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Obama's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year

By Nancy Benac

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 20 2010 11:36 a.m. MST

House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor told Obama in a letter: "'Bipartisanship' is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support."

MARCH

Unemployment rate: 9.7 percent. Presidential approval rating: 53 percent. Congressional approval: 22 percent.

It was a month of passion and poison, a cry of "baby killer" from the House floor, roiling tea party protests, ugly shouts at lawmakers and sometimes by them. In the fierce maneuvering for a health care law, Democrats rained favors in back rooms to placate deep-pocketed special interests and wavering lawmakers. Spring arrived like streaks of mud on the carpet.

It was a mess.

And it placed Obama squarely in the history books as the president who achieved what Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton could not — a path to nearly universal health care. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, despised insurance company practices would be forbidden and Americans would finally get the help they need to afford health insurance as well as an IRS-enforced mandate to obtain it.

"We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things," Obama declared after the crucial House vote late the night of March 21.

Boehner steamed from the House floor in the final throes of debate. "Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability, without back-room deals?" Boehner demanded. "Hell, no you can't!"

Obama summoned exhausted aides to the Truman Balcony in the midnight hour for champagne.

"Fired up! Ready to go!" Democrats exulted at the signing two days later. Vice President Joe Biden remarked to the president, a little too close to the microphone, "This is a big (expletive deleted) deal."

Obama took his victory on the road. In Iowa he dared Republicans to try to repeal the law. You could say he taunted them.

"Go for it," he said. "Be my guest."

"If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I don't believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver's seat."

APRIL:

Unemployment rate: 9.9 percent. Presidential approval rating: 49 percent. Congressional approval: 28 percent.

At first, it was just another tragic accident. On April 20, an explosion ripped through the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 crewmen and injuring 17 as the massive structure sank into the Gulf of Mexico.

Four days later, oil was found leaking nearly a mile below the surface.

Another circumstance had forced itself upon the presidency and the nation.

MAY

Unemployment rate: 9.7 percent. Presidential approval rating: 49 percent. Congressional approval: 28 percent.

The oil slick was massive and growing. Americans were becoming conversant with terms like blowout preventer, static kill and top kill. A live video feed from the ocean floor constantly reminded Americans that the government and the industry could not staunch a disaster unfolding before everyone's eyes.

"This man is working hard," Michelle Obama told a meeting of Democratic women early in the month.

"Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?" Malia Obama asked her father late in the month.

In Utah, the tea party movement unseated Republican Sen. Bob Bennett at a state convention, signaling to both parties that a new political force was in play. The conservative grass-roots activists scored a succession of upsets in Republican primaries from Alaska to Florida. But could those people win widely in a general election? That was the burning question for the fall.

GM, rescued by government, reported its first quarterly profit since 2007.

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