Because in 2007, then-Senator Obama loudly criticized then-Senator Clinton for her failure to turn over government documents -- not State Department emails, but thousands of pages of White House documents held by the Clinton Presidential Library and National Archives, for which President Clinton had instructed archivists not to release to documents until 2012.
The Clintons released the documents eventually, but only after a protracted delay. In the meantime, Hillary's responses to criticism then sounded all too much like her responses to criticism today: she blamed the delay on government bureaucracy; she disclaimed any ability to expedite the process; and she said that she really wanted those slow bureaucrats to disclose the documents soon.
Today, President Obama is doing all he can to avoid the issue. But in October 2007, he was practically jumping at the chance to shine a spotlight on it. So much so that when Tim Russert raised the issue at a Democratic presidential candidates' debate, Obama raised his hand and eagerly criticized not just that specific controversy but also the broader problems that the controversy portended.
The exchange is worth watching in full (or at least reading the transcript), especially Sen. Obama's call upon voters to "turn the page" on the Clintons, his commitment to "open and transparent and accountable to the American people," and his recognition that it was time to "invite the American people back to participate in their government again" and "rebuild trust in our government again."
It's too late for President Obama to rebuild trust in our government again, but it's not too late to turn the page.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up because, in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave, because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that.
Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as the circumstances and processes demand.
MR. RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make. And I don't believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we'll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, your hand's up?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I'm glad that Hillary took the phrase "turn the page." It's a good one. But this is an example of not turning the page. We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, as you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem.
The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration's Defense Department and intelligence agencies.
If you are a U.S. senator and have a cool idea about taxes but are worried to speak it aloud for fear some of your constituents will peel your hide off in small strips ... well, there is hope. A couple of your colleagues have come up with a plan.
Senator Jeff Sessions continues to argue against the secrecy of the ongoing "fiscal cliff" negotiations with an op-ed this morning in today's Wall Street Journal. Sessions argues that the secrecy is inherently anti-Democratic, and similar to the "Russian Duma, where officials meet behind closed doors, put out the word, and the overwhelming votes materialize."
New York Times editor Bill Keller finally responded to Gabriel Schoenfeld's argument that his paper has a duty not to publish certain state secrets. (Schoenfeld's argument was made in his latest book, Necessary Secrets, which previously received a favorable review by Alan Dershowitz in the Times.)
The Washington Postreports today on the posthumous rehabilitation of Air Force General John D. Lavelle. In 1972, Lavelle was forced to retire with a reduced rank in disgrace for conducting unauthorized bombing missions in North Vietnam, and then covering it up.
Secrecy, like openness, remains an essential prerequisite of American self-governance. To be effective, even many of the most mundane aspects of democratic rule, from the development of policy alternatives to the selection of personnel, must often take place behind closed doors. To proceed always under the glare of the public would cripple deliberation and render government impotent. Yet leaks of even the most sensitive national security secrets have been a perennial problem, one with many undesirable effects, especially when our plans and capabilities are telegraphed to mortal adversaries like al Qaeda.