- GOP may change presidential nominee process
- GOP, Democrats can't agree on Benghazi investigation
- Boehner to appoint select Benghazi committee
- Retired justice proposes changes to Constitution
- Obamacare under attack as conservatives eye 2016
- US Senator joins critics of federal cattle roundup
- $172 million in taxpayer dollars spent on penis pumps?
- Official: Obama to push for more overtime pay
- US warns Russia over rising Ukraine tension
- Governors: 'Obamacare' here to stay
- Venezuelan voices on the troubles in their country
- Ukraine's Tymoshenko speaks to protesters
- Gay marriage issue flares in Kentucky Senate race
- Ryan says he is keeping his options open for 2016
- Applications for jobless benefits rise to 339K
- White House: Stimulus bill was good for economy
- Democrats seek to turn stand on issues into votes
- AG urges restoring voting rights to ex-inmates
- Employers scrutinize latest health care concession
- A fresh start for Hillary Clinton and liberals?
- US easing immigration rule for terrorist support
- Biden: No obvious reason not to run in 2016
- Clinton warns new Iran sanctions could upend talks
- Obama: Job training must reflect changing economy
- Democratic push to raise minimum wage a longshot
- Obama plans executive action on jobs, retirement security
- Poll: People see Obama as nice guy, so-so prez
- Report: NSA maps pathway into computers
- House ready to OK government-wide $1.1T budget
- Majority of Congress members now millionaires
- Unemployment benefits bill clears hurdle
- Poll: Americans have little faith in government
- Light bulb ban set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014
- Obama presidency beset by fits, starts in year 5
- American abducted in Pakistan calls for US help
- NSA leaker: Mission is already accomplished
- Obama focuses on a tough year's ups, not its downs
- Mayor John Cranley: We are going to have a streetcar
- Clinton will decide on 2016 sometime next year
- Improving US economy leads Fed to ease stimulus
- White House task force urges limit on NSA snooping
- Judge: NSA program is likely unconstitutional
- Obama to meet with tech CEOs amid NSA concerns
- Wastebook report singles out $30B in federal spending
- Debate on plane phone calls moves on, gets bigger
- Budget deal to cut deficit over 10 years
- Legal weed sales will be spotty in Colorado
- A look at the congressional budget agreement
- Senate holds talkathon over Obama nominees
- How Volcker Rule would limit banks risky bets
- Budget deal aims to avert another shutdown
- Boehner to Run for Re-Election
- State Senator Eric Kearney Resigns from Democratic Ticket
- President and First Lady Depart for South Africa
- Tech giants call for controls on gov't snooping
- Obama's fixer-upper website races to catch up
- Mayor-Elect Nominates Permanent City Manager
- Governor Kasich Leads Challenger FitzGerald in Poll
- Council Member Waives Right to Recount, Saves Taxpayers Thousands
- Cranley Announces Choice for Vice-Mayor
- FitzGerald & Kearney Make Official Ohio Governor's Race Announcement
- 'Stand Your Ground' Proposal Clears Ohio House
- Father of Congressman on Leave Speaks Out About Family Issues
- Florida Congressman Pleads Guilty After Cocaine Arrest
- Ohio House Considers "Stand Your Ground" Gun Bill
- President's Approval Rate Lowest of his Presidency
- Congressman and Cincinnati Native Busted on Drug Charges
- Results Mixed for School Districts
- Property Tax Cut or Sales Tax Hike in Hamilton County
- Quinlivan Talks About Council Defeat
- Immigration Reform: House Will Not Talk on Senate-Passed Bill
- Cranley Confirms: City Manager Dohoney to Resign by December 1st
- Cranley: I Have Not Asked City Manager to Resign
- Ohio Legislator Proposes Pay Increase for Thanksgiving Workers
- McConnell promotes alternative to 'Obamacare'
- Obama: 'I'm sorry' Americans are losing insurance
- Critics: Some Unions Could Get Break From Fees
- Mapping Cranley's Victory
- Election Winners and Losers in the 2013 Campaign
- Mayor-Elect Outlines Vision for City
- High court wrestles with prayer in government
- Mapping the Votes in the Cincinnati Mayor's Race
