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  • Robert Gibbs Wrongly Equates Twitter With Transparency

    President Barack Obama and his team have been resting on the strength of their social media efforts in the 2008 election for some time now. While they have been doing so, the world of digital media has passed them by, creating venues for political mobilization, policy debate and checks and balances unseen in any previous administration. In short, the right has overtaken the digital space in response to a largely secretive and out-of-control White House. But Robert Gibbs has a new spin on the White House’s social media efforts.

    In an interview with The Hill newspaper, via Twitter, the current White House press secretary said: “The president campaigned on an open and transparent administration, and it’s clear that the ability for citizens of this country to directly question those that work in the government [via Twitter] is an obvious and good thing.”

    Sorry Robert, nice try. While it is commendable that the White House makes any effort to open new dialogue streams with citizens, the occasional tweet or YouTube video does not equate to “transparency.” In fact, this has been the most non-transparent government perhaps in decades.

    Twitter is a vehicle for information; a means to an end. Its use is by no means synonymous with releasing more information in a timely manner to allow for a more informed electorate. That the White House does not understand, or fails to admit, this shows how far removed they are from the social media phenomenon.

    To say this White House is transparent would ignore the past two years of legislative history. Remember the “Pelosi Rule”? The soon-to-be former Speaker of the House famously said: “We’ll have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” She was referring to Obamacare; a bill that was initially jammed through on Christmas Eve 2009, loaded with backroom deals like the Cornhusker Kickback, the Florida Gator-Aid, and the Louisiana Purchase. President Obama promised deliberations would be “televised on C-SPAN” but that promise was broken. The legislation was the quintessence of shady, non-transparent politics which the voters ultimately rejected in November 2010.

    Or take the new START treaty. For months legislators requested that the administration release the negotiating record so they could appropriately understand the intent and obligations of the preamble and other sections. This had been done in the past with the ABM and INF treaties under President Ronald Reagan. But alas, the White House would not even entertain such requests and again, jammed through ratification during the pre-Christmas week of 2010.

    Also this week, the FCC passed a net neutrality regulation that enables the Obama administration to take over another sixth of the economy without congressional oversight and in spite of contrary court orders. The FCC not only didn’t release the regulation the panel was voting on before the vote, but they don’t plan on releasing the agreed-upon package until everyone is comfortably enjoying their holidays and not paying attention. In fact, the FCC shut down their website for a week prior to the vote for “scheduled maintenance.”

    These examples are in addition to the too-numerous-to-count spending bills that were brought to congressional floor outside the committee process, demanding votes from legislators who hadn’t even seen a copy of the bill, like the recent Omnibus Spending bill.

    President Obama did spend some time taking town-hall questions over the past two years. Unfortunately, time after time they were staged events loaded with hand-picked campaign volunteers with scripted questions.

    Recently, the White House eliminated the position of “ethics czar”, previously held by Norm Eisen, which was dedicated to “transparency.” Some of his responsibilities were transferred to a high-powered political lobbyist the White House hired.

    This week, the Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten reported that the White House has been holding regular meetings with liberal groups at a downtown Washington hotel. The meetings were reported as “closed-door sessions between top Obama aides and officials from dozens of left-leaning interest groups such as unions, youth voting groups, women’s organizations, gay rights advocates and civil rights activists.” Wallsten continued: “Attendees are required to keep all proceedings secret and off the record.”

    Do these sound like the actions of a transparent White House? Surely, Robert Gibbs could have hand-selected, and answered, a couple questions from Twitter about Obamacare, START, the FCC or spending and given his spin via YouTube or any other broadcast method, but would that excuse the underlying process in which this White House operates? Of course not.

    The White House uses social media in the same way that they use the television cameras or radio microphones in daily press briefings – as a vehicle for their message. But without hard-hitting questions that aren’t selected or expected, you can not begin to describe such activity as part of an aura of transparency.

    This past summer, North Korea launched a Twitter and YouTube page which MSNBC described as a way for the “communist country to push its propaganda.” Gibbs can follow Pyongyang’s propaganda @uriminzok (aka “our nation”). Surely, Robert Gibbs doesn’t view North Korea as transparent?

