Many of our readers have come to know Irregular Times as an anti-Bush web site, or more generally an anti-Republican web site. That’s been a good deal of our focus over the last eight years, because it has had to be. George W. Bush and his Republican allies have been a threat to freedom, and a threat to our irregularity. From United We Stand onward, this decade has seen a push for conformity and submission to authority unlike any seen in generations.
Our online presence goes back before Bush, however. We’ve been online, in one form or another, since 1995, if my memory serves me correctly. When Bill Clinton was President, we were critics of many of his policies when they contradicted our ideals.
Now that Barack Obama has become President, we’re keeping up our criticism of the White House, even though it’s not a popular thing to do right now. It may be difficult to remember now, but there was a time when George W. Bush was even more popular than Barack Obama is now. In spite of, and perhaps especially because of, Bush’s popularity, we worked hard in those days to offer a dissenting voice.
Critical examination of powerful people is especially important when those people are popular. Popular leaders are often tempted to overreach, just when commercial journalism is inclined to suspend its skepticism. We’re writing critically of Barack Obama now because he is a popular President, and has the ability to affect our lives a great deal. His actions require unfawning attention because they are uniquely consequential.
So, we’ve criticized Obama’s support for uncontrolled government spying, encouragement of discrimination against unpopular minorities, and even his inadequate use of White House communications to keep the public informed of his activities. We’re also taking note of President Obama’s continuing support for the fraud of clean coal.
We’re not criticizing Barack Obama because we don’t want him to succeed, or because we’re generally anti-Obama. Right now we’re erring on the side of criticism because so many writers are erring on the side of praise for Obama. When Obama deserves praise, however, we’ll give it.
That’s why I wrote this morning in praise of President Obama’s executive order revoking the secrecy of former presidents’ public records. It’s a relief to see that Barack Obama is interested in allowing the public to see what George W. Bush has tried to keep hidden.
I’ll also take a minute now to praise what Barack Obama did yesterday with another executive order, this one requiring his own Administration to be above board when it comes to dealing with lobbyists. Obama’s executive order:
- Forbids government appointees from accepting any gifts from lobbyists
- Forbids government appointees from working on any matter related to their previous lobbying activity for 2 years
- Forbids government appointees from working on any matter related their previous employers interests for 2 years
- Forbids government appointees from working in any government agency that they have lobbied within the previous 2 years
- Restricts communications with federal employees in their departments after leaving the Obama Administration
- Forbids lobbying after leaving the Obama Administration, except for contact with certain career employees (this possible loophole requires some attention)
These measures should greatly discourage corruption and self-interested decisions among Obama Administration officials, although people seeking to profit from public office tend to be very creative in finding a way around restrictions. This executive order suggests that President Obama is earnest in attempting to reduce the control of federal offices by corporate plants who are working for the Executive Branch in name only. There is some hope in this action for a government that truly works in the public interest, and not just of a tool of those in the private realm who already have more than their fair share of power.
The ethics of a presidency can only be fairly judged at the end of an administration, but with this executive order, President Obama has made a good start.