Obama and Self-Righteous Exclusion

I voted for Barack Obama for President and if the election were held again today, I would vote for Barack Obama.  While a life-long democrat, I have always found myself in the unique position of being a part of the loyal opposition.  Seldom has a President met my expectations and Obama is no different. Frankly, as part of the loyal position, I have found myself supporting policies of the party outside of power more than the policies of the party in power.

Currently, I find myself asking – what is this administration doing?  After nearly a year in office we are finally going to get a strategy for Afghanistan, health care reform, despite the fact that we will actually have a debate is still very illusive, abolishing don’t ask – don’t tell remains a campaign promise and the outcomes of the stimulus package are lost in 10 percent unemployment.  Still, more than 60 percent of presidential appointments are not filled and only recently did he fill the most critical position of Administrator of USAID.    Not a very impressive record to date.

I am weary of this administration’s self-righteous rhetoric around governance.  On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the administration once again took a swipe at the role of lobbyists in government and they continue to frame the image of a lobbyist as all lobbyists are Jack Abramoff.

The most recent assault on our constitutional right to petition government is the administration’s effort to prevent lobbyists from serving on government advisory panels.  They couch their argument in the need to bring fresh voices into the process and to fight the self interests of lobbyists that might guide these advisory committees to support their pet projects.  Lost in this process is the fact that anybody petitioning government is required by law to register (unless you are Tom Daschle) and that not all lobbyists are Jack Abramoff or his contemporaries.  Further, the refusal to include the content expertise of this group of activists is denying the American people years of experience and education in developing policy.  Obama is playing to the cheap seats with this strategy.  Appealing to the scandal weary voter, he lumps the whole population of lobbyists into the categories of self-serving and greedy.

Congress is dependent on those who lobby to help inform and develop legislation.  Members of Congress and the administration need the research capabilities, the policy expertise and the experience of this class of citizens to institutionalize legislation and develop effective policy.  This most recent attack, in the name of government reform, is forcing our leaders to develop policy in the dark.  We can regulate the activities of lobbyists and we can monitor with effective regulation issues of self-interest.  But eliminating this important resource in the development of policy and programs is short sighted, arrogant and denying the American people access to some of our nation’s most creative and informed minds.

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