As Craig’s letter makes clear, the White House only provided the health executive information yesterday on a “discretionary” basis, meaning that, for whatever reason, they decided that this time around letting the names out was a better idea than sitting on them. That’s a smart move in advance of a press conference where there’s a good chance the president might field a tough question on the matter, but it doesn’t mean a thing when the chips are really down and a FOIA requestor would like some visitor records that could truly embarrass this (or any future) administration.
And that’s why it’s worth keeping in mind is that the health care executives are merely the request of the day. What’s really at issue is whether this whole class of records should be available via FOIA, which would allow the public to keep tabs on anyone coming in and out of the White House.
Obama’s decision to release some information from the logs yesterday does nothing to prevent a president from refusing future requests, as Bush did then.