Despite a polarized nation and a largely dysfunctional Congress, President Barack Obama has fulfilled or made substantial progress on 73 percent of the 508 promises he made when he ran for president in 2008.
Those results come from PolitiFact’s Obameter, an unprecedented four-year effort to rate the president’s campaign promises. The ongoing project by The Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking website reveals that Obama has achieved 47 percent of his promises, earning a rating of Promise Kept. Another 26 percent were partially fulfilled, earning a rating of Compromise.
Obama fared best in the areas of education and healthcare. He kept 54 percent of his education promises and 53 percent on healthcare. Most of those were muscled through Congress with the economic stimulus and healthcare law, which passed when Democrats controlled the House and Senate in the first half of Obama’s term. He also kept a promise to end the war in Iraq, an issue that dominated the 2008 campaign.
Still, Obama failed to keep 119 or nearly one-fourth of his promises, including many high-profile ones such as his pledges to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to create a cap-and-trade system to combat global warming and his vow to “bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda.”
In other cases, the White House made political decisions to sacrifice goals during negotiations. At PolitiFact, we rate outcomes, not intentions, so failure to fulfill a promise for any reason earns a Promise Broken.When significant progress is made on a promise but doesn’t completely fulfill the goal, we assign a rating of Compromise. We’ve left a small number of promises In the Works or Stalled if action is pending. We’ll continue our review of all the promises — and new ones from the 2012 campaign — during Obama’s second term.
Obama’s 508 promises, taken as a whole, reveal his vision for government, that it solve or improve almost any problem society faces.
Obama promised everything from working with Russia to move nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert (Promise Broken) to conservation of a habitat for the Osceola turkey and the ruffled grouse (Promise Kept).
But Obama’s government-centric approach often clashed with the view of Republicans who have controlled the House since the 2010 midterm election. Thwarted by Congress, Obama has had to rely largely on what he could do through regulation.
In a partisan age, Obama benefited from partisanship. In 2009 and 2010 — the years Democrats controlled both houses of Congress — Obama and party leaders pushed through the economic stimulus and healthcare reform, which allowed him to keep dozens of promises.
His landmark healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, moved many promises to Promise Kept. The law laid out a
vision of health coverage for every American, enacted via tax penalties and tax incentives, within the framework of the existing, for-profit healthcare system. Republican attempts to kill the law have failed, and it survived a Supreme Court challenge largely intact.
James Morone, a Brown University professor who studies presidential politics and healthcare, said the law is a rare legislative achievement on par with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
“So many things have to come together, and presidential leadership is absolutely essential. I don’t think Obama has yet gotten the full credit for this accomplishment that history will give him,” he said.