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Is Sestak Offer A Reprise Of 1982 Reagan Move?

May 28, 2010

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My in-box is quickly filling up with reactions and thoughts about what to make of the Joe Sestak "drop-out-of-the-Senate-race-and-we'll-get-you-a-job" story.

The mail is split between one side saying this is a non-story because it happens all the time, and the other side reminding us that President Obama promised "transparency" and that this would not be a "politics as usual" administration.

My own view is that both points are correct.  It does happen all the time — and I'll get to that in a moment.  That's not the view of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is saying this "could be President Barack Obama's Watergate scandal."  Roll Call is reporting that Issa "posited that Obama, his aides and/or his emissaries could have committed multiple felonies and questioned whether 'corruption as usual is to be excused because it's President Obama's administration'":

"Karl Rove would be — right now — in pretrial confinement if he had orchestrated this sort of a deal," Issa added.

"This is punishable by prison," Issa said. "It is a felony, and this is exactly what President Obama campaigned against, even the appearance of. In this case, there is a huge difference between rewarding a political supporter with an ambassadorship, which is done all the time and is legal, and a quid pro quo in which you make a promise for something — illegal — or the distorting of an election."

I'm having a hard time thinking this is "punishable by prison."  But to watch the administration hem and haw about what happened, with non-answers followed by non-answers, it was, if nothing else, disappointing.  And the delay only helped create more conspiracy theories.

The administration released a statement on its role in the matter this morning.

Meanwhile, Matt Ortega, on Twitter, has unearthed an Associated Press story from 1981.  Here's the first paragraph:

Sen. S.I. Hayakawa on Wednesday spurned a Reagan administration suggestion that if he drops out of the crowded Republican Senate primary race in California, President Reagan would find him a job.

Hayakawa, who was seeking a second term at the time, was being urged by GOP officials to withdraw from the 1982 primary, a race that included, among others, Reps. Barry Goldwater Jr. & Bob Dornan, San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, and First Daughter Maureen Reagan.  The last thing the White House wanted was a split-conservative field that would end in the nomination of Rep. Pete McCloskey, a longtime anathema to the Right.

Hayakawa ultimately decided not to run for re-election.  Wilson won the primary and was elected in November.

Here's a link to Matt's posting of the A.P. story.

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