President Barack Obama may be a rare exception for a politician because he has actually kept most of his campaign promises. And he has done so in spite of the most partisan and dishonest opposition tactics an American president has ever faced.
When the president announced this past weekend that the U.S. and its allies had reached a short-term agreement with Iran on its nuclear enrichment program, opponents flew into a furor, even before they had specific details. Some Republican members of Congress even accused the president of manufacturing the agreement as a diversion from his problems with the Obamacare rollout.
Understandably, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement a "historic mistake," and said, "The world became a more dangerous place." Saudi Arabia at first expressed concern, but later reversed itself saying, "The government of the kingdom sees that if there was goodwill, this agreement could represent a preliminary step towards a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program."
The president addressed the controversy in San Francisco Monday, saying the United States "cannot close the door on diplomacy." Of his critics, he said, "Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing for our security."
The president first signaled his intention to pursue diplomacy with Iran during the 2008 presidential campaign when he said he would be willing to meet with America's enemies without preconditions. At the time he was considered naive, and even radical. Also in 2008, President Obama promised he would end the war in Iraq, wind down war in Afghanistan, and he would bring terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice. He has delivered on all those promises.
This agreement gives Iran a six month window in which to reach an agreement that would ban it from building a nuclear weapon. Iran was brought to the table by crippling sanctions that have cratered its economy. Under the agreement, most of those sanctions remain in place, and can be instantly ramped up should Iran be found in violation during the next six months.
The point is that, for very little cost, the United States has opened a peaceful path to a verifiable and enduring nuclear agreement with Iran that would make the world safer. It has also given Iran's new more "moderate" leadership something with which to strengthen its tenuous grip on power. Realistically, reaching a long-term agreement will be a huge challenge for all sides. But, for now, the president has done all he can to keep the U.S. out of another war.
The president could use some good news given the shaky rollout of Obamacare. He had promised in 2008 to make affordable health care available to all Americans, including the 40 million citizens who do not have coverage. He and his allies had fought hard against long odds to make the ACA the law of the land. Republicans have done all they can to defund or repeal the law, to no avail, even though they have no replacement to offer Americans.
But now, in spite of a failed website, the Affordable Care Act is beginning to gain traction. In fact, in California, where the state runs its own program, enrollment results are ahead of projections. California is a test case that proves Obamacare can work if states are willing to give it a fair shot. Most states that have Republican governors have opted out, but they are likely to opt in once the program gains momentum.
The president was elected twice by the American people. Of President Obama, Shakespeare might have said, "He was ever precise in promise-making." But the reality is, as the old saying goes, "A politician is known by the promises he keeps."