Behind Closed Doors, Part II

Scott noted yesterday the Democrats’ decision to craft their health care bill–presumably the final one–in secret, and C-Span’s offer to televise the proceedings. Since then, the story has exploded. Newspapers across the country have editorialized against the Democrats’ corruption of the legislative process. The New York Post, for example, wrote:

As DC Democrats slink behind closed doors to craft a final health-care bill — thousands of pages long and sure to sap the nation’s economic future — Americans need to ask: Just what are Dems so ashamed of?
“We will do what is necessary to pass the bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted, as she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved to forgo a panel to finalize legislation.
Instead, they’ll build their Frankenstein’s monster of a bill in secret, mocking democratic principles all the way.
So much for President Obama’s vows of transparency — and bipartisanship.

Democrats’ tempers have frayed, and Nancy Pelosi scoffed at Obama’s promises of openness and transparency:

A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras.
“There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,” quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.

“That was then, this is now–sucker!” That could serve as the epitaph of the Obama administration.
At today’s press briefing, reporters pressed Robert Gibbs on Obama’s breaking of his campaign promise. Byron York records the result; as usual, it isn’t pretty:

QUESTION: During the campaign the President on numerous occasions said words to the effect of — quoting one — “all of this will be done on C-SPAN in front of the public.” Do you agree that the President is breaking an explicit campaign promise?
GIBBS: Chip, we covered this yesterday and I would refer you to yesterday’s transcript.
QUESTION: But today is today and —
GIBBS: And the answer that I would give today is similar to the one —
QUESTION: But there was an intervening meeting in which it’s been reported that the President pressed the leaders in Congress to take the fast-track approach, to skip the conference committee. Did he do that?
GIBBS: The President wants to get a bill to his desk as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: In spite of the fact that he promised to do this on C-Span?
GIBBS: I would refer you to what we talked about in this room yesterday.
QUESTION: But the President in this meeting yesterday —
GIBBS: And I addressed that —
QUESTION: — pressed for something that’s in direct violation of a promise he made during the campaign.
GIBBS: And I addressed that yesterday.

But, of course, Gibbs said nothing at all yesterday:

QUESTION: C-Span television is requesting leaders in Congress to open up the debate to their cameras, and I know this is something that the President talked about on the campaign trail. Is this something that he supports, will be pushing for?
GIBBS: I have not seen that letter. I know the President is going to begin some discussions later today on health care in order to try to iron out the differences that remain between the House and the Senate bill and try to get something hopefully to his desk quite quickly….

Why has the Democrats’ violation of Obama’s C-Span pledge stirred such outrage? After all, no past Congress has invited television cameras into its partisan bargaining sessions. So why should the Democrats’ current machinations offend anyone? The answer lies, in part, in the subject matter: the Democrats are about to transform a huge piece of our economy that affects every American, and they are doing so in a way that, to put it charitably, pushes the limits of Congress’s historical traditions.
The other factor, of course, is the Obama campaign’s self-righteousness. How many times have we seen images of Barack Obama with his nose in the air, offering “hope”? Obama promised to be different–not worse, but better!–and his pledge to invite television cameras to observe behind-the-scenes legislative deliberations exemplified that image. Today, Obama’s message to voters is: “Don’t tell me you actually believed that s***?!”
We didn’t, but millions of those who did are feeling betrayed.

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