When CNBC's John Harwood reminded Obama of that statement in a recent interview, the president clung to the hope that "the majority of Republicans around the country" want to work with him. But he acknowledged that doesn't seem to include Republicans in Washington. Claiming, "I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican Party," he added, "Am I exasperated? Absolutely, I'm exasperated."
This, after all, is a president who thought he would be able to avoid most second-term traps. Instead, Obama has suffered through one of the most daunting rollouts ever for the second half of a presidency. His troubles began less than 24 hours after his victory speech, when he learned that CIA Director David Petraeus was quitting because of an extramarital affair. Before the month was out, the Republican-led investigations into Benghazi gained steam, with the controversy claiming its biggest victim only five weeks after the election when Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of State.
While this was developing, Obama was engaged in fiscal-cliff battles with Republicans, securing a victory on higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans but allowing the GOP to lock in the bulk of the Bush-era tax cuts. And, as a backdrop to the Washington infighting, on the day after Rice's withdrawal, a gunman shocked the nation by killing 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The new year brought more bad news for the president. Instead of going for immigration reform as his top legislative priority, he squandered much of his political capital on a doomed effort to enact gun restrictions. In March and April, House Republicans battered him on Benghazi. In May, he learned that the Internal Revenue Service had inappropriately monitored conservative groups, putting him on the defensive. At the same time, he came under fire for Justice Department investigations of journalists.
In June, Edward Snowden started leaking highly sensitive and embarrassing National Security Agency documents. By July, Snowden was demanding asylum in Russia, leading Obama to cancel a planned summit with Vladimir Putin at the precise time he was looking to the Russian president to bail him out of a no-win battle with Congress over Syria. It was also in June that the White House had to acknowledge that Syria had crossed Obama's "red line" and used chemical weapons. That led to a request to use military force that seemed doomed before Putin stepped in.
Obama's annus horribilis wasn't over, of course. Still to come was the badly botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a mess still awaiting a fix. The result, on the one-year anniversary of his reelection, is that Obama finds himself near a personal low point in his approval ratings. Gallup's daily tracking poll released Tuesday had him at 39 percent approval, only 1 point above his worst showing, in October 2011. In the past 60 years, only Richard Nixon (29 percent) and George W. Bush (38 percent) had lower ratings a year after their reelection. (Ronald Reagan was at 64 percent, Bill Clinton at 60, and Dwight Eisenhower at 58.)