After three months of zipped lips and feigned ignorance, the Obama White House is finally taking real heat over Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak's consistent claims that the administration offered him a job to drop his Senate bid. Now it's time to redirect the spotlight where it belongs: on the top counsel behind the Washington stonewall, Bob "The Silencer" Bauer.
On Sunday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs glibly asserted that "lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak. And nothing inappropriate happened." With whom were these conversations had? Gibbs won't say. Neither will Attorney General Eric Holder, who dismissed "hypotheticals" when questioned about Sestak's allegations last week on Capitol Hill by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Holder is simply taking his cue from the commander-in-chief's personal lawyer and Democratic Party legal boss.
You see, on March 10, Issa also sent a letter to Bauer, the White House counsel to the president, requesting specifics: Did White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel contact Sestak? Did White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina (whom another Democrat, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, has accused of offering a cabinet position in exchange for his withdrawal)? How about the White House Office of Political Affairs? Any other individuals? What position(s) was/were offered in exchange for Sestak's withdrawal? And what, if any, steps did Bauer take to investigate possible criminal activity?
Bauer's answers? Zip. Nada. Zilch. While the veteran attorney ducked under a table with the president, Gibbs stalled publicly as long as he could -- deferring inquiries about the allegations one week by claiming he had been "on the road" and had "not had a chance to delve into this," and then admitting the next week that he had "not made any progress on that," refusing the week after that to deny or admit the scheme, and then urging reporters to drop it because "whatever happened is in the past."
But the laws governing such public corruption are still on the books. And unlike Gibbs, the U.S. code governing bribery, graft and conflicts of interest is rather straightforward: "Whoever solicits or receives ... any ... thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."