Transparency and Rule of Law Touchstones of this Presidency

When I woke to an NPR report that Barack Obama had pledged, “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” I had to laugh.  Not because I doubt his sincerity but because we’ve heard this sort of thing before.

Bill Clinton promised us “the most ethical administration in the history of the Republic,” a quote often attributed sneeringly to George W. Bush — who merely promised to “restore honor and dignity” to the White House.  Both meant it, I think, as does Obama.  Reality has a way of unfolding a bit differently.

Looking for similar homilies, I stumbled on Will Bunch‘s column, which lists longer versions of those quotes and jokes that the inauguration of Obama’s successor will almost certainly be closely followed by a report such as this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hours after taking the oath of office in the wake of the scandal-plagued Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Reagan administrations, President Rodriguez yesterday released strict new ethical guidelines and promised his administration would be “the most honest since the time of Plato.”

Under the new rules proposed by the 45th president, White House who so much as look at a lobbyist will be immediately fired, fitted with an ankle bracelet and not allowed to travel within an 100-mile radius of Washington for the next 35 years.

Not a bad idea, come to think of it. . . .

Photo from Getty Images

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    George W. Bush — who merely promised to “restore honor and dignity” to the White House.

    Yes–that was his 2004 campaign message.

  2. Leisureguy says:

    On a positive note, Obama has directed all federal agencies to comply with the FOIA and lean toward disclosure instead of secrecy. The Bush Administration was VERY big on secrecy and fought and stalled FOIA requests at every turn. So I would say there is evidence of a move toward transparency. Of course, this is only day 2.

  3. rodney dill says:

    I have to admit, when I think of Obama, ‘Transparent’ does come to mind.

  4. Leisureguy says:

    Any actual examples of a lack of transparency, or are we now in ideological space instead of reality?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Any actual examples of a lack of transparency, or are we now in ideological space instead of reality?

    I’m sure he fully intends to be super duper transparent, just as Clinton wished to be ethical and Bush to be dignified. My point is that such proclamations have a way of not being realized in due course.

  6. Leisureguy says:

    Well, I did point out a specific action that supports his pledge.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Well, I did point out a specific action that supports his pledge.

    Right. And Clinton and Bush took similar actions.

    The presidency has a way of forcing people to cocoon. I hope Obama manages to resist.

  8. Leisureguy says:

    This post compares some specifics between Bush’s view of transparency (somewhat like Cheney’s) and what Obama has done so far.