“The Most Transparent Administration in History”

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 8, 2012

Whether or not we voted for him, Barack Obama is our president and will be for the next four years, which means that we are invested in his inauguration. We deserve to have it open to us so that we are able to witness it and so that we are able to glean something from it regarding the president’s plans for a second term.

Too bad that the Obama administration might be thinking otherwise:

The White House Correspondents Association is strongly urging the Obama administration to allow press access to the president’s official swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20, following indications from inauguration committee officials that the event could potentially be closed to the press.

“Mindful of the historic nature of this occasion, we expect the White House will continue the long tradition of opening the President’s official swearing-in to full press access, and we as an organization are looking forward to working with the administration to make that happen,” Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said in a statement.

Because inauguration day falls on a Sunday in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts will officially administer the official oath of office in a private ceremony that day. The public inauguration on the Capitol Building’s West Front — at which Roberts will administer a second, symbolic oath of office — will take place the next day.

In early meetings with the inaugural committee, officials privately indicated to reporters that the Jan. 20 event could be closed to reporters and cameras, with an official photograph supplied to press by White House photographer Pete Souza, sources familiar with the meeting told POLITICO.

[. . .]

“Call me shell-shocked. I’m stunned that this is even an issue; it boggles the mind,” NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd told POLITICO. “This is not their oath, this is the constitutional oath. It’s not for them. It’s for the public, the citizens of the United Sates. It just boggles the mind — How is this even a debate?”

Now, to be fair, as the story indicates, no final decision has been made to make the January 20th inauguration a private one. And even if it were, the public inauguration will indeed serve to indicate what direction the president wants to take when it comes to policy in the second term. But that doesn’t change the fact that the January 20th inauguration is the actual, official inauguration–the one that serves as a starting gun for the second term. It is bizarre in the extreme to contemplate making that event a purely private one. At the very least, the press pool should be allowed to witness the event, and as the story goes on to note, when Ronald Reagan faced a similar situation for his inauguration in 1985, “Reagan’s White House allowed complete news coverage of the private ceremony, including three reporters, three still photographers, and one network television pool camera, according to a Los Angeles Times report from the time. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN carried live broadcasts of the event.” There is no reason why the Obama administration should do anything differently.

But of course, we really shouldn’t be surprised if the administration does things differently. Despite the fact that Barack Obama promised “the most transparent administration in history,” a simple Google search reveals that promises of government transparency have been broken multiple times and for no good reason whatsoever. I’d like to think that Barack Obama will finally try to keep his pledge to run a transparent government–especially given the fact that we are discussing his own inauguration here–but I am not holding my breath.

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