The strong reactions, from some quarters, to the behind-closed-doors negotiations over the “health care reform” legislation are a good example of how politicians, in this media-saturated age of stored video and cell phone cameras, should be careful about the promises they make. During his presidential campaign, President Obama repeatedly told people that health care legislation would be negotiated publicly, on C-SPAN, so Americans would be fully apprised of the nature of the discussions. It was the kind of “open government” promise that really appeals to many people, who are tired of the crass horse-trading and backroom deals that seem to characterize our legislative process.
The problem with making such explicit promises, of course, is that some trusting souls will expect you to honor them. President Obama, however, has not honored his promise. Instead, now that we have reached a kind of end game stage for the “health care reform” legislation, where negotiators for the House Democrats, the Senate Democrats, and the White House are trying to hammer out a final package to take to the floors of the two Houses of Congress, negotiations are proceeding in strict secrecy — even though C-SPAN has specifically requested the ability to broadcast those negotiations. This harshly worded piece from Jack Cafferty of CNN is an example of the reactions politicians inevitably will get under such circumstances:
It seems clear to me that Cafferty is speaking not just as a reporter who is professionally disappointed by a lack of transparency, but as someone who feels personally betrayed and embarrassed that they trusted President Obama’s promises in the first place. Cafferty thought President Obama would be different from the normal politician, and he reacted viscerally when he discovered that President Obama is a politician like any other. My guess is that Cafferty is not the only one who feels that way, and that is not a good thing for either the President or the Democratic Party. Trust, once lost, is almost impossible to regain. If the President fails to even pay lip service to campaign promises once he gets elected, why should people trust anything he says?