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Biden meets on transparency, behind closed doors

POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 3:11pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:53am

Everybody should just relax and take it easy.

Unsubstantiated rumors that Vice President Joe Biden had suddenly gone a little loopy and ordered some of his official meetings opened to at least cursory public or media attention were just that — unsubstantiated rumors.

After a recent public sighting, fears had mounted that the one-time, long-term senator might rebel against traditional White House strictures and start acting on all the administration's oft-promised promises of government transparency and official openness running back into 2008.

But the VP's public schedule today puts all those fears to rest.

In fact, loyal Ticket readers will recall that one day last summer with no advance warning whatsoever Biden's official White House schedule changed from listing frequent "private meetings" to listing frequent meetings that are "closed press." Was this dramatic and....

...little-noticed vocabulary change a sign of internal administration turmoil? What did it really mean?

No, of course not. And, nothing.

Announcing everyone the VP meets with, including sessions with unidentified senior staff, which consume much of the vice president's listed time, and what subjects they talk about would have been a stark contrast to George W. Bush's administration, whose notoriously secretive ways drew such criticism from Democrats in Congress during eight long years of really failed policies.

Instead, in the apparent interests of bipartisanship, the Delaware Democrat has adopted much the same sort of undetailed schedule as his Republican predecessor, Dick Cheney, who was not in the Senate when Obama was only 11 years old.

In fact, today's Biden schedule highlight is a meeting with the chief of transparency for economic recovery. But, unfortunately, the transparency meeting is non-transparent, closed to the press. (See his full schedule below.) Which makes it — what? — secret openness? Open secrecy?

In a joint report issued early this week a league of nonprofit groups including Common Cause gave the Democratic administration high marks for its openness, although it said the work was incomplete and didn't really go into the lack of open healthcare legislative hearings televised by C-SPAN, as promised by candidate Obama.

Under the category of good but not good enough, here's another viewpoint from Tommy Christopher, including the Obama C-SPAN promise video.

Biden once described Cheney as the most dangerous VP in American history. But since Biden will only turn 68 this year, he was probably overstating in his well-known, jolly way the dangerous vice presidents that he's known whose devious backroom skills and ways earned them fame over the decades —men with household names like William King, Henry Wilson and T.A. Hendricks.

Someday, who knows, Biden's too may join them.

— Andrew Malcolm

Here is the vice president's official schedule for today. Boldface was added in the interests of emphasis. Note especially that the vice president's meeting with the chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board is closed, meaning non-transparent.

The "pool spray" mentioned has nothing to do with aquatics. It's a coded message to media that a few select members will be allowed in to take pictures briefly — possibly for only a few seconds — as Biden and his guest pretend to continue their previously private conversation as if the meeting was open.

DAILY GUIDANCE FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT, Thursday, January 14, 2010:

In the morning, the President and the Vice President will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing and the Economic Daily Briefing in the Oval Office. These briefings are closed press.

At 11:30 AM, the Vice President will meet with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This meeting is closed press.

Afterwards, the President and the Vice President will have lunch in the Private Dining Room. This lunch is closed press.

At 1:00 PM, the Vice President will meet with Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi in the Roosevelt Room. There will be a pool spray at the bottom of this meeting; gather time is 1:45 PM in the Brady Briefing Room.

Then, at 2:15 PM, the Vice President will meet with Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. This meeting is closed press.