- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010


President Obama on Tuesday said he “probably should have” made sure the closed-door meetings on Democrats’ health care overhaul were broadcast to the public on C-SPAN — as he pledged during the campaign — and said it’s a “legitimate criticism” to hold him accountable for not living up to his promise.

But Mr. Obama, answering a high school student’s question about his administration’s record on openness, stressed that most of the deliberations over the health care bills were in fact on television because they were negotiated in several congressional committees during open hearings. He also cited praise from an independent ethics watchdog group that has described his administration as the most open in recent history.

Speaking at a town hall in Nashua, N.H., Mr. Obama nevertheless acknowledged that he met repeatedly with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill behind closed doors to discuss how to merge the House and Senate health bills, which take different approaches to several thorny issues. Doing so violated the letter and, according to some, the spirit of a pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to open up all the negotiations to C-SPAN.

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“Look, I made that commitment and I probably should have put it on C-SPAN, although one of the tricky things is trying to figure out, well, if it is on C-SPAN, are people actually going to be saying what they think about trying to get the bill done or is everybody going to be posturing to say things that sound good for the camera,” Mr. Obama told the audience. “But I think it is a legitimate criticism to say, if you say that all of it is going to be on C-SPAN, all of it is going to be on C- SPAN.”

He noted several unprecedented steps that he has taken on transparency, however, including opening the White House visitor logs to the public and toughening the requirements that the government must meet to classify information.

“Have we gotten it perfect? No. Have we done better than any administration in recent memory? Absolutely. And we’ll keep on trying to improve on it,” he said.

• Kara Rowland can be reached at krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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