Bribery and Blackmail, Pot and Kettle

The dangers of failing to distinguish everyday politics from illegal coercion

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From Monday's Washington Post, about Meg Whitman and her opponent in the Republican primary for governor of California, Steve Poizner:


Earlier this year, Mike Murphy, her chief strategist, contacted two Poizner strategists and encouraged them to persuade Poizner to drop out. If he stayed in, Murphy warned, the Whitman campaign would bury him in a barrage of negative attacks. "They tried to steamroll me out of the race," Poizner said.

Hmmm. If the Obama administration's offer of an unpaid, largely honorary job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania primary against Arlen Specter constitutes an illegal bribe, as Republican leaders are claiming, isn't this pretty clearly blackmail? "Drop out or we'll destroy your reputation." Of course if negative advertising were a crime, two thirds of national politicians in both parties would be in jail. In fact, their confessions are already on tape ("I'm Mitch McConnell and I paid for this ad.") I think the Republicans should drop this Sestak business. It's a nice little party they have. It certainly would be a pity if their comeback hopes for November got mired in a ridiculous controversy about the difference between everyday politics and illegal coercion.

More From Michael Kinsley


My Country, 'Tis of Me (June 2010 Atlantic)


Clinton, Sestak, and 'His Girl Friday' (5/30)


Cut the Boomers a Break (5/28)


Show Me Your Documents (5/26)


An Immigration Meme (5/25)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.