Those of us who proposed the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney for violating his oath of office and engaging in a Nixon-on-steroids spree of high crimes and misdemeanors began to recognize the abusive nature of the previous administration when Cheney refused to release details of the industry insiders with whom he met to craft energy policies.
The refusal of the Bush-Cheney administration to permit public review of White House visitor logs detailing who was meeting with the vice president’s energy task force during the very first weeks of their tenure was a deliberate decision made to cloak dirty dealing by officials who were determined to serve corporate rather than public interests.
It also provided an early indicator that darker and dirtier deeds would eventually be done by Cheney and his compatriots. And they were.
So what should we make of the news that the Obama administration is now refusing to release White House visitor logs that detail meetings between members of the new administration and health-care industry insiders?
(The) administration’s multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies have been made in private, and the results were announced after the fact. Both industries promised Obama cost savings in return for an expanded base of insured patients; beyond that, the public is in the dark about details.
In some ways, it resembles what his party criticized President George W. Bush for doing with oil and gas companies as Vice President Dick Cheney wrote a national energy plan in the early days of the Bush administration.
As the Bush White House did, the Obama White House is refusing to release visitor logs that would let people see everyone going in and out during the thick of discussions over major national policies.
There is a lot of talk about the fact that Obama has broken a campaign promise.
But far more serious is the perpetuation of practices of official secrecy that characterized the Bush-Cheney den of iniquity.
When administrations begin to enjoy the benefits of operating in the dark, they become disinclined to end the practice. They also begin to buy into the fantasy that keeping details from Congress and the people is the only way to get things done, as did Obama White House spokesman Reid Cherlin when he tried to explain away a lack of transparency by saying: “Here’s what’s happening: Groups that have steadfastly opposed reform in the past are coming to the table and making concessions — because they know we can’t wait another year to pass health insurance reform.”
Actually, bad players are embracing bad compromises because they have made bad deals with the White House.
And, make no mistake, more bad things will happen.
Only whack jobs who believe that Barack Obama was birthed in Jakarta could imagine that this administration might ever be as corrupt as its predecessor. Bush and Cheney achieved Warren Harding levels of official crookedness.
However, bad-but-not-quite-Cheney-bad is an unacceptable standard.
Official secrecy, especially when it involves meetings by White House aides and representatives of corporate interests that face government regulation, is corrosive. It warps the official agenda and undermines the system of checks and balances — making the legislative branch a weak second to a unitary executive.
Barack Obama promised when he sought the presidency to usher in a new era of openness and transparency. “We’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies,” candidate Obama declared at a Pennsylvania campaign stop two months before the 2008 election.
Now, he is doing the opposite.
Worse yet, he is perpetuating the foul practices of the most corrupt administration in American history.