Transparency necessary for citizens to evaluate government

When a former spokesperson for the Pentagon states, “You got to be able to admit mistakes,” it turns some heads. If that individual used to work for the Bush administration — one of (if not the) most secretive administration in U.S. history — this seems even more out of character.

While it is commendable former Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke holds this opinion, such a statement it does not ring true when the administration’s actions are examined.

Clarke, speaking at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom Tuesday night, added that transparency is key when government is concerned. It should be left up to the public, Clarke said, to evaluate how well officials are performing. To do so, the public needs access to as much information as possible.

During its first term, President George W. Bush’s administration stonewalled so many efforts by the media to get access to information it is hard to enumerate them all.

Most importantly, the administration at first refused to form the 9/11 Commission. It changed its opinion only when public and political pressure rose. The administration then nominated Henry Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon and is famous for withholding information from the public, to head the commission.

After it was obvious this was a tough sell, they again buckled, but continued to withhold information at every step.

Condoleezza Rice served as National Security Adviser at the time and was likely to shed the most light on how much the administration knew about the buildup to the Sept. 11 attacks, one of the main goals of the Commission. She refused to testify. Again it took extensive pressure until she complied with the request to appear in front of the Commission.

President Bush has been criticized for making himself scarce when hard questions were likely to be asked. During one of the few times he faced the media for questioning, Bush was asked if he could think of “any mistake he had made as president.” Three separate reporters asked the question, yet Bush shrugged it off every time, saying he could not think of any.

Clarke said there are political reasons for such actions. “The Washington scene does not allow politicians to admit (they) made a mistake,” she said.

This may be true, but for credibility’s sake it is vital the public has access to information about their government’s actions. Clarke agrees with this, but the larger part of the Bush administration apparently doesn’t.