John McCormack, the reporter who cried “Bribe!”

You might not expect a magazine that once ran a 3,229-word cover story decrying an investigation into the outing of a CIA agent as the “criminalization of politics” to be particularly upset over the possibility that a White House official offered a Senate candidate a job. But the Weekly Standard is nothing if not, uh, flexible in its outrage.

And so, having published Fred Barnes' 2006 apologia for the kind of leak that former President George H. W. Bush once declared the work of “the most insidious of traitors,” the Weekly Standard is now home to John McCormack's hilarious efforts to drum up support for a bribery investigation predicated on an unnamed White House official's alleged offer of an unspecified job to Joe Sestak. Because, you know, outing a CIA agent is fine; that's merely politics -- just don't offer someone a job!

I say “hilarious” for two reasons. First, the alleged offer is a bit of a non-starter as political scandals go. White House officials have been known to try to “clear the field” for their preferred candidates in campaigns for as long as anyone can remember -- and when Karl Rove and Dick Cheney did it, it was portrayed as a sign of their effectiveness. I don't remember calls for bribery investigations when Team Rove convinced Richard Vinroot to drop out of the 2002 North Carolina Senate race -- or when the RNC sent Vinroot $200,000 to pay off his campaign debt a couple of weeks later. (A Nexis search for Vinroot's name in the Weekly Standard library yields no hits.)

But now John McCormack wants you to think that offering a candidate a job is the worst thing since Watergate. And that brings me to the other reason this is so funny: John McCormack.

See, McCormack sees -- or pretends to see -- illegal White House bribes every time he turns around. Just a few months ago, he was peddling the baseless allegation that the White House tried to buy Rep. Jim Matheson's vote on health care reform by nominating his brother to a federal judgeship. McCormack quickly walked back that ludicrous claim, just as his former Weekly Standard colleague Michael Goldfarb had to walk back his ludicrous claim that the White House threatened to close a Nebraska Air Force base to win Ben Nelson's support.

I can't wait for McCormack's next theory -- it'll probably be something about how Rahm Emanuel offering a visiting congressman a cup of coffee constitutes an offer of a bribe in exchange for a vote on financial reform.