Policy Documents

White House: We Were For Openness on Health Care Before We Were Against It

October 9, 2011

In a must-read piece, reporter Byron York of the Washington Examiner outlines the machinations of the White House over the past week as they continue to ignore and avoid questions about broken promises on the openness of the health care process on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to answer questions about the president's campaign commitment to hold health-care negotiations on C-Span. Gibbs said he had not seen a letter from C-Span's Brian Lamb to congressional leaders requesting the coverage and thus could not comment on it.

On Wednesday, Gibbs was asked again about the C-Span commitment. The story had gotten pretty big in the intervening time, and presumably Gibbs had had a chance to familiarize himself with it. So reporters tried for a second day to get him to comment on the president's commitment to holding televised health-care talks. Gibbs' answer? "We covered this yesterday." Gibbs referred reporters to the transcript of Tuesday's briefing and said, "The answer I would give today is similar."

Of course, in reality, Gibbs had not answered any question at all -- he merely said he had not seen the letter.

President Obama's promises on this issue during the 2008 campaign were as clear cut as they possibly could be -- a definitive promise to have open debates broadcast on C-SPAN, and not put health care negotiations behind closed doors. Here is a video encapsulating just some of those promises:


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The video includes perhaps the definitive promise of an open process from then-candidate Obama, from a January 31, 2008 presidential debate, where Obama said: "That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are."

As of today, the White House will not even acknowledge the questions about this matter, even as negotiations and meetings continue in the closed office rooms on Capitol Hill.


Ben Domenech (bdomenech@heartland.org) is managing editor of Health Care News.