Would greater transparency have saved Tom Daschle?

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Feb. 3 2009 3:27 PM

Tom Cries Uncle

Would greater transparency have saved Tom Daschle?

John Dickerson chatted live with readers about this article. Read the transcript.

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This is, in fact, what happened. But the experts who heralded the measures when they were first announced would probably never have been so complimentary had they known there would be immediate exceptions.

The downside of releasing bad information is that it can create a political problem that overwhelms all reason. Release bad information about a nominee too early, and the story could grow to the point where it becomes impossible to balance a nominee's career properly against the mistake. Transparency, intended to further the cause of good governance, can unleash a feeding frenzy that can kill a qualified nominee, undermining the cause of good governance. But this is a question of timing. It shouldn't bias the system toward the least transparent act of transparency. 

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Earlier disclosure might not have saved Tom Daschle's nomination. But late disclosure certainly didn't. And by the administration's own transparency standards, sooner is always better. It's supposed to tell us about the good and the bad equally so that we can make our evaluations about people and policy based on all available information. Transparency about only good news isn't real transparency. It's just getting naked in the dark.

Watch White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' briefing on Daschle: