They almost certainly were not illegal, but the White House's efforts to nudge candidates out of particular U.S. Senate races violated the spirit and promises of Barack Obama's campaign and were politically ham-handed to boot.
Obama ran in 2008 as an agent of change. He defeated Hillary Clinton and then John McCain in large part by convincing voters that he would usher in a new era of politics, one marked by transparency, ethical behavior and principled motivations.
Instead, the product of Illinois politics is giving critics the ammunition they need to credibly accuse him of orchestrating "Chicago-style, back-room dealing" from the Oval Office.
The American people are not naïve — they know that national politics is a contact sport. We can hardly feign shock that a politician acts politically. But voters also expect their president to be above the appearance of sleaze, especially when that president ran on the platform Obama did. Any individual instance of this might go largely unnoticed, but a pattern is emerging.
At least twice in recent days it was revealed that the Obama administration directly or indirectly tried to persuade Democratic candidates not to run in U.S. Senate primaries against White House-favored candidates by floating potential appointments their way. In Pennsylvania, former President Bill Clinton talked with U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, at the request of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, about not running against Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak stood to receive an unpaid advisory position if he didn't challenge Specter.
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