What did President Barack Obama promise but fail to deliver?

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11 November
17:19
November
2016

The greatest gulf between the rhetoric and reality is that line he came up with when he said that the world would look differently at the United States when he was president. I can understand why he would have said that, given the historic nature of his candidacy and presidency – there was a lot of talk about entering a post-racial era, and that simply hasn’t happened.

I think he was unintentionally undermined by the Nobel Prize committee giving him the Peace prize for basically not being George W. Bush. It placed the White House in an impossible bind – how do you say no to what is obviously a very prestigious award, even if it was presented before you’ve even unpacked? It’s unprecedented to award the prize to someone for the promise they offered of potential change. It’s difficult to see how on Earth you could justify it, either at the time, or even retrospectively.

"He promised to deliver peace in the Middle East within his first twelve months in office – if you can find a greater statement of hubris, I’d be interested to see it" 

He promised to deliver peace in the Middle East within his first twelve months in office – if you can find a greater statement of hubris, I’d be interested to see it. At Hillary Clinton’s behest, he did something which was very positive, putting a series of regional ambassadors in place – Richard Holbrooke to address Afghanistan and Pakistan, George Mitchell as Middle East peace envoy, effectively. But what he failed to do was empower these people, and that was a massive mistake.

When he pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, I believe that he thought it would be relatively straightforward, either through an Executive Order or through his overwhelming majority in Congress. What he failed to realise was that members of Congress – funnily enough – didn’t want to tell their voters that they’d agreed to bring these world-famous terrorists, as they were seen, back to their constituencies and have taxpayers’ dollars spent on their upkeep. What he has been doing is quietly, progressively, moving these people out and sending them overseas, but the fact that the facility is still open at the end of his time in office will certainly be seen as a failure of his administration.

"When he pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, I believe that he thought it would be relatively straightforward"

American presidents going back to Harry Truman have been talking about basically completing the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, and that includes some degree of healthcare provision. You saw efforts to introduce Medicaid and Medicare during the administration of Lyndon Johnson go a long way towards that, but certainly far short of what would be seen as the NHS for the USA. The fundamental issue is that Americans have a differently mentality with regard to public financing for medicine, and Obama’s efforts have already been referred to as the first steps down the slipperly slope towards socialism, and even communism, so extreme is the thinking on this. So he got through what he could get through.

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