Q&A: Peering into Obama's opaque government
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan watchdog organization founded in 1994 to ferret out in- stances of government wrongdoing.
Fitton spoke to the Trib about his upcoming book, “The Corruption Chronicles: Obama's Big Secrecy, Big Corruption and Big Government,” which will be published later this month by Simon & Schuster.
Q: After nearly two decades, you've essentially crafted what amounts to a history of Judicial Watch and its watchdog efforts. What made you decide that now was the time to do this?
A: In order to place the misconduct of the Obama administration in context, you need to kind of go back to the prior two administrations. Arguably, you can go back further, but (Judicial Watch) has only been around since the Clinton administration. To get a full understanding of the problems of the Obama administration, you have to know the history involved — the aggressive secrecy of the Bush administration, and, frankly, the complete lawlessness of the Clinton administration.
Q: In 2008, when Obama promised to have the most transparent presidency in history, did you expect to have to file more than 800 Freedom of Information requests and more then 60 lawsuits against the administration?
A: No. I expected the normal (presidential) secrecy, but his aggressive lawlessness on transparency was a terrible surprise. I think the most critical transparency transgression is the administration's refusal to make available the full record of the Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac) entities, which are a black hole for the taxpayer. Not one document about their operations or what led to this monstrous taxpayer expense and government takeover of the mortgage market should be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — or so (the administration) says. We can find out more about what the CIA is up to than Fannie or Freddie at this point.
Q: How difficult is it to attempt to bring transparency to government?
A: It's very difficult. The courts usually are too deferential to the executive branch on Freedom of Information Act issues.
Q: In your view, what has been the administration's worst scandal to date?
A: I think the (former Illinois Gov. Rod) Blagojevich scandal. There's good reason to believe that (Obama) knew or should have known that his Senate seat was being sold. That's how we began this administration, with Chicago corruption enveloping his former Senate office and his top advisers. That's a scandal that's resulted in someone being jailed, and I don't think we've had that with the other scandals.
Q: Is it fair to say the book's central thesis is that grassroots organizations such as Judicial Watch are vital to holding the government at least partially accountable?
A: Yes. The legacy media is essentially pro-government, (it's) not skeptical of the enterprise of government. Congress is often hapless and/or compromised itself.
And so you need these independent watchdog groups like Judicial Watch and others that are popping up. In terms of grassroots support, we are one of the largest (watchdog) groups, but we welcome other people coming into the fray with us in terms of making sure the government is accountable.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7857.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Pirates, Burnett could work again
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade
- Plane crashes in Taiwan, 47 trapped, feared dead
- Outfielder Polanco driving force for Pirates in victory over Dodgers
- Pitt swingman Jones ready for breakout season
- Pop star Perry brings high-energy world tour to Consol
- Allegheny County warns of uptick in Lyme disease cases
- Black leaders back developer’s offer, say it could save August Wilson Center
- Selig: Pirates’ rebirth a positive step for baseball
- Hollidaysburg native Lafferty relishing his chance with Penguins