HOW MANY PROMISES HAS OBAMA KEPT?
BY <http://www.newsweek.com/authors/jack-martinez> JACK MARTINEZ
.President Barack Obama announces plans to slow the withdrawal of U.S.
troops from Afghanistan, while delivering a statement in the Roosevelt Room
at the White House in Washington.JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
<http://www.newsweek.com/topic/president-barack-obama> PRESIDENT BARACK
OBAMA <http://www.newsweek.com/topic/afghanistan> AFGHANISTAN
Like all politicians, Barack Obama made promises that varied from specific
actions (like closing Guantánamo Bay) to vague asks (like pushing Congress
to pass climate-change legislation) that fell short of a commitment. In the
fourth quarter of his presidency, many of these benchmarks remain elusive,
some because of an recalcitrant Congress and others because he reversed
himself. Theres nothing wrong with flip-flopping, per se. Franklin
Roosevelt was called a chameleon in plaid. But with Obama announcing a delay
on troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, its worth looking back at what he
wanted and what he got.
Newsweek compiled a list of issues that will likely remain unresolved once
Obama leaves office in 2017. Some are flat-out promises, while others are of
the well-try-to-go-to-the-fair variety that a parent might offer.
I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo, and I will follow
through on that.
This was probably his most firm promise. During his first week in office,
Obama signed an executive order calling for the closing of Gitmo by the end
of the year. It still hasnt happened. Congress has mostly blocked efforts
to transport Gitmo detainees to other countries for fear theyll get loose,
and few members of Congress wanted to have them moved to their home state.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization act at the end of 2014,
making it easier for the Pentagon to move prisoners, and recently Democrats
like Nancy Pelosi have increased calls to shut down the controversial
But Democrats dont have the voting numbers or political capital to push
legislation closing Gitmo through Congress amid budget fights, and they
cant increase their numbers until the 2016 elections.
This promise was more complicated. Initially Obama promised to increase U.S.
involvement in Afghanistan while ending the war in Iraq, but in his 2008 New
Hampshire primary speech he went a step further:
We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home. We will finish
the jobwe will finish the job against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
As of Thursday morning the job is not finished. Although Obama has formally
ended American troops combat mission, he announced that
troop withdrawals will be delayed beyond the end of 2016. American forces
will stay on in an advisory and counterterrorism role, which means the fight
against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has yet to be be won.
I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the
next president, Obama announced from the White House. And as conditions
improve, well be in a position to make further adjustments.
Obama once said that like all wars, the war on terror must end, but whether
or not this is a deliverable promise, the fact remains that there is little
end in sight. Our ground troops are out of Iraq, but bombs are being dropped
I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our
dependence on oil from the Middle East."
Most energy analysts dont think the U.S. will get there by 2018, 10 years
after Obama made that promise. According to the Energy Department, it would
only be likely to happen by 2019 if a massive hike in oil prices raised
demand for domestic oil. We cant call this promise broken for a few more
years, but thanks to the explosion in fracking and other new technologies,
American oil production has boomed. Its not independence, but its a lot
closer than people thought. With prices so low, the growth in green energy
isnt what it would be if prices were higher.
Climate Change Legislation
"A small portion of the receipts generated by auctioning allowances will be
used to support the development of clean energy, invest in energy efficiency
improvements, and help develop the next generation of biofuels and clean
In 2008 Obama promised to sign cap and trade legislation that would use
revenue from emissions taxes to reinvest in clean energy. Climate change
legislation of this kind has died in Congress multiple times since he came
into office, including when Democrats controlled both houses. To act on
climate change, Obama has instead had to go through the
<https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change> executive branch and the EPA,
<https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change> where hes taken action on
carbon dioxide emissions.
/> most estimates, current climate efforts wont prevent a major sea level
rise. Climate change is one area where neither the Presidents
ts-on-obamas-arctic-focused-alaska-trip/> supporters nor his critics think
favorably of his performance, but theres no argument that hes failed to
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill
that I strongly support.
Comprehensive immigration reform hasnt happened despite Obamas willingness
to take out his pen and sign a bipartisan bill. When Obama
5a255a9258_blog.html> blamed Congress for stonewalling him on immigration in
2012 he wasnt off base.
Still, Latino groups were irked that during Obamas first term, as he and a
Democratic Congress passed health care reform, a huge stimulus and other
items, immigration was pushed to the side. Theyve been assuaged a bit by
executive action to defer deportations.
