In A Hurry? It All Depends

It’s probably common for politicians to break campaign promises, but has there ever been a politician who equaled Barack Obama’s brazen “that was then, this is now” attitude? In Obama’s case, campaign promises can be presumed inoperative now that he is in office.

Byron York reminds us of Obama’s “sunlight before signing” pledge, his assurance that he would “not sign any nonemergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days.” That promise lasted as long as the first bill passed during the Obama administration, which he signed in two days without posting it on the White House web site. Obama signed the second bill within hours after its passage, again ignoring his “sunlight before signing” pledge.

The Democrats’ pork bill posed a different sort of test: alleged to be an emergency, it was rushed through Congress and voted on before printed copies were available–the final version was corrected in longhand–and before any member of Congress, let alone the public, had been able to read it. (Copies were, however, made available to lobbyists.) The hurry was such that voting was held open on a Friday night so that Senator Sherrod Brown could be flown back from his mother’s wake to provide the last needed vote. All of this was justified by the claim that the bill was an emergency measure. What happened next?

[D]id President Obama sign it rather quickly? Not at all.

He also chose not to sign it on Saturday. And not to sign it on Sunday. And he chose not to sign it on Monday. Only on Tuesday, with a big campaign-style event in Denver, would the president finally be ready to put his signature on the bill.

He signs nonemergency legislation in the blink of an eye. And he lets emergency legislation sit for days before lifting his pen. …

[W]hy was there such a rush, if Obama had no plans to sign [the stimulus bill] for days?

Go back to “Sunlight Before Signing.” In the case of the stimulus, there was never any doubt Obama would sign the legislation. The period in which the public needed sunlight was before the bill was passed, not before it was signed. And that was precisely the kind of sunlight the White House and Democrats wanted to stop. Once they accomplished that with Friday’s voting gambit, Obama could take a few days off in Chicago while the “emergency” legislation sat on his desk. Then, it was on to Denver for the photo-op.

This delay had nothing to do with sunlight — and everything to do with showmanship.

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