Barack Obama campaigned for and won the Presidency of the United States on a platform of sweeping change. Change not only in what was done by the government, but how it was done. Change, he promised, that Americans could believe in. To implement this change, Obama made a lot of promises. Now, as President, his record of actions can be compared to his words.
We are still early into President Obama’s term, so many promises that have not been fulfilled should rightly be considered to still be on the waiting list. There are, however, some promises that have clearly been broken and others that have been abandoned by the administration. The following are five of these broken promises by President Obama.
Perhaps most troubling among these broken promises are two that deal with ethics reform. Obama promised both to enact tough new guidelines to prevent his administration from being infiltrated by former lobbyists and to institute a policy of posting all non-emergency legislation online for public commentary before the President signs it. These promises were meant to make the Obama administration more open and supportive of the will of the people, especially compared to the previous administration.
Obama promised to enact reforms that would bar any lobbyist from working for the administration in areas “directly and substantially related” to their lobbying interests for a two-year period from the end of their employment as lobbyists and to bar political appointees from lobbying the administration upon leaving government service. It seemed a bright day when, on January 21, 2009, Obama signed an executive order to put this promise into effect. Since that time, however, Obama has appointed several former lobbyists to positions in his administration. Most notable among these is Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, a former lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon who was put forward for confirmation only two days after the executive order was signed.
In order to give the American public an opportunity to review and comment on legislation, Obama made a promise to post all non-emergency bills online at the White House website for five days before he would sign them. This promise was kept for longer than the ban on lobbyists, as it took until January 29 for Obama to disregard it. One could make the argument that the bill in question here, concerning fair pay, was a minor piece of legislation and so should be overlooked. However, no such explanation is possible concerning the expansion of Children’s Health Insurance Program, signed just hours after it was passed by Congress, nor about the Credit Card Bill of Rights – a controversial piece of legislation indeed. Nor could one argue that those bills, not set to be enacted until months after their signing, were emergency legislation. This promise was clearly broken.
A similar promise has likewise been broken. In a town hall meeting in the summer of 2008, Obama promised to have the negotiations about Health Care Reform, particularly those involving drug companies, televised on C-SPAN. Televising these negotiations was meant to ensure to Americans that the agreements reached were done so in their best interests rather than in those of the special interest groups. So far, only routine voting sessions of Congress have been televised, while the meetings where agreements are hammered out have remained behind closed doors. The sort of openness that Obama has stressed is so important in these crucial negotiations and has been non-existent.
Obama’s broken promises have also left minority groups out in the cold. As a candidate, Obama gladly targeted gays for campaign contributions and electoral support. As President, Obama has ignored promises he had made to this group and shown an almost callous disregard for their voices. Obama has promised to overturn “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” and to support the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Not only has he not taken action toward these goals, but his administration has actually argued for DOMA in court. These actions, the attitude they convey, and his invitation to a homophobic preacher to speak at his inauguration have rightly angered the gay community.
They should also anger all of those who dared to hope in the empty promises of change.