When does a political deal become a bribe?
At the 1952 Republican National Convention, California's favorite son, Gov. Earl Warren, released his delegation reportedly in return for Ike's promise that he would give Warren the first open seat on the Supreme Court.
In September 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson dropped dead of a heart attack. As they say, the rest is history.
In 1824, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of both the popular and electoral votes, but not a majority. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams came in second; Speaker of the House Henry Clay fourth.
Between Jackson and Clay, however, there was a great hate. When Gen. Jackson had gone rogue in Florida, hanging two British subjects for aiding renegade Indians and packing the Spanish governor onto a boat to Havana, almost igniting war with Spain and Britain, Clay had charged Jackson with Caesarism.
The general told friends that when Congress adjourned, he was going to challenge Clay to a duel and kill the speaker of the House.
With no majority in the Electoral College, the contest went to the House. There, Speaker Clay persuaded supporters to back Adams, who emerged with a 13-7 victory among state congressional delegations.
Jackson's supporters were doubly enraged when Adams named as his secretary of state -- stepping stone to the presidency for Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Adams himself -- Henry Clay.
"Corrupt bargain!" went the cry. No investigation was held, but a disgusted nation would give Jackson two terms as president and deny Clay his life's ambition in all three of his runs.
At his death in 1845, Jackson reportedly told friends he had but two regrets -- that he had not "hanged (John) Calhoun and shot Clay."
Which brings us to Rep. Joe Sestak's claim that he was offered an administration job if he would abandon his race against Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania. Reportedly, the job offered to the retired admiral was secretary of the navy.
On May 18, Sestak won that primary, and his charge that he was proffered a White House bribe, or deal, went viral.
So, today, Joe has a problem. And so does the White House.
For if Sestak was offered a high post in the administration to abandon his challenge to a U.S. senator endorsed by Obama, this would seem on its face a criminal violation of federal law.
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