02
Feb
09

He is still the President we voted for

Many may feel President Obama spoke in a liberal voice during his campaign and after the General Election with a conservative tone, which in some cases may be valid, but for me, any President that could have taken advantage of Bush’s executive order, that expanded executive privilege and placed severe impediments on public access to presidential records is the type of President we need in office.

I feel this  way because the Executive Office is part of America’s history, he’s our President, so we as citizens deserve to know what he is implementing and planning, for posterity sake.

I find it refreshing that others share my perspective on this issue and found an article published on “Politico”, by Mark J. Rozell and Mitchell Sollenberger, entitled: “Obama opens the books”, which echoes my sediments almost to the letter.

Here are a few excerpts from this aforementioned article (high lighting added by myself).

Obama opens the books

Obama opens the books

In rescinding the 2001 Bush executive order that had expanded executive privilege and placed severe impediments on public access to presidential records, President Barack Obama has taken a very important step toward the promise of more open and accountable government. Will the president continue to move in the right direction?

The question is a fair one. If the modern presidency serves as an accurate guide, chief executives, even those who promise openness, eventually err on the side of secrecy and resist efforts by others to look inside the White House. To be sure, presidents have occasional secrecy needs, and no one credibly argues that all executive branch deliberations and decisions should be open to full public view.

Yet Obama has a special challenge in this regard given the legacy of his predecessor who had pushed the boundaries of presidential powers in so many arenas — most notably the one involving the concealing of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force meetings, in which the Bush administration pushed to expand the bounds of secrecy and ultimately won some key legal battles.

In so doing, former President George W. Bush’s actions provide tempting leeway for Obama to exploit. But that is why the new president’s recent action to protect the integrity of presidential records is so important. While Obama could have left the matter alone and benefited from Bush’s actions (and certainly there was no loud public outcry for the president to act on this issue), he, instead, took a principled position and acted in the broader public interest.

What was so objectionable about Bush’s executive order that it deserved such a quick reversal by his successor? First, presidential papers are ultimately public documents that are part of our national records and are paid for by public funds. These materials should not be treated merely as private papers that any president or former president can order hidden from congressional and public view.

Ultimately they provide detail and understanding into important events in our nation’s history. They should not and must not be forgotten. Bush’s executive order provided a blanket of secrecy to presidents, former presidents and, absurdly, even in some cases the designated family representative of a former president. Most objectionable to many was the very notion that a former president or a representative of a former president could effectively exercise what is acknowledged in the law as an implied Article II power of the presidency.

Second, the standard for allowing a claim of executive privilege should be very high and not based on the personal or political interests of a president or former president. Furthermore, a former president’s interest in maintaining confidentiality begins to erode substantially from the day he leaves office, and it continues to erode over time. Bush’s executive order did not acknowledge any such limitation on a former president’s interest in confidentiality. Obama’s EO eliminates this deference to secrecy for former presidents and restores executive privilege as solely a presidential power.

The community of scholars is celebrating this victory, but even more so this decision as a win for the very concept of restoring government accountability at a time when so much trust in government had been lost. It is a good start, but, in time, the new president’s principles will be tested and there will be temptations to close down access to what has commenced as an open administration.

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