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December 02, 2007

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It may be injurious from a management perspective, but from a democratic perspective I can't see it as anything but good. After 8 years of the CEO-presidency, where national policy decisions are guarded like company secrets, I'm all for changes at the margins that would increase access/visibility.

The candor/frank(ness) argument is exactly the same one the Bush administration uses in withholding documents pertaining to its decisions. As someone committed to open and public debate, how can you not advocate a radical shift from that level of secrecy?

Why don't we just shut down CSPAN while we're at it?

Democracy doesn't work without transparency. Remember the Cheney energy policy meeting, with Enron and all those people? No, you don't, since none of us have a clue what went on there.

And one more point:
Maybe part of the reason televised cabinet meetings don't work is that only the rare one is televised. If cabinet members can wait until the next meeting to say something controversial in private, rather than public, they will. If all meetings are public, there isn't that option.

Dan -- so then all the controversial stuff gets said in 1-on-1's off the record. Yay?

If you're in government, you need a way to communicate with your peers confidentially. Plain and simple.

If the Cheney meeting with Big Oil execs were taped, nothing of substance would have been discussed there -- it would have all been talked about beforehand, off the record.

There just isn't a legislative solution to all this.

I still think Barack Obama is the best person for the job -- but this is a silly proposal that is going nowhere fast.

Well, if a future "political scientist" says it, it must be true!

Gad, does this guy know how many such meetings there are? Or is he just pandering to people who don't?

I worked 10 years at Interior HQ, which had a measly 70,000 employees. Total civilian employment was over a million. Every small unit (say 10 people) had a weekly staff meeting, every larger unit (say 30 and 300) had the same. So in this one department there were probably only a thousand staff meeting per week.

As far as someone one meeting with someone from a corporation (and anything measureable in DC is incorporated), well that wouldn't have been at a staff meeting, but multiply it by ten.Sierra Club or Safari Club or someone else wants to talk, etc. Let's televise tens of thousands of meetings a month -- and this is for a Department that is under a tenth of the federal workforce.

Joe:

"If you're in government, you need a simple way to communicate with your peers confidentially, plain and simple."

"So then all the controversial stuff gets said in 1-on-1's off the record."

I see no problem with dealing with the valid point you raise in the first quote through the means you identify in the second one. It's not like Big Brother White House edition. Just the meetings. People would eventually forget about the cameras too, if this is done through the web (as I suggest below).

David Hardy:

Yes, there are tens of thousands of such meetings. Presumably, there would be a size/importance cut-off. And the raw number of meetings would be a strength of this plan. Set up rooms with some web cams -- not the crazy CNN cameras everywhere -- and create a youtube-like site to dump everything. Bloggers, journalists, students and the like would sort through it. And the bigger point would be that the record would be there years later. This isn't grandstanding for the (non-existent) viewing audience -- it's creating a public record of things that should be in the public domain anyway, and making them accessible at such point as they become important.

Um, perhaps I'm the only person looking at it this way, but... If this program kept the government from accomplishing anything significant, wouldn't that be a FEATURE and not a BUG?

I've always maintained it would be a good idea that each year, the press corp would nominated a member of their ranks who would be eligible for TS clearance to shadow the President in all but the most sensitive meetings. The NSC would cooperatively vet writings with the reporter, but otherwise they could write about what they observed.

Having to conduct votes also reduces government expediency -- let's get rid of those too, then.

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