Last Thursday, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Jeh Johnson, gave a speech in Washington, D.C., boasting of the supposedly great progress the Obama Administration has made in border security. (See FAIR’s analysis of the speech and the weakness of his claims of improved security in this week’s Legislative Update)
The point of the speech was clearly to convince the American public it does not have to worry about the border. “Not enough has been said” by the government, Johnson claimed, about the Administration’s efforts at border security. He went on to say that “in the absence of facts” the American public is “susceptible” to claims that the border is “porous” and that unaccompanied minors and members of terrorist organizations thus may pass through it. The public, he said, is owed, “informed, careful, and responsible dialogue, not overheated rhetoric,” which he asserted he would provide in his speech—as a commitment to “transparency.”
Yet the news stories from the summer of tens of thousands of minors and families streaming across illegal the border illegally were not overheated rhetoric. They are not an “absence” of facts, but a presence of facts not carefully managed by the government in such a way as to convince the public that it has nothing to be alarmed about. The Administration, it should be noted, is not primarily vowing to protect the public, but vowing to more successfully convince the public it is protecting them. The problem, to Johnson, is that the public, which has gone from hearing news about the border crisis to news about Ebola and ISIS, has stopped believing Administration assurances that there is no cause for concern. Given that the Administration is planning to announce a unilateral amnesty of millions of illegal aliens and the possibility of a new surge of immigration after the November elections are over, heightened public concern over lax policies regarding immigration and border security is clearly very unwelcome to the Administration.
Johnson’s solution, therefore, is more effective propaganda, with propaganda going by the watchword “transparency.” In the speech, Johnson proclaimed, “with transparency comes responsibility.” This is an odd elocution, though perhaps Johnson was trying to evoke the famous phrase “with power comes responsibility” (originated by French philosopher Voltaire but popularized by Spiderman). With true transparency comes, not responsibility, but accountability.
Johnson was clearly not giving a speech about the duties of those who hold power to be accountable for their actions, but rather of those who hold power to be careful about what information they release to the people, so that the information gives the people the impression they wish to convey. For instance, after his prepared remarks promising transparency, an audience member asked why DHS has not published the numbers of visa overstayers, when Johnson’s predecessor promised over a year ago they would be forthcoming. His answer was that DHS has a report prepared, but they are delaying publishing, because they need more people to go over the methodology to ensure it is accurate. But are they really checking the report for “accuracy,” or holding back until they figure out a way to massage the numbers so that they don’t sound alarming to the public? Or until the election is over?
True transparency, and the accountability that comes with it, is what the Administration avoids at all costs.