Thursday, March 31, 2011

Obama Gets Ironic Transparency Award Behind Closed Doors

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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?


Anonymous said...

Well it is in keeping with Nancy Pelosi's masterful "Well you will just have to pass the bill to see what's in it" isn't it?


Anne Lavoie said...

They got the transparent thing right - we're all seeing right through him. No wonder he wants to keep THAT a secret. The emperor has no clothes!


Anonymous said...

Nobel Prize now a Transparency Award...If I were Barry I'd be embarrassed too!

Marie Burns said...

In fairness to the President, this strikes me as his acknowledgment that he has not earned the transparency award. Indeed, I think it quite likely that the purpose of the awarders was to try to get Obama to actually be more transparent, in the same way the Nobel Committee gave him a pre-Peace Prize in hopes he wouldn't start too many foreign wars. They're probably a tad disappointed that he's escalated/started a war a year.

But here's Obama obliquely mentioning his Nobel Prize the other day. Speaking to a Georgetown U. audience about energy security, the President introduced his energy secretary Steven Chu by saying, "Chu's the right guy to do this. He's got a Nobel Prize in Physics. He actually deserved his Nobel Prize."

The Constant Weader

Anonymous said...

To Marie Burns

Thanks so much for defining 'aspirational' for us.

I think Karen made the point crystal clear that Obama went the extra mile to be sure there was absolutely NO EVIDENCE of this award. That is not humility. That is censorship, plain and simple. Please don't sugar coat it.

His reference to Chu was spoken in a humorous tone, not in sincerity or humility. Some of us can tell the difference.

John said...

Please, please, please, will some Democrat mount a primary challenge to this guy. It will be a cold day in hell before I ever vote for Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, Bachmann, or any of the other mental midgets the Republicans put forward, but how can I bring myself to vote to return Obama to office? How do we dare reward him for his conduct?

Anonymous said...

So Libya's rebels are a bunch of ragtag out of nowhere? entire cities and towns volunteering to fight against 42 years of Ghadaffi's monarchy of horror but all the rebels get is a ragtag adjective from you? OUT OF NOWHERE? entire civil protests being bombed by conventional military aircraft? 42 years of torture chambers? even palestinians got put in those by Ghadaffi. Your disgusting blog is self evident in its absolute indifference to legitimate armed movements against tyranny just becacuse you want to satisfy your sick chomsky-esque fetish of just criticizing the United States for anything whatsoever. What is going in Libya is verifiable by Democracy Now, by Juan Cole and many other cowards that you would otherwise listen to.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi Anonymous,

If you have information on the identity of the rebels, please do share it with us, or are they free to be as anonymous as yourself? There are a lot of questions on their allegiances, who is funding them, etc. My post said absolutely nothing that is pro-Gaddafi or pro-torture.

Not that I want to get involved in discussions with an unknown personage/sock puppet/astroturfer - but I did support the American Revolution against armed tyranny. We knew the identities of all concerned, even the German mercenaries and the French financiers. And Thomas Paine had the guts to sign his name.