When interim mayor Ed Lee announced his intention to run for a full term this fall, erstwhile allies like Board of Supervisors president and fellow mayoral candidate David Chiu let him have it, and rightfully so. After all, the supes had given Lee the interim post precisely because he had said he wouldn’t run. Voters, though, greeted the charges with a shrug: Politics as usual, no? Still, a look at some broken promises by prominent pols, past and present, reveals some interesting middle ground between “unforgivable” and “no big deal” that may help you decide just how charitable to be toward this latest bait and switch.
You gotta be f---ing kidding me!
Some campaign promises are so obviously impossible to keep that they’re better understood as expressions of contempt for the electorate. Such was the case with Da Mayor’s infamous pledge, during his 1995 run, to “fix Muni in 100 days.” It was classic early-period Brown—glib, arrogant, and just a little mendacious—and he never quite lived it down.
He’s full of it, but he means well
When Newsom was mayor, hardly a week passed without a triumphal eco-pledge from city hall: All Muni buses will run on biodiesel! The city will generate no waste by 2020! Even if no one quite believed it all, New-som’s ever-flowing stream of green talk was generally good for the city—we’re now at 77 percent recycling and/or composting, and all of our buses use at least some biodiesel—and made us feel better about ourselves into the bargain.
Compromise is for girlie-men
When he swept into office in 2004 on a wave of anti-incumbent fervor, Arnie declared, “I don’t want to move the boxes around; I want to blow them up.” The Governator soon discovered that dealing with the legislature is harder than shooting robots in front of a blue screen. By mid-2010, only 22 percent of Californians approved of the job he was doing—the lowest rating for a governor in 50 years.
Reality bites or Talk is cheap or Liberal fever causes delirium
After three years of broken vows—not repealing the Bush tax cuts, not closing Gitmo—the espousers of “Yes, we can” are wondering what that “hope and change” ceremony really meant. Is Obama a good liberal hamstrung by Republican obstructionists? An opportunist with few fixed principles? Or was his progressivism just a figment of our collective imagination? Maybe all three. Disappointed love is in the eye of the beholder.
A civil servant licks his chops
In nations with shaky democracies, rulers sometimes amend the constitution to make themselves president for life. San Francisco is no banana republic, but there’s nothing particularly honorable about Lee’s move, either, despite all his happy talk about restoring civility to city hall. Let’s reserve judgment about Lee’s reliability until he actually gets elected, but keep an eyebrow raised in the meantime.