Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sentinel, Foster’s silent on Obama C-SPAN flip, Telegraph weighs in [UPDATED]

January 7, 2010 by Patrick  
Filed under Health

The editorial departments of two Granite State newspapers to whom then-Sen. Barack Obama made his now-infamous promise to broadcast health care reform negotiations on C-SPAN are silent in the wake of that broken campaign commitment.

Neither the Keene Sentinel nor Forster’s Daily Democrat responded to NowHampshire.com’s request for comment as to whether they feel presidential candidate Barack Obama lied to them and needs to honor his campaign promise. [UPDATE: Jim Rousmaniere from the Keene Sentinel e-mailed to say he attempted to reach me yesterday.]

Video of Obama’s promise to the Sentinel surfaced on the Drudge Report on Wednesday. And Foster’s led with Obama’s commitment in a long article about his editorial board meeting there in November of 2007.

Foster’s reporter Adam Krauss did write a critical blog post about Obama’s broken promise. But neither Jon Breen, the editorial page editor of Foster’s, nor Jim Rousmaniere, the editorial page editor of the Sentinel, responded to our inquiries.

It falls upon the Nashua Telegraph, to whom Obama did not make the now-broken promise, to print an editorial on Thursday urging Obama to reverse himself again and honor his commitment to transparency. The Telegraph endorsed Obama during the New Hampshire presidential primary.

An excerpt of their editorial, titled, “Let C-Span cover health reform talks,” is posted here:

During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged on more than a half-dozen occasions that the specifics of health care reform would be negotiated in the public eye.

“I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies – they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair,” he said at a town meeting Aug. 21, 2008, in Chester, Va.

“But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.”

It certainly hasn’t turned out that way. Much of the work to craft health care bills in the House and Senate occurred behind closed doors, as is traditionally the case regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in the majority.

But now, thanks to the aforementioned C-SPAN, the Obama administration and congressional leaders have another opportunity to open up the negotiating process to the people who put them there.

Brian Lamb, chairman and CEO of C-SPAN, sent a letter to congressional leaders Dec. 30 requesting permission to televise the upcoming negotiations between House and Senate leaders to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

If the early response to the C-SPAN request is any indication, don’t bother setting your DVR. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs deflected questions about the C-SPAN letter during a Tuesday news briefing, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office released a cryptic statement that said he welcomed C-SPAN’s call for transparency while at the same time suggesting he wouldn’t go along with it.

During the campaign, Obama made it clear that an open and transparent government would be a key priority of his administration. And some of his actions to date – such as issuing a presidential directive to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act on his first full day in office – have been in line with that.

But if the president really wants to make a statement about the importance of open government – and keep a campaign promise at the same time – there would be no better time than when House and Senate Democratic leaders are poised to huddle behind closed doors to write the final version of a health-care bill that will impact us all.

Yes, televising these politically sensitive negotiations would be outside the norm – but that is exactly what candidate Obama promised during his run for the White House.

This is one broken promise he has within his power to fix.

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