Wednesday, 9 November 2011

10 Major Campaign Promises by US Presidents that were broken

Politicians are essentially salesmen and saleswomen — they'll say anything to get your vote. So why do we continue to buy their grandiose, obviously unrealistic promises? Do we honestly expect them to do everything they said they would during their campaigns? After all, circumstances are always changing. Realities are different once they enter office, and they have to adjust to different situations accordingly. Even still, Americans rarely forget when they've been wronged, which is why we're rehashing the following campaign promises that were broken in office by an assortment of presidents. Some were good at their job, others were bad, and none of them were perfect.
  1. Jefferson promised to reduce federal power and national debt, but purchased Louisiana Territory

    America needed the Louisiana Purchase to become a major power. It doubled the size of the country, thus doubling its natural resources, ensuring we would receive a return far exceeding its $15 million price tag. It opened up the Mississippi River for tariff-free shipping. Manifest Destiny spread, essentially ending European colonialism in America. But, Jefferson, who revered the Constitution, made the purchase without its authority, setting precedent for future presidents to do the same — proof that, sometimes, a broken promise can be a good thing.
  2. Woodrow Wilson promised to keep America out of World War I, but entered the war in 1917

    When your campaign slogan as an incumbent president is "He kept us out of war," you're obviously implying that voters can expect more of the same. Wilson spent much of his first term avoiding the conflict, refusing to build up the military, and offering to mediate peace. By 1917, however, it became difficult for him to maintain neutrality. Germany's sinking of the Lusitania with Americans on board and the nation's mission to make Mexico its ally garnered an American response, as Hoover came to view the war as a threat to Western civilization. America's presence in Europe helped the Allies defeat the Axis alliance, ending the war in November 1918.
  3. Herbert Hoover promised to end poverty, but came up short

    More specifically, Hoover promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." A proponent of "rugged individualism," he had a hands-off approach, believing that poverty is best addressed by voluntary organization and community service. Of course, his economic policies helped bring forth the Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley tariff was passed to keep out foreign goods, but made it more difficult for America to export goods. The slippery slope of events led to more job losses and an economy in disrepair.
  4. FDR promised to balance the budget, but increased the deficit

    Angry with Hoover, America elected a man with a plan to rebuild the economy and balance the budget, seemingly impossible tasks at the time. Not long after taking office, however, he realized that worrying too much about the national deficit was an exercise in futility, especially if he wanted to implement his pricey New Deal initiatives. America didn't hold it against him, as the economy improved under his watch, earning him four terms in office (though he just served three full terms).
  5. FDR promised to keep America out of World War II, but declared war after Pearl Harbor

    Although America's entrance into the war had been brewing, Roosevelt tried his best to make it seem otherwise. When running for re-election in 1940, he famously exclaimed, "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." In early 1941, he proposed the Lend-Lease Act to Congress, demonstrating his ardent support of Britain and the Allies. In August, he made the Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill, and two months later, Pearl Harbor was attacked, justifying a declaration of war. As with World War I, America's military might was instrumental in saving Europe.
  6. Lyndon Johnson promised to keep our boys out of Vietnam, but sent them in 1965

    Here's a promise LBJ should've kept. Initially quoted as saying, "I just don't think it's worth fighting for," Johnson changed his mind as it became apparent he would be viewed as soft on communism. Determined to oversee the passage of his Great Society programs, he relented on his stance, initiating a bombing campaign in 1965 after the Viet Cong killed eight Americans in an attack on a South Vietnamese garrison. Eventually, 470,000 American troops were on the ground in Vietnam. After the onslaught of the Tet Offense, confidence in the war domestically had almost completely deteriorated, and Johnson scrapped his plans to seek re-election.
  7. Lyndon Johnson promised to win the "war on poverty," but didn't quite make it

    Passage of the "Economic Opportunity Act of 1964" started the "war on poverty," creating programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, low-income housing, food stamps, and education aid. While it provided a safety net to the most unfortunate, it hasn't come close to "ending" poverty. In fact, it's unlikely that anything will end poverty, so why even bother to make such a promise?
  8. Richard Nixon promised to end the war in Vietnam, but escalated it instead

    It's too bad we didn't know then what we know now about Nixon — then perhaps we would've taken his "secret plan" to get us out of Vietnam with a grain of salt. Had he made good on his promise, he would've avoided the throngs of protestors who followed his every move. Afraid that the world would lose confidence in the power of America, Nixon instead implemented Vietnamization, resulting in more fighting and bombing. Nixon's "credibility gap" turned off many moderate Americans who had previously given him the benefit of the doubt.
  9. George H.W. Bush promised "no new taxes," but relented to Democratic demands for increases

    Bush's sound bite "Read my lips: no new taxes" was campaign gold for Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential election. Delivered at the 1988 Republican National Convention, it was a major factor in his defeat of Michael Dukakis. Unfortunately for Bush, the national budget deficit had to be alleviated once he took office, and with the Democrats controlling Congress, he didn't have the luxury of being stubborn. Instead of cutting spending in the budget bill, they wanted an increase in taxes. Bush relented, and the rest is history.
  10. Bill Clinton promised a middle-class tax cut, but never delivered

    Running as a populist, Clinton essentially vowed to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans so that he could cut taxes for the middle class. Once he took office, however, he started backtracking, saying that his plan was never a major promise. As the budget deficit he inherited worsened, he was forced to consider all options to fix it, none of which included a tax cut. Clinton explained that changing circumstances dictated his actions — or non-action — which, actually, is a pretty legitimate response.

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