Obama Pulls a Dick cheney on Disclosing Meetings Records

In Commentary, politics, U.S government on July 22, 2009 by Editor Z

Anyone who has turned on the news recently has heard that Obama’s health care reform push is eroding in support. Despite being a country with over 40 million uninsured and premiums that rise to levels three times the rate of inflation, the majority of Americans would certainly agree that something has to be done. Our physicians, research departments, and medical technology may be the best in the world, but in terms of insurance our system is a disaster for those who can’t afford it.

However the question over how to pay for it without increasing the astronomical debt and what that bill contains, as well as the political risk for politicians taking action on anything is thwarting that. Additionally though people might have a right to be suspicious not only about the financial cost, but because the process of crafting such legislation isn’t being done as transparently as initially promised, a snag that cost the Clinton administration in 1993 and 1994 its health care plan.

Unfortunately Obama now seems to be taking a page from the Dick Cheney meetings with an “energy task force” in 2001, in denying the release of White House visitor logs regarding the names of 18 executive representing the pharmaceutical, doctor, and medical communities who have visited the White House to discuss health care, being requested by the open government advocacy group the Committee for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW).

LA Times:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drug makers, doctors and other players in the debate. The group wants the material in order to gauge the influence of those executives in crafting a new health care policy.

The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the “presidential communications privilege.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said it would file suit against the Obama administration as early as today. The group already has sued the administration over its failure to release details about visits from coal industry executives.

Once again it is acts like this that are eroding the popularity that ushered Obama into the presidency after nearly a decade of closed government, scarce accountability, and the consolidation of Executive power. Yeah, these might not be the sexiest issues, nor ones that people really cite in public surveys of areas they are most concerned about or interested in. Nevertheless, it goes to the heart of every action our government takes. In the Bush/Cheney administration it was showcased repeatedly that lack of oversight, transparency, and the amassing of unchecked power leads to corruption, violations of civil liberties, disastrous policy, lack of trust in public institutions, and general ignorance. Whether it be human rights violations via torture, lobbyist scandals, corruption at the U.S Justice Department, the humiliating response by the government to Hurricane Katrina, the evaporation in prosperity for the Middle Class and thus the entire apparatus of our economy, or the folly of Iraq; lack of accountability, fortifying the offices and instruments and knowledge of power from the public, and lack of accountability is always destructive to our country, its people, and even the reputation and strength of our leaders.

Quite frankly if this approach is adopted by the Obama administration, they deserve to fail on health care. Unfortunately it is we the people who deserve better.

Update (9:10PM/ET)-
The White House has released the list of individuals representing the health care industry who visited the White house to discuss healt care reform.

Update (10:58 AM/ET)- Despite yesterday’s concession by the White House in releasing the names of 18 healthcare officals who visted the White House to advise the administration on health care policy; they still insist that white house vistor logs can be kept secret. One step forward and two steps back.


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