What makes this moment extra precious, of course, is that the audience is a roomful of fellow elected officials. Literally everyone there is accountable to voters. So naturally the voters’ window on the proceedings needs to be shut.
WaPo’s Erik Wemple drops the O-bomb on O:
Seems there’s a contest of sorts going on within the White House: Who can fashion the most Orwellian quote regarding open government? Here’s the quote that Obama had to beat, from White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan at his confirmation hearing to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”
Was he about to brief them on troop movements or something? What’s so sensitive that it can be said in an open forum in front of dozens of state officials but not with cameras rolling? My guess is that he’s worried that if he does a Q&A on TV in the middle of sequestermania, the temptation to grandstand will prove too great for some governors and the process will quickly degenerate into a partisan pissing match. (This is a core argument for keeping cameras out of the Supreme Court too.) But so what? Obama did just fine parrying Republican questions at the GOP retreat three years ago. If some red-state governor wants to stand up and demand the end of ObamaCare, that’s O’s big chance to endear himself to the left by beating the questioner down. Last week, after the media’s grumbling over its lack of access to Obama went public, Nate Silver tweeted that it’d be a fine idea for O to do a “question time” session with Congress periodically like the British PM does with parliament. This meeting with the governors was as close as we’re apt to get to that in his second term. He shut it down instantly.