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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 19, 2009 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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two people who obviously had tremendous power in the context of a new administration, and in we had another vice president who was an activist in the role of vice president. maybe we can take this conversation to the question from where you sat. how do you make the vice presidency relevant, and how you make it accountable? are there lessons that reflecting back through three administrations that you bring to bear on this set of problems? if you want to jump in with lisa and get into the substance of those questions, feel free. >> we did get rid of the man sized safe. [laughter] before i answer john's question,
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i have to say that personally, i want to take a second to say how exciting it is to be here. i had the great honor eight years ago in a small classroom of being the first outside speaker to what was then the madison society, and to see how for this group has come in eight years is really just spectacular and wonderful to be here and be part of it. it is also exciting to be here with my friend john podesta. for those of you who share anywhere near the level of pride and joy i do with what the obama administration has been able to do in his first 125 days, an extraordinary amount of credit for that goes to john. it is also great to be here with lisa, given her contribution to acs.
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after four times of debating administration officials, it is nice to be an administration official. [applause] i have had the unique role of working for two vice presidents and a very different vice- president in between. with all of them, the role of a vice-president starts and ends with his relationship with the president and what the president asked him to do. al gore said the vice president has one other do you which is to cast a vote in the senate when there is a tie vote. as he is fond of saying, every time i vote, we win. in the case of vice-president biden, president obama has asked him to be a counselor at large
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and take on special projects as they come up. right now we are spending a lot of time implementing the recovery act and have a lot of our staff working on that. on the foreign-policy side we are working on issues of non- proliferation. i think that we do aside from the specific responsibilities, the general role of applying advice to experience and some insights as did mr. she makes these decisions. in vice president biden states, a lot of it is a 36-year track record and a lot of relationships in trying to pass
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the resolution and staying in touch with his colleagues to move the agenda along. we have faced the question of how to approach the vice- president see after vice- president cheney's controversial tenure in office. we have focused on a couple of major things. the first is transparency. some of those things are small things. every night we put out guidance on where the vice president is going to be the next day. there are no undisclosed locations in vice-president biden's office. he has all his meetings in public. all the meetings are on the record. minstar all this close and posted on the white house blog. we make an effort to have a standard of transparency in the office that hopefully sets the right agenda and tone. the other is accountability.
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we are working very hard to make sure the vice-president and president's staff will pull together as part of an integrated whole and server, agenda. -- serve a common agenda. while we talk about relations with congress, and the vice president gives a lot of time on spending -- spends a lot of time and giving the history. it is an exciting time to be in washington and in the executive branch, but is also an exciting time on capitol hill. we should not lose sight of that, either. this president has a aggressive domestic agenda. he has to deal with many topics at the same time. he is addressing those issues by working closely and energetically with congress. is that relationship and the progress we are seeing on capitol hill in passing recent
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bills, and the big work ahead on health care and energy and bonanza regulatory form, is the biggest change in washington and the biggest change in terms of what is going to come out of the next four years and the kinds of substantial policy changes we will see from countries. it is great to be here and part of the administration. it is great to work with our friends in congress and bring you the change that many people in this room work long and hard to bring to washington. >> you are the general counsel of the office of management and budget. ron talked about the very aggressive domestic agenda that the president has been undertaking. in this administration, the omb
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has become a power house across the range of questions, not just putting together the federal budget, but the administrators are very active -- the administrator is very active on healthcare, climate and energy. you have the cio which is implementing transparency. they even did personnel. is this just the natural accretion of power in through the executive office of the president? you have worked in state government, at the justice department. is this just more and more authority, by necessity now moving into compound the fence that surrounds the white house? what is your reflection on the way this omb is operating in the context of this very aggressive
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agenda that ron talk about? >> i think omb in many administrations is kind of an agent for institutionalizing change. we all believe in change. i think omb is the implementation arm of presidential policy. you have an unbelievably hard working, visible set of creative policy people throughout the white house, throughout the various agencies, but how do you get this high level policy thinking and policy pronouncements, how do get them to move the permanent federal government? it is a long process of turning a cruise ship around, in some ways. omb is a cabinet level agency, but 95% of its opponents are career. in many ways is the center of translating the president's
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priorities into administration policy. it does that partly through the budget. does it through the regulatory review process and through all of the legislative clearance works. whenever an agency has to speak to congress, and provide testimony, for that initiation to take a position, it needs one voice. in this particular administration, this president is famously known for being wonky, in a good sense. he cares about the nuance and details of policy administration. to go and be and the kind of a traditional sense of it as a bunch of policy nerds implementing policy, it is a very important part of this president's vision of how you actually get it done. . .
