WASHINGTON - It wasn't exactly a wonderful 2013 for President Obama -one commentator dubbed it "the worst year in Washington" - but the past12 months have produced their share of memorable moments.
Betweenhis two oaths of office in January and the now-famous "selfie" snappedin December, Obama's eventful 2013 revolved around the year's biggestissues: health care, the government shutdown, the Boston Marathonbombings, gun control, allegations against the Internal Revenue Service,a confrontation with Syria, a new opening to Iran, and near-constantpolarization of Republicans and Democrats.
Among the highlights:
1. Backing away from the "fiscal cliff"
Obamapulled a late night on the very first day of the year, pledging to signa last-minute congressional bill to head off the so-called fiscalcliff, a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that would otherwise havekicked in automatically, deflating the economy. Appearing in the WhiteHouse press briefing room at 11:20 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2013, Obama talkedabout remaining economic challenges.
"The sum total of all thebudget agreements we've reached so far proves that there is a pathforward, that it is possible if we focus not on our politics but onwhat's right for the country. And the one thing that I think, hopefully,in the new year we'll focus on is seeing if we can put a package likethis together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship,not scare the heck out of folks quite as much."
2. Two oaths
Likepredecessors facing the same situation, Obama opted for a privateswearing-in on the actual Inauguration Day - Jan. 20 - because it fellon a Sunday. Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts repeated the oath in apublic ceremony on Monday, Jan. 21, after which the president deliveredan inaugural address that decried political partisanship.
"Progressdoes not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role ofgovernment for all time - but it does require us to act in our time. Fornow decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannotmistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics,or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that ourwork will be imperfect."
3. "A shameful day"
Thepresident flashed some public anger on April 17, the day SenateRepublicans blocked a vote on proposed gun-control measures a littlemore than four months after the mass shooting at an elementary school inNewtown, Conn.
"If action by Congress could have saved oneperson, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand ... we had anobligation to try. And this legislation met that test. And too manysenators failed theirs. ... All in all, this was a pretty shameful day forWashington."
Anemergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo, in thecowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair after he was injured in oneof two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.(Photo: Charles Krupa, AP)
4. Boston Marathon bombings
Afterthe capture of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings - following atense manhunt that included the death of another suspect - Obamaappeared in the briefing room shortly after 10 p.m. on April 19 topraise law enforcement, and the spirit of Boston. Referring to theperpetrators, Obama said:
"Whatever they thought they couldultimately achieve, they've already failed. They failed because thepeople of Boston refused to be intimidated. They failed because, asAmericans, we refused to be terrorized. They failed because we will notwaver from the character and the compassion and the values that defineus as a country."
President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan conduct a joint press conference, during a rain shower in May.(Photo: Mandel Nigan, AFP/Getty Images)
5. Here comes the rain again
Ina White House Rose Garden press conference with Turkish Prime MinisterRecep Tayyip Erdogan on May 16, Obama took a question about claims thatthe Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups.
"Itis just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanshipor ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws," he said.
(Thepresident also generated a memorable set of pictures as he asked a pairof Marines to hold umbrellas over him and Erdogan as rain fell.)
6. Defending the NSA
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden(Photo: AP)
Inthe wake of news reports about the reach of National Security Agencysurveillance programs - based on disclosures by NSA contractor EdwardSnowden - Obama discussed the once-secret spy efforts while meeting withreporters during a trip to California on June 7.
"I think it'simportant to recognize that you can't have 100% security and also thenhave 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We're going to have to makesome choices as a society," he said.
In Los Angeles, people walk in a silent protest in April to demand justice for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.(Photo: David McNew, Getty Images)
7. "Trayvon could have been me"
Obamamade a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room on July 19,six days after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in theshooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The nation's firstAfrican-American president spoke emotionally about criticism of theverdict.
"You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I saidthat this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is TrayvonMartin could have been me 35 years ago. ... I think it's important torecognize that the African- American community is looking at this issuethrough a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away."
