Saturday, October 31, 2009

Transparency We Can't Believe In 

It's... transparency like you've never seen! The White House blog gushes:
We previously announced that the White House in December of this year would -- for the first time in history -- begin posting all White House visitor records under the terms of our new voluntary disclosure policy. As part of that initiative, we also offered to look back at the records created before the announcement of the policy and answer specific requests for visitor records created earlier in the year.

They may have a point, if by transparency like you've never seen before, they mean "transparency that isn't actually transparent". Transparency isn't worth much unless it increases trust in government and it's hard to trust a government that's not actually transparent:
Only about 110 names —and 481 visits —out of the hundreds of thousands who have visited the Obama White House were made public. Like the Bush administration before it, Obama is arguing that any release is voluntary, not required by law, despite two federal court rulings to the contrary.

110 names, out of hundreds of thousands. Given that we have three co-equal branches of government, I believe the White House is within its rights to refuse to disclose its visitor list. But if they're going to promise to be open with the American public, shouldn't the goal be real openness rather than selective disclosure? Technically, transparency isn't that hard to achieve, assuming that's what the White House really intends. So why waste time and effort answering individual queries? If the goal is transparency, wouldn't it be simpler to put all the White House visitors into a searchable database and let users sort it all out? The Cato Institute, which has carefully tracked Obama's transparency initiatives since he was elected, isn't buying the White House's "partial transparency" hype:
... a three to four month delay in revealing visits is too long. Much of this information is computerized at the White House and could be revealed in real time or within 24 hours. Also, visits that are not revealed for security or diplomatic reasons should be noted as such so that the quantity of such visits can be tracked over time and misuse of this secrecy ferreted out.

Below the jump is an updated ”Sunlight Before Signing” chart, reflecting all the bills President Obama has signed to date. Still only one (of sixty-one bills) has been posted on Whitehouse.gov for five days before signing. (That’s a .016 average, baseball fans.)

...I’ve amended the chart to highlight an interesting thing: Two-thirds of the time (41 of 61), the White House has held bills for five days or more before President Obama has signed them. The only thing keeping him from fulfilling his promise as to these bills is the simple failure to post them on Whitehouse.gov. It’s hard to understand why the White House is not taking this easy step.

What value does a promise have when you only keep it 16% 1.6%** of the time? Obama was lavish with his promises on the campaign trail. So far at least 7 of his transparency promises have been broken:
1. Make Government Open and Transparent
2. Make it "Impossible" for Congressmen to slip in Pork Barrel Projects: the AP's Calvin Woodward fact checked Obama's claim that the stimulus was pork free and found it to be false.
3. Meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public (Republicans have repeatedly been shut out)
4. No more secrecy (Glenn Greenwald begs to differ)
5. Public will have 5 days to look at a Bill (that promise was broken during his first 90 days)
6. You'll know what's in it (not if the Democrats can help it)
7. We will put every pork barrel project online. Hmmm... that didn't happen, either.

But there's a far more serious problem here: Obama keeps making foolish promises that prove impractical or even impossible to keep. He doesn't seem to understand that as President, he speaks for the nation. When America continually says one thing and does another, we lose credibility and Americans (not to mention the rest of the world) lose faith in government.

Obama's recent experience with the Nobel Prize Committee seems to have convinced him that simply saying he means to do something is enough regardless of whether his actions live up to his rhetoric. Of course, when both the media and the Nobel committee seem determined to grade him on appearances, can you blame him?

** Thanks so much to the anonymous reader who corrected this figure for me.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sat Oct 31, 12:08:00 PM:

Yes. Regardless of what a handful of Norwegians and media elites think, it demonstrates a lack of integrity as a person and seriousness as a leader.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Oct 31, 12:51:00 PM:

Your 16% should read 1.6%  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Sat Oct 31, 01:43:00 PM:

Thanks :)

I was in a mad rush to get posts and team emails out this morning - I should have been more careful. Very much appreciate the correction!  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sat Oct 31, 05:15:00 PM:

Transparency...like the Chesire Cat!

I really think that Obama must have internal polling data that suggests he can keep his administration afloat by simply appealing to his "base" and rendering the massive percentage of those who voted agianst him irrelevant.

By his "base" I refer to ideological leftists, blacks who share in the credo of "don't say anything bad about a brother", idiots who will always depend on the government teat, unions, lawyers and white guiltists.

I say this because he has managed to rather grossly, and obviously intentionally, offended pretty much everybody else outside of this group.

If he is actually able to carry the day with this motley crew of miscreants...then perhaps the rest of us really WILL be better off in Australia.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sun Nov 01, 05:12:00 AM:

"simply saying he means to do something is enough regardless of whether his actions live up to his rhetoric"

What actions???  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Nov 01, 12:50:00 PM:

The Democratic Party is the party of good intentions....results and responsibility are not in the equation.  

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