American Culture

Transparency. See also: opacity. Obama admin puts hit out on meaning of antonym.

Neon sign,

Here’s your big red neon warning sign.

Friday morning, TechDirt had this insightful little snippet of pithy analysis to share.

Read that again. This is the same White House that has been saying that they want to be as transparent as possible and to rebuild trust. And yet, here they are trying to block the Post from using an interview — an interview they suggested in the first place — and then to replace it with a bland and bogus “statement.”

To what does that refer? This, from the WashPo article cited.:

The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong.

Seriously, truly, we all, every last one of us, need to hold elected officials to a far higher standard. I don’t care which party is in. I don’t care which base is being appealed to. Lies, distortions, obfuscation, and the outright trash talk that are our daily fare are beneath us. We can and must do better.

I offer these few humble words for your consideration not just because I’m increasingly against this administration in particular, but because its behavior and TechDirt’s analysis in brief are instructive going forward, regardless of which party is in power in which branch of government.

If in one breath one tries to calm the jitters of a disillusioned electorate with lip service to transparency, one should simply not get away with this kind of overt and blisteringly incompetent interference in the next.

Enough platitudes and equivocations. The buck stops in the Oval Office. Heads need to roll, figuratively, of course, or we have zero reason for faith in the way the duties of the office are being discharged.

Like I said, we can and must do better. Or maybe we should just stop calling ourselves Americans if this is what we’re willing to stoop to and settle for.

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Image credit: Adapted from original photo by grisei @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

6 replies »

  1. Thank you, Frank.

    This is Journalism 101. I teach the kiddies to be sure ground rules are clearly understand by both parties before the interview takes place.

    I also teach them: “If John Doe utters a statement, and THEN says, ‘Oh, that’s off the record,’ remind Mr. Doe of the ground rules. The statement remains on the record.”

    In the case here, that appears to be what’s happened: “Oh, that’s off the record.”

    I voted for Barry twice. He promised he’d be different. But for the past several years, I am repeatedly reminded how naive I was to believe that a politician can be trusted to keep his or her word.

    • “But for the past several years, I am repeatedly reminded how naive I was to believe that a politician can be trusted to keep his or her word.”

      My best hope is that there is still some reason for optimism, some reason to believe that it’s possible to put people into office who can and should be trusted. You’ve might have noticed I’ve been working on my tone of late. I burned out on the Kool-Aid trough and the constant urge to spew vitriol. More and more I’m leaning to a work together with strange bedfellows approach in hopes of at least accomplishing the things we can agree on. The first thing I think we can agree on with pretty much anybody is that being fed bald-faced lies and double-speak, *especially* when the speaker clearly has so much contempt for us that they don’t even bother to do it well, is simply no longer acceptable.

      I’ve been seeing enough fatigue with this garbage from the Wall St center from both the left and right that I think Yeats spoke truth when he penned, “the centre cannot hold.”

    • Romney or McCain/Palin would have been orders of magnitude worse. This is not to excuse Obama, but to point out that there were good reasons for people who *aren’t* naive to have voted for him.

  2. Excellent piece, Frank, and I admire your desire to try to get our “government” (I use that term loosely since they do little to govern except to further empower and reward their masters) to govern . Except that, and I say this with all due respect, I don’t believe there are “sides” any longer (if there ever were) – unless you mean “the corporate-wealthy ruling class” against the rest of us – the naive, cajoled, manipulated, abused, misinformed, disinformed “public.” Unless the people use their power to cajole, manipulate, abuse, and inform their servants of their will, I don’t see much changing…. (Forgive me – I’m full of Howard Zinn these days….)

    • Oh, I fully agree. I think see the same two sides you describe, with few factions in the ruling class and too many to count in the subject class. Lucky us, we learn early on that wer’e only allowed to play one game, one way, their way, and that way has sides all over the place down where we are. Until enough of us come together to thwart the New Roman’s gladiator games, we’re just going to keep hacking away at each other. That only leaves me room to hope we’ll figure it out eventually and do something about it. Otherwise it’s just our destiny and the outlook is pretty bleak.