from the 'man-of-the-people'-lol dept
It's still very early in the Trump presidency, but so far, things aren't looking good. Overt and implicit threats to freedom of speech continue to linger in the air. Recent comments suggest Trump will look to roll back the few measures taken over the last few years to curb asset forfeiture abuse. Wording in one of President Trump's first presidential statements suggests the administration is going to value "law and order" over citizens' rights. Then there's the travel ban, which is being contested in federal courts.
We're now seeing a rollback of the few transparency and accountability objectives the supposed-Most Transparent President Ever managed to accomplish over eight years of generally making things worse on both fronts.
This follows Trump's secrecy during his presidential campaign, where he shrugged off over four decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns. He's made it clear on multiple occasions -- while standing in front of a memorial to dead CIA operatives and during his Black History Month speech -- that he does not trust the media. But the actions taken during the first few weeks of his presidency suggest he also does not trust the general public.
The White House comment line is shut down. New signatures aren’t being counted on petitions posted on the White House’s website. Federal agencies are not allowed to respond to requests.
Transcripts, executive orders and news releases aren’t being posted online. Social media accounts, including Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr, are no longer in use. Sending information to the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government, is delayed.
Steve Bannon, Trump's top advisor, has a permanent seat at the National Security Council and seems to be eliminating any paper trail that may result from those meetings. Several agencies have been muzzled by the administration, which has informed them that everything -- including press releases, blog posts, and social media interactions -- will be "centrally-managed" and run through the White House's "digital strategist." The "We the People" petition page lives on, but no one in the administration has given any indication whether the White House will actually be responding to these petitions.
These actions appear to be a concerted effort to run a top-down White House -- one that will determine the stance of every federal agency to ensure they stay on message. While some coherence is preferable to multiple opposing viewpoints on issues of public concern, the removal of the public from the equation is distressing.
As the McClatchy article points out, it's not just social media accounts and federal register postings that have been affected. It's also the few "direct" lines of communication the public has with the administration.
Cottmeyer, a self-described moderate Republican who has called the comment line for more than a decade, wants to speak to someone at the White House about Trump’s decision to pull out of the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which she thinks will hurt her state’s economy.
But when she calls 202-456-1111 she gets a recording: “Thank you for calling the White House comments line. The comment line is currently closed. But your comment is important to the president.” It then refers her to www.whitehouse.gov/contact – or Facebook, where the White House is accepting comments on its posts, but not messages.
While some of this may smooth out as the administration becomes more comfortable with the inner workings of the White House, these early steps don't do much to indicate better, more transparent/accountable days are ahead. If anything, they give the impression that the White House isn't going to act as the public's servant, but rather a podium from which orders and directives are issued. Questions and comments are not only discouraged, but they appear to be considered completely irrelevant to the political process.