Closing the door on openness

President Obama pledged repeatedly during the presidential campaign to conduct health-care reform negotiations in public -- on cable TV, no less.


Did he lie, or just change his mind?

"That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are," Obama said during a 2008 primary election debate.

So far, however, most every substantive negotiation has occurred behind closed doors. That continued to be the case this week, even as C-SPAN offered to make good on Mr. Obama's promise by televising House and Senate negotiations on health-care reform.

"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system," C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote in a letter to Congress, which the private nonprofit C-SPAN is charged with televising. "Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American."

We don't see how the White House and Congress can argue with that.

Nor is Mr. Obama the only one who has promised more transparency. When she took over as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi famously pronounced, "The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."

All evidence to the contrary.

Fact is, Pelosi and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are keeping the negotiations behind closed doors, and are doing their best to streamline the system so Republicans are unable to stop this runaway train.

This is not what any of them promised. And it's no way to overhaul one-sixth of the American economy.

If Pelosi, Reid, et al., are truly fighting for the little guy as they like to portray themselves, what's wrong with letting the little guy in on the debate?

C-SPAN pointedly and courageously reminded everyone of the president's pledge to televise health-care negotiations in its letter to Congress.

But if Democratic leaders haven't been listening to the American people -- who have, angrily at times, and in convincing poll numbers, told Democrats they don't want this brand of reform -- why should they listen to C-SPAN?

Leaders invite scrutiny.

Rulers shun it.

What we've got in Washington is rulers.