Promoted from diaries: video at bottom of post. – Moe Lane
On Monday, Joe Biden’s wife – in an interview with Oprah Winfrey – divulged an interesting little secret: Obama promised Joe Biden an appointment as Secretary of State if he were to turn down the Vice-Presidential nomination.
Scranton Joe hushed his wife with a loud “shh!” immediately after the slip. (Apparently, only Biden men are allowed to make inappropriate verbal gaffes in nationally televised interviews). It was just so darn cute, though, that the audience erupted into laughter. Jill Biden went on to explain that they turned down the SecState job because it would require a lot of travel, and Jill just can’t stand being away from the big lug. At this point, I am guessing that the crowd let out an “awww” that hasn’t been heard since the Olsen twins first strolled out on the set of Full House (and into our hearts). And so, the nation enjoyed yet another endearing and heartwarming moment during the inspirational build-up to the historic inauguration of Saint President Barack Obama.
At least, that is the saccharine spin from the AP. There is, however, an alternative interpretation of this story – one that does not fit quite as well with the mood of excitement and anticipation at the coming Golden Age: Jill Biden inadvertently revealed a serious federal crime by the President-elect, and her husband quickly tried to shut her up before she divulged more details about the criminal act.
As many of you know, 18 U.S.C. § 599 sets forth the following election crime:
Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
This statute is the reason candidates never reveal their key appointments before the election, despite the obvious benefit of naming potential Cabinet members with large constituencies. It is also fairly well-known to the press – whenever one of the “talking heads” suggests that a candidate declare all or part of their cabinet appointments in order to give assurances on some pressing issue, the law will usually be brought up by another pundit as the reason such a strategy cannot be used. In short, both Obama and the AP knew or should have known that promising the State Department to Biden before the election is highly unethical and potentially criminal.
Now, I don’t think this will derail the Obama Express. The statute has not been tested with respect to a President’s Cabinet (presumably because all previous Presidents have been experienced enough to avoid the rookie mistake of explicitly promising Cabinet appointments). Also, the law’s vagueness allows plenty of weasel-room, and Obama’s staff has plenty of weasels to find that room and squeeze Obama through it. However, if the Obama administration even thinks about prosecuting brave servants of our country (including President Bush) for frightening terrorists with cups of water, then they should have no problem appointing a special prosecutor to investigate whether Obama violated federal law by pledging the State Department to a gaffe-prone blowhard so he could win an election.