Friday, February 15, 2008

How many "Executive Privileges" will be voluntarily relinquished by the next President?

An Editorial, "Show Us the Money," in the New York Times today takes both John McCain and Hillary Clinton to task for not releasing their tax returns as Barack Obama has done (keep in mind that the Times endorsed both McCain and Clinton for their parties' nominations just before the Florida primary). Both are attacked for an amount of financial secrecy that is unusual in the post-Watergate era.

This is a wider question about secrecy in the Presidency, especially in this era following Dick Cheney's power grabs. Here are just a few of the many specifics about reversing these anti-sunshine efforts of the Executive Branch in the detailed Ethics section on Barack Obama's website:
  • Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.
  • Release Presidential Records: Obama will nullify the Bush attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult. [emphasis added]

There's much less specificity on the "substantive" Hillary Clinton's issue page about government reform. I could be wrong, but I looked and I didn't see any indication that the second Clinton administration is promising to give back any of the Presidential powers that were appropriated over the last eight years by Cheney and Rumsfeld and friends.

Today's Times editorial talks about more than just tax returns in regard to both Clintons' finances:

In the same spirit, the Clintons are obliged to make prompt disclosure of the major donors who have been backing the former president’s library and foundation. It is not even clear whether Mr. Clinton would disclose his library’s donors if his wife won the White House.

Hillary Clinton, with her self-proclaimed aura of specificity, should be at least a specific as Barack Obama about her plans for openness and restoring some balance between the three branches of government during the second Clinton administration (including openness about her spouse's finances and business ties).

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