Obama Never Promised Me a Rose Garden

01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One of my proudest political moments was casting my vote for President Barack Obama. Do I applaud every single move Obama has made? Not necessarily. Does Obama owe me or any supporter a litmus test? Absolutely not! In fact, he ran against litmus tests. Barack Obama never promised anyone a Rose Garden - he promised everyone an Administration that would bring Americans together and deliver change.

When asked how his Presidency should be judged, Obama set a clear marker for his first term in a June 2008 Rolling Stone interview:

"If I haven't gotten combat troops out of Iraq, passed universal health care and created a new energy policy that speaks to our dependence on foreign oil and deals seriously with global warming, then we've missed the boat. Those are three big jobs, so it's going to require a lot of attention and imagination, and it's going to require the American people feeling inspired enough that they're prepared to take on these big challenges."

From the Democratic unity rallies of June 30 through Election Day 2008, many of us repeated candidate Obama's words all along the campaign trail. Now, as President-elect Obama forms his government, it is fair for progressives and indeed all Americans across the political spectrum to ask "can he - and we - deliver the change Obama promised?"

Should I critique him? Already have. On December 1, liveblogging the national security team rollout here on HuffPost, I concluded that "while many are skeptical that former rivals can actually work together to achieve change, 66 million Americans vested Barack Obama with the responsibility to try. [Today] he recommitted to his campaign promises and built a big tent team of friends and rivals to implement them. Hungry for change, vigilant for results, we will watch and see with qualified hope."

It is healthy for our democracy that we watch and see out loud; that we do our part to help Obama do his part - we ask questions, we push for the policies he promised, and we promote public service. We have nothing to fear from a big tent or an open debate so long as we keep our eyes on the prize: change in Iraq, health care, and a green economy. So I don't draw the line at debate - I draw it at decency: respect for each other, for the rule of law, for the role of America in the world. Among his other talents, our new President is a great communicator and a great listener. For these reasons, I am confident that so long as we have debate with decency, we are well on the road to a stronger democracy and a great Obama presidency.