WASHINGTON–President Obama finally admitted on Monday that he broke his pledge to open up negotiations over health care–even have them televised on C-SPAN. This comes after administration spokesmen and top advisors for months now have been pretending that Obama was not breaking an oft repeated campaign promise.
The admission came during an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in advance of Wednesday’s State of the Union address. Obama said he would “own up” to what he called a “legitimate mistake” during his speech before a joint session of Congress. Obama’s promise of opening up the backroom deals–using C-SPAN–was a standard line on the 2008 campaign trail, a crowd pleaser that always, always won him applause.
Once he got to Washington, the promise was soon abandoned. The Obama White House only once invited C-SPAN in–and that was not a real negotiation session, but a day of several workshops with health care stakeholders, in an invitation list the White House controlled. Inviting cameras into dealmaking with members of Congress–never happened.
“You know, I think your question points out to a legitimate mistake that I made during the course of the year, and that is that we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right,” Obama said.
“But I had campaigned on process. Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency and I think it is — I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s going on. And it’s an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.
“Now I think it’s my responsibility and I’ll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn’t run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more,” he said.