FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Presidential Records Must See the Light of Day

by LARAY POLK

There is much concern over SB 866, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007. Librarians, historians and archivists from around the country have issued position statements regarding the bill and have worked diligently to keep it moving.

SB 866 would rescind President Bush’s Executive Order 13233, an order that renders the Presidential Records Act impotent. What’s all that mean? White House records that would have been slated for the public domain when President Bush entered office are now under his full discretion to censor — indefinitely. EO 13233 extends these powers to his heirs.

It is commonly known but worth repeating that inherited power, written into U.S. law, is illegal and antithetical in a democracy.

Two and a half weeks ago, the possibility of the bill reaching the floor before December looked hopeful. Aides in various offices said it had been reviewed on the Senate floor and assigned a number: Calendar No. 212. Once a bill is given a number, it can be brought to the floor for a vote by any senator or the majority leader.

Then, on Sept. 19, The Dallas Morning News reported that an anonymous senator had put a hold on the bill. But on Monday, under the stewardship of Democrats, SB 866 was introduced on the floor. Republican Sen. Jim Bunning raised objections and stalled the bill.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is the sponsor of 866. Five days ago, an aide in Mr. Bingaman’s office identified the senator who requested the hold: Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. I inquired further as to how he knew this with certainty. He replied, “Because Sen. Coburn is working directly with Sen. Bingaman to negotiate some items in the bill.”

SB 866, with its declared supporters and its semi-anonymous and proxy detractors, could appear to split along the partisan divide. In reality, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is a co-sponsor of the bill and has been an outspoken advocate. The other co-sponsors are Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy and Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John Sununu.

This legislation resonates loudly here at home. Professors within the history department at Southern Methodist University, the future home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, may not all agree on the benefits or legitimacy of the library, museum and institute. However, they unanimously agree about SB 866 and the need to rescind the presidential order.

They released a cooperative statement Feb. 8, stating the basis of their concerns: “We believe that the greatest benefit to SMU of having a presidential library will be to make the university a center of serious research on matters of the highest public import. We recognize that the records of this administration will be of immense historical and civic interest. … We do believe that all material in all presidential libraries, including the Bush Library, should be open to full access in accord with the letter and the spirit of the Presidential Records Act.”

The obvious solution to getting this bill to the floor for meaningful discussion is for a Republican senator to take the lead; solidarity for SB 866 clearly exists across party lines. The time is now to shrug off details of identity and stand up for the integrity of the issues at hand.

What are the consequences of an ongoing stalled process of this legislation? Vice President Dick Cheney will have quietly shown us once again the lessons he learned from the Nixon fiasco: how to increase executive power while simultaneously shutting down any chance of public scrutiny. No records, no recourse and a presidential library of questionable legitimacy in Dallas.

LARAY POLK is an artist and activist who lives in Dallas,Texas. Her e-mail address is laraypolk@earthlink.net.

 

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail