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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Promises, Promises, Promises, Promises

July 6, 2009

After six months in office the pundits and political opponents of President Barrack Obama are busy assessing whether he has kept the many promises he made during the 2008 campaign.

All candidates that run for office - local, state, or federal - make numerous campaign pledges. They usually make them in good faith and they represent the basic political philosophy of the candidate and outline for the voters what he or she hopes to accomplish once elected.

However, no one should be surprised when political promises are not kept as every candidate quickly finds out that much of what they promised will require legislative support and thus it is difficult - if not impossible - to keep every pledge.

Yet there are a few big promises in every campaign that become the cornerstone of a candidacy and voters want to see these pledges kept.

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore and President George H.W. Bush know first hand what happens when voters believe you have deliberately reneged on a promise. Gilmore was elected Governor in 1997 on one simple campaign slogan: No Car Tax (a personal property tax collected by local governments based on the value of family automobiles).

While Gilmore was able to reduce the car tax in Virginia, he was unable to eliminate it as promised. He lost credibility with voters and was recently trounced in his political comeback bid in Virginia for the United States Senate.

Former President Bush also lost credibility after he pledged in a famous speech at the1988 Republican National Convention not to raise taxes. "Read my lips: no new taxes," Bush stated. Two years later - as part of the 1990 budget compromise - Bush agreed to across-the-board tax increases and voters decidedly tossed him out in 1992.

The focus is now on President Obama and his major campaign promises. His administration would argue that he has kept a majority of his campaign pledges or is in the process of keeping them.

However, his detractors point out that candidate Obama did promise he would bring a "new kind of politics" to Washington - one where there isn’t a blue state or a red state - but a United States. He pledged to be a President for all the people - including for those who did not support him.

That’s why it is so disappointing for many to see how quickly President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have trumped every Republican thought or idea on every issue by stopping debate and proclaiming, "We won - we’ll do it our way."

The list of Obama promises not kept include: doing away with military tribunals for suspected terrorists, a pay-as-you-go budgeting policy, opening government to allow five days of public comment before he signs legislation into law, a policy of not hiring  registered lobbyists to serve in the Obama administration, ending the income tax for seniors making under $50,000 a year, and the extension of health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Supporters of President Obama however will quickly point out that an equal number of big promises have been kept - including setting timetables for military withdrawal in Iraq, a credit card bill of rights, more military troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, the reversal of restrictions on stem cell research, and he has allowed his daughters, Sasha and Malia, to have a puppy in the White House.

However, the country is watching one promise more than any other - his cornerstone pledge not to raises taxes on families making under $250,000 per year. It seems that promise could be in jeopardy with the news that taxing employer-provided health benefits - even for those making under $250,000 per year - is now on the negotiating table.

Republicans argue that breaking this promise could be the one unkept pledge that has the potential to doom the Obama presidency.

Obama supporters hope the President understands this, too.