For eight years, the Bush administration was excoriated for holding confidential meetings between the White House – specifically Vice-President Dick Cheney- and oil-industry executives. But now when the Obama administration does the exact same thing with health-care execs, why, it’s no problem:
The still sort-of-new Barack Obama Democratic administration has again adopted another policy straight out of the administration of his much-criticized Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama administration officials have rejected a watchdog group’s request for a list of healthcare industry executives who’ve been meeting secretly in the White House with Obama staffers to discuss healthcare changes being drafted there and in Congress.
According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suspicious of the influence of health industry lobbyists and company officers, it received a letter from the Secret Service citing an Obama Justice Department directive and denying access to visitor logs under the “presidential communications privilege.”
Remember the holy hullabaloo in the early Bush years when Vice President Dick Cheney met in the White House compound with energy industry officials and refused to release a list of those executives and the frequency of their visits? That controversy was propelled by critical Democrats and was before Obama’s brief Senate tenure.
Read the whole thing. The LA Time “Top of the Ticket” politics blog* mentions other Obama-Biden promises for new transparency after the dark years of BushHitler and Darth Cheney, promises that turn out to have had, as is typical for Barack Obama, expiration dates.
Now, I’m not criticizing the claim of the Executive Branch to have confidential discussions and to receive advice that’s held in confidence. No presidency could function if every communication, remark, memo, and sneeze were made public. At the least, others would be afraid to give controversial opinions, lest they be pilloried in the press. And opposition members of Congress, hungry for press exposure and to take the administration down, would be irresistibly tempted to go on fishing expeditions, demanding document after document, witness after witness, again threatening to paralyze the Executive.
No, presidents have a need for secrets and confidential meetings, and the pubic does not have an absolute right to know. (Really. What right did the public have to the planning discussions for D-Day, for example?) However, it’ yet another example of Team Obama’s hypocrisy that they so harshly criticized George W. Bush for doing exactly what Barack Obama now claims as executive privilege. And that “say one thing, do another” is something Obama seems be doing at a pace sure to leave his predecessors in the dust, confident in their assumption that we’re either too stupid to notice or just don’t care.
*(Which, I have to admit, does a darned good job, contrary to what I’ve come to expect from the Times)