- Maine Woman Beats Husband in Election
- Cincinnati School Board Race
- Issue 4: Cincinnati Pension Reform
- Issue 1: Hamilton County Library Levy Passes
- Issue 2: Hamilton County Zoo Levy Passes
- Cincinnati Reacts to Mayoral Race
- Race Results for Cincinnati City Council
- Qualls Loses to Cranley to Become Cincinnati's 69th Mayor
- John Cranley Speaks After Being Elected Mayor of Cincinnati
- Warren County Campaign on Candidates and Deciding Issues
- Voters Decide Oak Hills School Levy
- Qualls and Cranley Make Last Minute Campaign Push
- Federal Appeals Court Will Hear Arguments on Liquor Ban
- #YourVoice2013 Complete Election Coverage
- Most Watched Polls Across America
- Lakota Tries to Pass Levy After Three Defeats
- Qualls and Cranley Face off in Mayoral Race
- Voters Decide Zoo and Library Renewal Projects
- Light Voter Turnout this Election Day
- Cincinnati's Mayoral Candidates Vote
- Couple Seeking Same-Sex Divorce in Kentucky
- Retirements Increase Due to Issue 4
- Low Turnout Expected on Election Day
- Obamacare: Memo reveals health care adviser warned W.H. was losing control 3 years ago
- Birth Control Mandate Against Some Religions
- Dirty Politics in Trustees Race Surprising Candidates
- Report: Obama campaign considered replacing Biden with Hillary Clinton
- Sorting Through the Clutter of Tri-State Health Premiums
- President Obama Defends Health Care Law
- Congress Gets Apology for Troubles with Healthcare Website
- Senator Easing Fears Another Shut Down Won't Happen
- Hollywood Attraction to Senate Race
- Database Cleared of Duplicate Voter Registrations
- Government Hires Local Law Firms for Workers
- Waste Watch: Proposed 30% Raises for Elected Officials Raises Questions
- NSA Causes International Outrage
- Issue 4 Pension Reform
- Report: White House stopped phone tapping of foreign leaders this summer
- Ohio Senate Considers Pet Protection Orders
- Should Lawmakers be Drug Tested?
- Advocates hopeful about restoring voting rights to Ky. felons
- City Council and Mayoral Candidates Go At It
- National Security Official Fired over Twitter Account
- Merkel calls Obama to complain about surveillance
- Gay Marriage Activist Dies
- Republican Approval Rates Take a Hit after Shutdown
- Obama addresses widespread health care problems
- Newsmakers, Sunday, October 20th
- Obama to talk about health care signup problems
- AP sources: 476,000 Obamacare applications filed
- Local Man's Political Aspirations Draw Threats
- Results of nearly week-long poll question on government
- Powerful conservative group endorses Matt Bevin
- Ohio governor 'optimistic' on Medicaid expansion
- Ex-House speaker Tom Foley dies at 84
- House Worker Escorted Out After Yelling During Vote
- Federal Workers Back in Business
- President Urges Cooperation as Federal Workers Return to Jobs
- White House: Furloughed Workers Can Return to Work
- Government Shutdown Over
- Obamacare Sign Up Under Way
- Deal reached to avoid default and open government
- Senator: Deal to avoid default and open government
- Furloughed Workers Can Send Creditors a Note from Government
- GOP senator says deal in hand to avoid default
- House Postpones Vote on Bill to Reopen Government
- First Streetcar Tracks Laid- Politics or Construction?
- House GOP floats counter to Senate debt plan
- House GOP Work on Separate Funding Bill
- Senators Closing in on Deal to Reopen Government
- Optimism on Ending Gov. Shutdown?
- No Deal in Government Shutdown
- 20 Sponsors Dropping Boy Scouts
- House GOP, White House Seeking End to Budget Fight
- Boehner's District Feels Pain of Shutdown
- Debt Limit Debate
- Obama Likely to Sign Debt Extension
- President and GOP to Meet over Government Shutdown
- Experts Say History is a Guide to Government Shutdown
- 2013 Cincinnati Mayoral Debate
- Hints of a Truce in Government Shutdown
- Doctor is Audited After Comments on Health Care
- Cincinnati Mayoral Race Preview
Obama presidency beset by fits, starts in year 5
Updated: Monday, December 30 2013, 09:36 AM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It was a moment for Barack Obama to savor.
