BA: I would hope that readers are sophisticated enough to know that this is just one measurement of the presidency. As I said in my editor’s note when we launched, the fact that a promise is broken is not necessarily a bad thing. It could be that the president stops pursuing something because he decides that he doesn’t have support for it, or he has other things that have a higher priority. Case in point, one that we now have rated as “broken,”—his promise to create a $3,000 tax credit for each new job that a business creates. That was a promise that Obama made in the campaign. When he first came to the White House, that promise was discussed on Capitol Hill and it received lots of opposition.
Now, is that a bad thing for Obama? Well if you’re strictly judging on a very narrow view of promised kept are good and promises broken are bad, then, I guess. But the reality is there was little support for that even in Obama’s own party. I would argue that the fact that this promise will be broken reflects the will of both parties and maybe the American people.
KB: And some of the promises are pretty controversial, like the carbon cap and trade promise.
BA: I think the cap and trade promises are going to be the toughest for him to keep because there is so much difference of opinion, not just in Congress, but in the nation. Public opinion still needs to sort that one out. I don’t think most people understand cap-and-trade as a concept, and what the economic costs of it would be, so we included anything in our list that fit our definition of promise. It didn’t matter if it was easy or hard. There are some in here that are obviously very easy. Those were some that he got “Promises Kept” on in his first week. We didn’t feel like we could exclude something just because it was easy. And likewise, we didn’t want to exclude something because it was hard. We wanted to include everything that fit our definition.
KB: Does this represent the President’s power accurately?
BA: Well, consider a goal like “Increase love and understanding among mankind.” Some of these do go beyond the job description. But we included it if we could measure it and if it fit our definition of a promise. Because so much of what a president does is lead. The president’s powers don’t just end at being able to sign an executive order, or sign or veto a bill. The president can do many other things to encourage or discourage activities, so it seemed to us that items like that were fair game to include.
KB: Will Obama get credit for accomplishing goals, but not in the ways that he set forth?
BA: That sounds like a “Compromise.” But if the ultimate goal is achieved, we would be flexible, even if it was not precisely how he said he would do it. Common sense is one of our founding principles, and reasonableness. We want to be fair, and reasonable, and accurate, and help people interpret how he’s doing, and it sounds too floppy to say “We’re making it up as we go along.” What we’re doing is trying to be very methodical and fair in developing guidelines as we go along.