Maybe politicians have vestigial consciences after all. Even as President Obama was insisting to a gullible nation that there would be no actual military boots on the ground in Libya, there have, in fact, been shiny CIA boots on the ground all along. In retrospect, this is no big surprise, or even a small surprise. Who else could have armed and trained those rag-tag bands of rebels who conveniently popped up out of nowhere, to seize our undivided attention just as Bahrainis were being slaughtered by their oily U.S. puppet- king and his Saudi pals?
Maybe that's why, when the president was awarded a prize for White House "transparency" on Monday by a coalition of open government advocates, it was done in secrecy, without notifying the press. The president was honored for his so-called honesty behind closed doors, without so much as an MSNBC stenographer-journalist to record the event. He was probably hoping against hope that nobody would even notice the prize, given the heights of hypocrisy he was about to scale in his Libya speech the following evening. There wasn't even a mention of it in "West Wing Week", the daily propaganda email that usually misses no opportunity to gush about every feel-good, staged PR event at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Attendees of the awards ceremony -- originally scheduled for March 16 to mark "Sunshine Week" -- were understandably miffed and no doubt suffering a bad case of awarders' remorse when they discovered the media lock-out. “It’s almost a theater of the absurd to have an award on transparency that isn’t transparent," Garry Bass of OMB, a public policy group, griped to The Washington Post. “The irony is that everything the president said was spot-on. I wish people had heard what he had to say.”
(They apparently never will. No official transcript of the sit-and-chat has been released, if in fact it even exists. Ascribe it to the plausible deniability doctrine).
Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight was even more critical, telling The Post that the White House's failure to announce the awards ceremony or allow reporters in to cover it was "crazy stupid", and that she is not about to defend President Obama for his behavior.
Press Secretary Jay Carney actually had the chutzpah to tell the uninvited press right before the postponed meeting earlier this month: "This President has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past, and he’s been committed to that since he ran for President and he’s taken a significant number of measures to demonstrate that."
Now, the Sunshine Law advocates are kind of walking back their purpose in giving Obama the award in the first place, calling it "aspirational" -- in other words, to give him a nudge in the right direction. That makes more sense given that the president did his utmost to hide the little event. He really has no intention of being any more transparent than he has been - which has not been very transparent at all. He likes to talk the honesty talk, but it's becoming evident that truthiness matters more to him than truth. It must be the opacity of hope.
For example, according to "The Hill," Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation has called the actions of the Obama Administration a disappointment. Emails have come to light showing it has actively sought to delay release of documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The AP obtained the emails, showing that Homeland Security Department workers were accusing some senior officials in the Obama Administration of delaying the release of files. Some emails described the president's appointees as "meddling" -- and echoed Danielle Brian in their calling the unnamed Obama staffers stupid, though not crazily so.
We got our first clue about transparency and lack thereof when the president reneged on his campaign promise to broadcast healthcare reform negotiations live on CSpan. Not only didn't that happen, Obama was making backroom deals with Big Pharma to back off reimporting drugs from Canada and drug price negotiations in exchange for their backing off on his own efforts at cosmetic insurance company reforms. At the same time he was advocating for a public option and urging his volunteers to go door to door for the DNC in the name of his cause, he'd quietly taken the public option off the table without letting us know.
Now, out-Bushing Bush as he embarks on what is variously being called a third war, or a temporary selective humanitarian effort, or a limited kinetic military exercise, we can expect even more secrecy in the name of all-important national security or protecting troop movements. Hypocrisy in this president is now a given. When are we going to start adding mendacity to the list?