How the Sestak job offer became a big deal

The Fix

by Chris Cillizza

WashintonPost.com

May, 28, 2010

Updated: 5:23 p.m.
Party leaders and campaign operatives — on nearly a daily basis — approach challenger candidates seeking to disrupt the established political order with a simple message: Get out or else.

And so, the report this morning that former President Bill Clinton was tasked by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to make such an approach to Rep. Joe Sestak — allegedly offering him an unpaid advisory role on an intelligence board in exchange for getting him to drop his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — would not normally raise much of a stir in official Washington.

That the story has become a major controversy, a regular fixture on cable news chat shows and a momentum-killer for Sestak following his come-from behind victory against Specter in last week’s Pennsylvania primary is evidence of how the White House mishandled the controversy, according to conversations with several high-level Democratic strategists.

“How do you make something out of nothing?,” asked one such operative who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the matter. “By acting guilty when you’re innocent.”

Another senior party official said that the White House “has a lot of egg on their face” and described the events as a “PR nightmare”.

The unfolding of events since Sestak told a local television host — albeit obliquely — in February that he had received a job offer from the White House speaks to one of the oldest political adages about the presidency: stonewalling almost never works. (The full White House report on the matter is  here.) More…

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