The C-SPAN Presidency?
The fact that President Obama found himself in a position at the Nashua town hall meeting yesterday where he felt compelled to apologize for the lack of transparency surrounding some of the health care negotiations leaves me scratching my head. I was under the impression that Obama and his political advisors had carefully studied the legislative lessons of the Clinton Administration’s health care debacle in 1993. Obama certainly campaigned on the issues of transparency and interest group influence as though he had.
Given the way the legislative process typically functions (often referred to as sausage-making), however, one could argue that Obama’s campaign promise was somewhat unrealistic from the outset. But he couched it in a broader argument about the need for transformational change, so there was an expectation that the mistakes of the Clinton health care experience would not be repeated.
It is interesting that both Clinton and Obama hit the proverbial political buzz saw with health care, in particular. If you take a look at the Clinton Administration’s experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement (also in 1993), you’ll find that President Clinton cut deals with a host of individual legislators, left and right, in order to get the treaty. But something about the combination of health care and secrecy has proven to be combustible for both presidents. Once those C-SPAN cameras are finally rolling, I’ll be excited to see what the décor looks like inside that backroom.

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