Obama’s Defiant Transparency Promise Breach

May 17, 2010

You surely know the drill by heart: Barack Obama promised to run the most transparent White House in history — avoiding lobbyists, publicizing donations and televising health care debates on C-SPAN. You also certainly know that he’s broken his pledge in every possible respect. But what’s even more offensive to me is his arrogance and defiance in the process.

Exhibit A — and this was so egregious it’s the only proof you should need — was press secretary Robert Gibbs’ recent exchange with WorldNetDaily correspondent Les Kinsolving at a White House briefing. I watched the video of the exchange, and it was infuriating — infuriating to see an arrogant, youngish smart aleck in a position of power taunting and ridiculing an elder member of the press corps, who was respectfully questioning him about Obama’s striking inaccessibility.

I will quote portions from the transcript, but I implore you to watch the short video at this link: http://www.mediaite.com/online/robert-gibbs-spars-with-les-kinsolving-about-obama-press-conferences. You simply can’t get the full flavor of Gibbs’ despicably supercilious, insulting and disrespectful attitude without watching it. There is no excuse for anyone to treat someone as Gibbs did Kinsolving, but there is infinitely less of an excuse given his position of representing the president of the United States, who owes the public and the press corps presumably representing it a profound duty of accountability — a duty he would owe even if Obama didn’t make his cynical promise of unparalleled openness.

Kinsolving asked Gibbs why President Obama has “held not a single White House press conference since last July,” considering “President Franklin Roosevelt’s 998 press conferences.”

Gibbs retorted that Obama took eight questions from the White House press corps at the Nuclear Security Summit. “What would you call that?”

Unbowed, Kinsolving said: “That was not a press conference. It was a select few reporters. It was not a White House press conference.”

Gibbs then argued with Kinsolving about what constitutes a press conference, and the discussion quickly degenerated into Gibbs’ sarcastic Socratic drilling of Kinsolving about how many press members, “38 or 55,” is the right number.

Can anyone imagine the indignation if a Republican president treated a member of the media with such contempt and derision?

But it’s not just Gibbs’ mistreatment of Kinsolving that is significant here. It’s that this White House believes it can a) promise unprecedented transparency; b) flagrantly breach the promise; c) avoid accountability for the breach; and d) even ridicule those who dare to inquire about it.

Also note the double avoidance of accountability. Obama refuses to be open about his agenda through routine press conferences and also refuses to be open about his refusal to be open.

His arrogance in defying accountability is only exceeded by his arrogance in defying the public’s will in the first place by pressing forward with items of his agenda they’ve begged him — in essence — not to pursue.

But this is how radicals operate. In their relativistic world, their end of advancing a radical agenda justifies any means, including making and breaking promises of accountability to the electorate and then mocking media representatives who dare to question them about it.

But Obama doesn’t just owe the public answers about being AWOL on White House press conferences. We deserve answers on his broken promises concerning lobbyists; televising the health care debates; posting bills on his website 72 hours before a vote; his surreptitious packaging of unpopular provisions in larger pieces of legislation to avoid public scrutiny, such as his reversal of the highly successful welfare reform; his establishment of a medical bureaucratic board (which some have referred to as a “death panel”) as part of his “stimulus” bill; and his government takeover of student loans with Obamacare. And how about his staged town hall meetings, where he took questions only from planted supporters; his phony assertions of executive privilege; his punitive firing of AIG watchdog Gerald Walpin for investigating his friend; a bizarre lack of accessibility on stimulus fund data; and his Justice Department’s dismissal of a case already won against New Black Panther Party members for voter intimidation and then stonewalling both the Commission on Civil Rights and a Freedom of Information Act request by The Washington Times seeking reasons for the arbitrary dismissal? Or his abundant denials of other FOIA requests; his Federal Communications Commission’s shielding of diversity czar Mark Lloyd from media questions about his past statements on FCC policy; his withholding of documents requested by Republicans from private meetings between the White House and medical providers; his withholding of data from the Cash for Clunkers program; his shielding from public view information on the expenditure of unions’ dues; his failed effort to exclude Fox News interview access to his pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg; and his “secret slush fund … for taxes and spending on climate change hidden inside the administration’s 2011 budget,” as reported by Fox News?