President Barack Obama predicts 2014 will be a “breakthrough year for America.” That may be a tough goal to reach.
In Washington alone, consider the difficulties: Political gridlock is rampant. Midterm elections are bound to ramp up the partisanship. Republican opposition to virtually anything Obama touches is intense and shows no signs of stopping. And some of the nation’s top legislative priorities — the Affordable Care Act, stronger guidelines on background checks for gun purchases, federal-level immigration reform, for instance — are either wrapped in controversy or going nowhere.
Friday morning, the president held his annual year-end news conference where he offered frank views about his signature legislation, Obamacare, and the controversy over the scope of the National Security Agency’s activities.
On the rollout of Obamacare: “We screwed it up.”
On the NSA: “I have confidence that the NSA is not engaged in domestic surveillance or snooping around, (but) we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence.”
On his polls, which are sagging after the health-care website debacle: “If you’re measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot over the course of my career.”
It’s understandable that Obama, finishing his fifth year in the White House, would try to convey a message of optimism as the new year approaches. Hope is always good.
But despite the faults of the Obama administration — the Obamacare rollout; his failure to adequately sell the American public on the need for health-care reform; its profound lack of transparency and openness — much of 2014’s promise rests in the hands of D.C. lawmakers.
U.S. government is not a one-man show; the Founders saw to that. So Obama enters his sixth year as president needing a combative Congress, particularly the GOP-controlled House, to meet him halfway on issues both thorny and easy to solve.
Recent years give us little of the president’s optimism, even though the economy is slowly improving and the financial markets are riding an extended upswing. Despite the Tea Party’s diminished influence, congressional Republicans seem hell-bent on governing against the president, not for the people. Until that brick wall is breached, Washington will be what it is.