Paul Greenberg

"Nothing is lost save honor." --Jim Fisk

What a difference a year makes. And how differently the country begins to see Barack Obama, the shining hope as a presidential candidate, now that he's President Obama. And acting like any other president who'd rather make the big decisions behind closed doors with only his cronies present.

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Oh, for the days of Camelot! Here is Barack Obama in January 2008 promising that his overhaul of the country's health-care system would be worked out in public view -- indeed, on camera. Nossir, these all-important negotiations wouldn't be conducted "behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so the American people can see what the choices are." (Applause.)

That promise became a mantra of his campaign, repeated at every whistle stop and photo-op to ever mounting cheers from the suckers. It was one of his most effective applause lines. Naturally it turned out to be only an applause line.

Even good ol' Brian Lamb at C-SPAN (one of the heroes of this often tarnished business) took Barack Obama seriously, committing his network and public service to carrying "all important negotiations" so We the People would have "full public access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American."

Sure enough, right on schedule, like an invitation to cynicism, the public is being shut out of the final, most important negotiations between House and Senate conferees on Obamacare. The president's promise of transparency has proven all too transparent. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are running this express train for their president, and it ain't stopping for no public inspections.

What a fraud. But it was a mighty effective one for a while. You have to admire this president's smooth touch even as you see through it. He's even better at this game than Bill Clinton was. Which is saying a lot.

The great promise of an Obama administration was that its head was going to be a different sort of president, a different sort of politician. He was going to open up the process and Bring Us Together. (Shades of Dick Nixon.) But he turns out to be not so different from the last president after all.

There is a difference, however: People expected more of him. People expected so much of him, he disappoints far more than his predecessors. That's the curse of rising so high so fast; the fall can be deeper and steeper.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.