(Reuters) - President Barack Obama must persuade voters to give him the benefit of the doubt when he defends his policies in the State of the Union address on Tuesday, since his promised efforts to boost jobs and other key goals are still works in progress.
Some of the most pressing issues facing his presidency have bogged down in a divided Congress or been sidelined while Obama focuses on reelection.
He has made over 500 promises, according to Politifact.com, a fact-checking operation run by the Tampa Bay Times. But its tally makes clear the challenges. It shows that 162 promises were kept and 56 broken. The rest were either stalled, compromised or still in the works, according to the study.
Obama gets credit for lifting growth when he entered office in 2009 but tackling unemployment remains a challenge.
It now stands at 8.5 percent, down from a peak of 10 percent, but is still above the level his administration had predicted it would reach when pushing in early 2009 for a massive government spending program to revive the economy.
Obama says his State of the Union address will lay out a “blueprint” for job creation by boosting manufacturing employment, likely through tax breaks to encourage firms to bring jobs home.
He may also push other parts of a $447 billion jobs bill he launched last year, like infrastructure investment. But that plan was largely opposed by Republicans, who say more spending is not the answer and that Obama’s regulations kill investment.
Obama efforts to tackle the housing crisis have been slammed for failing to better protect homeowners from foreclosure by making it easier for them to refinance at lower current interest rates. The foreclosure crisis is impeding a housing recovery and holding back the entire economy. Obama is expected to suggest more incentives to encourage lenders to help homeowners refinance.
Obama promised in his State of the Union address in 2011 to vigorously promote clean energy, but his efforts have been overshadowed by government loan support for solar panel maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt leaving taxpayers on the hook for $500 million, and a controversial oil pipeline.
Obama eventually rejected the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada after intensive lobbying by environmentalists, many of whom backed him in 2008. Republicans claim he caved to his base at the cost of U.S. energy jobs, but his initial openness to the project has also cooled the enthusiasm of key supporters.
Obama says Tuesday’s speech will repeat his commitment to “homegrown and alternative energy sources.”
Obama broke his promise to deliver broad immigration reform, disappointing the country’s large Hispanic population, many of whom backed him in 2008. His failure to push through the Dream Act, which would have provided the children of illegal immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship, may hurt his ability to gather Hispanic support in November.
Obama has broken his pledge to close the Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba by January 2010. He faced numerous obstacles, including concerns that released detainees might join militants to attack the United States, and public resistance to having detainees transferred to U.S. soil.
Around 170 foreign captives remain of the 779 that the camp has held since it was set up a decade ago by President George W Bush following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan provoked by the September 11 attack on the United States.
Obama campaigned in 2008 promising to bring change to the way Washington operates and to forge bipartisanship relationships to get things done. Instead, during his three years in office, bitter political fighting has escalated.
The killing by U.S. special forces of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May fulfilled Obama’s pledge to hold accountable the man blamed for masterminding the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Middle East peace was a top goal of his presidency but he has failed to deliver. Distrust between Israel and the Palestinians has deepened, and Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become tense.
Breaking with President George W Bush, who labelled Iran part of an axis of evil, Obama promised to reach out to Tehran to try to make progress in the standoff over its nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon, but Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful. The offer to negotiate has not born fruit, and the United States and its allies have imposed tough sanctions on Iran. The White House says the door for talks is still open.
Obama pledged to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, a war he had opposed, and has delivered on that promise. But violence since the withdrawal has raised doubts that the country can avoid a repeat of the brutal sectarian fighting that resulted in virtual civil war in 2006 and 2007.
Obama has surged troops into Afghanistan to stabilize deteriorating security. That buildup has made some headway, and violence is beginning to come down. But there remains considerable uncertainty about whether Afghan security forces can be adequately trained in time to handle the job by 2014, when U.S. forces are scheduled to end their combat role.
Obama pledged to extend middle class tax cuts and has managed to do so until the end of 2012. But he has also been forced to keep Bush-era tax breaks for wealthier Americans, a break he had sought to end.
He is expected to call again on Tuesday for wealthier Americans to pay more in taxes, while repeating support for a Buffett Rule to ensure the super rich pay more in tax.
Obama also has called on Congress to extend for a year a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans that expires in February. He will repeat that recommendation on Tuesday.
- Keeping his promise to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule against gays serving openly in the military.
- Revamping the United States’ healthcare system to extend health insurance to 32 million Americans who have none.
Reporting By Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman