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Campaign promises Obama broke

DCblogger's picture

I think it is important to document that Obama ran as a liberal, that he deliberately misled voters.

2007: Barack Obama promised to "walk on that picket line" if workers are denied the right to bargain

Obama Promised public option

Obama's broken promise - Guantanamo Bay

as your in the comments, I want to document as much as this as possible. Be sure to include links.

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Submitted by lambert on

I went looking, and I couldn't run any of the quotes I found back to their originals by Googling for the originals. This digital stuff means a lot of our history simply disappears, and in less than a decade......

katiebird's picture
Submitted by katiebird on

Libraries subscribe to a variety of Research Indexes that might help. For example, here's a link to a page of online resources at my library. If your local library doesn't offer these services, I can do some research for you at mine.

These are indexes of actual source material -- the physical newspapers and magazines -- whatever.

By working your way through the indexes for Fall 2007-Fall 2008 you could probably track down a lot of what you're looking for. Then once you get a firm citation you could probably dig it up in the online archive for either that publication or find it in another online source.

It would be a lot of work at first but, as you got familiar with how those research indexes work, I bet it would be a lot less frustrating than Google. And go much faster as you got into it.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Promised to protect, unprecedented pursuit

The hits just keep coming.

PolitiFact compiled Obama's promises and rated them for being kept or not. The Obots love it, because they think it shows objectively, not subjectively, that Obama kept lots of his promises. The site does not distinguish between promises like "We'll get a family dog" and "We'll support green energy." But hey, it's objective!

ToniG's picture
Submitted by ToniG on

Thanks for this post. My husband, Gary Isaac, was one of the original Guantanamo habeas lawyers and worked with then-Senator Obama on detainee issues; he is now in the process of writing a chapter for a book arguing exactly this: that candidate Obama made specific promises concerning Guantanamo and the rule of law that he failed to follow through on once he entered the White House. President Obama and his people had opportunities to do the right thing (or, at least, better things than they are now doing) but failed to do so, and absolutely not just because the Republican opposition stymied them. Gary worked terrifically hard to get Barack Obama elected, and pushed other attorneys to support him as well. He authored this letter, back in 2008, that got considerable play at the time. President Obama's failure to uphold the rule of law, as he pledged he would, has been a source of great despair to my husband and his habeas colleagues, and their disillusionment springs from specific commitments made, not from wishful thinking read into vague and amorphous speeches from candidate Obama, as is frequently argued.

And that's just on one issue. I also remember his picket line pledge.

ToniG's picture
Submitted by ToniG on

Well, we'll see...maybe a preview at any rate. Gary has pieces in an earlier book -- The Guantanamo Lawyers -- which, because it was published in 2009, are far more favorable about then-Senator and candidate Obama than what he's now writing. I'm glad to see you building this record because the argument that those progressives who supported Obama in 2008 did so because they weren't really paying attention is, in my view, infuriating. The Gitmo attorneys who choose to support Obama in 2008 were not naifs, and they were well aware of the differences between the candidates -- Obama, Clinton, and McCain -- on issues related to the rule of law at least. It's worth noting, for instance, that among the signers of the letter I cited above in support of Obama in '08 is Admiral Don Guter, who had been in the Pentagon on 9/11 and was involved in the original set-up of Guantanamo as what was intended to be a temporary base for the detainees. He was one of three military men who signed on to an amicus brief in Rasul v. Bush, the original Gitmo Supreme Court Case (the brief, which cites Benjamin Franklin and Magna Carta, among others, is an inspirational read). Admiral Guter made a hard-thought decision to support Obama in 2008, and he was one of the military officers who stood behind President Obama in 2009 when he signed the executive order intended to close Guantanamo. His disappointment, like that of the other habeas attorneys, about what happened since then has been profound. I don't think any of them were being unrealistic or foolish to have believed that President Obama would stay true at least to the positions -- or at least the general principles -- he enunciated during his campaign. But he has not.

What you're doing here has actually been helpful to Gary as he's writing this current piece -- he needed to find some cites for specific statements Obama made, so this is contributing to that research. Everybody keep them coming!

And I will reiterate that for myself, as a labor historian from a UAW family, I wasn't "reading in" to candidate Obama's pledge to walk a picket line, which has deep resonance for union people. That is not something other candidates have said, and since he'd done it before, I and others took that as good reason to believe he'd follow through on his EFCA commitment and work to revitalize the labor movement (why not? wouldn't that have been a good thing for Democrats?) But those pledges too have evaporated into the ether.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

It's a shitty thing. It is a shitty thing to realize you were lied to. If you look through the comments there you have only a small glimpse of the incredible amounts of heat we took for being (sadly) right about Obama. I understand people not wanting to feel like they were naïve, or too trusting, but that is exactly what happened. We were right about him, and his intentions, and when he said "One Year", it was immediately apparent that even though we were hopeful he would do the right thing, he wasn't inclined to do the right thing. Everybody in his camp were making apologies, saying "don't push him", etc., they were wrong and we were right and why is it so difficult to just admit that? Even now? Saying that people with credentials and experience trusted Obama actually doesn't give much faith in their credentials and experience. But don't get me wrong, it's ok to be wrong, but it isn't helpful to make excuses or be defensive about it. Because the way this comes off is, you were right to trust Obama then, we were still wrong then (look at our experience and credentials), and the adults are back in charge now.

