–Sestak statement added below–
Greg Sargent was the first to break the story.
Bottom line: nothing here, put away the popcorn.
Now, I’m a regular watcher of “Morning Joe.” So, I was cringing every time Scarborough began ranting about Sestak being offered the Sect. of Navy job. Chuck Todd did his best to keep Joe Scarborough, as well as Mika Brzezinski, from leaning too far forward on this story. They ignored him. Mika is supposed to be a seasoned journalist, so she really has no excuse. As for Joe, he should know that just because a politician demurs from addressing the issue you want answered doesn’t mean the assumption you’re implying is true. Joe Sestak never at any time answered in the affirmative to the SecNav query Joe kept pushing. Even in a very contentious back and forth with Chuck Todd, they wouldn’t listen to reason.
I’ve interviewed Mr. Sestak on multiple occasions. (Interestingly, so have Joe and Mika.) As I wrote earlier, there was no way I believed he would be involved with anything remotely illegal or unseemly. If he’s guilty of anything it’s being too honest, but also a little contrarian, which has gotten him in trouble before, because he didn’t like the big-footing of the White House. Sestak was committed to his run for Senate, period.
White House sent out a memorandum to members of the media, with this the bottom line as far as I’m concerned:
… White House staff did not discuss these options (Sect. of Navy, Uncompensated Advisory Board Options) with Congressman Sestak. The White House Chief of Staff (Rahm Emanuel) enlisted the support of former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board. Congressman Sestak declined the suggested alternatives, remaining committed to his Senate candidacy. – Memorandum from White House Counsel Robert Bauer
As for Pres. Bill Clinton’s involvement, anyone surprised that Mr. Emanuel would enlist him to go to Joe Sestak, a Hillary primary backer, especially after the Obama backed Arlen Specter, as is customary in the support the incumbent mode of the Big Two parties, is simply naive.
The White House memorandum was specific as to why they reached out:
… Efforts were made in June and July of 2009… .. which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.
It’s not like the Obama White House pulled a John McCain, offering a position to someone unready and unqualified for the job.
There is nothing inappropriate in Pres. Clinton’s outreach or the White House wanting to keep Sestak in his House seat, which is a tough win for Democrats. That’s pure Rahm, who knows these races.
To the rumor Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were huffing and puffing about all this week, that Sestak was offered the SecNav job, the White House council simply said: “This is false.”
UPDATE: Joe Sestak’s statement:
“Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background. He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.
“There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.”