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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Obama's claim on 'Promises Kept' is a stretch

The statement

"I made a bunch of these promises during the campaign. ... We've got about 60 percent done in three years."

President Barack Obama, Oct. 25 at a fundraiser

The ruling

A few readers wondered what PolitiFact thought about this figure, since we've been using our Obameter to check how well Obama has been keeping 500-plus campaign promises since his inauguration. It is the most comprehensive look at what Obama promised during the campaign.

When we asked, the White House confirmed that it has indeed been using our Obameter as its yardstick.

"By PolitiFact's own independent assessment, the president has achieved or made progress on over 60 percent of his agenda," Kate Bedingfield, a White House spokeswoman, told PolitiFact.

However, Bedingfield's standard — "achieved or made progress" — is different from what Obama said at the fundraiser, that he'd gotten "about 60 percent done." And that becomes a crucial difference.

Here's the current breakdown of promises on the Obameter:

Promise Kept: 151

(30 percent)

Compromise: 46 (9 percent)

In the Works: 189 (37 percent)

Stalled: 68 (13 percent)

Promise Broken: 52

(10 percent)

Not Yet Rated: 2 (0.3 percent)

We think it's reasonable to give Obama credit for accomplishing the promises rated Promise Kept or Compromise. Together, those account for 39 percent of all promises.

At the same time, we think it's fair to say the president hasn't accomplished those rated Stalled or Promise Broken. Together, they account for 23 percent of all promises.

But to reach 60 percent, the White House needs to include a lot of promises rated In the Works in its count of what's been "done." And that's a problem.

We rate promises In the Works if the administration or its allies in Congress have taken steps to implement the promise but haven't done enough to move it to either Promise Kept or Promise Broken.

For instance, if a House member introduced a bill to enact the promise, we might move it to In the Works — long before the bill was considered by the House, much less passed by Congress and signed by Obama.

So Bedingfield is accurate to say Obama "has achieved or made progress on over 60 percent" of his promises, but Obama was wrong to say that his agenda is "60 percent done." In the Works is not "done."

We rate his statement False.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Obama's claim on 'Promises Kept' is a stretch 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 10:41pm]
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