Promises to Keep: Candidate Obama vs. President Obama reviewed some of Barack Obama’s biggest campaign promises, and how his actions have measured up.  – November 01, 2009

Barack Obama made a lot of promises during his two-year campaign for change.

He pledged to reform the health care system, wind down the war in Iraq, ramp up the war in Afghanistan, change the way the international community views the United States … all while keeping a sharp eye on spending and shielding the middle class from tax increases.

With the president coming up on the one-year mark since his election, now’s a good time to take a look at his track reviewed some of Obama’s biggest campaign promises, and how his actions have measured up. The verdicts are ranked as promise kept, partly kept, work in progress, not yet addressed and promise broken.


Pledge: “I would send two to three additional brigades to Afghanistan.” — Obama, during a Sept. 26, 2008, debate at the University of Mississippi

Verdict: Promise Kept. Since taking office, Obama has ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. He ordered two brigades to the battlefield in February, and then announced an additional 4,000 troops during a strategy address in March. However, the administration is now mulling Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for an additional 40,000 troops. As Obama and his security team reassess strategy for the Afghanistan war, it’s unclear whether McChrystal’s request will be granted.


Pledge: “Obama will create a foreclosure prevention fund to help people facing foreclosure stay in their homes and renegotiate with their lenders or sell their homes.” — Obama campaign policy paper

Verdict: Promise Kept. Obama in February announced a $75 billion foreclosure prevention plan aimed at keeping millions of families in their homes. It was bigger than anticipated and more expensive, drawing its funding from the Wall Street bailout as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The plan, though, has gotten off to a slow start with only a fraction of eligible borrowers reportedly participating.


Pledge: “In the first 100 days of my administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam.” — Obama, during an Aug. 1, 2007, speech in Washington, D.C.

Verdict: Promise Kept. In early April, Obama delivered an address to the Turkish parliament in which he declared the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.” Obama gave a similar address in Cairo in June.


Pledge: “Well, Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me as well.” — Obama, during a Dec. 13, 2007, debate in Des Moines

Verdict: Promise Kept. Though the above quip was not meant as a compliment, Obama ended up following through after he won the election. He appointed Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state.


Pledge: “We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months — that would be the summer of 2010.” — Obama, during a July 15, 2008, speech, ahead of his trip to the Middle East

Verdict: Partly Kept. Obama is withdrawing U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq, but on a slightly slower schedule than advertised during the presidential campaign. Obama in February set Aug. 31, 2010, as the deadline for withdrawing combat brigades. That’s 19 months, as opposed to 16 months. However, Obama in 2008 clarified that he reserved the right to make “tactical adjustments” to his withdrawal strategy — he exercised that right after taking office. The Iraq withdrawal is underway and expected to pick up next year. All military personnel are expected to be out of the country by the end of 2011.


Pledge: “I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” — Obama, during a Sept. 12, 2008, speech in Dover, N.H.

Verdict: Partly Kept. Middle-class earners got their tax relief in the $787 billion economic stimulus passed one month into Obama’s term. But some claim Obama has broken his pledge by sneaking in taxes and tax-like programs in other areas. Republicans over the summer released a list of six programs and proposals they claim would raise taxes on the middle class — including the tobacco tax hike and proposals to include coverage mandates in health care reform legislation. After all, the health care reform plan proposed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., explicitly labeled the penalty attached to the requirement to obtain health insurance as an “excise tax.” Back in August, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested tax increases are inevitable. But the White House continued to say the president is committed to shielding those making less than $250,000 from an increase.


Pledge: “When I am president, America will reject torture without exception. America is the country that stood against that kind of behavior before, and we will do so again.” — Obama, during an Aug. 1, 2007, speech in Washington, D.C.

Verdict: Partly Kept. Obama issued an executive order in January banning “torture” and ordering interrogators to follow the guidelines in the Army Field Manual. He has since moved to overhaul the way interrogations are conducted — following the recommendations of a special task force which called for the establishment of a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, to be housed in the FBI and subject to oversight from the White House-based National Security Council. But the president’s record on other matters of detainee treatment is not as clear. While he called for an end to “extreme rendition,” officials say the controversial practice of rendition, where prisoners are transferred to foreign governments, will continue — only the administration says it will seek assurances that those prisoners not be “tortured” overseas. While Obama criticized the military commissions system during the campaign, as president he moved to revive it — only with expanded legal protections for prisoners. And while Obama the candidate called for efforts to “restore habeas corpus,” Obama the president has acknowledged that some detainees might have to be imprisoned indefinitely. These changes in tone have drawn heated criticism from civil rights groups.


Pledge: “Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.” — Obama, during his Aug. 28, 2008, Democratic nomination acceptance speech in Denver

Verdict: Work in Progress. Obama has made health care reform the No. 1 priority of his first year in office. Despite several delays and roadblocks along the way, all five relevant committees in Congress have passed a version of the bill and the administration is trying to guide a unified package to the floors of the House and Senate. The bill seeks to make health care more “affordable” and “accessible” with new restrictions on the insurance industry and the possible inclusion of a government-run plan. No bill is expected to ensure every single person in America is covered, but estimates show the overhaul would significantly reduce the number of uninsured.