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omb is the center for this transparency efforts. with the president's office implementing the nuts and bolts of the recovery act and spending, in four months, it has been for a half months since the administration began. we had to budget cycles and the stimulus. it has been an extraordinary amount of work.
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given the fact -- the economic mess we're in, given how presidential priorities are implemented through economics and budgets, it is natural that omb would assume this role at this time. combined with that are some powerful personalities and very effective people so forth that have allowed for that to happen. >> do you worry that too much authority, too much power has been sucked into the white house and diminishing the rules of the cabinet secretaries? >> i think that is not so much about omb. there is talk about the various policy councils and their policies within the white house. this is a unique time. there are extraordinary challenges and the need for coordination is something that is essential. i think it is having -- all the various policy councils are playing a creative role in bringing together the thinking
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around the administration. given the ambition and amount of work that is taken on, it has to happen in a unified way. >> that is kind of bs, maybe. -- a yes, maybe. you work in an office most people think of doing the work that is being suggested. you are deciding which techniques can be used on prisoners when the office of legal policy is not the office of legal counsel but it has an important role in the transparency question. that has been your background. there has been disappointment on the progress of side in that arena -- on the question. there's this case about withholding vice-president cheney's testimony to patrick
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fitzgerald that came up as a question. tell us about the role of the office of legal policy in driving information policy in particular and how would you access the new administration's efforts -- assess the administration's efforts to open up the government for people? >> i have to say that it is good to be here and see so many old friends. i have been on some panels at past conventions and that has been an honor. what i have enjoyed is the time between sessions when we get to have a one-on-one conversations and there are so many friends who are here and the relationships that we have built over the short history of acs. as i have continued on, many of you have given me advice and
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insight and support and i certainly appreciate it. for if some of you are part of the administration. many of you will join it over the course of the next four or eight years. if there is something i would say, it would be please stay engaged. we need your ideas and talent. we need your energy. you really do sustain us. thank you all for being here and continuing to be engaged. olp is not as high-profile as these white house offices. i thought i would do one-on-one in terms of olp. when i was a professor, i am on leave at george washington university, there would be so many people who would say, how're things at georgetown?
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how're things at georgetown? so now i am in a situation where people say what is going on at olc? when are you guys going to release some more torture memos? if there is a nutshell description, it is olc tells us what the law is. olp tells us what the law should be. with olc, it serves as an outside counsel to executive branch agencies. it serves as the gc at doj, whereas olp spearheads the policy initiatives. . we beg judges for the white house and coordinate the rulemaking in the department.
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in terms of policy, in terms of legislation, policy initiatives, olp is known as the think tank of the justice department. in the reagan and registration, for example, they came up with the legislation which resulted the legislation which resulted in the current federal sentencing system. they dealt a lot with death penalty issues, hideous issues, and came forward with an original meaning of jurisprudence. in the clinton administration, they spearheaded anti-terrorism legislation in the aftermath of the oklahoma city bombing. spearheaded the violence against women act. and the brady bill. in the bush administration office, -- the office initiated the patriot act.
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if there is something that -- you talked about state -- state secrets, whistle-blower is another issue we are working on. we work with different components within doj and also different agencies around the government. so really balance out and work through and negotiate these institutional interests. the criminal division at doj has different interests than the civil rights division and cit -- add the zero j and dea made -- the primary focus is preventing trafficking of illegal drugs whereas hhs mixed sure how people have access to -- sick people have access to drugs. how do we become a neutral
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arbiter? certainly there are some big issues that are out there with regard to state secrets and other issues and their competing interests. one thing that was fascinating to me and maybe this is because i was unable professor. you see the difference between republicans and democrats. maybe at a certain point, people could see a difference between senator clinton and senator obama during a primary. when you deal with government, often there are differences between components of the same administration. how do you work through that? how are you going to negotiate through that so that you can come up with some coherent policy? that is what we're trying to do in a variety of areas, including those that you mentioned. >> maybe i will go back to you -- both of you. this is an administration that
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made a commitment to policy. one thing that is not transparent is who is in charge. we have the cio and the transparency initiatives. the should the public look to to hold responsible for open government in this administration? >> she is more in charge that i am. >> the answer is everyone is in charge of transparency and open government. this is a huge commitment of this administration that everyone has their hands in a piece of it. naturally, probably the offices that are setting policy on that area probably thatostp, -- is
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ostp. i think those two offices are probably more involved than others in terms of setting policy. this is something that is crosscutting every agency and every office in the white house to be committed to. it will come from everywhere. i think those two offices are probably more. >> do you think the project is going well? >> the recovery act is a great example. we have the most unprecedented level of transparency with regard to the spending of the recovery act funds that sold for have been out there. it is a huge project to track dollars but there are web sites created for every government agency. there are state and local grantees that have their own web sites. it is an extraordinary effort. where we started and came from is huge. that is not to say that there is not a lot more that needs to
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happen. >> first, i think a couple of very important concepts that -- are new in terms of the political culture would be transparency and collaboration. they are very consistent with technology concepts. i think that they do characterize what is happening in terms of collaboration, whether it is across agencies, departments and also in terms of transparency when we talk about foia executive order and ethics executive order, this administration is unprecedented in terms of the transparency it has provided. >> you worked for an administration that was proud of going the other direction and claiming executive privilege in secrecy and the vice president was probably at the vanguard of
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that. you see a big difference -- a uc a big difference? the obama administration is pushing bush and cheney, making this big effort to connect with the public can be more transparent. there is politics in that as well. how do you judge that? >> i imagine there are differences and the differences may or may not be bigger than we think once we start seeing more clashes between the branches. you're right that when it comes to the internal task forces that the administration has set up, you are more transparent than the bush administration was and the clinton administration was prior to that. to make, the real fight is about transparency. the fight was over executive privilege when it was putting congress against the presidency. you do not normally see that when both parties told the congress and the white house.
