‘You Know That I Do What I Say I’m Going to Do’
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Obama’s campaign slogan used to be ‘change we can believe in,’ but the past four years include quite a few broken promises.
Two weeks ago in Ohio, President Obama said, “You know I mean what I say. You know that I do what I say I’m going to do.”
Actually, we know otherwise. A review of his first term reveals that Obama has broken many promises.
In 2009, Obama said, "I am pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office." He said he would pay for his programs: "I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime — by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less."
Since Obama took office, the total federal debt has surpassed $16.2 trillion, an increase of 52 percent. The deficit is projected to reach $901 billion in the fiscal 2013 budget, over the promised amount of about $700 billion. Defenders of Obama say he inherited such a mess that cutting the deficit proved to be impossible. But Obama knew how bad the economy was when he said in February 2009 that he’d cut the deficit — just before his inauguration he described the economic downturn as “a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime.”
The health care plan wasn’t as promised. Obama said in his 2008 speech at the Democrats’ national convention, “If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums.” Health care premiums continue to rise. Obama said “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” but in fact, that won’t be the case for many.
Obama said ‘if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,’ but in fact, that won’t be the case for many.
On immigration, Obama said, “what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting.” The 2008 Democratic Party platform stated, "We are committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration." But in that year, no major immigration bill supported by Obama was introduced to Congress.
Obama railed at length against lobbyists and money’s influence in politics, saying that “on my very first day as president, I will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to make the White House the people's house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street.” Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."
Obama’s policy of not taking money from lobbyists is a bit of hair-splitting. It’s true that he doesn’t accept contributions from individuals who are registered to lobby the federal government. But he does take money from their spouses and from other individuals at firms where lobbyists work. And some of his bigger fundraisers were registered lobbyists until they signed on with the Obama campaign.
The New York Times explains, Obama “spoke of refusing campaign money from lobbyists but took it from the people who hired them. The ethics plan he outlined, and eventually imposed on his administration, did not ban all lobbyists outright but set conditions for their employment and did not cover many who were lobbyists in everything but name.”
Obama promised, “my administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”
“When there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as president,” Obama pledged, “you the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing.” But he has broken the promise repeatedly, including with the very first piece of legislation that hit his desk.
Obama also made backroom deals on health care after promising to televise such discussions: “not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN.”
Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists ‘won't find a job in my White House.’ But many lobbyists found top jobs in the White House.
Obama said he wouldn’t use signing statements — “We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress”— but he has.
In some cases, it’s for the best that Obama did not keep his promises. He said he would close Guantanamo Bay, but hasn’t.
At Obama’s 2008 victory speech, he said that, together with then-Senator Joe Biden, he would "turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people." But Congress passed massive laws, such as the stimulus and Obama’s health care plan, on a purely partisan basis. And consider this sampling of Obama’s divisive language once in office:
"We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us."
If Republicans gained either house in the 2010 election, "That means that we are going to have just hand-to-hand combat up here on Capitol Hill."
"I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am."
Republicans are treating the debt ceiling as “a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate-jet owners.”
The president’s defenders frequently blame Republican intransigence, but many of these examples of broken promises involve Obama’s own executive decisions, beyond the reach of GOP opposition; or they involve legislation with his full backing, such as the stimulus and health care plan.
I know that in every campaign, politicians make promises about cleaning up Washington. And most times, you end up disappointed when it doesn't happen. So it's easy to become cynical — to believe that change isn't possible; that the odds are too great; that this year is bound to be no different from the last.
While much of the president’s campaign rhetoric was filled with vague, hope-filled generalizations, many of his promises were precise — to cut the deficit, reduce health care premiums, give bills time for public review, and close Guantanamo Bay. With respect to these and other promises, Obama has not, in fact, done what he said he would do.
Eleanor Bartow is managing editor of THE AMERICAN.
FURTHER READING: Bartow also writes “States’ Wrongs” and “Wit and Wisdom Meet Straight Talk.” Steve Conover says “It’s Past Time to Stop Blaming Bush.” Marc Thiessen explains “The Challenge to Obama in 2012, from Obama in 2008.” Peter J. Wallison asks “Is Obama Overrated?”
Image by Darren Wamboldt / Bergman Group