The year is thankfully almost over, so it’s time to look back on the highlights and lowlifes of 2013:
The year started out looking hopeful for President Obama. Coming off his reelection victory and his success in the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, it seemed like Congress was poised to pass gun control legislation and comprehensive immigration reform before the end of the year. But here we are in December and it looks like gun control is DOA and immigration reform is as distant as ever.
In February, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he became the first pope in centuries to resign from the papacy. His successor, Pope Francis, has put a new face on the Catholicism and turned the Church towards a more pastoral mindset. The humble pontiff dresses plainly and not only speaks of helping the poor and the weak, but he practices what he preaches as well. Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Francis has shaken up the Vatican and looks to be a dynamic force for change in the years to come.
The first major terrorist attack in the US since 9/11 hit Boston in mid-April, when two Chechen brothers bombed the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and more than a hundred more were injured in the two blasts, which set off a manhunt which resulted in the death of one suspect and the televised capture of the nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The surviving brother’s good looks and youthful appearance has attracted a small legion of “fans” and even put him on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, a first for a bombing suspect.
June saw the leaking of classified NSA documents by Edward Snowden which showed the full extent of the agency’s data collection program, which we learned targets nearly all Americans. This sparked a national debate on the balance between security and liberty while Snowden fled from the US to Hong Kong before finally ending up in Moscow, where the Russians are refusing to extradite him.
The George Zimmerman murder trial, which captivated the nation and brought up uncomfortable questions about race in America, came to a dramatic conclusion in July when Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. Like the OJ Simpson trial more than 15 years earlier, this case was a painful reminder that the wounds of centuries of racial discrimination still remain even 50 years after the demise of Jim Crow.
On August 21st, the Syrian regime conducted the largest chemical weapons attack in 25 years when it gassed more than a thousand people in the capital of Damascus. The Syrian Civil War has been raging for almost three years and during that time more than 100,000 people have been killed in the fighting. With this new attack, the “red line” imposed by President Obama had been cross and the US was brought to the brink of launching retaliatory strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. However, a last minute deal brokered by the Russians allowed the Syrian regime to voluntarily destroy its remaining chemical weapon stockpiles under international supervision, thus staving off a military intervention by the United States.
Of course, October wasn’t kind to the congressional GOP either. The same day as the Obamacare website’s ignominious start, the failure of Republicans and Democrats to come to a budget deal resulted in a government shutdown that lasted more than two weeks. Conservatives were adamantly opposed to reopening the government unless Obamacare was repealed or at least the individual mandate was delayed. However, the Democrats and the Obama Administration did not budge and eventually the GOP was forced to reopen the government on intense public pressure. During the shutdown the GOP saw its poll numbers decline significantly to the point where the Republican majority in the House of Representatives was in jeopardy. Of course, that lasted a few weeks until….
The role out of Healthcare.gov on October 1st was nothing short of a complete disaster for the Obama administration, with millions of visitors to the website unable to access the online health insurance marketplaces. These issues plagued the site for months and it wasn’t until December that most of the kinks were worked out. As a result the goal of 3 million enrollments by the end of the year was missed, with current estimates showing that only 1.1 million people had bought health insurance through Healthcare.gov. The healthcare troubles took a deep toll on President Obama’s approval ratings and the month of November saw the GOP reverse the losses from the government shutdown and then some.
With both parties bruised after the past few months, December saw the rare occurrence of compromise with the adoption of a two-year budget agreement that would stave off the threat of another shutdown until at least 2015. With this agreement it will be the first December in recent memory without a budget crisis, much to the chagrin of the DC media.
2013 was a banner year for gay rights, with the number of states permitting same-sex marriage doubling from 9 to 18. The Supreme Court struck down DOMA and paved the way for gay couples to receive federal marriage benefits. Public support for marriage equality continued its rise in 2013 and now more than 55% of the country support the right of same-sex couple to wed.
In 2013 lines were blurred, Pharrell got lucky (twice), glutes were twerked, and Miley Cyrus drove a wrecking ball through her good-girl Disney image. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford showed the world that crack isn’t always whack and even our mild-mannered neighbors to the north know how to party hard. Anthony Weiner almost became the mayor of New York City, only to be thwarted by his inability to (once again) keep it in his pants. Carlos Danger wasn’t the hero New York needed, but the one it deserved.
So what’s on the horizon for 2014? It’s going to be a big year with the Olympics in February, World Cup in June, a Scottish vote on independence in September, the US midterms elections in November, and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in December.
So here’s to 2013 and a very happy New Year to all!