Open government a must

Published 5:06 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

By Staff
He’s only been in office for a week, but I expect no matter your political colors, President Barack Obama has done something to rub you the wrong way.
Maybe it was his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay; maybe you think we’re safer if we do use harsher interrogation methods than those listed in the Armed Forces field manual.
Most of us probably appreciate the ethics rules that preclude administration staffers from having lobbied in the past two years — but don’t like that the nominee for the Defense Department’s No. 2 man, William Lynn, is somehow exempt from those rules. (Lynn was recently the main lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon.)
But surely we can all get behind the executive order that allows quicker release of presidential records, and the memo Obama sent to government agencies that instructed them to err on the side of disclosure when responding to open records requests.
That one brought quite an audible cheer at my two-journalist household.
But that policy should make all of us cheer. Journalists are not the only people who seek government records, nor should they be. And none of us should get the runaround from our government when we are looking to find out how things run.
While we cheer those efforts, it should be noted that Obama’s press team probably made a mistake that very night when they kept a video camera out of the room when the new president made his oath of office a second time, to make up for the botched language on Inauguration Day. The move was probably to avoid embarrassment for Chief Justice John Roberts, but it looked like a pretty bad rookie mistake.
We’ll give them the mulligan, but we hope things improve for the sake of the press — but especially the people.
Obama has been a sponsor of legislation to put more government records, especially budget information, online.
That kind of transparency is exactly what we need at all levels of government. Many of us, unfortunately, probably don’t have enough interest to follow it, but how our money is spent by the people we send to Washington is of the utmost importance to every citizen.
Granted, Obama’s team might have found that implementing such openness — at least technologically — is a little harder than they thought. The revamped Web site had a hard time getting off the ground when Obama’s tech-savvy, Mac-literate staff got to the White House and discovered decade-old computer software and hardware.
Ancient computers aside, we hope we see more openness from this government. At a time when we’re all having to watch every financial move we make, we ought to be able to watch our government’s, too.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at

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