His second inaugural address over, Obama paused as he strode from the
podium last January, turning back for one last glance across the
expanse of the National Mall, where a supportive throng stood in the
winter chill to witness the launch of his new term.
"I want to take a look, one more time," Obama said quietly. "I'm not going to see this again."
There was so much Obama could not — or did not — see then, as he
opened his second term with a confident call to arms and an expansive
He'd never heard of Edward Snowden, who would lay bare the
government's massive surveillance program. Large-scale use of chemical
weapons in Syria was only a threat. A government shutdown and second
debt crisis seemed improbable. His health care law, the signature
achievement of his presidency, seemed poised to make the leap from
theory to reality.
Obama had campaigned for re-election on the hope that a second term
would bring with it a new spirit of compromise after years of partisan
rancor on Capitol Hill.
"My expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister
after this election, because it will have been such a stark choice,"
Instead, great expectations disappeared in fumbles and failures.
Obama's critics doubled down. Fractured Republicans, tugged to the
right by the tea party, swore off compromise. The president's outreach
to Congress was somewhere between lacking and non-existent. Obama's team
dropped the ball — calamitously — on his health care law. Snowden's
revelations had Democrats and Republicans alike calling for tighter
surveillance rules. Foreign leaders were in a huff — Brazil's president
snubbing the offer of a White House state dinner, Germany's Angela
Merkel incensed that her cell phone calls had been intercepted. The
president's misplaced pledge that people who liked their health plans
would be able to keep them ran into a harsh reality as millions saw
their coverage canceled.
The year ended with a small-bore budget deal that was welcomed as
breath of fresh air, a telling sign of how wildly things had veered off
course in 2013.
White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri called it a
year of "fits and starts" for the president — and predicted better days
"We'll probably come out of 2013 in better shape in terms of Congress
and the White House being able to function together," she said.
Yet Obama's agenda of gun control, immigration reform, a grand budget
bargain and more sits unfulfilled. Obama's job approval and personal
favorability ratings are near the lowest point of his presidency, with
increasing numbers of Americans saying they no longer consider him to be
honest or trustworthy. Abroad, too, positive views of Obama have
slipped, with confidence in him doing the right thing in world affairs
The mantra for the Obama White House has always been to take the long
view. Officials scoff at the "who's up, who's down" churn of
Washington's chattering class and recall with glee Obama's ability to
rebound from moments in his first term when his presidency was declared
But as Obama embarked on his second term, some of his closest outside
advisers warned him that the next four years would have to be
different: He was operating on a shorter leash, and might have just 18
months, perhaps as little as a year, to accomplish big domestic
All Obama needed to do was look to his predecessors to see how
quickly trouble can consume a second term. Richard Nixon resigned.
Ronald Reagan got ensnarled in the Iran-Contra affair. Bill Clinton was
impeached for lying about his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky. And
George W. Bush lost the public's trust through his botched handling of
Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and the unpopular Iraq War.
Obama's team thought it had a strategy for overcoming the second-term
curse. They would make a quick play for stricter gun control measures,
then capitalize on the GOP's post-election anxiety by pressing for an
immigration overhaul and floating the possibility of a big budget deal.
Each of those efforts failed and Obama quickly found himself consumed by an unending series of distractions.
Some were fleeting, like the revelations that the Internal Revenue
Service was applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups. But others
threatened long-term damage to his presidency: the National Security
Agency disclosures and the disastrous rollout of the "Obamacare" health
Some events were beyond Obama's control and his frustration with them
was evident when he fumed in September, during the crisis over Syria:
"I would much rather spend my time talking about how to make sure every
3- and 4-year-old gets a good education than I would spending time
thinking about how I can prevent 3- and 4-year-olds from being subjected
to chemical weapons and nerve gas."
But presidents don't get to pick their crises. And plenty of Obama's
woes were of his own making, raising questions about his competence and
management of the White House.
How could he not have known that his government was spying on the
private communications of friendly world leaders? Why didn't he know his
health care website wouldn't work? How could he have promised over and
over again that Americans could keep their health insurance if they
liked it when his own advisers knew it wasn't that simple?
As a result, the president is ending his fifth year in office in a
"defensive crouch," says presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, and
may have to be content with simply protecting his health care law and
other Democratic-backed programs that Republicans are eager to repeal.
At this point, says Brinkley, "it's really a firewall presidency."
