Despite his apology, President Obama's false promise – wrongly pledging that all Americans who like their health insurance can keep it under his new health care law – has undermined his credibility so much that it can be compared with other credibility-shattering events that hurt the last four of his predecessors.
One was the infamous Iran-Contra scandal in which Ronald Reagan's administration traded arms for hostages in the Middle East – something that Reagan said he would never do. Many Americans felt that Reagan had broken faith with them. This scandal also involved sending profits from the arms sale to assist anti-Marxist rebel in Nicaragua, support that Congress had forbidden.
Then there was the famous broken promise that badly damaged George H.W. Bush – his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge from his successful 1988 presidential campaign. As president, he broke that promise as part of a big budget deal, outraging many of his supporters, especially anti-tax conservatives. And his loss of credibility was an important reason he lost his re-election bid in 1992.
Next came Bill Clinton's loss of credibility in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Clinton denied under oath and in statements to the country that he ever had sexual relations with the former White House intern. These denials proved to be false. Clinton was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate in a drama that squandered a year of his presidency.
And George W. Bush lost credibility as a crisis manager when he and his administration botched the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. His reputation never recovered. Bush also lost credibility when the war with Iraq went sour on his watch and when some of his original justifications for the war proved erroneous.
The Obama administration's mishandling of the health care law appears to be a big reason for the president's current credibility woes. The latest Quinnipiac poll finds that for the first time a majority of Americans – 52 percent – say Obama is not honest and trustworthy. And only 39 percent approve of the job he's doing, according to Quinnipiac.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.