In celebration of Obama’s first 100 days in office, PolitiFact.com published a series, “The Obameter: Tracking Obama’s Campaign Promises.” The site compiles 514 promises Obama made during the campaign and tracks his daily progress in fulfilling them. PolitiFact assigns each promise one of the following outcomes: Kept, Compromise, Broken, Stalled, In the Works, No Action, and Yes We Can (just kidding on that last one). They also identify his “Top 25” most important promises.
This seems like such an even-handed, nonpartisan way to evaluate Obama, one we can all agree on. Indeed, as of Day 96, PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times-housed, Pulitzer Prize-winning site, lists only 5% of Obama’s promises as Kept, 12% as In the Works, and 79% as No Action.
It’s interesting, however, that for PolitiFact, the baseline for success is whether Obama keeps his promises. The assumption is that his promises are worth keeping. As Obama said, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
A better way to track Obama’s performance might be to first classify his threats—er, promises—into three categories: Harmful, Inoffensive, and Worthy. By this system, I determine that 15 out of 25, or 60%, of Obama’s Top 25 promises are Harmful, 24% are Inoffensive, and 16% are Worthy. Off to a great start!
Second, let’s give Obama 1 point for every Worthy promise he’s kept, a ½ point for every one that’s compromised, stalled, or in the works, and 0 points for every one that’s broken or not acted on. Give him 0 points for every Harmful promise, no matter what stage it’s in, except let’s give him a ½ point for every Harmful promise he’s broken, because he might just have been appeasing his base during the campaign (though he still loses credit for scaring us). Inoffensive promises get no points.
And now, PolitiFact’s Top 25 Obama Promises, deconstructed and scored by me:
1. Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners; or, “Pour $10 billion over Niagara Falls.” Harmful/Kept: 0.
2. Create a tax credit of $500 for workers. If he had made it $500,000, he might have captured my interest. Inoffensive/Compromise: 0.
3. Repeal the Bush tax cuts for higher incomes; or, “Decrease incentives to work and engage in entrepreneurship; increase income non-reporting and tax loophole exploitation.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
4. Create a National Health Insurance Exchange. I’m allergic to any campaign promise with that many capital letters. Harmful/No Action: 0.
5. Require children to have health insurance coverage; or, “Drive up the costs of health insurance and provide cover for the government to step in and start rationing.” Harmful/No Action: 0.
6. Invest in electronic health information systems; or, “Do what hospitals and clinics are already doing, but less efficiently and at greater cost.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
7. Fully fund the Veterans Administration. Gee, this doesn’t have anything to do with rubbing it in Bush’s face over those rats they found in the VA a couple of years ago, does it? Worthy/No Action: 0.
8. Begin removing combat brigades from Iraq; or, “See if we can lose the war just as we’re crossing the finish line.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
9. Send two additional brigades to Afghanistan. Worthy/Kept: 1.
10. End the use of torture. First, we don’t torture. So Obama’s promise is to stop splashing water on Muslim terrorists, which means they’ll no longer be bathing daily. Harmful/In the Works: 0.
11. Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. This was never actually fulfillable, because there is no sane option for what to do with the detainees that would be acceptable to anyone but the ACLU. Harmful/In the Works (supposedly): 0.
12. End warrantless wiretaps; or, “Shoot ourselves in the collective eardrum.” Harmful/No Action: 0.
13. Seek verifiable reductions in nuclear stockpiles. Any state we don’t trust will, by definition, not negotiate with us to reduce their stockpiles or halt actions to develop nuclear weapons. Harmful/No Action: 0.
14. Centralize ethics and lobbying information for voters. Sort of like the database Obama created to document contributions made by supporters, in order to ensure foreign nationals were not making donations—oh, wait… Inoffensive/No Action: 0.
15. Require more disclosure and a waiting period for earmarks. Earmarks make up but an infinitesimal fraction of government spending. Inoffensive/No Action: 0.
16. Tougher rules against revolving door for lobbyists and former officials. Worthy/Broken: 0.
17. Secure the borders. Obama will support “additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.” This is too vague to mean anything one way or the other. Inoffensive/In the Works: 0.
18. Provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Lovely, but this isn’t anywhere near the Top 25 issues we face. Inoffensive/No Action: 0.
19. Reform mandatory minimum sentences. A real liberal would have the guts to talk about decriminalizing drug use, as some libertarian Republicans have. Worthy/No Action: 0.
20. Secure nuclear weapons materials in four years. See “reduction in stockpiles.” Any country that would comply is not a threat. Inoffensive/No Action: 0.
21. Strengthen antitrust enforcement; or, “Stop the next Microsoft before it floods the market with inexpensive technological advancements that make everyone’s life better.” Harmful/No Action: 0.
22. Create new financial regulations; or, “Make sure every new American company sets up shop in London, Hong Kong, or Singapore.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
23. Create 5 million “green” jobs; or, “Be ready to fight the next round of global cooling after the current round of global warming is over.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
24. Reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030; or, “Encourage caveman chic.” Harmful/No Action: 0.
25. Create cap and trade system with interim goals to reduce global warming; or, “Make Al Gore give up 80% of his SUV fleet by the time his grandchildren are old enough to drive.” Harmful/In the Works: 0.
Total score: 1 point out of a maximum of 25, or 4%. Congratulations, Obama! I believe that is what’s known in high school as an “F minus minus minus.”