Politics is still not a crime

POLITICS IS STILL NOT A CRIME…. Much of the political media is all aflutter again this morning, in light of news that the White House intervened in another Senate primary. But this one is every bit as dull as the Sestak story, and perhaps more so.

In Colorado, state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff announced he’d take on appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a Democratic primary. Romanoff had, however, previously applied for a job with the Obama administration. The White House reached out to him, and asked if he was still interested in the position. Romanoff said he was sticking with the Senate race, and the White House backed off. There was no job offer, and no guarantee that one would be traded for the other.

I hate to disappoint bored political reporters, but this isn’t controversial. It’s not even interesting. Mark Halperin seems especially excited about the “story,” noting the ways in which it’s “potentially more serious” than the Sestak matter. But that’s silly — Romanoff applied for a job, so it’s hardly scandalous to see if he still wanted it.

Besides, no one, anywhere, has even tried to explain why this kind of intervention is different from any other White House in American history, or why every single objective legal/ethics expert who’s looked at this has concluded there’s nothing untoward about the efforts.

There is no scandal here. There are no Pulitzers to be won. Media professionals are embarrassing themselves by treating this as a legitimate issue.

Norm Ornstein tries to help clarify matters.

If what the Obama administration did was impeachable, then Rep. Issa might want to consider retroactive impeachment action against Ronald Reagan, whose White House directly suggested to S.I. Hayakawa that he would get an administration position if he would stay out of the Republican primary for Senate in California; or call for an investigation and special prosecutor of the Bush White House for discussing a Cabinet post with Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to clear the field for their preferred Republican candidate Mike Johanns in 2006. At the same time, Issa might want to call for expulsion of his Senate colleague Judd Gregg, who insisted before he accepted the post of Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration that there be a guarantee that his successor, appointed by a Democratic governor, be a Republican.

Why would credible journalists — who must know better — pretend there’s a story here? Jon Chait’s argument yesterday makes a lot of sense: “The best I can do is that President Obama has been in office for nearly a year and a half and we’ve yet to have even an appetizer-sized scandal. Therefore, everybody’s jumping on the first one to come along.”

Right. When it comes to White House scandals, we’ve seen some doozies in recent memory, and the political media can’t get enough of them. Obama hasn’t so much as thrown morsels at the scandal-starved political media, so they’re forced to pretend a piece of lint that looks like a crumb is actually a hearty meal.

But that’s hardly a compelling excuse for painfully over-the-top coverage. Responsible reporters should wait for an actual controversy, not define “controversy” down to the point of meaninglessness.