George W. Bush: Promises, Promises

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at the 89th Annual American Legion Convention August 28, 2007 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. In his speech, Bush warned that letting Iran acquire atomic weapons risked putting the Middle East 'under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.' MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Written by CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller
It was three years ago tonight that Pres. Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term. He did so in a speech rife with promises.

More than any other address he has given since, including his Inaugural nearly 5 months later, that speech to the 2004 Republican National Convention laid out his plans for his second term.

But three years after the fact, an examination of that speech shows that Pres. Bush has been unable to deliver on most of his pledges. That's not to say he didn't try. But he didn't prove to be a closer.

Take Social Security:

"We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account -a nest egg you can call your own, and government can never take away," he told GOP delegates that night in Madison Square Garden.


He waged an aggressive campaign for his plan to let American workers contribute some of their Social Security taxes into a private retirement account that he expected would give a better rate of return than the government-run plan.

During the first six months of his second term he gave 38 speeches in 29 states on behalf of his Social Security plan. But to no avail.

He acknowledged that Social Security is regarded as the third rail of American politics. And he was definitely shocked by the depth of resistance to the changes he advocated, even among members of his own party.

Before the year was out, he had given up on his plan.

He didn't try as hard on another of his convention pledges.

"In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code," Mr. Bush had pledged. He called the tax code "a drag on the economy" and "a complicated mess."

He started out trying to be faithful to that promise. Even before his second term began, he appointed a bipartisan panel to study the code and recommend changes to make it more simple and fair.

The panel delivered its recommendations on November 1, 2005. But they've been gathering dust at the Treasury Department ever since. Mr. Bush never acted on them and almost never mentions the subject of overhauling the tax code.

In his convention speech, he promised to create jobs by encouraging investment, restraining federal spending, reducing regulation and making his tax cuts permanent.

Just last week, Mr. Bush boasted that since August of '03, 8.3-million new jobs have been added to the nation's payrolls. Democratic critics argue that he fails to deduct the number of jobs lost, which would diminish Mr. Bush's claim.

And despite the volatility on Wall Street, there's no question that investments are booming.

As for federal spending, the size of the annual federal deficit has been coming down since reaching a high of $413-Billion in 2004. The Administration forecasts a deficit this year of $205-Billion. The forecast from the Congressional Budget Office is lower still at $158-Billion.

But the size of the National Debt has soared. It now stands at $8.9-Trillion dollars - numerically in excess of the debt ceiling authorized by law. On the day Mr. Bush took office, it was $5.7-Trillion. That's a 57% increase on Mr. Bush's watch. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is already calling on Congress to hike the debt ceiling as soon as possible for the fifth time in six years.
  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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