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Accountability makes good government

Lee H. Hamilton | 3/13/2019, 10:01 p.m.
As various House committees gear up for a season of investigations and hearings on President Trump and his administration, a ...

I’ve always been quite skeptical of the argument that we ought not let this or that piece of information become public. National security is often invoked, or trade secrets, or some other rationale for drawing a veil over the government’s activities. Even when citizens or reporters file Freedom of Information requests, these can be ignored, or turned down.

The problem with this, of course, is that it’s anti-democratic. How are we supposed to make reasoned decisions about who and what we want to see in our government if we don’t know what’s going on and who’s responsible for it?

Perhaps the most famous hallmark of Harry Truman’s tenure as president was the motto he placed on his desk: “The buck stops here.” There’s a reason why it’s so famous, and why people still consider it a standard they wish other politicians would set for themselves.

Americans want officials who will step up and take responsibility for their decisions. They want political leaders who will hold themselves accountable to the public. And they want to see public officials exercise the responsibility handed them by the Constitution to hold others accountable. That the House is moving to do so is not a detour from governing; it’s the essence of good government.