Promises, Promises: The Reality of Campaign Speak

-By Frank Salvato

As the campaign cycle progresses we are going to hear a lot about what one candidate or another is going to do about this or that. We will, to the point of weariness, be inundated with campaign promise after campaign promise, albeit, between gratuitous attacks, both political and personal. This is politicking and the American electorate – for better or for worse – has come to accept a certain amount of it from the people in the political class. But expecting grandiose pledges and believing in the unattainable, well, those are two different things. It is the truly foolish who believe half of what a political candidate says he can deliver, and the blame for that foolishness must fall on the shoulders of the individual voter.

While Presidents sign legislation into law, it is Congress – the House and the Senate; the Legislative Branch – that actually crafts and passes legislation. Therefore, any promise made on the campaign trail by a presidential candidate, be it by the incumbent or the challenger (or the field of candidates vying to be the challenger), is subject to the debate and acquiescence of those in the Legislative Branch; in Congress. It is because of this that any promise made by a presidential candidate must be received by the voting public as more of an intention, rather than a promise. To accept a campaign promise as an impending reality is to set oneself up for almost certain disappointment. And to blame a successful candidate for not living up to those campaign promises requires a level of certainty that the promise was actually ignored, not thwarted.

A good example of campaign promises thwarted comes in the form of the Republican TEA Party supported congressional freshman class who, during the 2010 Mid-Term Elections, promised to “repeal or defund Obamacare” and to “bring fiscal responsibility to Washington.” Each of those elected sincerely believed that they would be able to succeed in doing what they promised. In fact, HR2 of the 112th Congress did, in fact, attempt to repeal Obamacare and many of the TEA Party supported members of the House took it straight on the chin during the debt, deficit and budget debates. But for all of their good intentions and actions, the freshmen Republicans of the 112th Congress learned that unless you have a veto-proof majority in the House, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a friendly inhabitant in the White House, absolutes in campaign promises do not exist.

The same must be said about the Executive Branch and the President of the United States, although he has some additional quivers in his pouch where getting his way is concerned: the bully pulpit (self-explanatory) and the Executive Order.’s US Politics pages say this about Executive Orders:

“Executive Orders (EOs) are official documents, numbered consecutively, by which the President of the US manages the operations of the Federal Government.

“Since 1789, US presidents (“the executive”) have issued directives that are now known as Executive Orders. These are legally binding directives to federal administrative agencies. Executive Orders are generally used to direct federal agencies and officials as their agencies implement congressionally-established law. However, Executive Orders may be controversial if the President is acting counter to real or perceived legislative intent…

“Presidents have been accused of using the power of the Executive Order to make, not merely implement, policy. This is controversial, as it subverts the Separation of Powers as outlined in the Constitution.”

Some accurate examples of a President transgressing the Separation of Powers via Executive Oder have been provided by the Obama Administration in the form of:

  • The EPA: Functioning under the authority of the Executive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enacted regulations that serve, effectively, as legislation, so much so that many members of Congress – from both parties, sans the Progressive contingent of the Democrat Party – have sought to craft legislation to forbid the agency from enforcing said regulations. Additionally, the EPA, again, under the authority of the Executive, is questing to expand its power “to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems in the name of ‘sustainable development’”; to make the EPA more “anticipatory” in its approach to environmental issues. Under agency chief Lisa Jackson, the EPA targets broadening its focus to include both “social” and “economic,” as well as environmental “pillars” to its mission and authority.

    ? The NLRB: Again, functioning under the authority of the Executive, albeit at an arm’s length – thus providing plausible deniability to the Oval Office, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has, under the Obama Administration, routinely championed labor unions over private sector corporations and businesses, i.e. the job creators. Even as the hierarchy of the Government Sponsored Entity (GSE) that is General Motors discusses exporting the manufacturing of the Chevy Volt to China, so as to avoid the high cost of domestic manufacturing (thank you labor unions), the NLRB has moved forward with regulations that mandate unprecedented facilitation to labor unions in non-union shops so as to organize and hold organizational votes; votes that jettison the sanctity of the secret ballot.

