They also respected the concept of representative government, which suggests that those elected by the people are empowered to do the people’s business. What emerged from those private discussions seems to have worked out pretty well, for 226 years so far.
That’s why we should take a realistic view of the ongoing dust-up over who said precisely what to whom as Gov. Mary Fallin decided the healthcare exchange issue. The release of 51,000 pages of printed emails told us essentially nothing, except that, like all elected officials, she and her staff kicked around a lot of possible courses of action before reaching a decision.
Well, surprise! Anyone who ever worked in a governor’s office, as I did from 1995 until 2003, knows that complex issues require complex discussions, and that some of those discussions can range pretty far afield. That’s why the governor and her staff are right in claiming a sensible level of executive privilege by resisting the wholesale release of every crossed t and dotted i.
No one respects the spirit and intent of Oklahoma’s open meetings and records laws more than I do. I began my career as a newspaper reporter, and I believe in open government. But what constitutes open government? Does it require that we peek into every nook and cranny of the process, or that public officials be held accountable primarily for the end results?
Elected officials discuss a wide range of options when considering how to do the people’s business. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing the job we elected them to perform.
But tell them that every email, every jotted note or doodle, will be printed in the paper tomorrow and they are less likely to open up and discuss every option. Full disclosure sounds wonderful, but it can also be a chilling barrier to free discussion. In the end, some public officials may wind up crafting messages designed less to explore possibilities than to make themselves look good.
The primary revelation from all those gubernatorial emails seems to be that Mary Fallin, like every public official in world history, listens to like-minded individuals and organizations during the formation of policy. This is a surprise?
Now The Lost Ogle, which can be occasionally entertaining but which seems to exist primarily to make juvenile comments about the bosoms of female television personalities, is demanding 31 more emails. They may provide a chuckle if someone let a “hell” or “damn” slip, but they are unlikely to prove otherwise illuminating.
We elect governors to do their jobs, and we should judge them on the outcomes, not every minute detail of the process. It’s time for this nonsensical fishing expedition to end.
Brake was chief writer for former Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin.
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