If, as George Orwell once observed, the greatest enemy of any left-wing government is its previous propaganda, then Barack Obama’s most fearsome enemy is a small volume his campaign published in 2008: Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise. I bought it after Obama won the presidency that November, and it makes for very entertaining–and somewhat sad–reading nearly four years later.
Among the many promises Obama makes are the following: “Send Rebate Checks of $1,000 to American Families,” “Staff the Government Based on Talent, Not Political Loyalties,” and “Eliminate North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Programs.” Some of the pledges combine hubris with bad policy: “Create Five Million New Green Jobs,” “Create Automatic Workplace Pensions.” Others are just silly: “Create a ‘Craigslist’ for Service.”
No matter who you are, there’s a broken promise in this book for you. Seniors? Obama promised to “Preserve Social Security” and “Put Medicare on Solid Footing.” Greens? Obama said he would “Rally the World to Stop Global Warming.” Chicago residents? Obama pledged to “End the Dangerous Cycle of Youth Violence.” The scale of Obama’s cult of personality can be measured by the wide scope of his disappointments today.
There is one promise, however, that stands out among the others, and best defines the failure of the Obama presidency: the promise to “Jump-start our economy with a $50 billion stimulus plan that would put money directly in the pockets of families struggling with rising food and mortgage payments.” The actual stimulus, as passed in early 2009, was nearly 18 times as big and did little to help struggling families or the economy itself.
That broken promise stands out more than all the others–more than the promise to cut health care costs by $2,500 per family, more than the promise to keep a residual force in Iraq to ensure stability, more than the laughable assurance that Obama would fight corruption–because it represents a colossal abuse of the public trust and Obama’s fiduciary duty to the nation. It makes a mockery of policy arguments about Keynesian stimulus or the multiplier effect of increased government spending. It is simply obscene.
If Republicans end up canceling additional events in their Tampa convention due to the storm lashing the Gulf coast, they have a reasonable alternative: have Reince Priebus read Change We Can Believe In, start to finish, from the podium, and let Americans ask themselves whether they would ever trust Barack Obama’s wild promises again.