    The Hill’s Michael O’Brien correctly described Gibbs’ use of Twitter as a way for the White House to “to break news and enhance their messaging”. For it to be called anything but that is transparently ridiculous.

    You can follow Rory Cooper on Twitter @rorycooper

    Posted in Obamacare, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Robert Gibbs Wrongly Equates Twitter With Transparency

    1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. -- Topsy.com

    2. George Colgrove, VA says:

      We have for too long put Transparency in the hands of people who have no interest in transparency. Federal departments, agencies and programs have no interest in being open and honest with the American people. The cornerstone of transparency is FOIA. It was created out of the need to expose the Nixon administration criminal activities. Since it has been restricted in doing its intended job.

      There are far more effective private sector organizations that provide better government oversight than those employed by federal employees. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO – http://www.pogo.org) comes to mind.

      The private sector has always been a better avenue of doing the people’s business, be it health care, retirement investment, technology and so on. The same is true for government oversight.

      According to POGO their evaluation of FOIA – a valuable tool we the people need to ensure the federal government is being honest and open:

      “Freedom of Information Act

      The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a vital tool that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased government documents. In POGO’s experience, however, there are many problems with the FOIA process, such as backlogs and delays in responding to FOIA requests, a widespread hesitation to put documents online, an overly prohibitive interpretation of the law that favors secrecy over transparency, and more. The FOIA process should be improved and expedited so that citizens and journalists have the tools they need to investigate the government’s activities and hold our elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions.”

      FOIA is employed by the most dedicated federal employees I know. They work tirelessly fulfilling the requests made by countless people for various reasons. If they are encumbered by the inefficiencies described above it is because they are held down by their respective administrative offices they work for. In addition of providing documents to people, they are also bogged down with pointless and needless IT issues like web site content management and other unrelated administrative duties. They are forced to withhold information by higher-level departmental officers – as can be seen in the SEC and DHS earlier this year.

      Transparency within government does not work because you have a secretive and dishonest government – who has things to hide – in charge of providing information. They are not objective. Transparency can only come from government officials being forced to by law (with threats of criminal repercussions) to release all documents as request and then some. Moreover, it has to be done by people who have the total freedom to do the work – something FOIA workers do not currently enjoy. They need to be free to release information that may make federal officials angry, without threats made on their jobs or suffer harassment by their upper management.

      All federal government oversight functions including FOIA shall be consolidated under the GAO. The GAO shall be reconfigured to be a non-federal entity with private sector status. Funding for the GAO shall be part federal and part private via fee schedules with matching federal funds. The GAO should be converted to a trade organization where professionals in the open government field (like the HF and POGO), academia, state FOIA programs, and private citizens can join by paying a membership fee. The new GAO would have open government guidebooks and periodicals that anyone can pay for subscriptions to. They can provide a legal structure and training resources that aids state level FOIA programs. We can add many free market moneymaking vehicles to the new body to cover costs.

      People working for the new GAO would be inherently non-governmental and as such can be effective watchdogs as they should be. The GAO should be the people’s direct line of contact to get information from the federal government about budgets, freedom of information requests, bills, laws and so on. This entity should be biased against the government and biased towards the people. Though objectivity needs to be the rule. It needs to emphasize Accountability. GAO Organization should stand for Government Accountability and Oversight Organization.

      The federal government should not be trusted in doing their own oversight on themselves – that is a people’s task. The GAO should be fully transparent and accessible to the people upon demand as any trade organization is. If implemented correctly, the GAO will be the only necessary Open Government Initiative that needs to exist. This leaves the departments to work on their core missions.

      To implement this, all current FOIA (and other oversight program) offices throughout the federal government will be consolidated and combined with the GAO in a single building. Over three months, the new entity will reorganize itself both organizationally and financially. Bylaws will be written, a board of directors will be assigned and finally a CEO will be named. This new private organization will have total autonomy from the federal government. It is the only way this can work.

