President Obama’s ultimate weakness may be that he believes his own blarney. A year ago, Mr. Obama boasted in a “fireside” Web chat that his “is the most transparent administration in history.” There was not the slightest hint of irony. He may actually believe it.
But three-dozen organizations representing newspapermen and other journalists, mostly liberals, beg to differ. In a testy letter to the president on Tuesday, the group decried the “slick non-answers” and cold shoulders they’re getting from Mr. Obama’s representatives, who have restricted access to any information they consider embarrassing to the administration.
“The stifling of free expression,” the signers said, “is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring ‘a new era of openness’ to federal government — and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about.”
The government’s attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear has never been more ham-handed — or more indefensible — than in the early attempts to bar the press and members of Congress from fact-finding visits to the facilities in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, which are refugee camps for the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who have been swarming across the Rio Grande.
A casual observer might think that Mr. Obama, as an advocate for amnesty and open borders, would welcome the coverage his administration is suppressing. The photographs and video scenes of the malnourished and shabbily dressed children would tug at the heartstrings of Ebenezer Scrooge. “We’ve got to help these poor kids,” the president might say. “We can’t send them back home.”
Under heavy pressure from lawmakers, the administration reluctantly said it would allow press and congressional visits, but no photographs or video permitted, not even cellphone cameras. Interviews with the illegal aliens, custodians or doctors treating the new arrivals are prohibited.
This doesn’t please Sen. John McCain, a supporter of amnesty. At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, the Arizona Republican excoriated Gil Kerlikowske, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, demanding that restrictions be lifted. “I want it done today,” he barked. “You understand?”
Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, a Democrat who earlier called the humanitarian crisis an immigration tsunami that could become Mr. Obama’s “Katrina moment,” said those remarks drew angry pushback from the most transparent White House in history. Mr. Cuellar asked why Mr. Obama couldn’t spare “30 minutes” to visit the border, but found time to shoot pool and drink beer with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for the cameras.
The reporters fed up with the attitude they’re getting from the White House can only hope for change, someone with clout to listen to their complaints. “That will go a long way,” they wrote, “toward dispelling Americans’ frustration and cynicism before it further poisons our democracy.”