The winners of the 2013 underachiever awards

The Washington PostDecember 20, 2013 

President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had their annus horribilis. Here are 10 others who grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory this year:

Anti-gay-marriage forces.They lost at the Supreme Court and in the court of public opinion, even among conservatives.

The Virginia GOP. It lost the governorship and two other statewide races, and it doesn’t have a viable opponent for Sen. Mark Warner, who is up for re-election in 2014. Virginia has shifted from red to purple, but if the state party keeps backing ultra conservatives, the Commonwealth will become solidly blue.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s leader used to be Obama’s BFF and a cagey diplomat playing NATO and the Arab world against each other. He has become a casualty in the Syrian civil war as refugees pour over the border, and his attacks this summer on domestic dissenters backfired.

The Obama foreign policy team.Chuck Hagel is a non-entity at the Pentagon. National security adviser Susan Rice doesn’t seem to be in charge of much. Secretary of State John Kerry obsesses on the dead “peace process” and seems bent on frittering away leverage over Iran. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, who must cheerlead for our horrendous Syria policy, could have made a difference but hasn’t.

The National Security Agency. It does essential work, but it lost in a federal court this week and has done a poor job defending its activities.

Anti-immigration forces. A comprehensive immigration bill passed the Senate. Public opinion remains favorable toward “earned citizenship.”

Senate Democrats. They’ve been snared in the “lie of the year” and have don’t know how to distance themselves from Obama without offending the base.

The professional right-wing attack machine.Its list of gaffes, defeats and fumbles include the government shutdown; controversies enveloping the Heritage Foundation; the plunge in poll ratings for GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Ky., and Ted Cruz, Texas; the decision by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to flee the obstructionists in favor of more productive policy pursuits; the success in attacking Obamacare (the strategy preference of those who opposed the shutdown); the revival of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and the engagement of moderate Republicans determined to save the GOP from the clutches of the far right. The far right may be in worse shape than the president; its polling is certainly worse.

MSNBC.Martin Bashir resigned, its ratings are in steep decline and its most memorable presidential interview was a fawn-a-thon by Chris Matthews.

Proponents of big government. Advocates of limited government should be grateful for the administration’s seminar in government incompetence and the dangers of overreach.

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