When candidate Barack Obama was criss-crossing the country in his two-year presidential campaign, a standard part of his stump speech -- lines that always won him applause -- had to do with his promise to negotiate health care reform in public, on C-SPAN, for all to see. As the wrangling over health overhaul legislation heads into its final stretch, it's clear that was a promise President Obama did not keep. The dealmaking remained behind closed doors.
Here's what Obama said in August 2008, at a town-hall meeting: "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."
Obama offered variations of that at scores of campaign stops. At a Jan. 31, 2008, debate in Los Angeles, he said he would deal in the open, "not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process."