During Tuesday night's edition of CNN's Outfront, substitute host Tom Foreman departed from the network's usual liberal spin to accuse President Obama of failing to keep his promise of presiding over the most transparent presidential administration ever.
After running a clip of the president stating that “We have put in place the toughest ethics laws and toughest transparency rules of any administration in history.” Foreman asked if Obama's claims “add up” regarding the “transparency tornado.”
He promised to publish the White House visitors' log so the public could see who was coming and going all the time. But his administration later came under fire for holding meetings with lobbyists across the street at a townhouse with no visitor records.
Foreman continued by stating that the president “appointed a transparency czar and a year later dropped him, saying the White House attorney can handle that work.”
Foreman then turned his attention to a June fundraiser at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker. At that event, “the Secret Service parked a dump truck in front of our camera to keep Obama hidden from view.”
Those incidents, the veteran CNN journalist observed, have prompted [liberal] publications ranging from the New York Times to the Mother Jones magazine “to sharply criticize the president for being far from the champion of transparency he claims to be.”
The host then asked Bill Adair, the creator and editor of Politifact.com, if Obama is “any better, any worse or about the same as other presidents.”
Adair replied that Obama has “had mixed success” on his “big promise” of transparency.
Adair noted that among the things the president has accomplished is releasing “an ocean of information” online, but added that one of the things Obama has not done well is “resist the gravitational pull of Washington to do things behind closed doors,” including the promised airing of discussions on health care policy on C-SPAN.
Foreman then turned to CNN contributor David Frum and stated that many reporters have said “there's a lot of information coming out, but when you're releasing the information that you want to release, that's just PR. That's not transparency.”
“I'm a big believer in government accountability,” Frum said, “but I think transparency is the most overrated concept in government. It doesn't do what you want it to do.”
Foreman replied forcefully to the Canadian-born former Bush speechwriter, “I'm a voter. I want to know what's going on. I want to know who the president is sitting down with.”
You think you do, but you don't reallybecause what you want is an effective administration that delivers positive results. And that means the president needs to have some privacy in his deliberation.
After Frum added that the transparency debate is a “waste of time,” Foreman asked Roland Martin, a liberal CNN contributor, why Obama made all these promises “if he wasn't going to open the doors and bring all the cameras in.”
Martin dodged the question and instead lectured:
None of this has anything to do with housing, with getting a job, with getting education, with health care. All it is, is a campaign move to try to chip away at the person. It has nothing to do with policy, so frankly it doesn't excite me at all.
Adair then said that “as a journalist, I need to speak up for transparency. Transparency is good.”:
We want to know what our government is doing. And I think because of a lot of this data being out there, we do know more. We know a lot about the economic stimulus that wouldn't have been possible in the past, so transparency is a good thing.
Martin then chimed in that the basis for the “transparency tornado” can be summed up in one word: politics.
At that point, Frum claimed Foremanwas “advocating the class interests of journalists and the professional interests of journalists. But those are not the same as the needs of the public.”
“Think about it,” he continued. “We know more about what goes on inside these government negotiations than we ever did, and government accomplishes much less” than in the past, Frum helpfully spun for the president.
Foreman then added that Obama isn't the only one with transparency trouble. Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, has been under attack by Democrats who want to see all of his financial records.
As a result, the Foreman asked Martin what his advice would be to both the GOP and Democratic camps.
“Shut up!” he replied. “I would say shut up and focus on policy, OK?”
"“We'll see" where the issue goes next, Foreman pronounced in closing, adding, "I don't think we've heard the last of it."
But we have if the attitudes of folks like Frum and Martin are indicative of the curiosity of members of the liberal media. It was definitely refreshing to see a “fair and balanced” discussion on a CNN program. Perhaps the network could start to solve its ratings woes if viewers got more of that kind of debate.