Two news/story items came across my desk in the last couple of days that share something vital in common even though they look on the surface like opposites. The first concerns a Washington Pos t Op-Ed by Matt Miller, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and ex-Clinton OMB official. The second is news about universities like Penn State and Temple that are encouraging students to lodge complaints against their professors for being “one-sided” or bringing up material not “germane” to the course.
In the Post Op-Ed, Miller calls for the Obama administration to ban any “kiss and tell” books from White House insiders, making serving in the administration the equivalent of omertà, the mafia’s code of silence, for five years after leaving the administration.
The universities in question are inviting, indeed, proudly institutionalizing, student complaints against the universities’ principal employees and the lifeblood of the university, the faculty.
So on the one side we have an attempt to silence and on the other an attempt to get people to speak up.
These two items imperil what still remains of openness in American society. First, some details.
Writes Miller in his Post piece entitled “A Prenup for the West Wing:”
“Barack Obama should simply require key advisers and officials to sign a binding contract of confidentiality as a condition of employment. Aides should pledge not to disclose anything they see until, say, five years after their boss leaves office.”
He goes on to state:
“[T]his [is not] the same as post-White House advocacy urging an administration to change policy direction -- something that I and other White House alums have done, and which has in some cases made sitting officials unhappy. In addition, there are rare but legitimate acts of conscience by officials that led them to resign and speak out (something that did not occur in McLellan's [sic] case, which rendered his appeals to duty unpersuasive).
“No, when top presidential aides [he names George Stephanopoulos or Scott McClellan specifically] kiss and tell, it's uniquely troubling.”