Closing the door on openness

Just over a year ago, candidate Barack Obama promised an open debate on health care.


"We'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN," he said.

This past weekend, the president caucused with congressional Democrats - and only Democrats - behind closed doors in order to hammer out a deal.

A handful of Democrats in Washington, meeting secretly to determine how your health care system will work. Not exactly what was promised. Not exactly televised. Not even open.

Obama also promised to change the political climate in Washington and to act in a bipartisan fashion. During the health-care debate, he has told the American public he's open to any ideas, even from Republicans.

He's telling Republicans something different. Congressional Republicans say they've been essentially locked out of the process, and certainly not called upon by the White House to add their input. They weren't included in the secret meetings over the weekend.

"Meanwhile, 10 moderate and progressive Democrats tapped by Reid are expected to continue daily meetings ..." writes the Washington Post.

Oops! No C-SPAN cameras there, either.

Clearly, the White House and congressional Democrats have decided to make this their own little project. No need for input from the opposition party or the public - despite fervent resistance from the public at town hall meetings in August and in public opinion polls ever since.

Indeed, a new Rasmussen Reports survey says Americans oppose the current incarnation of health care reform 51 to 41 percent. Interestingly, too, those who strongly oppose it out-poll those who strongly favor it 40 to 23 percent.

So they're putting together a plan Americans don't want in a room Americans aren't welcome.

This is an administration that increasingly shows naked contempt for the public. Consider: The Obama administration was to have a forum on openness in government for federal government employees Monday. It was closed to the public and press.

How's that for your daily supply of irony?

"The event Monday for federal employees," writes the Associated Press's Sharon Theimer, "is a fitting symbol of President Barack Obama's uneven record so far on the Freedom of Information Act, a big part of keeping his campaign promise to make his administration the most transparent ever. As Obama's first year in office ends, the government's actions when the public and press seek information are not yet matching up with the president's words."

As for the closed forum on openness, the new Office of Government Information Services says it was closed because of a lack of room. Right. Question: Are there no rooms big enough in official Washington to allow a few reporters in? Question: How much room does one camera take up?

But by far the most important thing going on in Washington these days is the health care debate.

We were promised by a promising young presidential candidate that it would be open, even televised, and that his would be the most transparent administration in history.

Was he not telling the truth, or has he just changed his mind?

And why don't the national media seem to care about the lack of openness and details? When told Monday that America doesn't yet comprehend what's in the reform bill's 2,000 pages, ABC's Good Morning America personality Robin Roberts mindlessly retorted, "But we do know that if something is passed ... it will be an historic moment."

So was the Hindenburg disaster! Will Ms. Roberts agree to anything, as long as it's historic?

What the heck kind of thinking is that? And from a major network!



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