Top White House aide David Axelrod told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos today that the administration intends to explore a number of means by which it can overhaul the nation’s health care system, but refused to reaffirm then-candidate Barack Obama’s “firm pledge” to not raise taxes on middle class Americans.
“The president had said in the past that he does not believe taxing health care benefits at any level is necessarily the best way to go here,” said Axelrod. “He still believes that, but there are a number of formulations and we’ll wait and see.”
Obama has not always been open to “a number of formulations,” however. In fact, prompted by Republican accusations his tax plan would hurt middle class pocketbooks, Obama was quite adamant he would do no such thing. While campaigning in Dover, NH, Obama said, “Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”
Slow to fulfill campaign pledges or entirely reversing his position on others, the president has come under fire from the most loyal of Democratic Party activists, including the LGBT community and environmentalists, but waffling on his no-middle-class-tax-hike pledge stands to pit the irresolute president against a majority of the American voting public, not just disillusioned splinter groups.
After pressed on whether the president will draw “a line in the sand” by a persistent Stephanopoulos, Axelrod refused to take the bait and align the administration with any such ultimatum.
“One of the problems we’ve had in this town is that people draw lines in the sand and they stop talking to each other. And you don’t get anything done. That’s not the way the president approaches this,” he said.
The reason for President Obama’s now-obvious reticence to pursue campaign pledges—or make intractable ultimatums, for that matter—is quite simple. Keeping promises while juggling the competing interests of donors, activists, and voters is no simple feat. If you don’t make a promise, you can’t break it.
Then-candidate Barack Obama promised impossibilities—of a transparent government, of a new politics, of a hopeful and peaceful American—and performed little. Now-President Barack Obama promises nothing and yet he still performs little.
Color me surprised.