10 Famous Presidential Promises

Updated 6:07 PM ET, Tue February 4, 2020
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PROMISE: "I shall go to Korea." The World War II hero and popular presidential candidate's October pledge to try to find a way to end the Korean War helped him win the election. Getty Images
PROMISE: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." The bold Cold War-era declaration accelerated the "space race" at a time when the United States was looking to trump Soviet gains. Getty Images
PROMISE: "We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." Johnson was unable to keep this campaign promise on Vietnam as violence escalated. The following year he authorized a bombing campaign against North Vietnam that preceded deployment of the first American combat troops in Southeast Asia. Getty Images
PROMISE: "I have a secret plan to end the war." Some figures close to Nixon argued that he never said it. But the remark has become part of his campaign lore and the promise, misquoted or not, has been citied on occasion by politicians when they call out an opponent for issuing vague guarantees. AFP/Getty Images
PROMISE: "I will never lie to you." Carter's campaign pledge in the aftermath of Watergate helped him win the White House. However, political historians often point out that this promise did not insulate him from a voter backlash four years later over a sour economy, soaring energy prices, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Getty Images
PROMISE: "We did not—repeat, did not—trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we." Ronald Reagan, in the middle of the Iran-Contra Affair, had to recant his proclamation a year later when evidence showed that the U.S. did in fact trade arms for hostages. AFP/Getty Images
PROMISE: "Read my lips; no new taxes." Bush promised this while accepting the Republican nomination to shore up conservative support and appear tougher heading into the election. But facing high deficits and the prospect of severe cuts in entitlements, Bush agreed with the Democratic-controlled Congress on a budget that included new taxes. The reversal hurt him in 1992 when he lost his bid for reelection. AFP/Getty Images
PROMISE: "The era of big government is over." The memorable State of the Union declaration was designed to move Clinton toward the political center with the 'Republican Revolution' in Congress aiming to roll back decades of welfare and other programs ushered in by Democrats over many years. AFP/Getty Images
PROMISE: "Mission Accomplished." The banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln heralded Bush's announcement of an end to major combat operations in Iraq just months after the invasion. The fighting, however, would drag on for seven years. Getty Images
PROMISE: "If you choose change you will have a nominee who doesn't take a dime from Washington lobbyists and PACs." According to PolitiFact, a website that gauges accuracy of political statements, Barack Obama's 2008 claim is only partly true. The group said the Obama campaign, like others before it, uses a narrow definition of lobbyist that allows them to say that they do not accept their donations. AFP/Getty Images