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Washington Post The Fix blogger, Chris Cillizza

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HH: Coming out of John Boehner, who better to talk to than Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, where he blogs at The Fix. Chris, how are you today?

CC: Hugh, I’m wonderful. Thank you for having me.

HH: Well, I’ve got to ask you whether you think the Sestak affair, l’Affair Sestak is going to get bigger.

CC: (laughing) I would say it will get more prominent before it gets less prominent. I wrote this today on the blog. Look, I don’t think that where the White House and where Sestak has left it is going to be acceptable. You can’t have the White House essentially saying trust us, no legal, no laws were broken here. We’re not going to tell you what the here is, but no laws were broken. And Sestak essentially having said yes, a job was offered to me, now not saying anything, this is just not a tenable political position to sit in. I would guess that within the next sort of 48 hours or so, it will move in one way, shape or form. I mean, look, it’s not in the White House or Joe Sestak’s interest to keep this story lingering out there. The question is how do they solve it? And I don’t know the answer to that yet, Hugh.

HH: Now 18USC, Section 600, criminalizes the promise of employment or other benefit for political activity. And then there’s conspiracy issues as well. These are all the statutes that are in play. I think they’ve just got to come out and say who talked to them, and what did they say, and Sestak’s got to confirm it. And until and unless we hear that, or Sestak repudiates his earlier statement, I think it goes on, Chris Cillizza. Am I wrong?

CC: No, I don’t think you’re wrong. I think what we’re going, my guess would be you know, I think like all legal matters, you can read the statute a lot of different ways. I’ve talked to Republican and Democratic lawyers in the last 24 hours who have read it in different ways. The question is, is it the same thing to simply float the idea that the job exists versus saying if you drop out, we will give you this job? And which, or either, did they do? And the question is, we don’t know that. Obviously, these were private conversations. Sestak said something happened. We know something happened. Sestak said it. Robert Gibbs has said nothing untoward happened. But obviously, something happened. They need to get to what is that something, and what they need, in terms of messaging, is why this is being made a bigger deal than it actually is.

HH: All right, Chris Cillizza, earlier today, the Department of Homeland Security alerted Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somali-based al-Shahab terrorist group who might be attempting to enter the country through Mexico. How does that impact this debate that is suddenly come out of nowhere in the last three weeks about the Arizona statute, the 1,200 National Guard, the president of Mexico…

CC: Yup.

HH: What’s this terror watch do to that debate?

CC: Well, you know, there’s, Hugh, you know this better than I, there’s long been the tie-in border security, and national security or homeland security are not indistinct. This would further those who believe that argument. You know, you saw liberal groups unhappy in the last few days saying that President Obama had caved to Republican interests on immigration. You know, my general attitude on immigration is I guess I continue to be skeptical until proven otherwise that we’re to see any comprehensive immigration reform move at any point before the 2010 election. I just think it’s way too hot button of an issue. You know, you had, you have no obvious Republican support for it. You have a number of Democrats probably not willing to toe that line, having already done so on stimulus, on health care, and on some of these, on cap and trade in the House. So unless external events continue to intrude, and I would caveat by saying that does happen, and you know, you’ve seen this Arizona law really serve as a catalyst in a lot of ways to bring this debate back to the fore. I still think it’s unlikely that we see significant comprehensive action before November, solely, Hugh, because of the political reality that members of Congress, politicians do not like to do hard things in election years, or things where there’s not a clear, political winner.

HH: If a Somali gets across that border, there will be a clear, political loser.

CC: And that’s, Hugh, you’re right. I always say events can overtake things. You know, look, I would say the oil spill in the Gulf is a perfect example. You know, that’s kind of reoriented what we’re all talking about and focused on in the last few weeks, and probably will continue to do so. And if I had been on, I was on a month ago, I wouldn’t have said anything about it.

HH: Let me go there for the last minute we’ve got, Chris.

CC: Yes.

HH: I’ve posted pictures of Barbara Boxer and President Obama last night clinking glasses at the Fairmont Hotel as Louisiana gets covered in slime. How big of a mistake, if it was a mistake was it, for Barack Obama to go campaigning in luxury when Louisiana is suffering?

CC: Well, you had two things. You had Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator being revealed that she was going to do a fundraiser, and then promptly canceling it, and you had the Obama in California…you know, Republicans clearly believe this is an opening. They believe that it’s the visuals. Hugh, as I talk to you, I’m watching Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, on television. You know, I think they believe that the visuals of President Obama going to raise money for Barbara Boxer in San Francisco will benefit them both in the short term in this election, and in the long terms in the 2012 election. You know, the basic job that the Obama administration, remember, was elected at least in part on the idea that they would, unlike many people believed the Bush administration did, be competent when it came to handling these things.

HH: You’re right, and they haven’t been. Chris Cillizza, we’re out of time from the Washington Post. Always a pleasure, Chris.

End of interview.

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