Clinton and Emanuel’s Sestak Ploy: Democratic Leaders Show Expediency Over Teamwork

Rep. Joe Sestak

Former President Bill Clinton and current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to persuade Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) to bow out of a contentious Pennsylvania Senate primary against incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) was not just bad politics, but bad teamwork.

Prior to changing allegiance to the Democrats in 2009, the 80 year-old Specter was an elected Republican for 44 years.  Sestak, 58, in contrast, is far earlier in his political career, swiftly embracing Democratic politics with his election to the House in 2006 just a year after his retirement from the Navy.

Clinton and Emanuel clearly were focused more on expediency than principle when they designed their ploy to persuade Sestak to forgo the Senate race in exchange for an executive branch role to supplement his House seat. A former Vice Admiral, Sestak is just the kind of elected official the Democrats need to expand their tent to conservative communities that have traditionally favored Republican candidates.

Fortunately for the Democrats, the ploy may have ended up strengthening Sestak’s image by showing that he has both the mettle to stand up to heavy hitters in his own party, and the grace to defend their actions afterwards. 1  In my view, that’s the kind of individual you want on your team, as opposed to someone who was allied against it for most of his career.

  1. “White House admits effort to keep Sestak out of Senate race,”, May 28, 20010, []

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