A Transparency ‘Victory’ Lap?

This morning’s Politico Playbook brings word that the Obama administration will pick a series of policy initiatives highlighting the White House’s new springtime rhetorical cloak. Here’s how an anonymous senior administration official sums it up to Mike Allen: “Reform is the new change.” What a fitting phrase to use as Milan fashion week kicks off.

This exercise, as plotted now, rests on three pillars: increasing America’s global competitiveness, campaign finance reform in the wake of the Citizens United decision, and a greater focus on the administration’s transparency and open government initiatives. Writes Allen:

Obama plans to emphasize his ‘transparency’ agenda — such measures as releasing White House visitor logs; posting specific projects funded by the stimulus bill; and signing an Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to achieve milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration ‘It gives the American people a very important sense that they have influence and control, and access to information,’ the administration official said.

Let’s first (and quickly) note the petty irony of anonymously announcing a new emphasis on transparency. More important to note, though, is that there isn’t a new idea in here. Those visitor records? Posted. That Open Government Directive? Issued. Those stimulus projects? Listed.

On the basis of this slim report, it just sounds like the Obama folks would like to get credit for the quite laudable steps they’ve already taken. No foul there. But at the same time there’s plenty of work left to be done.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.