Sitting presidents should be and usually are held responsible for their failed campaign promises. Lyndon B. Johnson ran for his own elected term as president in 1964 by telling the American people that in Vietnam "American boys should not be fighting a war that Asian boys should fight." Millions of Americans, including me, believed him and voted for him. He won a landslide victory over the Republican Barry Goldwater. Then President Johnson sent a million "American boys" into an Asian caldron of death. In 1968 Johnson was driven from the race for the Democratic nomination. His reelection hopes were doomed by his failure to keep "American boys" out of a Vietnamese civil war. His own promise -- and his failure to keep it -- sealed his fate.
In 1992 President George H. W. Bush, who had flagrantly disregarded his 1988 campaign promise: "Read my lips. No new taxes!" suffered a fate worse than LBJ. Although Bush was renominated by the Republican Party, he was soundly defeated in his bid for reelection. Bush's electoral humiliation was historical. He received the lowest percentage of the popular vote ever for a sitting President. His own promise -- and his failure to keep it -- sealed his fate.
Only 8 elected Presidents have been rejected in their bid for a second term. They are: John Adams 1800; John Quincy Adams 1828; Martin Van Buren 1840; Benjamin Harrison 1892; William Howard Taft 1912; Herbert Hoover 1932; Jimmy Carter 1980; George H.W. Bush 1992. Lyndon B. Johnson is not among them only because he dropped out allowing his Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, to become the 1968 Democratic Party nominee. Humphrey lost to Richard M. Nixon in what is still the closest vote differential in Presidential election history.
Today we sit on the precipice staring at the ninth deserving member of the Presidential Rejection Club. That would be President Barack Obama. As I believed Lyndon Johnson when I was a young man, I made the same mistake 44 years later. I believed Barack Obama in 2008. I supported his bid for the Democratic nomination over other, arguably more qualified, Democrats because I heard what Barack Obama said he would do "when I become the President of The United States of America" -- and I believed him. Change we can believe in? I thought so. I put my money where my heart was (even if it had been someone else's heart before me). Barack Obama was the first Democrat, the first non-independent candidate, I voted for, for President, since I cast my first ballot for LBJ in 1964. Fool me once... fool me twice.
Candidate Barack Obama said he favored "single payer, universal health care." Candidate Barack Obama said that once elected President he would "close the prison at Guantanamo Bay" within one year. Candidate Barack Obama, who had said so many times that George Bush's war in Iraq was "a war that never should have been waged" and who proudly proclaimed his opposition to the Senate vote authorizing that war (a resolution Hillary Clinton voted for and never expressed regret for and suffered for as Hubert Humphrey had before her), promised that as President he would withdraw American forces within sixteen months. Candidate Barack Obama also said that the war in Afghanistan was "justified." It was the war "we should win." Candidate Barack Obama criticized the Bush administration's policies on such national security issues as torture, warrantless wiretaps and other secret surveillance techniques. Candidate Barack Obama - himself a former professor of Constitutional Law -- promised to restore constitutional principles, ending such Bush/Cheney abuses as extraordinary rendition, "enhanced interrogation" and legal obstacles to basic justice like the imposition of the State Secrets defense in federal court. And Candidate Barack Obama promised -- over and over again, in front of huge, cheering crowds all across America -- to "eliminate the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans." Among Obama's most eloquent and repeated campaign speech lines dealt directly with this vital economic issue. "They don't need it" he said, speaking of the millionaires and billionaires who had fed furiously at the public troth under the special guidance of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, "And they haven't asked for it." That's what candidate Barack Obama said. And I believed him.
Some seventy million Americans also believed him, and we all voted for him. Our votes made candidate Barack Obama "the President of the United States of America." We were sure he was the one we had been waiting for.
We were wrong. Its time we admitted it. And its time we did something about it.
The prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, among the most shameful acts in American history, did not close within President Obama's first year in office. It's still open. A promise failed. The practices of the Bush/Cheney Justice Department -- the varied abuses of constitutional rights including warrantless wiretaps, denial of habeas corpus, the policies of rendition and "enhanced interrogation" plus the unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens, and most egregious of all, the use of the State Secrets defense in federal court - all of these continue under President Obama. Campaign promise after campaign promise -- failed. Today, almost two years into President Obama's term of office, tens of thousands of American soldiers and billions of dollars of American military infrastructure remain in Iraq with no end in sight. The "war that never should have been waged" appears as an endless American military occupation. A campaign promise failed. In Afghanistan, instead of "winning" that encounter, the United States is now bogged down in a losing battle with the "end" perpetually postponed. 2011? No, not really. 2014? Perhaps. But no one believes it anymore. As borrowed billions bleed our economy to bankruptcy and grind our middle-class into the dust, the only thing we have to show for almost 10 years in Afghanistan is the probability of another 10 years fighting a nearly nonexistent enemy. No victory. Another campaign promise failed.
At home, President Barack Obama abandoned his principled position on healthcare reform. "I favor single payer, universal healthcare," he said before being elected with our votes. Once in office he never even asked for a vote on "single payer" or the alternative "public option." Instead, he put through a healthcare insurance industry windfall bill the likes of which even they could not have imagined. Thirty million Americans without health insurance would now be forced - by law - to buy insurance on the open market with no cost protection. Nothing remotely like "single payer, universal healthcare." A promise failed.
And now comes the final straw. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest few among us -- including all those responsible for wrecking our economy -- the same people bailed out by both Bush and Obama -- using our money without penalty -- these tax gifts for the economic nobility will not be "eliminated" as candidate Obama promised. Instead, the richest few among us will be rewarded -- again -- by President Obama while millions face soaring unemployment, average Americans fear for their future -- for tomorrow -- and millions learn the hard way that the American Dream has turned into a nightmare. But the President who promised to fix this now becomes the rich man's BFF.
It takes a while to produce a viable presidential candidate. We have two years until the next election. The time is now for liberals, progressives, thinking independents, and all Democrats to tell the president he no longer deserves our support, and no longer has it; that he will not get our money again; and that we will not vote to reelect him in 2012. If we start now there's time for a reliable, truthful, electable liberal-progressive Democrat to emerge. The president must step aside and not run for a second term. If he insists on running, and if he's successful in being nominated, Barack Obama deserves to become the ninth sitting president not reelected.