Transparency v. Dialogue in the Obama Administration

This morning I watched Susan Crawford, a new Obama Administration appointee who is the Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, speak to the CFP conference.  Many folks in the audience know  and speak well of Susan.  However, despite this friendly relationship with her audience, Ms. Crawford declined to take any questions and engage in a true dialogue with participants about the issues being considered.

This choice to speak on behalf of the Administration without then taking the time to hear, consider and attempt to answer questions from the audience is representative of a nagging problem with the new Administration.  Despite the Administration’s positive focus on transparency and creating a way to collect citizen input, when it comes to engaging in dialogue with policy makers and thinkers whom they may not know intimately or as 100 percent supporters, the Administration has been slower to incorporate such input and dialogue into its style of governance.

And whille the Administration is so young (133 days old as of this morning?) it is important that it correct this bad habit and take some risks by putting officials out there to really interact and listen.  Senator Daschle was excellent at this and did it often as an Obama surrogate during the campaign, and there were many other campaign workers who went out and simply met with, listened, and responded to constituents.  This important practice needs to be a central part of the Obama Administration’s style of governance, as it was during the campaign and during Senator Obama’s earlier career as a community organizer.  Such a risk is worth taking and will only result in stronger support and true respect from citizens who care enough to show up and listen.

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