Commentary Magazine


Meet Joe Sestak

David Gregory on Meet the Press asked Joe Sestak a rather straightforward question: “What I’m asking is whether you are an Obama Democrat who supported stimulus, who supported health care, who’s with him on all the major elements of his agenda. Are you or are you not an Obama Democrat?” His answer was long and rambling and no answer at all:

I’ve always described–I’ve always described myself as an independent-thinking person who believes in Democratic principles. Those are the same principles this president believes in. But if I think they’re doing something that isn’t right in accordance with the principles that help, help families in Pennsylvania, I’ll stand up just like I did then. I’m a pretty pragmatic guy, you know. I come from the military, everybody has health care. And the dividends that accrue to our nation are immense. We don’t even, we don’t even promote you above a certain rating or rank unless you have an education, an associates college degree. I’d say pretty much those are kind of principles that give dividends to our nation. Imagine a work force that’s healthy and educated, that can compete with China and India. That’s the kind of focus and Democrat I am.

I’m not sure what that all means. But it is clear that the media and public are going to be probing how close Democratic candidates are to Obama. And it’s interesting that even liberals like Sestak strain to put distance between themselves and the leader of the party. If Obama was a net positive, Sestak would have answered something along the lines of “I’m proud to champion the president’s agenda.”

On foreign policy, too, there’s no sign of daylight between Obama and Sestak on Israel (where he prefers J Street letters over AIPAC letters) or on Iran policy (where he has been cheerleading for engagement). It seems, as on domestic policy, he’s in lockstep with Obama: tough on Israel, easy on Iran.

Sestak is an incumbent in an election year in which incumbents are having a tough time. And unlike Mark Critz in the PA-12, Sestak isn’t going to be able to say he’s a pro-gun, pro-life Democrat who opposes cap-and-trade and ObamaCare.