By Chrissy the Hyphenated
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For the first time EVAH, President Obama has consented to receive an award in a closed door, no press ceremony.
Yep. It’s true!
Hard to believe the Ego-in-Chief demanded that NO press record him getting an award, isn’t it?
And guess what the award was for?
(Isn’t a closed-door transparency meeting an oxymoron?)
So far as I can tell, skulking in corners and claiming the dog ate his homework is SOP for Obama. For example, there was that time he made a unilateral decision to send an American ambassador to Syria. Syria is an anti American, terrorist country that embraces Iran.
Before Obama, we hadn’t sent an ambassador there for years. Not sending an ambassador is one of the few diplomatic, non-violent ways a nation has to express disapproval for the way another country is behaving.
Changing something like that would usually get a lot of discussion in Congress, which is no doubt why Mr. New Kind of Politics appointed his ambassador to Syria during the Christmas recess when our legislators and the press and everyone else in the country was busy with other “Winter Holiday” stuff.
Nice, right? Real transparent!
But seriously, folks, Obama the Opaque virtually announced on his very first day in office that this would be his modus operandi.
Remember all the things he said would be the First Thing he’d do if he got elected? Well … the first thing he ACTUALLY did was throw a shroud of secrecy over his entire administration.
Obama’s Executive Order 13489 is posted @ http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13489
The First Executive Order of the Obama Presidency is … well, “dry” would be a nice way to put it. It’s just a list of procedures for dealing with the National Archivist’s office … hardly what you’d expect for Unprecedentedly Historic Barry’s choice for his First Official Act.
And it’s not some paperwork-y nonsense that all presidents just have to get out of the way before they can get to the good stuff. In fact, only two other presidents in history have ever signed an order like this — George Bush a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks and Ronald Reagan a few days before he left office.
Bush’s Executive Order 13233 is posted @ http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13233
Reagan’s Executive Order 12677 is posted @ http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_12667
So what’s the big deal? Why did Obama make his Numero Uno Presidential Act a dry-as-dirt order about Presidential Records?
Quick history: Until 1978, presidential records were considered the private property of the president. But in the aftermath of the Nixon administration’s paranoia, Congress passed and Carter signed the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which redefined presidential records as public property which, with the Freedom of Information Act, gives the rest of us a chance to get a look at them.
The text of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 is posted @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Records_Act
Given the potential for disaster if some records are made public, presidents past and incumbent are given the opportunity to invoke “executive privilege” — that is, designate certain records are nobody’s beeswax.
Reagan’s Executive Order 12677 laid out procedures for when, where and how a president (incumbent or former) could invoke executive privilege, in part by requiring a timely response when the archivist asks, “Is this one okay to release?”
I compared the three orders line by line. [Yaawwwwwwwwwwwwn. You’re welcome!] The funny thing is … apart from specifying that the Vice President’s records are to be handled the same way as the President’s, Obama’s order is almost identical to Reagan’s.
But Bush’s order … the one in the middle … was nearly 1,000 words longer.
One thing Bush added to Reagan’s procedures was to create a distinction between records less than 12 years old and records older and presumably less likely to have national security implications. He also put in a long section that gave former presidents a lot more consideration in the handling of their legacy.
Obama swept both of those elements away.
More importantly, Obama also swept away an important limitation Bush had placed on executive privilege —
i.e., that it only applied to records reflecting “military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President’s advisors.”
Obama went back to the broadest definition possible –
i.e., any and all ‘‘documentary materials maintained by NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act.”
The Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207 is posted online @ http://www.archives.gov/about/laws/presidential-records.html.
The section about what “presidential records” means is “2201. Definitions” –
“All books, correspondence, memorandums, documents, papers, pamphlets, works of art, models, pictures, photographs, plats, maps, films, and motion pictures, including, but not limited to, audio, audiovisual, or other electronic or mechanical recordations created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise and assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”
But hey … don’t take my word for it. The record proves that Obama is MUCH MORE SECRETIVE than Bush ever was!
No wonder Obama didn’t want any public attention over his unearned transparency award presentation.
I bet it looks just swell hanging next to his Nobel medal.
(I’ve seen some sites claiming that Obama’s first Executive Order was about keeping his birth certificate and college transcripts sealed, but that stuff is already legally defined as private. Obama didn’t need a presidential order to keep them sealed.)