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On Obama's last day in office, a scorecard on promises kept and broken

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WATCH| President Obama's 2009 Inauguration

President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, delivered eight years ago today, won acclaim for its soaring optimism and bold promises. As he leaves office after two terms, here’s a look back at the early promises he kept and broke.

1.) A more civilized politics, and a less divided nation. Score: Promise Broken.

One of the great lines of Obama’s first inaugural address offered this promise: “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.” 

But the 44th president leaves behind a country even more divided by the debate over his policies and the tumultuous election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.


2.) Substantially expand health care to those who don’t have it. Score: Promise Mostly Kept.

While not necessarily achieving universal health care, Obamacare did enroll millions of new Americans into health insurance they previously lacked. But the ultimate legacy of the program will depend on whether Republicans under a Trump presidency roll it back to address rising premiums and failed state insurance exchanges.

3.) Close Guantanamo Bay prison. Score: Promise Broken.

While he substantially downsized the population at Gitmo, Obama admittedly failed at closing the facility.

4.) Draw down U.S. troops from Iraq. Score: Promise Kept.

The U.S. military footprint in Iraq was substantially reduced by Obama. While there’s debate about the consequences of the withdrawals, there’s no doubt they were substantial.

5.) Bring peace to Afghanistan. Score: Promise Broken.

In his first inaugural address, Obama vowed to “forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan." But the country remains in the same war-torn state he inherited, with al-Qaida, the Taliban and now ISIS posing security threats. And while U.S. troop levels in the country are slightly below where they were when Obama took office, he himself has admitted the situation remains “precarious.”

6.) Significantly expand clean energy. Score: Promise Kept.

Obama first inaugural address included this oft-quoted line: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Today, due to substantial government subsidization, electric cars, more fuel-efficient vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels are more plentiful than ever across the American landscape.

7.) Eliminate oil and gas tax breaks. Score: Promise Broken.

This was one of the young president’s early goals but it soon ran into the reality of congressional politics and the power wielded by the oil and gas industry.

8.) End the Use of Torture. Score: Promise Kept.

Almost as soon as he entered office, Obama issued an executive order that required the humane treatment of prisoners and eliminated harsh interrogation tactics previously legalized by the Bush administration.

9.) Cut average family health care premiums by $2,500. Score. Promise Broken.

This big promise has fallen far short; in fact the average family premium for health has actually gone up by thousands of dollars since he took office.

10.) Achieve federal sentencing reform. Score: Promise Kept.

Obama made significant reforms in this arena, especially related to drug offenses.

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