I’m sure some of this stuff sounded good as campaign promises, but as Igor Volsky explains letting TV cameras into conference committee negotiations is a terrible idea. This is also an example of the concrete harm done to the country by politicians overestimating the impact of campaign tactics on election outcomes. The fact of the matter is that if Barack Obama had never promised a more open legislative process, he would have won the election anyway. What’s more, going forward members of congress and the administration need to recognize that they’ll be judged on the basis of the results they deliver for people’s lives. If everything is terrible on Election Day then no matter how much the process is reformed, it’s still going to look corrupt and horrible to people. But if conditions are good and improving, then these process concerns will have a way of fading away.
There’s an interesting philosophical dispute about what should be done with unwise campaign promises. On the one hand, it’s more honorable to live by one’s commitments. But more fundamentally, it strikes me as the better part of valor to admit error, take the hit for flip-flopping, and forge ahead without doing anything silly.