Last week, President Barack Obama was backpedaling like a circus unicycle rider, after his compromise on extending Bush-era tax cuts for the country's top 2 percent of income earners. Because he had pledged repeatedly during his presidential campaign to raise those earners' taxes, he instantly was slammed by his political base. Even pro-Obama comedic commentators Jon Stewart and Bill Maher were left humor-speechless.
Feeling defensive and maybe even a bit insecure, Obama fired back in anger against people across the political spectrum. Wielding his verbal sword, the president poked and prodded: "Take a tally. Look at what I promised during the campaign. There's not a single thing that I've said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I haven't gotten it done yet, I'm still trying to do it."
"Not a single thing"?
Well, as a fighting champion who takes taunting seriously, I thought I'd take the president up on his challenge for us to take a tally.
What I discovered is that of the more than 500 promises Obama made during his candidacy, even according to the pro-Obama website PolitiFact's "Obameter," his scorecard reads: 123 promises kept, 39 compromised, 24 broken, 82 stalled, 232 in the works and three not yet rated. What that coddled language boils down to is this: Even according to those on the political left, Obama has fulfilled 123 promises and left 380 pledges dangling farther than participles.
What PolitiFact overlooks is that what really matters isn't the count of broken promises; it's the caliber of those broken promises. If I fail to fulfill a promise to take my dog for a walk, that's one thing. But it's quite a different deal if I fail to take my wife on a promised date. The difference is a night in the doghouse!
Let me spare you a long list of substantial pledges and promises. Here's a short list, a few golden nuggets, or, should I say, fool's gold flakes. I'll set to the side presidential promises of transparency, C-SPAN coverage of health care debates and even Guantanamo Bay's closing. Instead, I'll go straight for the promise jugular. And so that no one thinks I'm overreaching my punch, here are the vows right out of the president's mouth:
--"We've got a philosophical difference, which we've debated repeatedly, and that is that Sen. (Hillary) Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it." (Spoken during the Democratic presidential debate on Feb. 21, 2008.)
--"We need tougher border security and a renewed focus on busting up gangs and traffickers crossing our border. ... That begins at home, with comprehensive immigration reform. That means securing our border and passing tough employer enforcement laws." (Spoken in Miami on May 23, 2008.)
--"Based on the conversations we've had internally, as well as external reports, we believe that you can get one to two brigades out a month. At that pace, the forces would be out in approximately 16 months from the time that we began. That would be the time frame that I would be setting up." (Spoken to The New York Times on Oct. 31, 2007, about the withdrawal from Iraq.)
--"We will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called Recovery.gov." (Spoken in a speech on Jan. 28, 2009.)
--"There is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut." (Spoken during the presidential debate on Oct. 15, 2008.)
--"We are going to ban all earmarks." (Spoken at a news conference on Jan. 6, 2009.)
--"Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase -- not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes." (Spoken at a town hall meeting on Sept. 12, 2008.)
--And oh, yes, then there's that substantial promise repeated dozens of times in one way, shape or form on the campaign trail: "It's true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans." (Spoken in Chester, Pa., on Oct. 28, 2008.)
Now, what were those words the president used last week? "Not a single thing"?
I know some will accuse me of kicking the president while he's down. But he's actually roundhouse kicked himself (again), by not only lying about his broken promises but also dissing everyone inside and outside his own political camp.
Up against the political wall last week, Obama compared Republicans to hostage takers willing to harm Americans. Then he compared Democrats to unyielding stalemate causers who hold up political and American progress.
Seems to me the only politician President Obama hasn't demeaned is himself.
Is that because Obama is so far ahead of the American pack in wisdom or because he finally is walking alone with no one following? Have his arrogance, defiance, charismatic charade and inability to lead in conflict (proved last week by his need of former President Bill Clinton's presence) finally caught up with him, isolating him from even his most avid followers?
Maybe it's a good time this Christmas season for President Obama to contemplate a bit of wisdom from the Good Book: Pride comes before the fall.