LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Candidate Barack Obama made a lot of promises during his ultimately victorious presidential campaign - 510 of them to be exact. In the past, it was difficult for the average citizen to keep track of how many presidential promises were kept and how many were broken. But it's the Internet age, and now the answers to those questions are just a click away. PolitiFact.com, a Web site run by the St. Petersburg Times, kept track of the rhetoric and advertising during the campaign with its truth-o-meter. Now the site has pledged to keep a tally on each of each of President-elect Obama's 510 promises on what it's calling the Obameter. Bill Adair is the Washington bureau chief of the St. Petersburg Times and editor of PolitiFact.com, and he's back in our studios. Welcome back. So many meters.
M: Thank you for having me. Yes, we feel like we should trademark the word meter.
HANSEN: There you go. Did you find anything particularly unusual about President-elect Obama's promises?
M: Well, I think initially we were surprised at the scope and just the sheer number. Five hundred and ten is really more than both Bush and Clinton's first-term promises combined. So it is just many, many promises.
HANSEN: And what's different about Obama's promises compared to his predecessors'?
M: Well, I think that he has tried to be very specific, to reassure people that he did have the - sort of the chops to be a solid candidate, to be somebody who could really run the government. And so we found that they were very, very specific and often had deadlines. There would be something that would say, within one year I will convert the White House fleet of cars to hybrids. And those sort of deadlines are an attempt to reassure voters and also help us at PolitiFact as we try to measure them. Because if he hasn't done it by then, then we're going to rate it on our Obameter as a promise broken.
HANSEN: And that way, he's actually showing some willingness to be accountable.
M: In looking through some of the things he said - and we put one of the quotes on our site - Obama has said repeatedly, hold me accountable. And so on our site, we say, OK, we will. And so we have it so that it will be a dynamic database where you'll be able to come to the site and see how many promises are in the works, how many are stalled, how many promises are kept or broken or whatever.
HANSEN: Of the 510, which will be the hardest to keep?
M: Well, some of the ones, for instance, climate change will be particularly difficult where the timeframes are 10, 15 years out.
HANSEN: What promises can he get to right away?
M: Well, one that's actually in the works on our Web site right now is buy my daughters a puppy. And we...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
M: We decided that indeed was a campaign promise, too, and looks like he's going to fulfill that. The one about converting the White House fleet to hybrids will probably be relatively easy. He left himself a little wiggle room for security.
HANSEN: Before I let you go, I know we've been talking about the president's promises. But with your truth-o-meter, are you going to be doing anything about keeping track of Congress this year?
M: Yeah, and that's another change on PolitiFact. We decided that the truth-o-meter had worked so well during the campaign that we should bring it to Washington. And so we are going to be checking members of Congress, people who testify before Congress. And we're hoping to do the same thing we did in the campaign, which is just sort of bring the truth to politics.
HANSEN: Bill Adair is the editor of PolitiFact.com. Thanks for coming in.
M: Thanks, Liane.
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