Where’s the Transparency? Obama’s Secret Orders Caught Media Unawares


By: Warner Todd Huston

Despite all claims to the contrary, President Obama has not been very vigilant about pursuing that idea of “transparency” he ballyhooed during the recent campaign. Politico reported on a host of documents, proclamations and executive orders that Obama has made in the last month and none of them were online. In fact, many were not even released at all to the press by the White House.

So, where is the drumbeat of outrage about the “secret presidency” we heard for the last 6 or so years?

Remember all the mavens of the Old Media establishment that kept claiming that Bush was too secretive? Along with the Old Media, the nutrooters also took up the claim as a battle cry against the evil Bush administration. Of course, Bush was trying to fight an intelligence war where keeping secrets means life or death for our soldiers. But, regardless of Bush’s reasons, the media and the left were constantly apoplectic over this supposed “secrecy.”

It was undemocratic, mean spirited, anti-American… evil even. The left was in a constant state of righteous indignation over Bush’s secrecy.

Then came the answer to their dreams, the man to cause tingles up their legs, Barack Obama. Why, he was going to change everything. It was to be a government of “transparency,” don’t ya know? Obama made all sorts of promises to put every government policy, debate, and document on line for all to see.

Apparently, neither Obama nor his supplicants in the media are much worried about secrecy now.

In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site.

Politico also notes the Register is published days after the fact, so the news is no longer new. Politico further says that this is a reversal of the openness that the Bush administration practiced.

In fact, many of these secret initiatives and orders were only found because bloggers dug them up from the Federal Register, the daily compendium of government actions issued by the National Archives.

And this fact, that bloggers dug them up, doesn’t that demolish the oft repeated claim by the Old Media that we need journalists because bloggers don’t have the resources or capability to keep an eye on government like real reporters do? Looks like all those “real” reporters seriously dropped the ball in this story!

Here is the list Politico noted.

One order Obama signed Feb. 5 expanded the National Economic Council to 25 people by adding the Secretary of Health and Human Services; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; “climate czar” Carol Browner and two other officials.

Another order the president signed the same day added two slots to the Domestic Policy Council, bringing it to a total of 26 people. Some slots were reassigned. The chief technology officer was among those added to the panel, while “AIDS Policy Coordinator” was removed. It was unclear if that was a substantive change, simply reflected plans to keep the AIDS czar post at the State Department, or perhaps both.

Another Obama executive order, signed January 30, canceled two Bush-era executive orders relating to regulatory review. The White House did release chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s memo halting regulations in the works at federal agencies, but didn’t release another Obama memo setting a 100-day deadline for agency heads to recommend a new regulatory review process. The memo indicates that Obama may want to do some things differently on the regulatory front than the last Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton.

Some of these seem a bit important, don’t they? Expanding government by fiat, creating cushy new jobs for friends, summarily changing the way regulations will be reviewed… aren’t these things that need to see the light of public review?

So, what about that whole “transparency” thingie, Barack?

The White House belatedly posted the mysteriously missing documents claiming a simple oversight after Politico inquired about them.

Lastly, where is the anguished outcry about this secrecy? Would the Old Media have allowed belated postings of secret orders under the excuse that it was just an “oversight” if Bush had done it?

You tell me.

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