a job offer. No one paid much attention until Sestak won, and when pressed on the Sunday shows, refused to say anything more about the matter in a Tony-worthy impression of "A Man with Something to Hide."

The White House kept insisting "trust us, nothing untoward happened," until even Democrats began to say they should be more forthcoming. That produced Friday's revelation of Clinton's involvement as an emissary to Sestak, and a 11/4-page long White House counsel "report" that sought to put the matter to rest in a matter of a mere seven paragraphs.

The document suggests that, at the behest of the White House, Clinton offered Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board to get him to stand down.

He might have had better luck if he'd offered him a choice Capitol Hill parking space. For a sitting congressman and former three-star admiral like Sestak, a spot on an advisory commission would a nuisance to be avoided rather than a plum to be coveted, let alone at the price of his senatorial ambitions.

It's almost inconceivable that practiced political hands like Clinton and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff behind the gambit, would have considered such a trifle sufficient enticement to sway Sestak. Besides, the advisory role doesn't jibe with Sestak's words or body language over the last three months, all of which suggested he'd been offered a real, honest-to-goodness job - you know, one with a salary and maybe even health benefits and an office.

Larry Kane, the host of a Philadelphia public affairs show, first asked Sestak about the rumored White House approach back in February: "Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?" "Yes," Sestak said. "Was it secretary of the Navy?" "No comment," Sestak replied. "Was it high-ranking?" Sestak said it was, which implies something more than glorified volunteer work.

If Sestak exaggerated the offer to inflate his own importance and his establishment-bucking credentials, he deserves a special place in the annals of Washington arrogance and pose. Who knows? This is the guy who did his entire press conference outside the Capitol on Friday with his coat thrown over his shoulder in a deliberate gesture of nonchalance.

Between the lines, the White House memo leaves open the possibility that Sestak's original hints were accurate. Mark Twain said that a writer should "say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it." Obviously, the great humorist never worked in the White House counsel's office, or he wouldn't have been so simplistic and literal-minded.

White House counsel Robert Bauer's memo is a classic in the use of the passive voice: Options were raised, and efforts were made. The memo carefully avoids a categorical statement that Sestak was never offered a paying job. And although it refers to efforts "in June and July of 2009" to feel Sestak out, it leads the reader to believe without explicitly saying so that only Clinton contacted Sestak - in a conversation the congressman says lasted about 30 seconds.

Even if this version is as incomplete as the circumstantial evidence suggests, everyone has had ample opportunity to coordinate their stories. Perhaps something would shake loose if the Justice department began asking questions under oath about what appears to be a technical violation of federal law against promising jobs in exchange for political activity. But the White House hopes a united Democratic party, a tame press corps and - ahem - the good judgment of Attorney General Eric Holder will keep it from ever coming to that.

Regardless, the Sestak affair is clarifying. This is an administration that showcases the poetry of Barack Obama, while it runs on the prose of Rahm Emanuel. The president provides the rhetorical uplift; the chief of staff provides the politics as usual, with a vengeance. All of Obama's promises of more transparency and a better, cleaner politics were boob bait for the young and the impressionable.

If you still believe it, well, then, former president of the United States Bill Clinton has a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime, career-enhancing offer for you. Provided, of course, you don't want any pay or responsibility.

Who says Obama can't create jobs? Just be sure to have your lawyer on speed dial...
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