As a candidate Obama promised to establish the most transparent administration in the history of the United States. Capitalizing on fears that Democrats and independents shared regarding the Bush administration that many felt was far too shrouded in secrecy, where even the Vice President’s location was at times “undisclosed”, Obama promised the American people a “new era” of open government. Healthcare negotiations would be broadcast on C-Span, contacts between the administration and lobbyists would be posted online and every government document would be nailed to the White House door for all to see.
Transparency wasn’t just an ancillary issue for Obama, it was a central theme to his candidacy and a promise to the American people that he outlined in his campaign booklet Blueprint for Change that stated:
- Shine Light on Washington Lobbying: Create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings.
- Create a Public “Contracts and Influence” Database: Disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, and what contracts they are getting.
- Sunlight Before Signing: As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to comment online for five days.
- Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending: Obama’s Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act will shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each earmark, along with a written justification.
Three and a half years into Obama’s term and there is little doubt that he sold the country a bill of goods. White House officials have since been caught meeting with lobbyists at local coffee shops to avoid disclosing them in official records, no federal contractor lobbying database was ever created, the 5 day online commitment for public viewing of new bills was broken in less than three weeks and the $787 billion stimulus was the largest earmark in the history of the world, no written justification required.
Obama has not only kept in place every transparency thwarting Bush administration policy in place, he has taken government secrecy to whole new levels. The copious use of White House czars has created a redundant federal government that is not beholden to congressional review or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws. Far left radicals like 9/11 truther Van Jones and forced abortion proponent John Holdren were allowed to skip the Senate confirmation process and given free rein to do whatever they please. As members of the executive branch, the czars hide behind executive privilege powers which give them virtual immunity to congressional subpoenas and Inspector General investigations.
Obama has the earned the distinction of being one of the most visible Presidents ever, you can hardly flip on the TV without seeing him yuck it up with Jay Leno or making his NCAA hoops picks on ESPN, while at the same time one of the most secretive. He accomplishes this rare feat carefully selecting his appearances, only showing up at places where he knows he won’t be forced to answer tough questions. While the national press might be tempted to grill him over Solyndra loans and his promise that “if you like your insurance you can keep it”, the ladies on The View are more interested in his dog Bo and what it’s like to be serenaded by Paul McCartney.
During a 308 day period between 2009 and 2010 Obama didn’t hold a single full-blown press conference. When he actually does face the national press, he has the habit of droning on for five to ten minutes at a time keeping the number of questions to a minimum. When he does actually agree to a one on one interview, Obama prefers local reporters who are often too overwhelmed with the majesty of the office to bother him about anything serious.
It took the mainstream media years to catch on that they had been hoodwinked. From politicizing FOIA requests to stonewalling Congressional investigations, by the beginning of 2011 it was getting pretty hard to ignore that Obama would rather donate a kidney to his poverty stricken half-brother in Kenya than level with the American people. Obama’s insincerity towards openness came to a head in March 2011 when he accepted a “transparency award” at an Oval Office meeting that was closed to reporters. Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, one of the five organizations that had sponsored the prize, couldn’t help but comment “to have such a meeting not be transparent is the height of irony. How absurd can that be?”
The flood gates opened as many on the far left became disenchanted with Obama’s “new era” of openness. Three months after he had accepted the transparency award 26 organizations including Code Pink and Green Party of the U.S. and 20 noted whistleblowers including Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, demanded he give it back. Among their reasons were:
According to a new report to the president by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) — the federal agency that provides oversight of the government’s security classification system — the cost of classification for 2010 has reached over $10.17 billion. That’s a 15 percent jump from the previous year, and the first time ever that secrecy costs have surpassed $10 billion. Last month, ISOO reported that the number of original classification decisions generated by the Obama administration in 2010 was 224,734 — a 22.6 percent jump from the previous year.
There were 544,360 requests for information last year under the Freedom of Information Act to the 35 biggest federal agencies — 41,000 requests more than the year before. Yet the bureaucracy responded to 12,400 fewer requests than the prior year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.
Ignoring his campaign promise to protect government whistleblowers, Obama’s presidency has amassed the worst record in US history for persecuting, prosecuting, and jailing government whistleblowers and truth-tellers.
The Obama Administration is also busy going after reporters to discover their sources and convening grand juries in order to target journalists and news publishers.
In April 2011 Texas reporter Brad Watson grilled Obama about skipping Houston as a possible resting place for the retired space shuttles. After the interview Obama admonished Watson: “Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview, all right?”
In July 2011 Politico ran a story criticizing Obama for chafing at the “time-honored practice of answering questions shouted at him during pooled, non-press conference events.” Chip Reid of CBS didn’t buy the press secretary Jay Carney’s line that the press was being held back to avoid a “circus” atmosphere. Reid commented “he’s capable of ignoring our questions. He does it all the time.”
In October 2011 The San Francisco Chronicle was incensed when the administration blocked their access to Bay Area fundraising events in favor of other media outlets, an action they described as “Nixonian” and a “mockery of its claim to be the most transparent administration in history.”
Katherine Meyer, a Washington DC attorney, summed up the “most transparent administration in history” as follows:
Obama is the sixth administration that’s been in office since I’ve been doing Freedom of Information Act work. … It’s kind of shocking to me to say this, but of the six, this administration is the worst on FOIA issues. The worst. There’s just no question about it… This administration is raising one barrier after another. … It’s gotten to the point where I’m stunned — I’m really stunned.