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Jewish World Review August 23, 2001 / 4 Elul, 5761

Jill "J.R." Labbe

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It's a shame that Americans haven't seen the Dubya Texans saw as their governor -- TWO days after his Jan. 20 inauguration, President Bush treated his staff to a short lecture on ethics.

"I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct," Bush said as he swore in members of the White House staff. "This means avoiding even the appearance of improper conduct."

Was Dick Cheney in the room? It's a legitimate question, considering that his actions since that fated day have brought accusations of improper conduct down on the Bush administration.

The vice president continues to refuse to disclose the names of the citizens who consulted with his Energy Policy Development Group during the formulation of the administration's controversial energy plan that emphasizes production over conservation.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, directed Cheney last month to identify all the industry leaders who helped develop the Bush administration's energy policy.

Cheney has refused, contending that the GAO is entitled to information on the task force's costs but that it doesn't have authority to ask for lists of those with whom the task force met.

The EPDG was mandated to create a national energy policy to help the private sector and the government "promote dependable, affordable and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy."

The Clinton administration took justifiable heat for the private cabals that Hillary Rodham Clinton convened at the behest of her husband to discuss a national health plan. It's hard to see the distinction between her conferences and Cheney's.

Why the secrecy about who was consulted? Does Cheney fear that it will tell too much about who influenced the decision to go heavy on continued fossil fuel exploration and drilling?

You know, a lot of Americans don't think that's a bad decision, regardless of who helped shape the policy. Have the strength of your convictions, man, and turn over that list.

Disappointment comes with the silence from the White House in not ordering Cheney to comply with the GAO's request. The 43rd president of the United States has said repeatedly _ during the campaign and as the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. _ that he values the concept of transparency in government.

It appears that Bush values the ability to see through other nations' inner workings, but not necessarily his own.

Prior to his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, Bush spoke about what he intended to discuss with the Russian president.

"I will talk about democracy, democracy-building. I'll talk about capital investment and the need for capital to have open markets, rule of law and transparency in the economy," Bush told the media during a photo op with Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

In comments about North Korea, Bush decried the secrecy of the government.

"Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea is there's not very much transparency," the president said in March. "We're not certain of whether or not they keep all terms of all agreements. When you make an agreement with a country that is secretive, how are you aware whether or not they are keeping the terms of the agreement?"

In discussing potential threats to American security, Bush said that "the true threats to stability and peace are these nations that are not very transparent, that hide behind the _ that don't let people in to take a look and see what they're up to."

OK, Mr. President, it's time to let people in to take a look and see what you're up to. Americans have a right to know how public policy that will effect everyone who turns on a light switch or fills up a tank with gasoline was crafted. And a good way to start letting folks see inside, beyond ordering Cheney to turn over that list, is to hold the first unscripted news conference of your administration. You've been in office seven months, Mr. President, and you've yet to sidle up to that White House podium to field questions from the media. Without notes. Answering any question placed before you.

It's a shame that the American people have yet to see the George W. Bush whom people of Texas saw as their governor. You were funny, charming, self-effacing and transparent. Tell Karen Hughes and Karl Rove to let loose of the leash so you can run free for a change.

JWR contributor Jill "J.R." Labbe is senior editorial writer and columnist for the Star-Telegram . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2001, Jill "J.R." Labbe