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KUHNER: Obama’s Watergate

Job quid pro quo could take down a presidency

- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2010

The White House is facing a major scandal - one that threatens to bring down President Obama. It could be his Watergate.

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, is the man at the center of the growing political storm. He reconfirmed this week his allegation that a senior White House official offered him a high-ranking job in exchange for withdrawing from the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary. It is widely believed the position was that of secretary of the Navy.

Mr. Sestak challenged Sen. Arlen Specter, who was strongly backed by Mr. Obama. Mr. Specter defected from the GOP last year, giving the Democrats the coveted 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. In Washington, nothing is for nothing. Mr. Specter surely asked for a quid pro quo: I switch parties in exchange for no primary opponent. The White House obliged. Hence, there was an effort to make Mr. Sestak an offer he couldn't refuse.

But refuse he did. And the irony is that Mr. Specter - the establishment candidate - was defeated by Mr. Sestak.

The White House is now in deep trouble. Either Mr. Sestak is lying, which means he is unfit to represent the people of Pennsylvania, or he is telling the truth: the White House offered him a senior post. Mr. Sestak has consistently told the same story for months. He has no reason to lie.

If true - and I believe it is - then the Obama administration has committed a serious felony. The White House has engaged in "high crimes and misdemeanors" - an impeachable offense.

The Sestak job offer is not only unethical, but also illegal. It is a federal crime - punishable by up to one year in prison - to seek to bribe a government official with a job or to use bribery in an attempt to interfere or manipulate an election publicly. The White House apparently committed several felonies of bribery and corruption.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is demanding a special prosecutor investigate Mr. Sestak's allegations.

"Congressman Sestak has continued to repeat his story whenever asked, without varying from the original version," Mr. Issa said. "The White House, however, has arrogantly and wrongly assumed that they can sweep this matter under the rug."

Republicans should not only demand an independent investigation, but they should also campaign on the issue for the November elections. The GOP should insist that, if they regain control of the House and Senate, they will pursue this matter all the way to impeachment proceedings.

The Sestak scandal symbolizes the arrogance and corruption of the Obama White House. The Chicago way has come to Washington. Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with sleazy thugs - starting with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and political adviser David Axelrod, Chicago boys who think that politics is about securing and maintaining power. For them, the ends justify the means.

The Obama team has engaged in unprecedented bribery to advance seminal pieces of their socialist agenda. For example, during the health care debate, they used billions in taxpayer dollars, along with influence peddling, to buy off key congressional votes. The Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback, the offering of a judgeship to the brother of Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, pork-barrel projects to build airports in honor of Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak in his Michigan district - all amounted to a massive swindle of the American people.

Mr. Obama is erecting a progressive kleptocracy: rampant corruption in the service of big-government liberalism, a thug state as handmaid to the nanny state. The offering of a senior-level job to prevent a congressman from challenging a sitting senator is not the act of an administration rooted in the rule of law and constitutional democracy. It is more reminiscent of a Third World gangster regime that thinks it is above the law - and that every public official has a price.

After promising the most "transparent" administration in history, Mr. Obama is desperately seeking to stonewall the media's growing interest in the scandal. His spokesman, Robert Gibbs, assures us that the White House's lawyers have looked into the phone calls and "nothing inappropriate" happened. Mr. Gibbs wants us to take their word for it. That is not only arrogant, it is a cover-up. If nothing inappropriate took place, then the White House should fully disclose the details of the conversations.

The central question is: Who in the Obama White House approached Mr. Sestak? Moreover, it is almost impossible for a proposal of such magnitude - especially that of a Cabinet-level position like Navy secretary - to be offered without the knowledge and consent of the president. What did Mr. Obama know and when did he know it?

At its core, Watergate was about the criminality and abuse of power that pervaded the Nixon White House. It eventually destroyed Richard Nixon's administration.

The Sestak scandal is Mr. Obama's Watergate - a political cancer that will slowly devour his presidency. It will first consume the president's men, as they desperately seek to contain the damage. Many may fall on their swords. But this cancer threatens to spread all the way to the top, claiming Mr. Obama as its ultimate progenitor and victim.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily host of "The Kuhner Show" on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570 .com) from 5 to 7 pm weekdays.

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