Promises kept, promises broken

After five years in office, how well has President Bush kept his promises?

For many reasons, not the least of which is 9/11, the country is far
different than it was at the end of January 2001. The White House has
pages and pages of initiatives for which the administration takes
credit. But most of them do not affect most Americans.

Here are a few major ones that do.

We are now, Bush reminds us regularly, a nation at war with terrorists.
He argues that a major front of that war must be in Iraq, which is
costing billions of dollars and has taken more than 2,200 American
lives and at least 30,000 Iraqi lives.

He promised to disarm
Saddam Hussein and make Iraq a democracy. No weapons of mass
destruction were found, but the Iraqi dictator has been captured.
Iraqis have now held elections and have a constitution.

argued for permanent extension of the Patriot Act, which permits the
government and law-enforcement officials to undertake measures once
outlawed as violations of civil liberties. That is pending.

There has not been a second attack on the United States, although the
administration is convinced it will happen. But a new internal report
on homeland security finds that America is not yet fully prepared to
deal with another attack, and that money to beef up local
first-response efforts is in many ways being misspent.

In short, we are safer but not safe. We are more prepared but not adequately prepared.

One of Bush’s primary promises was better education to prepare
America’s children for a global economy. The No Child Left Behind Act
has focused national attention on the failures of the education system
and the need for higher, more uniform standards. But critics contend
that teachers are now teaching students to pass tests and that there
hasn’t been enough money provided to make a significant difference.

Bush promised prescription-drug coverage under Medicare, which has just
gone into effect. But even many Republicans complain that it is
complex, confusing and astonishingly costly. They worry that it has had
the unintended effect of becoming an unaffordable new entitlement
program in an era of record deficits.

Bush promised Social
Security reform. He has pushed the nation into a better understanding
of the problem _as baby boomers retire, the system will crack. But he
has not been able to get changes through Congress, and has put the
issue on the back burner.

Bush promised to cut taxes by $1.6
trillion over 10 years. They have been cut by $2 trillion. He wants to
make them permanent, but that has not yet happened. Now, with a
national debt of about $8 trillion, he promises to cut the deficit in
half by 2009. But he has yet to veto one spending bill, and his budgets
put many large expenditures off-budget.

Bush promised to rebuild Mississippi and Louisiana. Now he says the bulk of that effort must come from the private sector.

Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. That has not happened.

Many of Bush’s promises have involved doubling the Peace Corps,
increasing the AmeriCorps program, providing more Pell grants for
higher education, improving military housing and increasing federal
dollars spent on education. All have been cut.

Bush said the
country would be less dependent on foreign oil. Consumption of foreign
oil has increased. On environmental cleanup, he vowed to make
regulations less burdensome on business. He has done that.

president said he wanted to provide “high-quality, affordable health
care for all Americans.” So far, he has been unable to do that.

He promised to make it more difficult to file “frivolous” lawsuits and
vowed to put conservative judges on the bench. With the help of
Republicans in the House and the Senate, he is doing that.

promised that there would be more jobs created. And despite cutbacks
and layoffs, that has happened. But many critics argue that many of the
new jobs do not come with pensions, health insurance or, in some cases,
a wage above poverty level.

Bush promised to be a “uniter, not a
divider” and to “change the tone in Washington.” Whether it’s his fault
or that of his opponents or of both, the country is more divided than
it was a decade ago and partisanship in Washington is more bitter.

On Oct. 10, 2000, Bush said: “A promise made will be a promise kept, should I be fortunate enough to become your president.”

In office, the president has kept a surprising number of his promises,
more than many presidents have done. That has kept the majority of
Republicans satisfied. If you are a Democrat, the problem is that with
the help of the GOP-controlled Congress, he has kept so many of those

(Ann McFeatters is Washington bureau chief of
the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade. E-mail