PresidentObama participates in a bilateral meeting with Russia's PresidentVladimir Putin during the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June.(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
8. Tension with Putin
Relationswith Russia were rocky throughout year, especially after Russia'sdecision to grant political asylum to Snowden. Obama memorably discussedhis relationship with President Vladimir Putin during a news conferenceAug 9.
"I don't have a bad personal relationship with Putin. ... Iknow the press likes to focus on body language and he's got that kindof slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. Butthe truth is, is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimesit's very productive."
9. Storm over Egypt
Turmoil inEgypt - including a military takeover of the government that Obama andaides refused to call "a coup" - prompted the president on Aug. 15 toannounce a slight cutback in U.S. assistance. Obama made the statementas he and his family vacationed on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
"Whilewe want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditionalcooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed inthe streets and rights are being rolled back," he said.
Supportersof Syrian President Bashar Assad take part in a demonstration in frontof the White House, urging the U.S. not to attack Syria.(Photo: Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images)
10. Standoff with Syria
Amidreports he was ready to authorize strikes against Syrian PresidentBashar Assad's government over the use of chemical weapons againstanti-government rebels, Obama stunned observers with an Aug. 31announcement that he would seek authorization from Congress for militaryaction.
"I've long believed that our power is rooted not just inour military might, but in our example as a government of the people, bythe people, and for the people. And that's why ... I will seekauthorization for the use of force from the American people'srepresentatives in Congress."
(In September, Obama would embrace a Russia-brokered deal in which Syria would agree to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles.)
Activistsgather during a rally on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the WhiteHouse in response to President Obama and Iranian President HassanRouhani phone conversation in September, the first direct communicationbetween the leaders of the two nations since 1979.(Photo: Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images)
11. Talking with Iran
OnSept. 27, in another surprise appearance in the White House briefingroom, Obama announced he had just spoken by phone with Iranian PresidentHassan Rouhani - the first such high-level contact with Iran in morethan three decades.
"The very fact that this was the firstcommunication between an American and Iranian president since 1979underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it alsoindicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history."
12. Government shutdown
Normallypacked with visitors and tourists, the U.S. Capitol Rotunda is empty asthe government shutdown enters a second week in October.(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
"Atmidnight last night, for the first time in 17 years, Republicans inCongress chose to shut down the federal government. Let me be morespecific: One faction, of one party, in one house of Congress, in onebranch of government, shut down major parts of the government - allbecause they didn't like one law."
13. Apologies for health care
PresidentObama pauses to rub his eye as he speaks about his signature healthcare law and apologizes for the troubled roll-out during a pressbriefing in November.(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
"Andthe American people - those who got cancellation notices - do deserveand have received an apology from me. ... But I make no apologies for ustaking this on because somebody, sooner or later, had to do it. I domake apologies for not having executed better over the last severalmonths. ... And that's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on thishealth care law."
14. Talking with Iran, part 2
Lateon a Saturday night, Nov. 23, Obama announced a six-month agreement withIran in which Tehran agrees to limit parts of its nuclear program inexchange for a loosening of economic sanctions by the U.S. and itallies. The parties are now talking about a long-term deal.
"Ihave a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differencespeacefully, rather than rush towards conflict," he said. "Today, we havea real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, andI believe we must test it."
PresidentObama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a selfiepicture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt during thememorial service of South African former president Nelson Mandela.(Photo: Roberto Schmidt, AFP/Getty Images)
15. The handshake, the "selfie" and the Nelson Mandela memorial
Obamahad a relatively short but eventful trip to South Africa for the NelsonMandela memorial service on Dec. 10. He spurred debate when he shookhands with Cuban President Raúl Castro, one of the few U.S.-Cubancontacts since Fidel Castro's revolution more than a half-century ago.He also participated in a "selfie" photo with British Prime MinisterDavid Cameron and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt thatwent viral. The president also paid tribute to Mandela, the SouthAfrican freedom fighter.
"Mandela taught us the power of action,but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason andarguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but alsothose who you don't agree with. He understood ideas cannot be containedby prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper's bullet."