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if i hope at some point that the control of the congress and the presidency come to differ over the next two years, i think you are going to see this clashes and that is when you will see whether -- with the extent to which president obama is committed to transparency. i happen to think there is an enormous value with being able to shield some of your highest advise from public scrutiny. if you want the unvarnished honest advice of your visors, you are best off not splashing what advice they give you on to the front pages. i will use a congressional example. i do not think many members of congress would want to have made public the internal e-mail between them and their staff over what to vote on a certain bill and what considerations they take. that is the type of non transparency that we were advocating in the bush administration. if you want the president to get
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unvarnished advice from his advisers on very sensitive and controversial issues, that it - should have been disclosed to the public. -- should not have been disclosed. you can i get the best advice from your advisers. there remains to be seen whether at the highest levels of where transparency is at issue, this administration is or will not be as transparent. they have not had the types of fights we had once the government became divided in the bush administration. >> we have the cards and letters flowing in if you want to ask questions. the sec, -- lisa, explain what your main duty is which is on the paper flow side. do you feel like you have a responsibility to provide
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alternative views from the right to the president? he is famous for wanting to hear from his critics as well as from his supporters. how do you manage the need to give him information that is coming from the right? all of us hope that you are only giving him stuff from my progress of perspective. what is the role of your office? >> thie staff secretary's office is an inward white house looking office. all the paper goes through this the secretary's office and the core of the job is insuring that by the time the decision memo gets to the president, it reflects his advisers' views. there is a process that you go through as one of the policy councils is working on developing policy and is working
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with agencies on policy. it works its way through and there is a certain amount of consensus developed. we will make sure that we will circulated and make sure that his senior advisers have had a chance to have input so that if you have larry summers working away on something, it does not happen in a silo so the doors that has not had a chance to weigh in. there are a serious difference s of opinion in the white house. this is a president, he wants to hear from this different advisers and he wants to make sure that he has the benefit of all these different opinions. you can see that if you get a policy working through in a silo and gets to him, he would not have the benefit of that. you could have a decision that might be wrong but you realize that it could have been better. that is the core part of the job.
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often it is with technology. one of the changes in the job is our office gets very substantively involved in going back to the authors and saying what about this? the president is likely to want to know about this. what about this issue? here is where conservatives -- this is the argument they make, how do we respond to that? there is a lot of working with the offices to make sure they are teeing it up and people are engaging. the president and also -- also asks questions. it would be a meeting with the president and an initial memo and it will come back with questions. you get people involved in that. it is also with the agencies. one of the things when you are talking about earlier, you really do see the issue right
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now. the government has a tendency, the executive branch can become a silo. people can become a territorial. the one thing with these difficult economic issues is right now you have to have someone driving back coordination process. that is what you see with the energy and health care czars, bringing people to the table and making sure their views are considered and they are part of the policy-making process and the president gets the best advice he can get. >> let's talk about one of the places i think progressives felt perhaps the biggest change would follow from a conservative administration to a progressive administration is in the selection of judges. we now have with the selection of judge sotomayor, an inkling about the way the president is thinking about this.
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you are involved during the course of the transition, and ron, you were involved. ticket in order. whoever wants to go first. what is his criteria ask i wou? why has it been so slow in producing nominees? >> i want to make two quick points. my perspective is limited. olp focuses on vetting judges. we support through the vetting process. i will say that the first bush nominees were in may in

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