Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wolf Blitzer vs. Robert Gibbs on Transparency

One of the core values of blogging is transparency.

We early bloggers used to chant "Authenticity. Transparency. Integrity." as a slogan that differentiated blogs from old fashioned "Stare and Shop" websites, where all you could do is read propaganda or buy stuff. The blogosphere was founded on open, honest discussions and interactions that enabled everyone to join the conversations.

Bloggers tried to be transparent about everything except sensitive private information that could lead to identity theft or other criminal acts. We fought against insincere and "sponsored" posts and comments. We attacked Pay Per Post and Pay Per Tweet schemes. We refused to accept merchandise and incentives, unless such compensation was revealed upfront. We refused to be coached on what to say about a product or company.

Early bloggers took the concept of Transparency very seriously.

Transparency, however, like the word "awesome", is on a rapid decline into meaninglessness.

President Obama promised, among other things, to have the most transparent administration in history. But, aside from some after-the-fact revelations of political dealings, the real-time, unprecedented transparency, has not materialized.

What charity did Obama donate his Nobel Peace Prize award money to? He has refused to reveal this information.

Why are his birth certificate, college records, and medical records sealed? No other president has made this information off-limits. Some suspect Obama may not have attended classes, while some wonder if he was a foreign exchange student. Others have questioned if Obama may have had a mental illness or nervous breakdown. Forbidding public scrutiny of his personal records causes people to speculate wildly.

Chicago-style gangster politics, backroom deals, selective bribes, and other shady wheeling and dealing has occurred in the Obama Administration. He promised to let C-SPAN cameras into the healthcare deliberations. When asked why he flip-flopped on this promise, the topic is immediately changed to boast of vague "transparencies" that often equate to opaque murkiness, paraded as real transparency.

Perhaps the most glaring discrepancy was when Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, then escalated the troop levels in the Afghanistan War, in what is called a surge. The Nobel committee violated their Founder's rules by awarding this prize to someone based, not on actual achievements, but on alleged intentions and speeches.

Now the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs takes Non-Transparency even further by saying "if you know we had backroom deals, then they weren't secret". This silly twisted logic is like saying "if you know I was cheating on you, it's not adultery."

Notice how Robert Gibbs circumvents questions about C-SPAN cameras. Gibbs seems to imply that backroom dealings are okay as long as you know they happened, even if you don't know what was said or done in them.

It's obviously disingenuous to say the President has been focused every single day on creating jobs when he's been flying off to pitch the Chicago Olympics, global warming agenda, Democratic candidates, and, of course, healthcare take-over.

excerpt from CNN Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
Transcript of January 20, 2010


ROBERT GIBBS: ... Change takes a long time in Washington, Wolf. I am here today exactly one year after I first came to work at the White House. We have not done all that we want to do to change the way Washington works, but the president woke up today just as he did a year ago, determined to change the way Washington works.

WOLF BLITZER: Here is what the president said exactly one year ago on this day. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those of us who managed the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.


BLITZER: The president says do our business in the light of day. Transparency. But a lot of these negotiations were done behind closed doors, backroom deals with the pharmaceutical industry, for example, labor unions, special interest, all sorts of other special interests.

GIBBS: Wolf...

BLITZER: And the Republicans took full advantage of this.

GIBBS: Wolf, I bet the most dominant political story you did in 2009 was on health care. My sense is you're not about to tell me that what you did all throughout 2009 was inaccurate, because you got information on what we were discussing, you watched committee hearings, you watched House and floor debate.

You watched meetings that were happening here at the White House. You have a list of every person that's walked into this White House that's come to talk to an official about health care.

This White House has been the single most transparent White House in the history of our country. We now released the list of people that come here for meetings. That's something that's never been done, not just in recent time, it's never been done in the history of this country.

The president is focused on and has met the promise of transparency. The American people can have confidence that they know what is going on in their government.

BLITZER: But the promise that all of these negotiations, backroom deals, would be on C-SPAN, that hasn't been met.

GIBBS: Well, I -- I don't agree with the notion that somehow these are backroom deals. If they're backroom deals, how do you know about them, Wolf? How are you reporting on them?

BLITZER: Well, we...


GIBBS: Ed Henry who's standing right over there gets information from me and others and is able to accurately report on them.


GIBBS: Look, Wolf, I know we've all got a script and we've got to say certain things, but let's be honest and forthright with the American people. You've covered health care more than you've covered any single issue in the past year, because you've had and watched the debate that's transpired in this country, and it's been transparent.

BLITZER: But we didn't have access to the negotiations, the discussions you had, for example, with the pharmaceutical industry in Washington. We learned about it after the deal was made, but we didn't watch it unfold.

GIBBS: But you learned about what was in it, Wolf. That's what Ed reported. That's what you've talked about.

The reason that you're talking to me about it is you know about it. If you're talking to me about it, it's a poorly kept secret, if it's a secret.

BLITZER: Well, it's just a little point, but it's significant...

GIBBS: No, it's...

BLITZER: We learned about it after the fact. We didn't watch it happen.

GIBBS: Well, Wolf, I'm happy to come to your editorial meetings and watch how the news happens. This has been the single most transparent White House in the history of our country.

You know because people asked, we would like a list of people that have come to the White House to discuss health care. You have that. In the previous administration, when you ask for that same list about energy, what happened? You went to the Supreme Court.

There's a difference. Transparency has happened in this White House. It's happened under President Obama's watch and people feel confident about that.

BLITZER: Why have the Democrats in three statewide elections, in Virginia, New Jersey and now in Massachusetts, lost?

GIBBS: For varying and different reasons. Obviously, gubernatorial races hinge mostly on local issues. I think there were a myriad of reasons why Martha Coakley didn't win yesterday in Massachusetts.

We've certainly dissected -- and I know you've discussed a lot of those issues. There is an anger and a frustration in this country that the president heard and was elected hearing and inaugurated a year ago.

That same anger continues in this country because there's a genuine frustration that we haven't seen more progress on our economy, that unemployment continues to be at 10 percent.

The president hears and understands that anger, and he's focused each and every day on getting our economy back on track.

BLITZER: Robert Gibbs is the White House press secretary. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

GIBBS: Wolf, I'm happy to do it.



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