No More Transparency, But Less Outside Scrutiny

Paul Thacker writes that the Obama Administration has “failed miserably” to fulfill its promises of more open and transparent government. What’s changed, however, is that the press and self-appointed good-government watchdogs are less interested in covering such questions.

Whether it’s responding to Congress, media questions, or FOIA requests, this administration is no better than its predecessor. The big difference: Obama is a Democrat. And because he is a Democrat, he’s gotten a pass from many of the civil liberty and good-government groups who spent years watching President Bush’s every move like a hawk. . . .

the administration was able to make cosmetic changes and neutralize harsh disapproval with a classic Washington maneuver—inviting potential critics to the White House for meetings. The administration understood that many of these groups would be satisfied by getting meetings with the ethics czar, and would calculate that if they became too critical of the president that their newfound “access” would be in peril. So the watchdogs have scampered up to the White House time and again, hopeful that maybe with the next election, the next initiative, maybe even the next meeting, something would change.

We shouldn’t expect better from any administration — Republican and democratic administrations alike withhold pertinent information, abuse FOIA and resist disinfecting sunlight — but we should expect better from the self-appointed guardians of government transparency and accountability.