Presidents Promises

Presidents Promises

Richard Holbrooke, US Ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001, and a likely member of the Obama administration, wrote in Foreign Affairs (October 2008) that “It is a well-established historical fact that what candidates say about foreign policy is not always an exact guide to what they will do if elected.”

Franklin Roosevelt promised in 1940 to not send “your boys…into any foreign wars.”

Lyndon Johnson stated in 1964 that he would not send ground troops to Vietnam.

Richard Nixon referred in 1968 to a non-existent “secret plan to get out of Vietnam.”

Jimmy Carter pledged in 1976 to withdraw all US ground troops from South Korea.

Ronald Reagan pledged in 1982 to upgrade US relations with Taiwan to “official” status.

Bill Clinton promised in 1992 to take a strong stand on Bosnia and stand up to the “Butchers of Beijing.”

George W. Bush called in 2000 for a “more humble” foreign policy and no more “nation building.”

Some candidates believe in their campaign pledges. Others adopt them to win over constituencies. Some change positions upon reaching the White House because the situation has changed. A responsible supporter of a president must make the determination of motive and act accordingly, above all avoiding blind support.

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