Pledge: “We’ll work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert, and to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material.” — Obama, in an Oct. 2, 2007, speech in Chicago

Verdict: Work in Progress. Obama has reached out to Russia to work toward that goal. He and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced in July that they were on the path to “reset” relations and laid out the guidelines for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. The treaty is set to expire in December, and a new arrangement would commit the nations to sharper cuts in both warheads and delivery systems. The two countries are still negotiating the treaty.


Pledge: “Guantanamo has become a recruiting tool for our enemies. … The first step to reclaiming America’s standing in the world has to be closing this facility. As president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo.” — Obama campaign policy paper

Verdict: Work in Progress. Two days after being sworn into office, Obama issued an executive order calling for the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to be closed within one year. However, that effort has hit snags along the way and top officials now warn that it may be difficult to meet the January 2010 deadline. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in September said it would be “tough” to meet that goal. Attorney General Eric Holder conceded the same in early October. “In the end, Guantanamo will be closed,” he assured.


Pledge: “We must build upon the ideas I have laid out over the last several years about how to modernize our financial regulation in this country, and establish commonsense rules of the road for our financial system to help restore confidence in our financial system.” — Obama, during a Sept. 19, 2008, speech in Miami

Verdict: Work in Progress. The Obama administration has proposed a host of financial regulatory measures, including the creation of a consumer protection agency. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged Congress last week to take action on such legislation. But some of the swiftest and most decisive changes have come from Obama’s so-called “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg and his interactions with firms that took federal bailout money. Feinberg has already cracked down on executive compensation at Citigroup and Bank of America, and last week ordered steep pay cuts for the seven firms that received the most aid from the rescue package.


Pledge: “We need comprehensive reform … We have to require that undocumented workers, who are provided a pathway to citizenship, not only learn English, pay back taxes and pay a significant fine, but also that they’re going to the back of the line, so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally.” — Obama, during a Feb. 21, 2008, debate in Austin

Verdict: Not Yet Addressed. With health care reform, two wars and other major issues on his plate, Obama has conceded he’s not getting to immigration reform this year. But during a trip to Mexico in August, the president stressed that he still wants to pursue a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He said he expected some movement on the issue before the end of the year but nothing concrete until 2010.


Pledge: “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” — Obama, in a Jan. 19, 2008, statement

Verdict: Not Yet Addressed. Obama declined to label the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as a “genocide” during his trip to Turkey in early April. During a joint news conference alongside Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Obama said he did not want to “focus on my views.” Later in the month, he again refrained from calling the massacre a genocide while marking the anniversary of the killings. In a written statement, he said his view of that history “has not changed,” but did not use the word genocide.


Pledge: “When you walk into my administration, you will not be able to work on regulations or contracts directly related to your former employer for two years.” — Obama, during a June 22, 2007, speech in Manchester, N.H.

Verdict: Promise Broken. This pledge was broken from the very beginning of Obama’s presidency, with the nomination of William Lynn as deputy defense secretary. Lynn was registered until last July as a defense lobbyist for Raytheon Co., where he advocated for a range of military programs. Even though Obama did issue the ethics rules he promised on the campaign trail, he ended up issuing a waiver on Lynn’s behalf after senators threatened to hold up the nomination. Lynn was confirmed, and the administration continued to grant waivers for subsequent former lobbyists.


Pledge: “When George Bush came into office, our debt — national debt was around $5 trillion. It’s now over $10 trillion. We’ve almost doubled it. … But actually I’m cutting more than I’m spending so that it will be a net spending cut.” — Obama, during an Oct. 7, 2008, debate in Nashville

Verdict: Promise Broken. The federal budget deficit for fiscal 2009 tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate out in early October. That’s nearly $1 trillion more than the $459 billion deficit recorded in President Bush’s last full year. The recession-driven declines in revenue accounted for a large part of Obama’s red ink, but so did increases in spending — on everything from the economic stimulus to Wall Street bailouts (sealed before Obama took office). Though Obama still says he wants to bring the deficit down significantly before the end of his first term, projections show the fiscal 2010 deficit will also exceed $1 trillion. Even if Obama does make major changes to fiscal policy and cut the deficit in half, that’s still hundreds of billions of dollars every year to the national debt.


Pledge: “That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.” — Obama, during a Jan. 31, 2008, debate in Los Angeles

Verdict: Promise Broken. While Obama and his congressional allies have given countless briefings and speeches on health care reform, much of the negotiations have taken place behind closed doors. These private meetings have grown more common since the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of the bill in mid-October, becoming the last of five congressional panels to clear the bill. Lawmakers are now trying to hammer out versions that can pass the full House and Senate.


Pledge: “If you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I’m going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You’ll still have choice of doctor. There’s no mandate involved.” — Obama, during an Oct. 7, 2008, debate in Nashville

Verdict: Promise Broken. All of the health care reform plans before Congress endorse some kind of requirement for people to get health insurance. And during his Sept. 9 address to a joint session of Congress, Obama endorsed the idea as well. “Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part,” the president said. Obama expressed a wholly different point of view during the Democratic primaries, when one of the few policy differences between him and Hillary Clinton was that she supported an individual mandate while he did not. He persistently defended the decision, arguing that the reason people don’t have health insurance is because they can’t afford it — not because they don’t want it.

Categories: Health, Jobs, money, people, politics, taxes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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