Monday, February 8, 2016

The Honesty of not Making Promises You Can't Keep

Hillary is often accused of being that terrible world a politician. She says whatever she needs to say to get elected. But in a way this is not at all true. Her tendency not to like to get pigeonholed into making specific promises actually is more honest than most politicians who make all kinds of promises they have no idea if they will ever be able to keep.

An interesting highlight of this was her race with Obama in 2008. It's ironic that the President ended up having his signature issue be healthcare reform as back in 2006 and early 2007 he really had little to say about healthcare. In running against HRC he knew her record and her credibility on healthcare reform.

His team decided then that the way to beat her on healthcare was just to make a blanket promise-Obama vowed that he would achieve healthcare before his first term is over.

It was smart politics. He knew Hillary had the credibility on healthcare reform and he was able to check her on it by doing what his team knew she would never do: make a categorical promise of delivering it before the end of the first term.

So Obama promises to deliver 'universal care' before his first term was up. He also at the same time criticized her for proposing, drumroll please, a mandate. 

In the general he actually attacked John McCain from the right for McCain's proposal of vouchers of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for married couples. Obama said unlike McCain he wasn't going to raise taxes on the middle class.

What's interesting is that Obama when he did pivot to healthcare in the Spring of 2009 went to Neera Panden-who was a Hillary policy person in 2008. Obama came out and said that Hillary was better on policy than he had been in 2008.

Again, this is not to be negative about the President. You know how much I love the guy. He did pass healthcare as promised in his first term. Though it was not universal and it did Hillarycare-the mandate.

Some have argued though that he took away his own options by promising healthcare reform-without much details at the time, it's true.

A President only has so much political capital and some in the White House and by vowing to do healthcare arguably there are other things he might have better focused on before healthcare in the Spring of 2009.

Some argue he maybe should have done financial reform first.

In retrospect who knows for sure? But you can see that Hillary understands something that Obama only came to understand after the Tea Party takeover in 2010: you only have so much political capital and you don't want to take away your own options.

This is why Hillary clearly never likes to be pigeonholed into a categorical position. Some see that as dishonesty. But in a sense it's more honest. I can promise the sun, the moon, and the starts during a campaign-even though I have no chance in hell of achieving it.

In 1988 Bush Sr. declared 'Read my lips, no new taxes'-and then promptly raised taxes. The problem was not raising taxes but in making such an irresponsible promise in the first place.

So those who do make such categorical vows are the ones who in a sense are less honest and should be trusted less.

It doesn't take courage to play the game show host. The real audacity is in not making promises you don't know that you can keep.

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