Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

This is disappointing:

Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.
The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."
Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping healthcare policy, said an attorney for the citizens' group. In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Assn., among others.

There's not much excuse for this. During the campaign, Obama loudly derided closed-door governing. In fact, it's still on his website:

The Problem

  • Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.


Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Bring Americans Back into their Government

  • Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.

  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.

Back in primary season, Obama attacked Hillary specifically on healthcare reform transparency:

During one of the recent Democratic debates, Obama, criticizing the secrecy of Clinton's 1993 effort to reform healthcare, talked about how he would open up the entire process -- "Not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN ..."

To be sure, Barack Obama isn't Dick Cheney - the current White House isn't crafting policy with industry executives exclusively. But it's painful to see such an obvious gap between an inspiring campaign promise and a cynical governing reality.

The Bush Administration increased the power of the presidency while pushing public accountability farther away from that power. And given the enormity of the challenges Obama inherited, I'm sure there's temptation to retain at least part of that expanded authority...our new president needs all the help he can get.

But the long-term damage isn't worth it - Bush's abuse of power can't become precedent.

Tags: Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton (all tags)



Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

I guess you haven't seen the story yet on Obama fighting the release of Cheney's testimony in the CIA leak case.

Seriously disappointing, it's one thing after another.

by TxDem08 2009-07-22 06:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

To quote a famous philosopher, "Surprise!  Surprise!"

It's time to end the love affair and get back to the business of politics- compelling all of our elected officials to do the people's business in an open and honest manner.  Of course, we will not always succeed, but that is the battle.

by orestes 2009-07-22 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

Pretty disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.

by lojasmo 2009-07-22 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

Terrible.  We have to keep the pressure on this administration, that's for sure.

by Thaddeus 2009-07-22 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

Obama stated that a list of health-care execs who attended meetings in the WH has been released.  also, the meetings were photographed by the media.

by lojasmo 2009-07-22 04:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

What about the "private meetings" Biden has been having in the WH and at his home?  Were those disclosed as well?

by TxDem08 2009-07-22 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

Dunno, PUMA.  Any basis for your claims?

by lojasmo 2009-07-22 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

PUMA...that's funny.  Now sit down Francis, class is in session. on/2009/07/joe-biden-update-1.html

Possibly a very important policy change quietly emerged in the daily schedule of Vice President Joe Biden today.
We've especially noted Biden's innumerable  "private meetings" that are closed to the press because, well, they're private.

And we've wondered aloud how this Democratic VP's private meetings with unnamed people on unnamed subjects differs from the private meetings with unnamed people that his evil predecessor had that got so many Democratic senators and representatives worried about nefarious secrets.

On one recent long weekend, the man who became a Delaware senator when his future boss, Barack Obama, was an inexperienced fundraiser of only 11, devoted an entire Monday to "private meetings" that are closed press in his Delaware home.

And as long as were at it, and on the topic of secrecy as well as the post being mentioned in the article.  Have fun...I'll make ya famous. /obamas-private-health-car_n_243115.html

President Barack Obama has hosted at least 27 meetings with some of the most influential private health-industry executives in the country in an effort to placate or at least quiet potential opponents of reform in what remains a tenuous legislative process.

The president's meetings were handed over to the good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had filed a lawsuit seeking the information.

And the White House communications team reached out to the press corps about their plans for releasing the records several hours before they ever touched base with CREW, an official with the group confirmed. In short, the timing and process seemed geared towards diminishing the story's coverage.

The story was politically damaging. As pointed out by Josh Orton at the site MyDD, Obama's campaign website still lists his pledge to do away with excessive government secrecy. And in an interview with the Huffington Post, CREW's chief counsel, Anne Weismann, declared that Obama's refusal to release the names of health care executives mirrored the much-maligned, closed door energy policy task force led by former vice president Dick Cheney.
Taken alone, the remarks were a sharp blow to a president who, throughout the campaign, used Cheney's secret task force meetings to denounce cryptic, special-interest-driven policy making of the Bush years. More broadly, however, they reflected what is an emerging frustration among government watchdogs about the failures of the Obama White House to achieve the transparent governance that the president promised on the campaign trail.
In the end, the reverse was not a full one. While the White House did release the visitor logs, there was no promise that a new policy of disclosure had been implemented.

by TxDem08 2009-07-23 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

On state secrecy, executive power, and human and civil rights, Obama has been very weak.

Criminally so in some cases.

by Searching For Pericles 2009-07-22 07:04PM | 0 recs


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