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Even the administration’s signature legislative initiatives have fallen short of its promised openness. ObamaCare is a prime example. When the administration first announced its plans to pursue a health-care overhaul, Obama boldly announced that the process of crafting the legislation would be the most open in history. As proof, he promised to invite C-SPAN cameras to televise the negotiation proceedings. The promise was broken almost as soon as it was made. In the event, the legislation was drafted behind closed doors and the final version was packed with sops to special interests like labor unions and the pharmaceutical industry. Sped through Congress, the bill was not subject to a thorough accounting by the Congressional Budget Office, with the result that several of the administration’s selling points – from the claim that the legislation included no new taxes to the projection that it would actually lower the federal deficit – were soon revealed as falsehoods.
The administration’s record has not improved since. Most recently, the administration’s claims to transparency were found wanting when Obama asserted executive privilege over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” operation, the Justice Department’s botched gun-trafficking sting. Executive privilege is traditionally limited to the president, but Obama went out of his way to expand it to cover Attorney General Eric Holder. Yet that notable departure from his campaign promise didn’t keep White House chief of staff Jack Lew from insisting, against all evidence, that the administration was “the most transparent ever.”
Implausible as that is, there are some who still believe that. Last March, Obama even received an award from transparency advocates. The president accepted the accolade with little public disclosure, behind the Oval Office’s closed doors.
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