Today, we have a good example of why conservatives were foolish and short-sighted to reflexively support everything the Bush Administration ever did. It was, at minimum, bad politics for Dick Cheney to meet with energy industry officials, and it made for bad law when the FOIA claim for details about that meeting went all the way to the Supreme Court.
At the time, conservatives said that Cheney had done nothing wrong and ought not to have to disclose facts about the meeting. Executive privilege was cited. Liberals were outraged and demanded openness in government. And at least one Supreme Court Justice, who actually did nothing objectively questionable and whose ultimate decision was made on principled grounds, got a bunch of egg on his face and issued a twenty-two page diatribe whining about being embarrassed by the public criticism of his having gone hunting with Cheney several months before the case came before him.
Now, the Obama Administration is using the exact same argument to shield from public disclosure facts and evidence about meetings with healthcare and drug industry officials and — well, we don’t even know who in the White House they even met with, or how often, or for how long. Because apparently, that information will have to be extracted by injunction rather than through voluntary compliance with the law or even the President’s campaign promises for open government and to have C-SPAN cameras trained on him as he fashioned health care reform policies.
The reason the Obama Administration can do this is the Bush Administration did it first. Obama is breaking no new ground. Conservatives are powerless to argue against the legality of keeping the meetings secret, having argued for the secrecy of functionally identical meetings only four years ago. This is why you don’t defend the indefensible, even when (you believe) the indefensible is being deployed for a good objective. Sooner or later, someone else is going to come along and use the same indefensible tactics to do something you don’t like.
Most Democrats, by the way, seems strangely silent on the issue of Obama’s outright violation of his campaign promises to open up government to public scrutiny. “What, he just said that to get elected?” Of course he did. And the resulting policy is going to stink as much as the other policy created in this fashion did.
Meet the new boss, and all that.