Liddick: Where’s that cleaner White House we were promised? |

Liddick: Where’s that cleaner White House we were promised?

So much for the promise of a “transparent” administration. On the other hand, stand up if you believed it.

The most serious problem the Obama administration faces, now that e-mails have come to light courtesy of Colorado’s very own Andrew Romanoff, is not legal in nature. It is instead a problem of ethics and trust, and we’re all involved.

Cast your mind back to the heady days of the 2008 presidential campaign. Remember the promises of openness, transparency and a “change in the way Washington does business?” Now, the same people who swore up and down that they were going to be a breath of fresh air in the stale atmosphere of our nation’s capital are insisting that “there was no criminal act” in offering jobs paid for by your money to people challenging Barack Obama’s flaccid favorites.

Repeat after me, everyone: “Your president is not a crook. Your president is not a crook. Your president is not a crook …” At least this president looks like he shaves regularly, and knows how to wear a suit. And Rahm Emanuel doesn’t look a bit like H.R. Haldeman. He just acts like him.

Perhaps the current in crowd will tumble more quickly than the Nixonians to the fact that, in politics, it’s not the crime that kills you – it’s the coverup. Or in this case, the mealy mouthed parsing of the meaning of meaning. What is “is,” again, please? It’s telling that William Jefferson Clinton was chosen to whisper in Joe Sestak’s ear: When the question of truth or evasion comes up, no one can sail as close to the wind as the man from Hope.

There’s a rotten smell in the cases of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff. Both announced campaigns against administration stooges; both received “communications” from the White House fixer corps about federal “positions” that might be available, should they terminate their pursuits. Both were finely tailored: in Mr. Romanoff’s case, the messages from Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina dealt with positions he had previously solicited, and they arrived before the formal announcement of his candidacy. In the instance of Congressman Sestak, a non-compensated “advisory” position was dangled.

When questioned, neither candidate would discuss the offers. Congressman Sestak pointedly said he was waiting for the White House to deal with the issue first; Mr. Romanoff simply clammed up until last week, when the questions apparently got a little too pointed. One can imagine the heat generated on the phone lines between Denver and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the interim.

The question of legality in these cases is a close one. Since Mr. Romanoff was not formally a candidate at the time of the contact, the Federal statute governing subornation in a political contest may not apply, although 18 USC 600 says that a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government, in return for a “political act.” Which might be presumed to be a decision not to run against a White House sock puppet. Colorado’s statute is not so narrowly drawn, however, so there may be criminal proceedings in our fair state.

The case of Congressman Sestak is more of a problem, chez Obama: Although the position offered was uncompensated, US code 211, Section 18 defines the offer of “anything of value” in return for a political favor as a crime, as does US code 211 section 595, which prohibits a Federal official from “interfering with a nomination or election for office. Note that the congressman was a candidate when the approach was made. Pretty clearly, the law was violated here.

Will we ever know the details of these offers, or – save the soul-baring confessions of similar targets – others which may have been made? Improbable. The Democrat leaders of Congress have the power to turn aside demands for inquiries and testimony under oath, and their reluctance to troll in troubled waters in an election year, coupled with ongoing pressure from the suborning parties at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, will probably guarantee the whole truth will never out.

But “was it criminal” is only one of the questions here. The other is, was it ethical? Was it right? Remember, these were the folks who promised cleanliness in Washington, bereft of the common hurly-burly of political horse-trading, distasteful compromise and ugly quid-pro-quos. Shall we be naughty and ask ourselves what would have been the outcry had such an attempt at subornation happened in the previous administration? Would we have accepted a self-investigation resulting in a figurative shrug and insistence that “nothing happened?”

If the answer is “no,” we ought to think very carefully about what the current administration is selling. And what it means if we buy it.

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at Also, comment on this column at

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