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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Waltzing into office five years ago with the media’s shameless aid on a high-school-style campaign pledge of “Hope and Change,” the former community organizer from Chicago spent his last press conference of the year apologizing for everything he’s done wrong — then announcing he’s “eager to skip town” to Hawaii for “a couple days of sleep and sun.” Well, 17, but who’s counting.
One truly has to wonder how the vaunted White House staff of advisers and sycophants came up with the battle plan for Friday’s presser, the last of a terrible year: “Hey, what if he goes out, lists all the things he did wrong, apologizes repeatedly, then promises to do better next year? Anyone? OK, how about he goes out and makes a few balloon animals. C’mon, gimme’ some help, people!”
Sure, he had a compliant press filling the White House briefing room, ready to lob softballs, but still, he’d have to explain a lot: The Obamacare mess, the NSA spying debacle, America’s appeasement of Iran, the gridlock on Capitol Hill that he engendered — the list goes on and on. Perhaps that explains why he was nearly 20 minutes late to his own press conference.
Right at the open, this: “When you take this altogether, has this been the worst year of your presidency?” a reporter asked.
Mr. Obama dodged, blaming Congress for inaction. But then he named two things his administration got exactly right. “We don’t always get attention for it,” he said before citing the “ConnectEd” program and a “manufacturing hub that we set up in Youngstown.” So there, America, it isn’t all bad news.
That, it seems, is the president’s new mantra. “At this point, my goal every single day is just to make sure that I can look back and say we’re delivering something.” Just “something.” Pretty low bar, that.
And that ever-lowering standard seems to apply to everything, including the U.S. government spying on Americans. Asked about how he can justify a program that a federal judge said “had failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata actually stopped an imminent attack,” he countered: “There have not been actual instances where it’s been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data.”
Well, perfect. No one has yet proven the clandestine program that no one knew about has trampled on Americans’ constitutional rights. Good enough!
To the president, it’s all “an exercise”: “I think part of what’s been interesting about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world, some of these boundaries don’t matter any more, and just because we can do something doesn’t mean we necessarily should.” Ya think?
And this: “These are a series of judgment calls that we’re making every single day and that’s a hard job.” Wow.
Then, the press corps’ favorite question: “What do you think has been your biggest mistake?” Easy, the president said. “I think that, hopefully, folks have learned their lesson in terms of brinksmanship, coming out of the government shutdown.”
So the Republican House is his biggest mistake. Yes, it’s those folks who “are thinking actually about plunging us back into the kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis that has done us so much harm over the last couple of years.” Such soul-searching. Well, more than half the country disagrees.
Still, in the end, the president said it’s all good. Or, at least, it will be good — next year.
“I’ve also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that I do better the next day, and that we keep moving forward,” he said.
So rest assured, America. Yes, it’s been a disastrous five years, but the president’s going to “make sure that I do better the next day.” So there’s that. Happy New Year.