The Obama administration has turned its “online town hall” events into a parody of what they were intended to be, which specifically were supposed to include a genuine effort to include questions from the citizens of this nation in an open process, not the bogus pre-selection system that is turning into an Obama trademark. Yesterday’s health care event, for example, included just three questions from online contributors (and only eight in all, notes the TechPresident blog) in an event that makes some of George W. Bush’s staged events seem almost spontaneous.
When called on this by White House journalists, Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs responded with arrogance. He demonstrated not just contempt for the Washington press corps (which does often earn contempt) but also to the administration’s promises of openness and bottom-up accountability. A shabby performance, and worrisome if you care about how this White House will behave when its current public favor diminishes, as it surely will.
So when you watch one of these events in the future, be aware that there’s barely a shred of the give-and-take we were promised. This White House would rather rely, at least for now, on the kind of staging that previous presidents used so often, and which candidate Obama and many of his aides and supporters found so correctly offensive.