Obama: 2014 ‘Needs to Be Year of Action’

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Obama during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 20, 2013.

Updated at 2:40, 2:50, 2:58, 3:11 and 3:21 pm EST

At year’s end, President Barack Obama said today, there is much to praise.

The nation is closer to energy independence, and a million Americans have enrolled in health insurance under his new program, he said. Still, work on the economy remains to be done.

“2014 needs to be a year of action,” he said today.

The president held his final planned news conference of the year today before taking his family to Hawaii tonight for an annual Christmas vacation there. He went for 60 minutes.

He faced reporters in the press briefing room of the White House. He was running on Obama time at the “2 pm” news conference, however. It started at 2:19.

“It’s the most wonderful press conference of the year,” he said with a vacation-minded smile.

For all the year’s problems, the president suggested, the big picture is positive.

“For the first time in two decades, we now produce more oil here at home than we buy for the rest of the world,” he said. Obamacare has held the increase in health-care costs to its lowest rate of increase in 50 years, he said, and tens of thousands are enrolling in health plans each day. “Millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website,” are poised to have health insurance on New Year’s Day.

Today, with his approval rating standing at 41 percent in the CNN poll released today — as in other polls, the lowest point in his presidency —  he was asked if this has been his worst year as president.

”I gotta tell you… that’s not how I think about it.,” Obama told the reporters in the press room. “We have had ups and we have had downs. I think this room has counted 15 near-death experiences.”

“My polls have gone up and down a lot throughout my career,” he said. “If I was interested in polls, I wouldn’t have run for president.”

“I’ve said before, I’ve run my last political race.”

Looking back at decisions he has made, he was asked, what was his biggest mistake this year.

“There’s no doubt that, when it came to the health-care roll-out… the fact is it didn’t happen in the first month, for six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable,” he said. “Since I’m in charge, we screwed it up.”

There weren’t “clear lines of authority,” he said. “I’m going to be making appropriate adjustments.”

“But, having said all that,” he said, “bottom line is we’ve got several million people that are going to have health care that works.”

How about that PolitiFact conclusion that the “Pants on Fire” lie of the year was Obama’s promise that everyone could keep their health care insurance if they wanted.

“Bottom line is that we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of the health-care law and the website… and all aspects of it work better every single day,” he said. “I just want to help as many people as possible feel secure and make sure they don’t go broke when they get sick, and we’re going to keep on doing that.”

There is a lot of work to be done next year, he said. Immigration reform is still possible, he said, once they get past the politics of it.

“The end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year. That’s how I intend to approach it,” Obama said. “I’m sure that I will have even better ideas after a couple days of sleep and sun.”

Asked about his own personal resolution for the year ahead, the president said: “My New Year’s resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps.”

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