I worked in the White House in 2001-2002. After the 9/11 attacks, regulations governing visits to the executive complex were tightened. The new rules made it so difficult to book meetings in one's own office that many White House aides just gave up. Instead, they walked across the street to the Pennsylvania Avenue Starbucks. With a little luck in his timing, a suicide bomber could have knocked out a swath of the National Security Council staff for the price of a caffe latte.
Rules to enhance security only detracted from security. These disclosure rules will backfire in the same way. The new visitor disclosure rules won't stop White House aides from meeting in secret with controversial people. Secret meetings will continue. They will just continue outside the White House complex.
What the disclosure rules will do, however, is force White House staffers to waste a lot of time on useless meetings summoned for the sole purpose of generating a public record.
The TV show "The West Wing" gives a false impression of what government work is like. In reality, the U.S. government -- and the White House that supposedly runs that government - is almost paralyzed by its own rules and procedures most of the time.
Some of the rules that encumber governance are valid. It's important to check that officials do not use government power to favor their own financial interests. But many, and probably most, rules persist as fossilized remains of now-forgotten controversies.
The new policy of disclosing White House visitors likewise memorializes a forgotten controversy -- Democratic anger at Vice President Cheney's refusal to answer questions about his energy task force. Democrats wanted a list of the attendees at Cheney's meetings.
Cheney refused. Democrats took Cheney to court. Cheney won. You might think that would have settled the matter.
You might even think that Democrats, having regained the presidency, would appreciate the wisdom of the Supreme Court's admonition to "afford Presidential confidentiality the greatest protection consistent with the fair administration of justice." But no —they are still annoyed at Cheney.
Having lost in court, they are now changing the rules to score a retrospective point. Of course, the loser in this point-scoring won't be Cheney. He's retired. It will be the administration that inflicted this stupid policy on itself out of vindictive pique—and those future administrations that discover they cannot escape a bad precedent instituted for bad reasons.