Obama: Health Exec Visits Secret
The Obama White House says it’s none of your business who it meets with, Peter Nicholas reports for LAT.
Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.
The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the “presidential communications privilege.”
As a candidate, President Obama vowed that in devising a healthcare bill he would invite in TV cameras — specifically C-SPAN — so that Americans could have a window into negotiations that normally play out behind closed doors.
That was then; this is now.
The state of the law on these matters is murky and I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the idea that presidents ought to be able to invite industry types in for consultation in making policy in an atmosphere that maximizes frank exchange. But the degree to which incoming administrations come to find practices they had vehemently objected to quite useful is astounding. Indeed, what frequently happens is that the worst behaviors become the new baseline for what’s acceptable and the pushing of the envelope commences from there.
UPDATE: “Minutes before a press conference where President Barack Obama could have been asked about the issue, the White House released a list of visits by health care executives,” Josh Gernstein reports for Politico. “Some inconsistencies on the visitor issue remain. Chiefly, rejected requests from CREW for visits by coal industry executives and from MSNBC for all visitors to the White House since Obama took office.”
You’ve got to give Obama credit: He deals with potential scandals quickly.