- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2012


President Obama wants to be known as a cosmopolitan leader. He’s well on his way to making America look more like Europe with nationalized health care and high energy prices. One of the most frivolous ideas he has imported from across the Atlantic is the “We the People” e-petition section of the White House website.

The recent online outbreak of secessionist fever has turned the spotlight on this otherwise little-noticed feature. Inspiration for the petition site came from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who decided in 2006 to ask visitors to the 10 Downing Street Web page to forward their concerns. The Labor Party leader thought it made sense to seek input from the public, collect the email addresses of petitioners and send out an electronic response when the number of signatures reached a certain threshold.

It’s a great way to appear in touch with the common man without actually being so. The latest petitions on the White House website showcase the range of things Mr. Obama is being asked to do, including “Answer ALL the questions posed by Congressman Ron Paul in his final speech on the House floor.” More random requests seek to, “Allow United States Military service members to place their hands in their pockets.” Many are looking for benefits from the administration, as seen in the petition to “provide University graduates ability to trade their diplomas back for 100 percent tuition refunds.” The most relevant petition seeks to “Shut down White House petitions, since they never get a sincere response, few read them, & they are ultimately worthless.”

Not surprisingly, the feeling of futility is universal. Few paid much attention to the British petitions until 2007 when 1.8 million online signatures were registered in protest of Labor’s plan to implement a per-mile tax on driving. No actual change in policy resulted. “We have not made any decision about national road pricing,” wrote Mr. Blair in his emailed response to petitioners. Right-leaning activists did figure out they could leverage the website to highlight unpopular Labor policies. For the most part, however, the entire enterprise proved to be so silly that Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron shelved the project when he took office in 2010. A year later, Mr. Cameron allowed petitioning to return, but he relegated the feature to the online backwater of the DirectGov website instead of using the prestigious 10 Downing Street address.

There’s a better way to involve the public than resorting to Internet gimmickry. Mr. Obama ought to acknowledge the 59 million people who cast a vote for the Republican candidate earlier this month. This slice of nearly half the country wants to see an end to the borrow, tax and spend policies of the last four years. He ought to respect their views with a willingness to compromise in the upcoming debt talks.

The Washington Times



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