      The legislation that forces this should also include eliminating current FOIA and other oversight statutes and replace them with far leaner statutes that favor simplification, efficiency and increased and guaranteed transparency. As for transparency through FOIA the new statute should limit redactions to:

      1 – Private Citizens identification information

      2 – Company Trade Secrets

      3 – National Security subject mater (without delving into needless over-classification)

      4 – Local Security concerns

      The new statute should provide provisions to hold public officials accountable for holding back documents. Documents released shall be declassified only for national security purposes in a process that has accountable to the new GAO. Officials that hold back documents from the new GAO will be investigated and prosecuted if found guilty. It will be the sole duty of the federal government to provide the new GAO with declassified documents. It will be the function of the people’s GAO to ensure private people and corporations as well as local security concerns are protected and that the government is not using national security to cover up internal corruption and crimes prior to the release of those documents.

    3. George Colgrove, VA says:

      People working for governmental transparency should be inherently *non*-governmental positions and only as such can they be effective watchdogs as they should be. They should not be federal employees or elected officials. They should be working with simplified statutes that provide efficient means on providing the public information on the inner working of the ever growing and secretive federal government. People working in governmental transparency needs to be independent and have its own pay structure and not be part of the federal payroll. It should also have its own revenue stream along with minimal federal funding. In short, people working for federal transparency should not have a stake in government affairs – either negatively or positively, nor should they suffer under threats of their programs being cut.

      In the days of bloated budgets, sky rocketing debt and an ever secretive and oppressive government, transparency and open government are becoming vital rights of the people. The entire government is now acting as a single body with no checks and balances. We need a separate and powerful organization separate of the federal government that acts on the behalf of the people to act as OUR check and balance on the entire evil machine that the federal government has become. Only when we have strong means of transparency will the government go back to its constitutional defined duties. The founders most likely never conceived that such greed for wealth and power and distain for the public could exist within public official’s hearts as it is in its egregious form today. They likely never conceived that in this country public officials who adhere to and pledge their profession to the constitution of the United States could ever become as corrupted as they are today. They probably never conceived that these public officials would engage in an unabashful grab of scarce taxpayers dollars to grease theirs and their friends pockets. Perhaps as a means of catching any possible corruption, that’s why they made freedom of speech the number one right and the right to bear arms as the second – to protect the first!

      I believe had the founders knew of the cesspool for which our politicians and public officials would come from, they would have set up a fourth branch in the checks and balances. This branch would have been an independent group of private citizens who would have oversight over the other three. We do have our vote, but after the elections, the elected officials set us aside and go back on their promises and return to their government ruling class status. This thinking is now over. Congress has to make a new independent body completely separate of the rest of the government under control of the people that provides for complete and total transparency. If congress and the federal government has nothing to hide, then this should be an easy task.

    4. Jon Weiss says:

      This White House Crew is a master of "Hair Splitting", their idea of transparency seems to be akin to the idea of taking a pane of glass, inserted into a window frame, painting both sides of the glass with black paint and then claiming "Well, the "glass? is still transparent." Just like the onerous portions of several bills they have passed, which are about as transparent as taking a Websters Dictionary, shuffling the pages then claiming that you can still find the word Aardvark in the book, just look somewhere in there, you have ten seconds…GO!

      All of this is due to the lefts glaring knowledge that the truth of what they do is so distasteful to the majority of Americans that they dare not let it all out for general discussion, if they want to retain the use of their heads.

    5. Bobbie says:

      it's an attempt to confuse situations and convince people the Internet needs government control. Most people with the minds of reason know unless a site is specifically designed for government transparency, everything else is freedom of speech and opinion.

    6. Pingback: Does Using Twitter Make the White House “Transparent”? - AllTwitter

    7. United States says:

      You are a liar.

      Everything you say was bought and paid for. The Koch brothers owns you and the Heritage Foundation. The public knows.

    8. Bobbie says:

      United States, are you writing to me specifically? If so, I will correct you on your false accusation. I am not a liar and will never be. Besides your embarrassment to yourself, I can't tell you how flattered I am on the rest. My premonition indicated my words would be someone elses wealth and that I should be humble and accept. I am and I do.

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