Published August 12, 2012
The tally sheets on President Obama’s campaign promises are nearly complete as Republicans try in the final months of the election season to hold the president's feet to the fire for whatever broken pledges they can find.
The Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney campaign are both focusing sharply on those pledges, not the least of which was the president's 2009 vow to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Romney and his aides have been mentioning that broken promise regularly in recent days.
As the campaign veers from side issue to side issue -- be it Romney's tax returns or Obama's fiddling with welfare reform -- expect Republicans to return focus when possible to several of these pledges as they try to cast the president as a leader who has not lived up to the rhetoric of his 2008 race.
The following pledges appear to be getting the most attention:
Cut the Deficit in Half: The Romney campaign and other Republicans have repeatedly pointed out what they consider to be the biggest broken promise – the president vowing shortly after taking office to cut an inherited deficit in half by the end of his first term.
The deficit was $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009 and is projected to dip to $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, according to the White House budget office. Even in 2013, the budget office projects the deficit will be nearly $1 trillion.
“The president has not taken any serious action to tame the deficit,” Romney told Fox News on Tuesday. “He has not done what he said was going to do and has left a lot of people in the middle class having difficult times.”
Fix the Economy: Regardless of when the country’s economic problems started, the president also vowed during his campaign to fix the economy in three years. Fourteen months later, he said missing the deadline would make his presidency a “one-term proposition.”
The U.S. unemployment rate has remained above 8 percent for more than three years, despite the president's economic adviser predicting one month into the administration that the president’s roughly $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would keep unemployment below 8 percent and reduce it to about 6 percent by this year.
“By any measure, the president’s approach has failed,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a recent op-ed for the Tri-Parish Times.
Close Guantanamo Bay: Obama has also so far been unable to shutter the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, though this is more of a concern for Obama's base than Republicans.
Obama's effort in 2009 to suspend military commissions in Cuba and his attempt to transfer some prisoners to an Indiana corrections facility were met with opposition from the military and Congress. And last year the president signed a bill that restricted the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. mainland and essentially allows Guantanamo Bay to remain open indefinitely.
Televise Health Care Debate: Obama also said repeatedly in his run for the White House – in TV ads, on the campaign trail and in at least one debate – that the negotiations on his health care reform plan would be televised, if he were elected. However, final health care talks, including the meetings between House and Senate conferees, were held behind closed doors.
Increase Transparency: Obama once predicted that his administration would have an “unprecedented” level of transparency.
Lobbyists later told reporters they met with administration officials outside the White House in a possible effort to keep them off visitors logs. News agencies and others have complained about the difficulty in getting information through Freedom of Information Act filings. Most recently, the president used executive privilege to keep congressional investigators from getting more Justice Department documents on the agency’s failed Operation Fast and Furious gun-tracking effort.
"President Obama has run one of the least transparent administrations in American history," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said recently. "Whether hiding lobbyists in coffee shops, cutting back-room deals on ObamaCare, or concealing the records of Fast and Furious, President Obama's pledge to be transparent has turned out to be just another broken promise."
The Romney campaign has also posted on its website nearly two dozen reports that call into question the administration's transparency.
Obama supporters point to several promises that Obama has fulfilled, primarily reforming health care as well as making good on vows to overhaul the financial industry and help commercial-bank customers with a credit card bill of rights.
In addition, he has partially fulfilled a promise to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: The Iraq war is officially over while roughly 80,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Obama is still drawing down the U.S. force there.
The administration and other Democrats also have repeatedly argued they had no idea about the depth of the economic downturn upon taking office.
“Republicans need to ask themselves the Reagan question but say, 'Are you better off than you were four-and-a-half years ago,'" said Democratic strategist David Heller of Main Street Communications. “Wall Street cracked and the economy cratered on George W. Bush’s watch.”