Submitted by lambert on

... that was a pretty horrible experience, and I think a lot of us are still sorting out the consequences. In a way, it's a lot like Iraq, where people who got everything wrong are still on TV, getting more things wrong. It was all the more bitter because the left blogosphere, in the Bush administration, had developed what seemed at that point a serious methodology that included the media critique and, especially, a demand for a return to the rule of law and the restoration of Constiutional government (see Madison, Federalist #51). All that vanished, instantly, when Obama was elected, and whatever Bush had done became OK when "our guy" was doing it. I had given up covering the horse race when Obama flip flopped on FISA reform, so I had the opportunity to start covering the financial crisis when Lehman went belly up in September 2008, and so it was with mordant amusement that I watched Obama set up the bank bailouts, along with impunity for their executives. Still, that's just blood under the bridge at this point.

I did want to say, though, that in some ways the record has already been built. Corrente has massive archives, and many of us were posting daily throughout the 2008 campaign, links and quotes (for some of which we are now the only source, because of link rot, or pay walls). So I encourage you to use our powerful search function; you will see that you are able not only to search on strings, but (see right hand sidebar after search) perform faceted searches by date, poster, and tag. For example, I'm sure that the Charlie Savage post above is in our archives. So you may find Corrente a useful research tool.

Yes, we come with a very clear point of view, but the editorial standards are high. We link, quote, and don't make shit up (and issue corrections as appropriate).

UPDATE Adding, Obama's flip flop on FISA perfectly foreshadowed the outcome with GItmo. Anybody who was paying attention could see.

ToniG's picture
Submitted by ToniG on

I’m not sure that we’re disagreeing here. I certainly am uninterested in being defensive of or making excuses for President Obama; quite the contrary. My beef mostly is with those Democrats or progressives who criticize the growing ranks of the disillusioned because, they say, we are holding President Obama to unfair standards and judging him against campaign promises which, they claim, he never actually made. The reason I have been enthusiastic about this current post is that it helps provide substantive comebacks to the still-faithful Obama supporters (I have many friends in this category)who prefer to forget the specific commitments he made during the campaign (which is an odd sort of support – “he never actually said anything meaningful, so that’s why you should still like him!” – but never mind). I am also not making an argument about the superiority of elites or the need for credentialed knowledge. What I was saying is that people who knew an issue very well, and had worked directly with the candidates involved, chose to support Obama in ’08 and have become thoroughly disgusted with him since. This speaks again to those – and we still hear this often on Gitmo issues, even from people who should know better – who argue that President Obama would be doing the right thing, except that those nasty Republicans are tying his hands. The record on Guantanamo at least simply does not support that.

We are residents of Illinois, and Obama was our Senator, so we were familiar with both his promise and his shortcomings early on. I won’t claim that I wasn’t moved by his oratory or thrilled by the excitement he generated among regular people, many of whom had never participated in politics before – I was, and experienced it firsthand, as I helped enlist volunteers to work for him in Iowa and Indiana. In our household, though, it was not the candidate but the issues that mattered most, and we made the judgment that Barack Obama was the best hope we had for moving the country forward on things that mattered. But once he was elected the issues remained paramount, so when he faltered on those, we didn’t look to find excuses because he was “our guy.” Gary has remained involved with detainee issues, and now the habeas lawyers view it as their task (sadly, again, just like in the Bush days) to defend the Constitution against the White House. It’s a pretty lonely battle these days, as at least when Bush was in office they could count on having all the Democrats on their side. No one knows better than the Gitmo lawyers do how quickly “progressives” seemed to have forgotten the principles that seemed non-negotiable during the Bush years.

