Sestak ‘Bribe:’ Impeachable Offense, or Just Stupid Politics?

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Representative Sestak waves to supporters after declaring victory in his US Senate primary

REUTERS / Beverly Schaefer

Some are dubbing the scandal “bribe-gate,” and one representative has already raised the specter of an “impeachable offense.”Here’s the story: Representative Joe Sestak, who beat Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania primary last week, now claims that at one point he was offered a job by someone in the Obama administration if he were to bow out of the contest. The White House firmly denies the claim, but the charge has led several congressional Republicans to react in outrage.

Demands have been made that the President appoint an independent counsel to investigate. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, has called for a formal investigations, saying he agrees with Dick Morris that, if the allegations prove true, such a bribe would be an impeachable offense.

Setting aside all validity of the charges, and the legal definition of “bribe,” it’s a scandal that couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for an administration dealing with multiple high-profile issues. In the Gulf, the BP mess continues to set new records as America’s largest-ever oil spill. In Washington, Congress is on the verge of another Supreme Court battle, as Obama tries to appoint Elena Kagan to the court.

TIME’s Michael Grunwald, however, says that while a job offer may rise to the level of a disturbing event, it’s less an impeachable crime than simply uncharacteristically stupid politics.”