Politicians Lie and Change Their Minds: 6 Broken Promises Since The Year 2000

Political promises are tricky things: created to charm, and made to be broken. The cynical ease with which voters sometimes assume they're being lied to isn't some random distrust — rather, it's a time-tested reaction to what we know to be true about politicians.

It's not just promises to voters that politicians break, either. Sometimes, they're just as comfortable breaking promises to their colleagues — or even to themselves. Here are eight notable promises politicians have broken since the start of the century.

by Chris Tognotti

2000: George W. Bush, Anti-Interventionist

This is often forgotten, but during his 2000 debates against Vice President Al Gore, former President George W. Bush was the cheerleader for anti-interventionist policies, not his rival Democrat.

Bush had the following to say about America’s role in the world:

“I’m not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say ‘this is the way it’s gotta be.’ … I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying ‘we do it this way, so should you.’”

As if that weren’t retrospectively embarrassing enough, he also gave this take on military action:

“The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished, and the exit strategy needs to be well-defined.”

President Bush would go on to launch two of the longest wars in U.S. history, neither of which he’d manage to exit.

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2002: Donald Rumsfeld and the Short War

Attempting to marshal support for the military invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld displayed an eager willingness to say what needed to be said to get things started.

“The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990,” Rumsfeld said, calling into a radio show in November 2002.

“Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”

The Iraq War would last nearly nine years.

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2008: Senator Obama Rejects Public Campaign Financing

In June of 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama made a very crucial and savvy decision.

He rejected public campaign financing, which would have allotted him some $85 million in taxpayer funds — a pittance compared to the $750+ million war chest he’d ultimately accrue over 21 months of fundraising.

It was a reversal from an initial indication that he’d accept the public financing option, which the McCain campaign ultimately did. McCain castigated the Obama camp for the turnaround, to noticeably little effect.

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2009: Obama Orders Guantanamo Bay Closed

In his first week in office, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13492, ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year.

Ordering such a thing, as it turns out, is easier than actually doing it. It isn’t all Obama’s fault — congressional intransigence on things that could be spun as soft on terrorism is powerful.

But in the face of that grueling uphill climb, and with a host of other domestic priorities, the issue Obama cited as a profound moral imperative for the nation did steadily slip into the rearview mirror.

In 2013, a hunger strike broke out amongst the detainee population at Guantanamo, sparking fears of a worst possible scenario, both for those detained and America’s moral conscience: what if we just sit and watch them all die? So far, the answer has been force feeding, which the UN Human Rights Committee regards as torture.

In his State Of The Union address last month, Obama indicated a renewed effort to close the facility.

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2012: President Obama's Marriage 'Evolution'

Now this is the kind of broken promise we can get behind.

During the 2008 presidential election, then-Senator Obama spoke with Rick Warren at his evangelical Saddleback Church, and gave the following answer on marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian … it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

Obama would make history in 2012, becoming the first president to openly endorse marriage equality. He also supported and fulfilled the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and his Justice Department just moved to extend benefits to all same-sex couples. This all makes him out to be a pretty gay-friendly guy, which begs the question — was he ever really not?

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2014: Speaker Boehner Ices the Boehner Rule

In February, Speaker John Boehner announced he’d bring a clean, no-strings-attached debt ceiling increase to the House floor, a major retreat from the position Republicans have occupied in years prior — vehemently demanding political concessions for any increase, and using huge amounts of political capital to exact them.

The debt ceiling bill was passed by the Democratic minority, in addition to 28 Republican votes, Boehner himself among them.

When asked if this sequence of events spelled out the death of the Boehner Rule — his eponymous position that any debt ceiling increase should come with equivalent spending cuts — he replied “I certainly hope not.”

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