Romanoff’s revelation and Obama’s jobs

With apologies to “Casablanca,” we’re shocked — shocked! — to learn what the Obama administration has done.

The White House has dangled potential jobs in front of two Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate — including Colorado’s Andrew Romanoff — to persuade them to abandon their campaigns so that candidates favored by the president wouldn’t face difficult primary battles.

Why, that sort of intraparty political pressure is absolutely unheard of in American politics. And if you believe that, we have some oceanfront property for sale in Mack.

Party candidates for top political offices have often been chosen through backroom political deals, often with presidents involved. What’s different now — in the age of e-mails, the Internet and cable television news — is that it’s harder to keep the details of the dealing contained in the backrooms.

Also, there was a time when candidates such as Romanoff and Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak knew they would pay a steep political price for revealing their discussions with the president’s team. It says something about the effectiveness of the Obama team that neither man now fears White House repercussions. In fact, in the year of the outsider, they may actually benefit from going public with their stories of White House pressure.

Whether that pressure violates federal law is another matter. It may be true that the Obama team stepped close to the line of a law that prohibits offering anything of value to try to influence a candidate’s political decisions.

However, because Sestak was offered only a non-paid positiion on a government board, and because Romanoff says he was never actually offered a job, it will probably be tough to prove the law was broken.

Republicans who dream of impeachment hearings or criminal charges are likely to be severely disappointed.

Still, the ham-handed backroom maneuvering has done little to enhance the reputation of Obama’s political advisers. It highlights how far they have strayed from Obama’s promise of open and transparent government. And it shows they aren’t very good at it.

One columnist likened Obama’s political team’s action to the impluses of Chicago political boss Richard Daley and the execution of bumbling Barney Fife.

Moreover, the White House efforts to help favored candidates reinforce the notion that politics have long been an insider’s game, with candidates chosen based on the wishes of party leaders, not those of citizens or rank-and-file party members.

Perhaps that’s one reason why voters seem determined not to reward such favoritism this year.


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