When politicians need to get things done it becomes necessary to work privately, out of the public view. At what point should the press and public be informed? At what point should they observe the action?
Some would have it that all of it should be in the “sunshine.” However, that isn’t always necessary or practical. What must be shared is the outcome. If the outcome is an incremental stalemate or inconclusive, then particulars may be relevant to inform the public about status. However, putting a deadline on the process and closing the door until progress is suitable for reporting may be necessary to keep the negotiators engaged.
Politico reporters Josh Gerstein and Byron Tau wrote a creative and brilliant article this morning describing what I call government in the dark.
Frankly, after a long election process and knowing how the characters operate, I don’t think the public needs or wants to see more of the personality of the process as much as results. In fact, we may be overdosed.
It is like watching the last episode of a television program that has been cancelled.
“Fiscal cliff talks still in dark
By JOSH GERSTEIN and BYRON TAU | 12/6/12 4:48 AM EST
President Barack Obama called closed-door negotiations a “mistake” after backroom wheeling and dealing almost sunk his health care bill.
The negotiations on the Hill have taken place in private. Obama has held closed-door sessions with CEOs, union leaders, liberal activists and small business owners. When congressional leaders were invited to the White House, cameras were allowed in for a brief statement — then ushered out. And GOP aides, not White House officials, leaked details of the administration’s opening offer on the fiscal cliff to reporters.
Of course, it’s extremely difficult to reach compromise on major legislation in Washington with cameras present — and pretty tough even when they’re not. Obama has learned that the hard way during his first term. But his 2008 pledge to open up the process — a commitment he repeated in 2010 — has provided a perennial attack line against him whenever there’s a prickly issue that needs to be resolved.
Some on the right, chiefly Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, have embarked on a campaign to open the negotiations to the public. A few on the left agree. The desire for transparency seems to come largely from those at either end of the political spectrum who fear their allies will abandon them behind closed doors. And good-government groups believe closed-door talks almost always lead to special favors and deals that shortchange the public.
“The negotiations are dead until you get the cameras in there,” Norquist told POLITICO. “The only way to stop posturing is to have the cameras there.” He said Obama ran for president “saying he would have the cameras there” on health care, and “this is his opportunity to make up for that.”
Sessions charged Monday on Fox News that “These secret talks violate the principle of American government that [it] would be open. Every city, county, school board has open meeting laws.”
Many Washington veterans dismiss talk of open budget negotiations as fantasy. Some degree of secrecy is essential, they say, especially with interest groups watching for the slightest wavering from their agendas.
“You’re talking to a former journalist [who believes in] freedom of the press, transparency and open meetings, but you cannot have talks like this go public,” said Tom Korologos, a longtime D.C. lobbyist who worked as a former Senate liaison for Presidents Nixon and Ford. “It thwarts and hampers the leaders in the meeting from expressing their opinions. They can’t just say, ‘That’s bull****, Mr. Secretary, you know that,’ and he can’t say, ‘God damn it, the president wants it.’… For these closed-door meetings — and I’ve been in hundreds of them in the Executive Branch and on the Hill — you get a lot more done behind closed doors than you certainly do with open doors.”
Korologos said public talks would lead to showboating that could jeopardize the chances of resolving the issue before tax rates jump up on Jan. 1.
“If all of them need to take place in the open, we’ll be here ’til the Fourth of July,” he said.
Asked how to move the talks forward, former Clinton administration budget director Alice Rivlin had a simple solution this week during a briefing at the Bipartisan Policy Center: “Get off the Sunday shows.””
Read more: www.politico.com/story/2012/12/fiscal-cliff-talks-still-in-dark-84661.ht…