Gun Control Consensus
I think we can provide common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns
that are ending up on the streets. We can make sure that criminals dont
have guns in their hands. We can make certain that those who are mentally
deranged are not getting a hold of handguns. We can trace guns that have
been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw
purchasers and dumping them on the streets.
Obviously, none of that has happened, although technically it was less of a
promise than a vision. When Obama advocated a common-sense approach in the
2008 Philadelphia primary debate, he wasnt anticipating the politically
divisive string of mass shootings that occurred during his presidency. The
administrations strongest gun control legislation push after the Sandy Hook
massacre didnt go anywhere.
In a recent speech following the Umpqua Community College Massacre, Obama
called on voters and citizens to do more to advocate for gun control
provisions like background checks. His promises on the campaign trail were
not specific, and his strategy as president has mostly been to use the bully
Sick Days and Family Leave
Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family
leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their
job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent.
He had the same message in his 2015 State of the Union address. On the
presidential campaign trail, high-profile Republicans like Carly Fiorina
continue to be opposed to calls from Democrats for family leave legislation.
In the first Democratic debate, family leave was a theme trumpeted by Bernie
Sanders, and increasing paid leave time is generally opposed by Republicans.
As Jeb Bush puts it, the GOP wants the government to think of people as
assets, not liabilities. If you think Republicans are going to help Obama
pass legislation on family leave as they await the outcome of the election,
Cracking Down on CEO Bonuses
Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are
protected ahead of CEO bonuses.
Dodd-Frank contained measures requiring disclosure of executive salaries,
but there hasnt been legislation strong enough to prevent CEOs from cashing
out like they did after the Great Recession. Given that this issue is still
being brought up by Bernie Sanders and congressional Democrats (members of
the house cited Republicans disinterest in seriously addressing CEO bonuses
as a defense against criticism of Planned Parenthood executive salaries),
its safe to say that Main Street's retribution is far from happening.
Affordable Health Care With Universal Coverage
Obama promised both with varying degrees of specificity while campaigning
for president. He delivered the Affordable Care Act which, along with the
financial bailout, effectively spurred the rise of the Tea Party. Obama
expended a massive amount of political capital on health care, but premiums
for many of those who have the same coverage as they did in 2008 have gone
up. He promised that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. But
since many insurance plans werent up to snuff by the standards of the ACA,
some people did lose their doctors.
The bottom line is that by some estimates,
90 percent of Americans now have health coverage. Overall, the rate of
growth of health care costs has slowed dramatically. Making quality health
care universal is an even larger battle than passing Obamacare.
Changing the Culture of Washington
In some ways this is the only one that matters. In his book The Audacity of
Hope, Obama wrote about a Washington culture that was hurting the political
process, not so much because of the gulf between the nations two ideologies
but because of the vitriol of public debate and the influence of special
interests. He chided Hillary Clinton for being part of Washingtons
old-school partisanship and repeatedly pointed to initiatives he led in the
Illinois Senate (filming police interrogations among them) and the U.S.
Senate (arms control) that garnered bipartisan support.
Obama has learned the hard way that compromise is harder than ever right
now. Funding from interest groups has risen, party control has been
diminished, and gerrymandering is now so precise that few members of
Congress have incentive to cut deals.
Jeb Bush has said that prior Republican presidents like Reagan and Bush 41
could not get elected by the modern GOP. If you think the country is more
unified than it was in 2008, watch the next Republican primary debate.
Meanwhile, Obama and his administration continue to define themselves
through comparisons to the previous president: citation of the Bush
administration and the state of affairs when Obama took office are still the
norm in press conferences.
His actual performancetaking out what could have beenis a combination of
broken promises and fulfilled ones, often crashing on the shoals a
recalcitrant GOP and Obamas own oversell as a transformational president.
Some of his most noteworthy foreign policy accomplishmentsthe Iran nuclear
deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership among themhave yet to bear fruit and
cant be judged a success or failure until he leaves office.
One promise worth remembering: In 2008 Obama vowed to use actionable
intelligence to take out Al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, even without the
permission of the host country. Hillary Clinton called that reckless, but
she was sitting beside the president the night he ordered the raid that
killed Osama bin Laden. Its a reminder that when presidents can act alone,
they get what they want. When they have to deal and parley, not so much.
On the 49th Parallel
Thé Mulindwas Communication Group
"With Yoweri Museveni, Ssabassajja and Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Uganda is in
Kuungana Mulindwa Mawasiliano Kikundi
"Pamoja na Yoweri Museveni, Ssabassajja na Dk. Kiiza Besigye, Uganda ni
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