The self-puffery of the double-talker-in-chief on disclosure ethics is inversely proportional to the amount of real transparency he has delivered. In January, irked by criticism of private health care meetings with Big Labor cronies at the Oval Office, Obama lectured Americans that "it is important to know that the promises we made about increased transparency we've executed here in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." His legal counsel trumpeted the release of more than 25,000 White House visitor logs (many incomplete, vague and useless) as "a milestone in the president's commitment to change Washington. The president believes that this and our many other transparency initiatives promote accountability and keep American democracy vital." While Obama's cabinet engaged in the same old precedented meetings with lobbyists, his propagandists patted themselves on the back for providing unprecedented access:
"We are excited about the visitor records policy not only because we are breaking new ground for this administration but also because we are establishing a new standard for all future administrations. We know of no comparable initiative in the history of the White House."
Puff, puff, puff. The Obama administration's incomparable hype and hypocrisy have at last proved too much for good-government liberals. Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate and hold hearings on the Coffee House loophole. CREW head Melanie Sloan lambasted the Democratic White House: "This is what all the administration's anti-lobbyist rhetoric gets you -- less transparency. Rather than being open and clear about who is influencing White House policy, the White House is trying to hide who it's really talking to. Even worse, the public is being suckered with lofty rhetoric about the evils of the same lobbyists White House officials are meeting with."
Now that citizen activists are staking out D.C. caffeine hot spots, the White House/special-interest trysts may soon be headed to Washington street corner hot dog stands and taquerias. Keep your eyes and ears open. The next cap-and-tax exemption or stimulus slush fund may be hammered out in a public restroom stall or on a Metro subway seat next to you. On the upside, coffee-gate is rousing slow-learning Americans from their Obama-as-Messiah stupor. The best part of waking up is reality in your cup.