Liberals are impatient over the continued operation of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the failure to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; conservatives are losing their shit over the proposed “public option” in the effort to reform the healthcare system, the gobs and gobs of tax dollars being spent on bailouts and economic stimulus, and a what they perceive as a general lurch toward socialism. But both of these critical views of Barack Obama’s nascent presidency are obviously colored by ideology. How is Obama really doing so far — objectively?
One way to measure a president’s success or failure is by holding him to his agenda. Like every other candidate who has ever sought a public office, Obama made a lot of promises about what he would do, or at least try to do, once he made it to the White House. How many of those promises has he kept these first nine months of his administration? How many has he broken? Lucky for us, someone’s keeping track.
PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website, maintains the Obameter, a compilation of over 500 of President Obama’s campaign promises, divvied up into lists of Promises Kept, Compromises, Stalled, In the Works, No Action, and Promises Broken.
So far the score is 47 Promises Kept to 7 Promises Broken, with 123 In the Works and a whopping 313 for No Action. That last number is pretty big, but honestly, the dude’s been president nine months. He’s got a four year term to get most of this shit done. The numbers for Promises Kept and Promises Broken are more worth worrying about.
Nearly all of the Promises Kept are minor things that don’t require congressional action, the sort of house cleaning we would expect when a Democrat takes over from a Republican chief executive. It’s not that they aren’t important — releasing presidential records, reaching out to the Islamic community, and reversing the Bush-era restrictions on federally funded stem cell research are important, and very positive things. I was personally pleased to see that several of the kept promises involved supporting the space program. But we haven’t seen the kind of sweeping, transformative change we were promised. Not yet, anyway. One of the kept promises was buying a puppy for his daughters, for Christ’s sake.
More distressing is the list of Promises Broken. It’s a lot shorter than the Kept list, but the items on it all seem a lot more important — allowing bills passed by Congress to be viewed publicly on the White House website for five days before signing, or establishing tougher rules against former government officials returning to work as lobbyists. I’d be willing to have the president put off appointing a special advisor on preventing violence against women, or directing the Forest Service to work on removing more wildfire-fueling brush if it meant he would have followed through on televising all negotiations in the healthcare reform debate on C-Span, instead of the behind-closed-doors meetings we’ve mostly gotten.
Check out the Obameter at PolitiFact and see how the president’s doing so far for yourself.