Did Obama Try to Bribe Sestak?

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa) is insisting that the Obama Administration offered him a “high-ranking job” in return for his withdrawal from the May Democratic primary against five-term Sen. (and Republican convert) Arlen Specter.  As of yesterday (February 23rd), the top spokesmen for both the President and the Secretary of Defense were not commenting one way or another.

 Last Thursday, two-termer Sestak stunned his fellow Keystone State pols during an interview with veteran Philadelphia TV newsman Larry Kane.  At one point, Kane asked Sestak whether the White House had offered him “a high ranking job in the administration … to get you to drop out of the primary?”

“Yes,” Sestak replied, without hesitation.

 When Kane pressed him as to whether that position was secretary of the navy, retired Vice Admiral Sestak replied: “I can’t comment on that.”  However, he pointed out that the job he was referring to was “high up.”  Sestak also made clear he would have never left the campaign for a government appointment.

Sestak’s claim was brought up twice yesterday during the regular briefing of reporters at the White House.  Asked by ABC-TV’s Jake Tapper if the White House had any comment on it, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs replied: “I was traveling for a couple of days, as you know.  I have seen some stuff on that, but I have not looked into this.”

That was not the end of it.  Major Garrett of Fox News pointed out to Gibbs that “on Friday, unnamed officials of this building did vociferously deny Representative Sestak’s assessment that he had been offered a job.  And I just want to say, when you said, ‘I haven’t looked at this,’ I want to make sure you’re not contradicting that denial.”

The President’s top spokesman insisted that “because I was on the road and dealing with different things on the road, I’ve not had a chance to delve into this.”

Pressed by Garrett as to whether he felt there was anything “inappropriate” about such a discussion with Sestak, Gibbs said only that he would have “somebody look into that” because “like I said, I was on the road and I don’t really have a whole lot of knowledge on this.”

Sestak, however, has no doubt about what was said and offered to him.  Following Gibbs’exchange with reporters, I spoke to the congressman’s press secretary Jonathon Dworkin and he told me without hesitation: “Congressman Sestak stands by his statement.  He was asked a direct question and answered honestly.  Nothing further needs to be said.” 

I posed the same question through e-mail to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and asked if Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had any discussions with Sestak about a position. 

“I will check,” Morrell e-mailed me, “First I have heard of such a thing.”

Indiana’s Gov. Daniels Disagrees With Florida’s Crist on Stimulus Package

One day after Florida Gov. Charlie Crist made a spirited defense of the President’s $787 billion stimulus package and his early support of it, a fellow Republican governor took sharp issue with him. 

When I read Crist’s strong words of support for the Obama stimulus package to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels yesterday (January 23rd) and asked if he agreed with the Floridian, Daniels replied: “No”

“Although let me hasten to add I didn’t criticize the idea of some fiscal stimulus as part of the attempt to jump start [the economy],” Daniels told me during a breakfast in Washington held by the Christian Science Monitor. “The way they did it turned out to be mediocre, to be gentle about it.”

In the view of onetime Office of Management and Budget chief Daniels, little of the stimulus package was spent on jump-starting the private sector and most “was spent to maintain social programs.”

 Recalling his days as a Reagan White House aide and OMB director under George W. Bush — “I served two sentences in White Houses” — Daniels insisted that “I’m inclined to be a little charitable to whoever’s there because they always have to operate under incredible pressure.”

But he felt the results were poor and so, “I disagree with Charlie.”