Obama keeps connected to public online

December 24, 2008 7:07:41 PM PST
As they did during the campaign, President-elect Barack Obama's team is using the Internet to continue a dialogue with the public, a striking departure from the Bush administration's practices of the past eight years.

In the first days of Bush's term, vice president Dick Cheney met with oil and energy company executives, including those at Enron, to develop the administration's energy policy.

Cheney denied giving the companies special consideration. The White House has also denied requests for documents from that meeting, fighting the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

"Even to this day as materials are going to the archives there are going to be continuing fights over what information will be made public how transparent will it be," ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain said.

But Obama is changing all that. On his Web site change.gov, users have a seat at the table.

There are of hundreds of documents submitted by outside groups attempting to influence policy decisions.

Searchable by category, users can find out how the nursing home industry would like to shape long term health care coverage, what the folks at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are telling Obama about nuclear power. Users can also make their own comments about the postings.

Last January in a debate with Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama said he would open up negotiations over health care.

"Not negotiating behind closed doors but bring all parties together and broadcasting those negotiations on CSPAN so the American people can see what the choices are," Obama said.

That promise drew big applause from the audience, but caution from Cain.

"The fact that you put some things on television doesn't mean that all discussions that are important will be on television," Cain said.

Televising any forum opens the door to posturing and some part of any real negotiation will take place outside the limelight.

"And that may not be a bad thing because if people are going to back down and make humiliating concessions they don't want to do that in front of a camera they'd rather do that in a private place and not draw a lot of attention to it," Cain said.

Cain points out transparency in government has never been absolute, but what the Obama team is doing looks like 180 degrees from the previous administration.


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