Friday, November 02, 2007

Clintons Keep Records Closed, NCH Still Blames Bush II

The NCH website finally put up a story about the Clinton records brouhaha that came to the fore during the recent Democratic Presidential debate (I posted about it yesterday--and the AHA is still silent). Kudos to them for finally paying attention to something that's been brewing for a couple months, guys! But after reading the last two paragraphs, it's evident that the NCH is focused like a laser on the real baddie in all this:

This presidential debate only added to what has become a media firestorm over the issue of whether the Clinton’s are obstructing the release of her records or whether the Bush administration’s Executive Order 13233 is responsible for delays in the processing and release of documents at not just the Clinton library, but the Reagan and Bush libraries as well. An article in the Washington Post blamed both the Clinton’s and the Bush administration for the delays. And, a lengthy piece in Newsweek sharply criticized the Clinton’s alleging that they have been less than forthcoming in the release of their papers.

Unfortunately, the media coverage has ignored the fact that consideration of legislation (H.R. 1255) in the Senate to overturn Executive Order 13233 continues to be blocked by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) at the behest of the White House who has threatened to veto the bill. (emphasis added)

Well, I guess we know who the NCH blames (surprise!). It seems as if the NCH finally--and reluctantly--brought up the possibility of the Clintons being responsible for withholding their own records only after the story got too big for them to ignore. Because the NCH has certainly been ignoring most of the media accounts critical of the Clintons.

In an earlier story, the NCH seemed more than happy to quote from a piece in which President Clinton blamed the Bush Adminstration for holding up the release of Clinton Administration records. But in this latest piece, they only allude to the NEWSWEEK piece critical of the Clintons and don't actually quote anything from it. Instead, they try to delegitimize the story as just part of a confusing "media firestorm" on their way to blaming the media for not covering "the real story" that the Executive Order is completely to blame for the holdup.

Now let me be clear here: I agree with repealing the Executive Order and allowing greater access more quickly (assuming that information in the records isn't critical to national security, of course) . What troubles me is the one-sided play the NCH is giving the Clinton story. In this particular case, repealing the Executive Order would remove some roadblocks to gaining access to the Clintons' records (and it would also remove the cover that the Clintons are currently hiding behind), but it also appears that the Clintons will still manage to keep the flow of information to a slow trickle--at least until after the 2008 Presidential election.

Then who will the NCH blame?

1 comment:

allida said...

I have worked in presidential records for more than a decade and edit a documentary edition which contain vast numbers of presidential records. Furthermore, I have relied on FOIAs for the past decade in my research on the policy work First Ladies conducted while in the White House.

Consequently, I know this procedure inside out and backwards.

The NCH is explaining procedures correctly--and accurately. It took me 10 years to get material on Nancy Reagan. Barbara Bush's records are frozen. And a significant amount of Rosalynn Carter's papers are unaccessible because Carter Library staff is so short it cannot accession already processed (and open) material.

Just because 1) NCH took the time to explain the law and the current NARA staffing crisis,2) the Archives doesn't have the staff to meet the high demand of FOIAs, and 3) Clinton muffed the answer, doesn't mean there is bias.