Commentary: With politicians, it's what they do that really matters most

The Charlotte ObserverFebruary 19, 2012 

In 1994, when she was running for a seat in the U.S. House, Sue Myrick pledged to serve no more than three terms. She announced Tuesday that she won't run for re-election and will leave Congress after completing her current term - her ninth.

You might have noticed that nine is more than three.

In 2010, after a Supreme Court decision led to the creation of super PACs - fundraising groups that can hoover up unlimited political donations - President Obama called them "a threat to democracy." Last week his campaign started encouraging big donors to start funneling money toward a pro-Obama super PAC.

You might have noticed that this is not exactly consistent.

Which brings us to two points that need to be remembered every election year: One, politicians say a lot of things. Two, it's not what they say, it's what they do.

The whole notion of political promises, especially for a presidential candidate, is silly to begin with. Running a country is 3-D chess. It's important to hold onto values and principles, but the needs of the moment can force a president to go against them. That makes sense. Sticking to a theoretical pledge doesn't.

It doesn't help when politicians say things they know they can't do.

Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner, has promised to repeal "Obamacare" - the president's health-care plan - on Day One of a Romney presidency. It's a little odd that he'd want to, seeing as how it's so similar to the plan Romney created when he was governor of Massachusetts.

But set that aside. It's not possible to repeal a national health care plan in one day. Regulations have to be overturned, funding has to be cut and at least some of that would wind up in court.

It would take months, if not years, to get rid of Obamacare. Romney knows that.

And yet he keeps saying what he says.

Myrick's tango with term limits is more complicated.

Back in '94, she campaigned on the promise to serve no more than six two-year terms. Later, she signed the pledge to serve no more than three. She signed the GOP's Contract With America, which called for a constitutional amendment on term limits.

She voted for term-limit bills that didn't make it through Congress. But when she had a chance to term-limit herself, she decided to keep running.

Myrick hasn't commented publicly about termlimits, or anything else, since the Facebook post where she announced she's not running again. But clearly, at some point, she decided it made more sense for her to stay in Congress than go home.

And clearly Obama has decided it makes more sense to bless the super PAC than hold to his beliefs and get outspent in the election.

Maybe, by this point, most voters put all this stuff through a filter. We know there's a gap between what politicians say and what they actually do.

Still, for the sake of truth, it would be refreshing to hear a candidate say two words that rarely get heard in a campaign:

I'll try.

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