[ WARNING: The following posting contains pointless ranting over nothing of consequence. You've been warned! ]
When Bush was president, you could go to whitehouse.gov and easily find any word he'd uttered in a public context. The items of interests were organized into two main sections—Current News and Press Briefings—both of which were indexed for easy perusal, and updated practically to the minute. And the same goes for Clinton's version of whitehouse.gov, which didn't quite reach the heights of the Bush administration's version but was still straightforward to navigate. In both cases, you could wade into that vile cesspool, quickly find what you needed, and be out of there in the minimum amount of time, leaving plenty of time to hose yourself down with disinfectant.
But with Obama, those days of easy access are over. There are now multiple seemingly-overlapping potential locations under the Briefing Room for Obama's utterances. Is that speech you're looking for in Speeches? Official Statements? Press Briefings? Press Releases? Presidential Actions? Your Weekly Address? Or is it an entry in the vomit-inducingly named "Blog"? Good question. You may naively think that a speech would be included under "Speeches", but if you check out that section you'll be surprised to discover that the last time Obama delivered a speech was February 27th.
And you may never find it. In my experience thus far, the stuff I'm looking for often falls under none of these categories; I can spend minutes going through each section with a fine-tooth comb and still never manage to track it down. For instance, when I was searching last week for Obama's March 30th auto industry speech I tried each of the sections in turn (and multiple times) but couldn't locate it anywhere. I eventually hunted it down by grabbing a key phrase from the New York Times article about it and then doing a Google search using that phrase plus a "site:whitehouse.gov" qualifier. In looking now I see just a link to it from an article on the blog (which wasn't there when I was originally searching)—and nothing else. So to find the text of Obama's last major speech on the auto industry at this point, you have to grovel through the entire White House "blog" page by page looking for the relevant link.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, the cherry on top of my list of petty grievances is the fact that the new whitehouse.gov won't let you use Alt-left arrow in either Firefox or IE; if you want to go back to the last page you have to use the mouse. God, I feel so dirty.
I'd hoped this was all just a result of settling in with a new IT group, but sadly, it appears that this is the whitehouse.gov we're going to be saddled with for the next four (or eight) years. Will our trials never cease?
GEEK RANT: There were endless valid reasons to criticize the Bush administration when it comes to secrecy, but one of the silliest I ever saw was the claim that Bush was blocking search engines from seeing over 2000 pages on whitehouse.gov, on topics like Iraq, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc, always with some nefarious intent imputed by the Democrat-voting geek in question. This was a reference to the robots.txt file, which tells search engines which pages on the site should not be indexed—and although it's true that the Bush whitehouse.gov robots.txt file was thousands of lines long, almost every single one of the entries was intended to prevent duplicate indexing of text-only or search versions of pages which were already indexed. So the "Bush is blocking Google" meme was a red herring.
Nonetheless, there are people claiming the Obama administration's much-shorter robots.txt file "points to a hopeful, open future."
INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION: The American Presidency Project quantifies my beef:
Continuing Inconsistency in White House "Transparency."
By our count, Obama has given at least 10 media interviews for which transcripts have not been released by the White House or included in the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (DCPD). In addition, the American Presidency Project continues to detect inconsistencies in the record published by the National Archives (NARA) in the DCPD.
I'm sure all of this is just shoddy management. Nonetheless, I think it's telling to compare how much attention the Obama administration pays to pandering to its hipster constituency (the President has his own blog!) vs. the effort they put into boringly crucial work like keeping their transcripts current. The Obamaites view whitehouse.gov primarily as a marketing site for the President (much more than even Clinton and Bush did), and giving us accurate and complete information is a much lower priority.