One might admire the hutzpah of a president known for over-the-top secrecy attacking his opponent over transparency issues.
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” Newly minted President Barack Obama made that promise back in 2009. So how does his record stand up to the rhetoric?
I’ll put it to you this way. In testimony before Congress, I gave the Obama administration a “failing grade” on transparency. “To be sure,” I told Congress, “the Obama administration has been less transparent than the Bush administration…The Bush administration was tough and tricky, but the Obama administration is tougher and trickier.”
Let’s take a look at some of Obama’s “greatest hits” and you’ll see what I mean:
- The Obama administration has been caught lying and stonewalling over the Fast and Furious gunrunning operation, a scandal that led to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent and countless Mexican citizens. (President Obama’s political appointees took the extraordinary step of invoking Executive Privilege to shield the records subpoenaed by Congress from disclosure.)
- The Obama administration continues to spend trillions of dollars bailing out failing companies (see Solyndra) without disclosing any records justifying this unprecedented intrusion into the private sector. The administration has also said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, even though the agencies are owned and operated by the federal government. Fannie and Freddie now control our nation’s mortgage market after receiving a continuous infusion of taxpayer funds that totaled as of June $142 billion in bailout money. (Obama, by the way, was a top recipient of Fannie Mae political cash.)
- The Obama administration refuses to release critical White House visitor logs, making the shocking claim in court that these records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Even the major media have joined us in court opposing this secrecy.
- The Obama administration continues to stonewall the release of information detailing Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s role in crafting the defense of Obamacare, the president’s socialist takeover of the healthcare industry.
- The Obama administration refuses to release the bin Laden death photos, citing national security concerns, while trying to secretly leak detail of the raid to Hollywood filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow.
A president who doesn’t want you to know who is visiting him in the White House or why he got big money from Fannie Mae is a president who doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people. (To be clear, this is a partial list. See www.judicialwatch.org for more details.)
Every presidential candidate makes transparency a campaign issue when trying to get elected. Transparency is the reason for the Obama attacks against Mitt Romney over Bain Capital. But candidates promptly discard their promise once they get into power.
Not that Mitt Romney is above reproach on this. His stated reason for not wanting to release more tax returns, that he doesn’t want his political opponents to go through them and then lie about them, is ridiculous. It suggests to me, a skeptic of most politicians, that Romney doesn’t like the bother of accountability either. We asked both Mr. Romney and the president to answer some questions on their transparency policies. Neither one has seen fit to reply. So expect more secrecy from both candidates.
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch and author of the upcoming book The Corruption Chronicles due out on July 24th.