Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bad Staff Work Yields Embarrassing Story

At The Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe reports that President Obama accepted a transparency award -- at a meeting closed to the press.

“It’s almost a theater of the absurd to have an award on transparency that isn’t transparent,” said Gary Bass, founder of OMB Watch, and one of five transparency advocates who met with Obama on Monday. “The irony is that everything the president said was spot-on. I wish people had heard what he had to say.”

Bass was joined at the meeting by Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, Patrice McDermott of and Lucy A. Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Bass, Brian and Dalglish later blogged about the meeting.

All five groups have criticized the Obama White House and previous administrations for withholding government information or failing to disclose it in a timely manner. (Dalglish’s attendance at the private meeting may seem most questionable to the White House press corps, considering her group serves as a legal advocacy group for reporters and includes several prominent journalists on its steering committee.)

Bass insists the group didn’t realize the White House failed to disclose the meeting to reporters. “I think this is a particularly bad situation and I’m not going to try to defend the president on that,” he said.

Brian called it “crazy stupid” for the White House to keep mum about the meeting. “He even made a joke when we walked in the room about how he wanted to make sure we would be listed on the White House visitors logs,” she said in an e-mail. “Someone on the White House staff should get their butt kicked for this one.”

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