Rep. Joe Sestak says he is not going to turn over Navy personnel records that might rebut the stories he was let go from a top Pentagon job for creating a "poor command climate" among subordinates - an issue which has been used to great effect by Sen. Arlen Specter's Democratic primary campaign.

After Wednesday's "major campaign speech" in Washington, Sestak expressed frustration with the media's role in reporting Specter's attacks on him. It  had been anticipated that he would offer a compelling explanation for his demotion from a three-star admiral position by Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chief of naval operations. Instead, he stuck to his same old explanation that Mullen wanted a new team when he took command of the Navy and he respects the decision.

I asked Sestak why he hasn't released performance reviews from the latter part of his Navy career, which could presumbably clear up the perception that he rode employees too hard and destroyed the morale of hs crew. Such documents could directly rebut the Specter ad highlighting the episode. He said he wouldn't do so because that would allow Specter to drive the conversation - and the campaign.

There should be substantive debate about the country's big challenges: health care, war, recession, Sestak said. "Why are we not discussing those issues, Tom? Because Arlen Specter decides to have baseless negative attacks, is that what it is? We're not going to let him."

(h/t to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dan Malloy for quick transcript of post-speech press avail.)