WBRE-TV has reported that former President Bill Clinton, who until yesterday has not spoken publicly on the controversy, denied any involvement in trying to maneuver Sestak out of the race:
“Clinton denied it to EyeWitness news, saying he never tried to get Sestak out of the race and has never been accused of it.” (WBRE-TV, 8/10/10)Sestak is wedded to this version of events having used it as proof he is able to stand against the party he votes with a mere 97% of the time. Moreover, Sestak used it as fodder for a comedy skit at at Stu Bykofsky’s 20th annual Candidates Comedy Night last night. Sestak's routine, a riff off of Letterman's top ten list, counted down a list of jobs he was offered in order to drop from his Democratic primary challenge to Senator Arlen Specter. Sestak was said to have quipped, “Sestak is actually Slovak for ‘job offer.’ During his routine Sestak suggests he was offered the position of Rahm Emmanuel's etiquette coach. While this is clearly a joke, Sestak mentions that he said "Mr. President sometimes the party clearly does ask too much."
Sestak told a different story on May 28th:
“Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background. He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives.”
Clinton's denial leaves him some wiggle room. While he denies specifically being involved in attempting to persuade Sestak to drop from the race, he doesn't flatly deny relaying a job offer. His claim he has never been accused of it either is perfectly true as well; the controversy always centered on White House involvement. This does, however, put the whole issue back in the race. Toomey may or may not find this helpful as Sestak seems to believe this incident proves his independence from his party. His comedy skit last evening seemed intent on putting some distance between himself and Rahm Emmanuel as well as other unpopular Democrats in Pennsylvania - namely Ed Rendell. As I have said before the only time Joe Sestak stands against his party is when it suits his career plans. If I were Pat Toomey I would repeat that point until every Pennsylvania voter knows it by heart.
Side note: Toomey's comedy skit was actually very well received according to PA2010. The site awarded the skit, Best Policy-Focused Routine:
Ever the conservative wonk, the GOP Senate nominee continued to riff on bailouts, stimulus spending and health care. Chevrolet’s new hybrid sedan, he said, “runs on a combination of gasoline and bailout funds.” But his best joked hinged on the idea that a lame-duck Congress will take up Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, immigration reform and marijuana legalization: “If you’re a gay Mexican drug dealer looking to sneak across the border to join the Navy, then this is your year.”Video available at the link for anyone interested.