The 2014 midterm elections give Obama his best opportunity to
rebound. But Democrats, who just weeks ago saw an opportunity to retake
the House after Republicans got blamed for the government shutdown, now
fret about the health care law's ongoing problems and may be content to
just keep control of the Senate.
There's a certain irony in Obama's success depending on Congress, a body with whom he has had a lukewarm partnership.
Lawmakers from both parties say Obama doesn't talk to them much, nor
do his aides. Letters go unanswered. Policies come out of the blue.
Social interactions are few.
Both sides wistfully recall the voluble Clinton, who figured out how
to craft deals with Republicans on welfare reform and other agenda items
after the GOP took control of the House and made big gains in the
Senate two years into his presidency.
Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who worked with Obama when he
was a senator and still considers the president a friend, says flatly:
"He's flunked in terms of relations with Congress."
"If you know him personally, he's a very likable person," says
Coburn. "But it's different than with most other presidents in terms of
having relationships with Congress. ... There's a lack of a personal
Of course, the president's tepid relationship with Congress is hardly
his fault alone. The tea party forces that pulled House Republicans to
the right in recent years made it difficult for the GOP to reach
agreement with Democrats on much of anything, and produced the showdown
over the president's health care law that spawned the government
Obama did attempt to improve relations with Republicans earlier this
year, holding a few dinners with GOP lawmakers. His chief of staff,
Denis McDonough, has been widely praised by Republicans for being a
frequent visitor to Capitol Hill.
But some lawmakers say that's as far as the outreach goes. Sen. John
McCain, the Arizona Republican who ran against Obama in 2008 but has
since tried to work with him on immigration and the budget, said no one
from the White House legislative affairs staff has ever called him or
come to his office just to chat.
What does it matter if Obama doesn't buddy up to his former colleagues?
He needs those relationships to advance his agenda in Congress. And
the strained ties with legislators are emblematic of a broader problem
for Obama rooted in his tendency to keep a tight inner circle.
"Instead of going out and talking to his enemies, making friends and
schmoozing, or banging heads together with them or whatever, you can see
that the man is diffident — deeply, deeply diffident about the kinds of
politicking that are necessary to build consensus," says Nigel
Nicholson, a professor at the London Business School who has written a
book about leadership in which Obama is a frequent topic.
The president has been getting plenty of that kind of advice in
recent weeks. Critics called for a sweeping shakeup of his White House
inner circle. Even his allies called for someone — anyone — to be fired
for the health care failures.
Obama has responded in his typically restrained fashion. No one has
lost a job over the massive health care screw-up, though the White House
hasn't ruled that out. And while the president is doing some minor
shuffling in the West Wing, he's largely bringing in people he already
To critics, the limited staff changes smack of a White House that
doesn't fully understand the depths of its problems. But presidential
friend Ron Kirk said they are indicative of Obama's "fairly
dispassionate temperament," which allows him to hold steady in the face
"He understands that overreacting to any one development in the
moment is not the best way to achieve a long-term and stable objective,"
said Kirk, who served as U.S. trade representative in Obama's first
The president's agenda for his sixth year in office is a stark reminder of how little he accomplished in 2013.
Obama plans to make another run at immigration reform. He'll seek to
increase the minimum wage and expand access to early childhood
education, proposals he first outlined in his 2013 State of the Union
address. And he'll look to implement key elements of the climate change
speech he delivered earlier this year, many of which are stagnant.
Foreign policy could be an oasis for the struggling second-term
president. With Russia's help, he turned his public indecision over
attacking Syria into an unexpected agreement to strip President Bashar
Assad of his chemical weapons, though the success of the effort won't be
known for some time and the civil war in Syria rages on. Obama also
authorized daring secret negotiations with Iran, resulting in an interim
nuclear agreement. But even the president says the prospects of getting
a final deal are only 50-50.
In a year-end news conference, the president optimistically predicted that 2014 would be "a breakthrough year for America."
But Obama's dismal standings in the polls suggest he can't count on a
public groundswell to propel his agenda. The heady days of 2009 when
aides boasted of Obama as "the best brand on earth" are long gone.
"We all wear thin with the American people after a while," says
McCain, though he warns against counting out any president with three
years left to govern — particularly this one.
"To count a man of that talent out at this point in time in his administration would be a huge mistake," he says.