Friday, March 27, 2009


Sam Smith

The word frequently heard in Washington for which there is the greatest gap between verbal use and actual practice is "transparency." Sadly, Barack Obama is widening the void.

This was apparent during the campaign if one simply looked a bit below the rhetorical massage. I found nearly three dozens things Obama had done or said that should have raised eyebrows in liberal circles, but at a time when melanin reigned supreme, to even mention such matters was viewed as disloyal.

Now we are paying the price as Obama's agenda remains in the shadows even as pieces of it fall silently into place - often without the media noticing and as the president continues to treat reality as though it were just one more campaign issue to spin.

If there was one safety valve during the past eight years it was that the Bush regime was not embarrassed in the slightest by the evil they did and so we didn't have to look too long under too many benches to find illegal wiretaps or discover water boarding. Their perverted pride served as a strange form of transparency.

Now it's different. Important policy is being hidden away in stimulus packages; the soporific semiotics flow like one of those bedside sound machines; and the media and liberal think tanks are almost belligerently indifferent to what is going on.

Several of them - including Move On, a group that would support self immolation if the right Democrat asked them to - are even out with ads promoting support for the president's budget. Not the country's budget, not - as the Constitution would have it - Congress' budget, but Obama's. In fact, any budget is a huge conglomeration of the good and the bad and there is no way one can make a rational decision based on 30 seconds of propaganda.

One of the first indications of the administration hiding behind the curtains was Obama's medical records bill, buried amongst the massive stimuli of the recent weeks. Whatever one thinks about having the federal government decide how medical records are kept and what is in them, an even greater concern is the enormous threat to patient privacy.

Yet this measure flew through Congress like a resolution honoring some buddy of a long time representative, with no one asking what would happen if an alcoholic, drug addict, a HIV positive citizen or a mentally troubled patient had their records passed on electronically to someone pretending to be a doctor on their case, but actually with the FBI, an insurance company or their employer. At the very least there should have been hearings, coverage and debate in the media and enough time to discover what was really going on. Yet one gets the sense that Obama and the Democrats didn't want this.

There is the much larger issue of who the bank bailout beneficiaries really are and where the money is really going. And the stunning lack of debate over a growing major war in Afghanistan. By the time we were this far into Vietnam, it was already a substantial controversy. On a smaller scale, shouldn't a democracy discuss the matter before giving four times as much to improve rail service for first class passengers as it does for ordinary riders?

All this has involved the exact opposite of transparency, led by a president who seems to prefer spending his days finding new communications systems over which to spread his platitudes.

One case that particularly struck home because its dangerous invisibility was the attempt to include a formal study of a national draft into a measure increasing funding for the Peace Corps and Americorps. At the last moment - perhaps because some conservative groups had noticed and complained - the provision was dropped from the bill but remains alive in new legislation pending in the House.

This is not a minor matter. It is huge. The reinstitution of mandatory national service could tear this country apart just like the last draft did. And while this may explain the sneaky approach Obama and the Democrats have taken, it certainly doesn't justify it. And why, as the great issue of the 1960s rears its head again, are the liberals so quiet?

The history of this is instructive. In 2006, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, wrote a book called "The Plan: Big Ideas for America" It that called for three months of compulsory civil service for all young Americans. In it he said:

"It's time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. . .

"Here's how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They'll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we're hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities' most pressing needs."

During the last campaign we noted that Obama "favors a national service plan that appears to be in sync with one being promoted by a new coalition that would make national service mandatory by 2020, and with a bill for such mandatory national service introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel.

"We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded," Barack Obama said last July 2 in Colorado Springs, CO."

On another occasion Obama spoke of the need for "universal voluntary public service," although Michael Kinsley noted that service can be either universal or voluntary but not both.

At one point the Obama/Biden campaign website announced that Obama and Biden will expand Americorps and the Peace Corps with "a goal that all middle and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year. . . " When questions began to be raised, the words disappeared from the site.

The recent House bill, now approved by the Senate, contained up to the last minute of a provision for a commission that would consider "a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people" and a possible requirement for "all individuals in the United States" to perform such service.

As the DC Examiner notes, "The section could be restored during the Senate-House conference committee meeting. A new, separate bill containing that language has since been introduced in the House."

The Examiner also argued:

"Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the measure's advocates is a bill that on closer inspection reveals multiple provisions that together create a strong odor of creepy authoritarianism. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly, while only 14 senators had the sense and courage to vote against it on a key procedural motion. Every legislator who either voted for this bill or didn't vote at all has some serious explaining to do. . .

"The bill . . . summons up unsettling memories of World War II-era paramilitary groups by saying the new program should "combine the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service," while establishing 'campuses' that serve as 'operational headquarters,' complete with 'superintendents and 'uniforms' for all participants. It allows for the elimination of all age restrictions in order to involve Americans at all stages of life. And it calls for creation of 'a permanent cadre' in a 'National Community Civilian Corps.'"

"But that's not all. The bill also calls for 'youth engagement zones' in which 'service learning' is 'a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency.' This updated form of voluntary community service is also to be 'integrated into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula' at all levels of schooling. Sounds like a government curriculum for government approved 'service learning,' which is nothing less than indoctrination."

The bill also changes the name of the existing Civilian Community Corps to "National Civilian Community Corps." Why the pointed addition of the word "national?"

We don't have to debate what sort of service corps we need to agree that there should be an open discussion about the issue and that the White House and Congress shouldn't be deliberately concealing what they are trying to achieve. This is a malicious deception of the public.

Democracy only works with open debate and open agendas. Letting media manipulators and lawyers cleverly conceal one's purpose - whether on television or in legislation - as a deep affront to this country.


Post a Comment

<< Home