Politico has compiled a list, with commentary, of 10 statements made by President Barack Obama or his 2008 campaign that highlight the contrast between Obama’s expectations coming into office and his accomplishments while occupying the White House.
Obama’s own words, and those of his closest aides, culled from his first campaign and the early phase of his presidency, tell the story. Cumulatively, the quotations are an anthology of lofty aspirations that fell to earth and boastful predictions that didn’t come true.
All presidents have plans that don’t work out. But many of Obama’s off-the-mark quotes echo because — as a president with a short history in Washington and no previous executive experience — he faced an especially jarring collision between his confident assumptions about how he would govern and the reality of what was possible.
Here are some highlights of the list.
1. “Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works.”
Partisanship across the country has risen to record highs under Obama, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
Politico writes about Obama’s claim:
There is little doubt that Obama was sincere in his belief that Washington is driven by irrational partisanship. He was sincere also in believing that the power of his own cool and cerebral example would help drain the capital of malice and rebuild a rational center.
In retrospect, Obama’s exaggerated belief in his own capacity to transform Washington — not to mention his own wavering self-discipline in resisting nakedly partisan politics — looks like his most naïve miscalculation about his own power.
2. “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Obama biographers and even friends have noted his tendency from a young age to sometimes to let self-confidence curdle into excessive self-regard — a trait he will try to suppress in Denver.
But the main problem with Obama’s quote was not that it was immodest but that it was inaccurate.
Obama has not presided over an especially skilled political operation. Relations with key members of Congress and with key political figures in states have been frayed, driven by complaints that Obama does not do enough outreach and political fence-tending.
3. “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
Christina Romer, then the West Wing’s economist, forecast in January 2009 that the unemployment rate would be around 5.5 percent by the third quarter of 2012 if a large stimulus package passed. It is currently 8.1 percent. Former budget director Peter Orszag explained after leaving office that economic models led the administration to expect that the economy would look like a “V” — a steep decline followed by a steep rebound — and instead it was more like an “L,” a sharp drop followed by a long period of flat growth.
Politico attributes Obama’s overstatement to his lack of superhuman powers:
If Obama had seen the future, he would have sought to shape public expectations, and might even have delayed expensive and arguably growth-slowing measures like his overhaul of health care in favor of more measures to coax job creation.
To read the full list, head to Politico.