By John Del Cecato - 08/05/10 10:20 PM EDT
Just two years ago this month, Barack Obama took to the stage at Invesco Field to accept his party’s nomination. In that speech, he outlined an ambitious agenda for change — reversing the economic and foreign policies of a Republican administration that had sent America spiraling in the wrong direction.
The speech was widely praised by voters and pundits alike. But the weight of its words could only be measured once Obama was in office. Let’s take a look at whether the candidate followed through.
• “I will cut taxes — cut taxes — for 95 percent of all working families,” said Obama in Denver. Last year, as part of the Recovery Act, the president made good on his promise.
• “Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible healthcare for every single American,” said the Democratic nominee. “If you have healthcare, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.” The new healthcare law delivers in each of those areas, a fact that partly explains why its popularity has risen in public polls over the past few months.
• “I’ll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels,” Obama pledged in 2008. The Recovery Act included $80 billion toward meeting that goal. The president’s comprehensive clean-energy legislation — stalled by Republicans at the moment — would move America even further in the direction of energy independence.
• To young people, Obama promised: “[W]e will make sure you can afford a college education.” A new law the president signed this year eliminates the big-bank middlemen from the student loan process — making higher education cheaper and less bureaucratic for families. And Obama’s expansion of Pell grants means that 820,000 more students will be eligible for tuition aid.
• “[O]ur gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination,” Obama told the crowd. As president, he has issued executive orders that require gay and lesbian couples to be treated the same as straight ones, and expanded rights for gay couples who work in the federal government.
• Obama the nominee declared a desire to take on “nuclear proliferation” and use diplomacy to “curb Russian aggression.” In April of this year, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a historic agreement to slash the stockpile of nuclear weapons in both countries.
• “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said the candidate. The U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end in a few weeks. The ongoing war in Afghanistan is receiving the increased attention Obama had warned was required.
• “I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the startups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow,” said Obama in Denver. Last week, as the Senate was poised to pass legislation that did just that, Republicans used a procedural move to block the measure. Democratic congressional leaders are currently strategizing on how the bill might yet become law this year.
One month before a Wall Street meltdown led to a global economic crisis, Barack Obama laid out an ambitious agenda for the change he’d bring to Washington. Despite making the economic recovery his administration’s top priority, this president has managed to make good on a great deal of that agenda in two short years.
Del Cecato is a partner at AKPD Message and Media, the political consulting firm founded by David Axelrod in 1985. He served as media adviser and admaker for Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008.