    ? The Recess Appointment: Although recess appointments are commonplace in presidential politics, the recess appointments made thus far during the Obama Administration have been to entities that champion a Progressive social engineering of the country and to fill vacancies on boards and agency chairs that have been contested by a significant number in the US Senate. A perfect example comes in the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an entity created of the infamous Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill and which is being actively contested by Republicans in both the House and the Senate. This recess appointment followed, in rapid-fire succession, by three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, thus facilitating that entities ability to execute its labor-friendly special interest agenda in the run-up to the 2012 General Elections.

    It should be noted here that all four of the recess appointments mentioned should be challenged in court – that is if the Republican leadership in Congress can dislodge their heads from their rectums – on the basis of constitutionality as recess appointments cannot be made while Congress is in session. The Senate is in pro-forma session.

    Further, when the cancer of social engineering is at the root of an empirical presidency – as is the case with the Obama Administration, the rights of some are manipulated in a quest to “correct” a perceived wrong affecting others.

    A perfect example of one voter demographic’s rights being manipulated or denied in deference to another’s comes at the hand of Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

    Starting with the DoJ’s refusal to prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, two New Black Panther Party members who executed gross and egregious voter intimidation during the 2008 election cycle outside a Philadelphia polling place, to the DoJ’s lawsuit targeting the State of Arizona for daring to attempt the securing of its borders, to the DoJ’s politically opportunistic denial of State Voter ID laws under the guise of an adherence to “civil rights,” the US Department of Justice exists as an entity that obliterates the notion of “justice for all,” instead affecting justice to some over others, predicated on skin color, sexual preference or allegiance to foreign entities hostile to the United States.

    Governing unilaterally, such as with the examples above, executes an empirical presidency and, in most cases, usurps the Separation of Powers needed to maintain the checks and balances established by our Founders and Framers in the three co-equal branches of our Constitutional Republic.

    So, as is evidenced, the promises made by those running for office – whether they are running for POTUS, Congress or the many State, County and local seats of power – can either be thwarted by opposition or rendered unrealistic by the law. Further, in a quest to keep campaign promises made to those who want more than good government in return, some candidates may consent to nefarious, and in some cases unconstitutional, means by which to satisfy their commitments to these ideological benefactors, their base voting blocs or both.

    Because of these realities, we must understand that while politicos might say things we would like to hear on the campaign stump, we – you and I, both – must be more deliberative in our decision making before we pledge our support; before we dedicate our most precious of constitutional rights – our vote, to any one man of woman seeking political office; to any politician seeking to represent you and I in elected office.

    It is our constitutional duty – by right of citizenship – to take the time to research the deeds of each of the candidates; their records, dispensing with the ever-placating rhetorical commitments packaged with the precursor, “when I become president of the United States.” Most often a campaign trail promise and $16.00 will buy you a $16.00 government purchased muffin.

    When a candidate says that he is going to “repeal Obamacare,” ask the question “How?” Make them explain to you the process by which they will affect satisfaction of that promise.

    When a candidate says that his experience will afford him the wherewithal to “create jobs,” ask him how he will cajole Congress into passing legislation that will free the private sector of burdensome legal constraints, or how he will pressure the labor unions into accepting reasonable restrictions on their greed.

    And when a candidate says he will not “allow Iran to become nuclear capable,” ask him how, exactly, they intend to utilize the full force of the office of President of the United States to affect that reality. Will he seek a Declaration of War from Congress, a feat which has eluded every president elected during a time of military action since World War II? Or will he allow Congress to once again – and in cowardly and political opportune fashion – abdicate its responsibility to define the mission for our brave men and women in uniform?

    Asking the rough and tough questions and demanding no-nonsense, direct and real answers from candidates for public office is how We the People can defend the US Constitution from those who believe it is a “fundamentally flawed document.”

    It is well past time that we expect detailed information and definitions about solutions and agendas from those running for office. It is also well past time that we refuse to accept as truth the pre-packaged, agendized, bumper-sticker sound-bite, oratorical vomit that passes for media coverage of political campaigns by the mainstream media.

    Ask questions and demand real, substantive and detailed answers before vocalizing your support for any candidate. To paraphrase the unwashed masses from all of the labor union protests and “Occupy” rallies: This is what defending the Constitution looks like.
    Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal . He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, and is a regular guest on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network, as well as an occasional guest on numerous radio shows coast to coast. He recently partnered in producing the first-ever symposium on the threat of radical Islamist terrorism in Washington, DC. His pieces have been recognized by the House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict. He can be contacted at

Copyright Publius Forum 2001