I’m old enough not to be surprised when our leaders betray us, and I grew up in Chicago, for heaven’s sake, so cynicism about politics is second-nature. I’m a historian whose work deals with Communist-influence unions, so I understand that our political parties exist to bolster the status quo, not undermine it. But if the argument simply is that all politicians are bums, always and forever, then I’m not sure what the point of cataloging Obama’s broken promises is – there’d be nothing unusual there. I saw, in ’08, tremendous potential to achieve great change, and that was real – most especially among the young people and African-Americans who were drawn into the campaign. What has been most heart-breaking for me is to see how bitter and jaded those young people have become – I know, because I live with a few of them. This disillusionment has been Obama’s greatest failure and will cost us all greatly in the future. Those who never believed in Obama’s promises (and promise) were perhaps smarter than the rest of us – I guess I wish I had listened harder. Then I wouldn't have The Whos' "Won't Get Fooled Again" on a continual loop in my head. Except the choice then would have been to sit on the sidelines and ignore one of the more important popular moments (not movements – let me be clear) in our time. We fervently hoped Obama believed what he was saying back in ’08, but also believed that the more people that got involved, the more likely it was that he’d have to stay true to those commitments. (Not unlike Cornell West, who was also drawn in but pledged – and has been good to his word – to criticize President Obama if he broke his promises.) What’s most unsettling -- frightening, in fact -- is how easy it has proved for the powers that be to have ignored all that participation.

And now the hard part is figuring out how to make the changes necessary outside the electoral system. And to decide how, here in Illinois, one should deal with the really bad choices we have ahead of us in November.

Thanks for the links and the tip about your archives -- I will delve into it.

Submitted by lambert on

It's more that people who didn't go through the experience of not being an Obama supporter* in 2008 might not know what it was like, the intensity of it; and of course now it's mostly forgotten, or rather erased, history. Okanagen had a good take on it. (And of course there is a "We few, we happy few" aspect to it all.) For many of us, it was a searing, formative experience.

Well, they are all bums, in the sense that no politician is a saint, not even FDR, Lincoln, Washington. But the distinction between what Obama promised and what he performed is so very great that I'd put him in a lower circle of Hell than most others; the Ninth, in fact, reserved for treachery. And the historical moment that he squandered!

On the archives, have at it. You will find them tendentious, since after all we were fighting; but using, I think, principled (methodologically sound) techniques, and not making shit up.

I'd also be very interested to hear whatever you have to say on unions. IIRC, the Communist unions did great work in the early civil rights movement (though I'm sure I've got the wrong terminology).

NOTE * We were dealing with people who were out there to do battle, many of whom we had been blogging with against the Bush administration, and so the sense of bitterness and betrayal (betrayal of method) was very great. The overlap between that population and people who thoughtfully chose Obama in 2008 was not great, IMNSHO. Those people weren't online doing battle on the blogs.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Sorry for my own defensiveness. Yeah, it's lonely on the outside, right? Arthur Silberhas a whole, great series about the tribalism, which is really all that is left in American public life. No principles are operational except if they should prove useful in a current tribal battle. Was that always the case, or did Obama elevate the practice to current all-inclusive status? Hard to say, but it completely tore this blog in two, between true believers of either side.

ToniG's picture
Submitted by ToniG on

I appreciate the engagement, and this blog, a great deal. I was not reading it back in '08; in fact back then I wasn't looking at blogs much at all, as I was working full-time and then some to get Obama elected, and so everything that has happened since is my fault, or so I sometimes think. I discovered Corrente a while back, when I began looking for thoughtful criticism (with helpful links) of the Democrats and the Obama administration, and have valued it ever since.

I concur that there is something especially contemptible about politicians who promise much and deliver nothing, or deliver the opposite of what they said they'd do. But here in IL we are also suffering from a never-ending succession of corrupt and/or incompetent "leaders" who are not promising by any definition and that too breeds destructive cynicism (not that such is unique to this state). Plus we have Rahm Emmanuel to deal with in Chicago, which is our special curse (again, maybe that's my punishment for all that Obama work).

And my historian self says that actually it shouldn't be lonely on the outside -- that's where the people are, and always have been. The tough task at hand would be communicating something like your 12-point platform broadly and in such a fashion that it mobilizes all those people -- but for what, precisely? That's another conversation.

Submitted by lambert on

.... for the concrete material benefits ("Peace, land, bread").

Now, if these benefits are to be realized, there will certainly have to be other changes, but those would be happy accidents, "bycatch" :-)

I should be writing on the minimum wage, but a topic I've hardly ever written on, so it's tough going.

UPDATE I don't think Obama is your fault. Frankly, he's a lot worse than I imagined he would be. Very, very few made the right call on him early enough: Black Agenda Report, Adolph Reed.

mellon's picture
Submitted by mellon on

Obama was basically a stealth Republican. I was telling people that in 2008 when many many thousands of lifelong Republicans were registering months in advance so they could vote Democratic in the primaries "against HRC".

Now we realize, they were actually voting FOR neoliberal Obama.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Obama unambiguously asserting his position on torture during the Charlie Savage Interview:

We must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and a nation that stands against torture. As President I will abide by statutory prohibitions, and have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors.

Obama speaking on August 1, 2014, on the Senate's report confirming that the U.S.A. interrogated by torture: "We tortured some folks."

And just to pour salt on the betrayal wounds of his 2008 believers, he patronizingly (but unctuously) wags his finger at them not to be sanctimonious:

" It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots ... ”

The nerve.

What a huge asshole Obama is.