Open Government, Democrat-Style

The date: January 31, 2008. The place: Los Angeles. The event: a campaign debate between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. The subject: healthcare. Here’s what Obama said about “open government”:

That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.

Well, C-SPAN remembered that promise and sent a letter to the congressional leadership, both Democrats and Republicans, asking that the upcoming negotiations between the House and Senate be broadcast so people will know what is being discussed. Republicans have said yes, but they are not in power. Democrats have turned a cold shoulder to the idea.

When Nancy Pelosi was asked yesterday about C-SPAN’s request, her response was classic. She rejected the basic premise that there was a need for openness. In somewhat tortured grammar, she claimed, “There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who’s served here’s experience.”

I think that means she believes this has been a wonderfully open discussion and that everyone is fully aware of what is being proposed. She’s talking about bills that most House members and senators never even read—bills that were drafted behind closed doors and pushed through the chambers over the objections of not just Republicans but a majority of voters.

The latest ploy is to avoid the conference committee route where both sides—House and Senate—hammer out a compromise. Instead, it appears Pelosi is attempting to reach the compromise informally, out of committee, which means no one can present changes to the bill in a formal committee process. In effect, the process will be shortcircuited. The goal is to ram this through without having to deal with concerns over federal funding of abortions and other radical steps.

Well, we should just trust them, right?

I know the philosophy behind this healthcare push: it is a statist, fascistic philosophy that will undermine some of the cornerstones of American government and our economy. If it goes through despite the outcry against it nationwide, there could be a backlash.

The problem, though, is how can it be dismantled once it is set up? We may live with the consequences for a long time.