Agence France-Presse

18 reasons this was Obama's worst year yet

US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, Dec. 3, 2013.
Credit: Brendan Smialowski

US President Barack Obama gave an end-of-year press conference Friday, and it likely — much like his entire year — didn't go as he planned.

After brief opening remarks, the president's very first question came from Julie Pace of the Associated Press. "Has this been the worst year of your presidency?" she asked. It all went downhill from there.

Truth is, it has been a rough year for Obama, whether you support him or not. Here's a look at the worst of the worst.


1. Obama's approval rating is worse than George W. Bush's was

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Several different polling groups this week put Obama's approval rating between 40 and 43 percent. At one point in November, Gallop said it dipped below 40 percent. By comparison, at the end of five years in office, George W. Bush was polling around 47 percent.


2. Obama set a "red line" for intervention in Syria, then backed away from it

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Obama said in a speech on Sept. 4 that "a red line" for intervention in Syria would be the movement and use of chemical weapons. Then, after chemical weapons were moved and used in Syria, Obama stopped short of intervention, partly because Russia siezed on a new plan — jokingly floated by Secretary of State John Kerry — to get approval from Syria to destroy it's chemical weapons. Syria agreed and the plan is now underway. The whole thing was kind of embarassing for Obama, but probably for the best — at least as far as peace is concerned — in the end.


3. The National Security Agency monstrosity is as bad as it gets

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When former NSA security analyst Edward Snowden blew the top off the agency's habit of spying — rather intrusively — on American citizens, and the rest of the world, it unleashed for Obama a bottomless listicle of bad news unto itself. Not only was it the worst leak since Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, it made Americans on both the right and left furious. It also hurt relations with dozens of countries and, so far, the United States has been unable to catch Snowden, who is leaking more and more on a near daily basis. Also, Angela Merkel is really, really mad. And so is Brazil. Seriously, everyone's mad.


4. The whole health care debacle

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Obama won the bitter health care battle, more or less. But then his administration completely screwed up the new plan's triumphant rollout.


5. Oh, right, the government shut down for 16 days

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The US government, in all its fabulous glory, the leader of the free world, the example to which all other governments aspire, shut down completely on Oct. 1 because no one could agree on a budget for next year. This had all manner of ill-effects for government employees and the country as a whole. There's any number of people to blame for this, but it sure contributed to Obama's really bad year.


6. The government secretely stole phone records from journalists

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The US Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. The news cooperative called it a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. And they were right. Another blow for the freedom of the press and what not.


7. The IRS targeted conservative campaign groups

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This caused the requisite amout of outrage from the country's conservatives, and briefly united them with Jon Stewart. Briefly. The IRS revealed that it had targeted political groups that applied for tax-exempt status for closer scrutiny based on their names or political themes, and they all happened to be conservative.


8. The Afghan president won't do what the US wants him to do

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But he will cooperate with Iran! Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been propped up by the United States for years, signed a "friendship and cooperation" deal with Iran but can't seem to find the willpower to do the same with the United States. The United States wants a security deal in place that allows a number of US troops to remain in Afghanistan. But Karzai (and Iran for that matter) aren't particularly keen on having any foreign troops stay in the country.


9. His speech at Mandela's memorial was completely overshadowed by something stupid

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Obama actually gave a pretty great speech at Nelson Mandela's memorial. But no one remembers it because Obama also took a goofy selfie with the British and Dutch prime ministers. It's safe to say the undue attention to the selfie was really undue. But the fact remains, no one remembers the speech. It really sucks to be Obama these days.


10. Income inequality is at its worst since the Great Depression

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The Census Bureau publishes the Gini Index, the official measure of income inequality. And that index has climbed every year Obama has been in office. It's now at its worst since the Great Depression and the gap is only growing.


11. Derek Rose is out for the season

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This is arguably worse for Derek Rose than it is for Obama. But as a Chicago Bulls fan, it definitely sucks for Obama too. Chicago's chances to get back to the championship are almost certainly nill now. Even worse, Obama might have to shake the hand of Lebron James yet again next year. Poor, poor man.


12. The drone war drones on and in a really bad way

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There's a growing chorus of Americans and others who are questioning the efficacy of the drone war, which Obama has championed. The belief is, increasingly, that for every terrorist a drone kills, a new terrorist is born. And for every civilian that is killed, and there are thousands of them, many more terrorists are created. This idea was brought quite starkly to the fore recently, when the US accidentally bombed a wedding party in Yemen, killing 17 people.


13. Obama's made little progress on any number of agenda items

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Obama has made little progress on immigration reform, a minimum wage increase, a jobs program, or even gun control, which should have been easy after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut killed 20 children, six adults and one shooter.


14. Obama's half brother is on a book tour revealing all manner of gossip

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Apparently Obama is even having family problems. He isn't really talking to his half brother, Mark Obama Ndesandjo. “Right now it's cold and I think part of the reason is because of my writing. My writing has alienated some people in my family,” Ndesandjo told the AP. "I hope that my brother and I can really hug each other after he's president and we can be a family again.”


15. Despite promises aplenty, Obama still hasn't been able to close Guantanamo Bay

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"The Guantanamo facility continues to drain our resources and harm our standing in the world," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said as recently as November. Yet it remains


16. He mixed up Star Wars and Star Trek, which felt like the worst thing he did all year

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During a press conference on the sequester in March, Obama said: "I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right."

Jedi is Star Wars, mind meld is Star Trek. Twitter, Reddit and just about everyone else immediately jumped all over the comment. Kind of like at Mandela's memorial, it's not clear if Obama said anything else after that.


17. He's had a hell of a time getting his nominations approved

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There was the whole Larry Summers for Federal Reserve chairman debacle, and many other failed nominations during the last year. On the bright side, perhaps, all the difficulty getting his nominations past Republican blocks led to historic filibuster reforms.


18. Even Obama's cute dog can't rescue this public relations nightmare

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Sunny, the Obama family's adorable new puppy, earlier this month knocked down a 2-year-old girl who was visiting the White House for a ceremonial unveiling of holiday decorations. I mean, seriously? Actually, the girl just tripped (see for yourself). But the video went viral and the damage was done. For Obama this year, there was just no winning. No winning at all.

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