The most surprising thing I can say about politics is that trust is one of the vital elements. For a politician, staffer or lobbyist to be effective he must be trusted; his word must be good.
With all the prejudice against politics it may be hard to understand why this is true.
At all times in politics you are dealing with a vast number of people, not just fellow legislators, staffers and lobbyists but donors, supporters and important people of all sorts. Politics is the art of creating coalitions. Coalitions include friends, allies, opponents and enemies. The only glue that can hold such a strange conglomerate together is a common purpose and mutual trust.
When a politician gives his word to another politician, lobbyist or staffer it must be good. It doesn't matter whether the word is a threat, a promise, a commitment or a rejection... everyone else will be operating on the assumption that the statement is trustworthy.
So that leaves two obvious questions: what happens to people who aren't trust worthy and how does trust relate to campaign politics?
A person in politics who is not trustworthy becomes a pariah in the political world. It may pain you to hear this, but Bill Clinton was always known as untrustworthy and to this day he is not trusted by anyone. Clinton had lied to or deceived every member of Congress by the time his impeachment reached the House. I was shocked that not one single Democrat stood up for him in the House and no one used the dozen procedural options available to derail the impeachment.
One of the most famous internal Senate letters in the past decade was from John McCain to junior Senator Obama when Obama had broken a promise to McCain on a vote. McCain laid out the core principle of the Senate: trust. I assume Obama listened. I hope he did.
What about campaign statements? Campaign statements are meaningless. Some politicians try to be honest in their campaigns, many don't; many more try to make statements that are ambiguous and can be read by multiple parties in selective ways.
Within the political circles there is great tolerance for vague or outlandish campaign statements. It doesn't impinge on the requirement for interpersonal trust. Candidate Obama made many statements that threatened important American treaties. Canada checked with his staff to see if Obama was 'just talking campaign talk' and got reassurances that he was.
That is how it works.