Obama Wins WaPo's ‘Worst Year in Washington’

"The damage done to Obama’s brand will linger well beyond this calendar year. There are no second chances in presidential tenures."

Obama bowing his head

The president is racking up the awards as of late. Just last week he secured first-place for PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” with his repeated, bold-faced Keep-Your-Plan falsehood (and which the pseudo-fact-checker had previously deemed “half true”). Now, President Obama can claim the dishonor of winning Chris Cillizza’s uncoveted award for “Worst Year in Washington.”

From great promise to epic disappointment, Obama’s 2013, Cillizza argues, was characterized by “dashed expectations,” a blitzkrieg of scandals, intra-party “slap fights,” and a colossal political flop. Though Cillizza tries to distribute some of the blame to a dysfunctional GOP, the undeniable epic-fail of Obama’s fifth year made him a shoo-in for The Washington Post’s inglorious award.

When historians write the story of Barack Obama’s presidency, 2013 will be his lost year. It opened with great promise and closed with equally great disappointment. In a year that could have been about building his legacy, the president was instead reduced to salvaging the signature accomplishment of his first term.

Cillizza contends that the 2012 victory gave Obama “a mandate to continue in the vein of his first four years, as well as providing a damning assessment of the GOP’s ability to attract any voters other than white men.” Regardless of whether the tepid 2012 election results qualify as a “mandate” or a clear condemnation of the GOP, Cillizza is certainly correct about one thing: Obama royally mucked up all of his political momentum.

Cillizza cites Obama’s nose-diving approval numbers as proof-positive of his conspicuous failings, even painfully admitting that they’ve fallen “all the way down to George-W.-Bush-second-term territory.” The result was a mob of Dems up for reelection in 2014 “fleeing for cover.” Then there was the slew of scandals, followed by the botched rollout of the most ironically named law of the century:

And then there was the Affordable Care Act, the single biggest achievement of the president’s five years in office. The rollout of the federal health insurance exchange, one of the law’s key elements, was a complete failure — even though we didn’t realize it until Republicans reversed course on their own massive political flub and reopened the federal government after a 16-day shutdown. (The GOP’s lack of any coherent strategy may have been the only silver lining in Obama’s year.) On top of that, Obama’s oft-repeated pledge that “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” wasn’t, well, true...

Perhaps the most devastation Obama brought about in 2013 (apart from the damage done to our healthcare system and America’s credibility abroad) was on his own legacy. Cillizza ends his piece admitting that what happened in 2013 will not stay in 2013:

But 2013 is almost gone and with it the president’s best chance for a lasting legacy. The damage done to Obama’s brand will linger well beyond this calendar year. There are no second chances in presidential tenures. Barack Obama, for wasting a year torpedoing your legacy, you had the worst year in Washington. Congrats, or something.

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