The White House web site hosts a memorandum on “Transparency and Open Government,” from President Barack Obama to the heads of executive branch departments and agencies. It begins:
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.
This week McClatchy News Service reports the latest installment in the ever-engaging series, “Barack Obama Does America.”
The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege.
In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.
We’re not surprised, right? We’re not meant to be surprised, because we’re not meant to believe the President’s memorandum. It’s like going to church on Christmas and Easter–it doesn’t make anyone believe you’re sincere, it’s just a pro-forma act.
But this really sticks in my craw. I am firmly convinced that the warnings from the 1960s about the imperial presidency were correct, and that the situation has just gotten worse since then. Congress has the authority and duty to engage in oversight over the executive branch, and Obama is purposely obstructing their authority and duty, and doesn’t even bother with the thin pretense of executive privilege.
The issue is not security. The Senate Intelligence Committee has experience dealing with classified material, and well-established procedures for doing so. The issue is that we have yet another president in a long sequence of them who believe that they are the government, and the legislative branch is simply a forum for providing marginally more public legitimacy for their political goals.
And as long as we remain committed to the primary system of electing presidential candidates, there is zero chance our next president will be any different. To hell with Obama; to hell with them all.