Interview with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

Interview with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

By On the Record - May 26, 2010

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's not just Republicans who want answers from both the White House and Congressman Joe Sestak. Some Democrats want answers, including Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. But Governor Rendell's reasons are a bit different. He joins us live.

Good evening, sir.

GOV. ED RENDELL, D-PENN.: Hi, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. So Governor, why do you want answers on this Congressman Sestak/White House issue?

RENDELL: Well, I agree with part of what Senator Graham said. I think, look, this is something where the White House should be as transparent as they can be, and so should Joe Sestak. I think that's part of our obligation as public officials.

But secondly, it's good politically because if they try to stonewall and don't say any more than what they've said, this is going to fester and you're going to get irresponsible calls for a special prosecutor here. This is not the type of thing that lends itself to a special prosecutor.

But I think we should hear what actually was said. If we -- if the White House and Congressman Sestak don't do this, then, as you said, Greta, the impression that people take is probably far worse than the actual reality and it becomes an issue that festers and festers and festers. Right now, I don't think it's a major issue with voters, and I think they should just say what was said.

And I wasn't there and I have no idea. As you know, I was supporting Senator Specter. A great deal of good my support did him. But my guess is it was a similar conversation to one I had back in 2006, when I got a call from Senator Schumer. And he said, We think Bob Casey is our strongest candidate to run against Senator Santorum. We have polls to back it up. Could you try to clear the field? And I said, Look, I'll try. I'm not a guy who tells people what to do. People told me not to run for governor in 2002 because a guy from Philadelphia could never win and all I was going to do was force our candidate to spend money. So I didn't listen then, so I wasn't going to force anybody.

But I had a conversation with one of the candidates, former congressman Joe Hoeffel, and I showed him the polls. And I said, Joe, it doesn't look like you have much of a chance to win. It looks like Bob Casey is our only candidate. But Bob's not going to run if he has to spend all his money in a primary and wake up the next day far behind Senator Santorum in fundraising. And I said, I know, Joe, that you love public service, just like I do, and you want to continue to serve. So think about this, and if you decide not to run, come back and see me. There's a lot of things a guy of our talent and experience can do in state government, and let's discuss it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

RENDELL: And that was the conversation I had. And by the way, Congressman Hoeffel did withdraw. He came back to see me a month later, and he became the deputy secretary of commerce in charge of our foreign and -- export program, and we doubled our exports in five years, from $16 billion to $34 billion.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right, congratulations to him for doing that. All right, now, here's what -- here's the little difference, though, a couple things. One is you say that they have to hurry up and do it because otherwise, it's going to be particular (ph) problem. This has been lingering since at least February 19 -- 2010, when the first comment was made by Senator (SIC) Sestak to The Philadelphia Inquirer. That's the first thing.

The second thing -- the story that you relay is far different from a quid pro quo -- Here's your job, Mr. Sestak, and then he says he was offered a specific job. You know, he was offered a job by a high-ranking person. Here's your job, was put on a line (ph), is a little bit different than, Be a good party man, pull out of the race and come around, we'll see what we can do. And finally...

RENDELL: You're right, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) Did you actually appoint him to that deputy job?

RENDELL: Yes. Absolutely.


RENDELL: I did. And we didn't -- we didn't discuss a specific job. I just said...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the difference! That's a huge difference! That's a huge difference!

RENDELL: I agree.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you -- and I -- and I think that's the problem. And then so let me ask you this question. Can you compare and contrast it to the allegations -- I don't know what the evidence is, but the allegations in children, where Governor Blagojevich is said to have said, you know, something -- he was selling a Senate seat -- I mean, that's the same sort - - I mean, tell me how that's different.

RENDELL: Well, I think it's important to actually get a description of what actually was said because sometimes, people hear what they want to hear. And let's just assume, Greta -- and I don't know any of this for a fact, and again, I wasn't there. But let's just assume whoever it was in the White House who had this conversation said, Look, Joe, you know, we think Arlen Specter's the strongest candidate. We talked to Arlen into switching as a Democrat. We have an obligation to him. We love you. We don't want to oppose you in an election. And look, there's things to do here in this administration that fit your background and your ability, and you know, come talk to us...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I agree...

RENDELL: ... after this is over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Actually -- but I think -- I think you and the Republicans agree there because you're right, we don't have all the facts. And the reason we don't have all the facts is because both sides who seem to have the facts refuse to tell and it's been lingering for months, so it's fair now to be suspicious. And then you've got Robert Gibbs coming out and saying, essentially, I'm told that whatever conversations have been had are not problematic, on "Face the Nation," which is bizarre.

So now why are we supposed to accept this? It's been dragging on for several months. It's -- you know, it -- why won't they do the transparent, honorable thing, just step up, and if there's no problem, tell us!

RENDELL: I think they will. I believe they will. Look...


RENDELL: Well, I don't speak for the White House, but I believe that they will. I don't speak for Joe, but I believe he will, too. And look, in February, the problem was they were supporting Specter. Congressman Sestak made this allegation. It became a brouhaha...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, did he lie?


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, like -- I mean, he -- I mean, he said it on February 19th. He said it last week. He's now said it twice! Either he's lied twice or he's told the truth twice! Either one!

RENDELL: No, it's -- people sometimes hear what they want to hear. You know that, Greta. It happens all the time on TV.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then -- well, then, why -- why won't he...

RENDELL: You hear what you want to hear.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why won't he say -- he won't even -- now, David Gregory tried to grill him to get information, and he stonewalled David Gregory on "Meet the Press" when David tried to ask more questions about it! He said, It's for others to say. I mean, it's bizarre!

RENDELL: Others can't say unless they know what the tenor of the conversation was. Look, this ought to be done for the right reasons because we do deserve -- the people deserve a transparent government, and there's no question about that. It ought to be done for that reason. But it also ought to be done, as I said, for political reasons because this has become a problem that's going to only grow and grow.

And you were absolutely right when you said it to Senator Graham. People are going to interpret this worse than it probably is. I do not believe that anybody in the White House was crazy enough to say, You can have this specific job if you withdraw. Everybody knows that that's not something that's appropriate.


RENDELL: I don't believe they said it. And I believe Joe heard what he wanted to hear because, you know, he's a former admiral. And you know, when they said something like, This is something in your background or your experience level, he must have interpreted -- I guess the position at that time was open and it hadn't been filled. I don't know if -- we should look and find if the secretary of the Navy...

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, you...

RENDELL: ... had been appointed by that time.

VAN SUSTEREN: You and I -- the one thing I disagree with is that -- I mean, you have -- you say that what you think no one would be crazy enough to say something in the White House. I don't know what to think because the one -- the very people who have the information for some reason just absolutely refuse to give it to us. But we'll have more on this, I'm sure.

RENDELL: We'll have to wait and see what happens.

VAN SUSTEREN: I agree. You and I agree on that.

RENDELL: And I think we will get an explanation. And I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: I think...

RENDELL: Look, I've watched you for a long while. You're a good lawyer. And when the explanation comes out, if it doesn't meet the test of anything illegal or inappropriate, I expect you to say so.

VAN SUSTEREN: And indeed, I will. I absolutely -- you know, if it -- if there's nothing wrong with it, I got nothing wrong with it. Governor...

RENDELL: Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and you and I will have this conversation again. Thank you, sir.


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