Obama’s Year-End News Conference

Photograph by Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Dec. 18, 2013.

Has this president got something to talk about today, or what?

Never mind Obamacare and the admittedly “fumbled” rollout of the HealthCare.Gov website that only served to confirm the warnings of the Republican opponents of the president’s signature health-care law that the federal government was biting off more than it can administer. The site’s been repaired, but the administration has moved on its own to do what Republicans wanted to do: Delaying aspects of the new law.

Rewind the year’s reel to the theft of state secrets by Edward Snowden, and the initial publications of his documents that began as a volcanic revelation of the reach of the U.S. government’s surveillance. Since then, the continuing flow of information from the fugitive former national security contractor accused of espionage and more exiled in Russia has led to the fullest public reexamination of American intelligence gathering since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 which inspired the escalation in metadata collection. The president ends the year with several dozen recommendations on his desk for limits on the work that the National Security Agency performs. Snowden, who started the year as a criminal, ended it as Time magazine’s No. 2 “Person of the Year.”

There is this and more to talk about today, as the president holds his final news conference of the year, scheduled now for 2 pm EST, before he and his family depart tonight for their annual Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

It’s not only what happened this year that will consume most of the questions for the president whose standing in opinion polls has fallen to the lowest point of his nearly five years in office. It’s also what remains undone: The immigration overhaul that cleared the Senate and is mired in the House, the gun controls the White House pursued in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, schoolhouse slayings over a year ago. The tax reforms that now appear even more elusive with the departure of the Senate’s chief tax writer, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

And there remains that question of executive prowess, with an administration entering its final three years still largely dependent on those who “brung them to the dance.” The arrival of John Podesta, a former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, to serve as senior counsel to the president for a year, is a signal that the Obama White House understands the need for fresh thinking in the West Wing. Yet this is an administration where the people responsible for screwing up — the president’s words — that health-care rollout are still on the clock.

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