CHARLOTTE—In the 48 hours before the Democratic National Convention was gaveled into session, chattering-class talk focused on the governing party's bungling of the classic question for presidential incumbents: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a leading surrogate for President Barack Obama, answered the question on Face the Nation Sunday with a blunt and certainly plausible "no." Over on Fox News, campaign strategist David Axelrod countered, "We're in a better position than we were four years ago in our economy." On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor and DNC Chair Antonio Villaraigosa said on CBS News that "Of course, if you're recently unemployed, you're not better off. But the fact of the matter is, as a nation, we are better off." At a rally, Vice President Joe Biden said "You want to know whether we're better off?...I've got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." Campaign spokesman Stephanie Cutter settled on the over-confident "absolutely" on Monday, and before you know it Martin O'Malley was walking it back with a "We are clearly better off as a country because we're creating jobs rather than losing them. We have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession. That's why we need to continue to move forward."
Democratic sympathizers pointed out that the question is less than 100 percent fair, since George W. Bush was in office four years ago, and the nation was three weeks away from a financial crisis that would send the economy into free-fall by the time Obama took the oath of office. But as delegates and the media re-convene four years after Obama's historical Democratic coronation in Denver, it is not only fair but necessary and instructive to look at how the newly Democratic White House and Congress lived up to its own vows from the 2008 DNC.
Some promises—like hunting down Osama bin Laden and enacting universal health insurance—were certainly kept. But here's a list of five that weren't.