The End-of-the-Year Presser: National Journal: "Obama began his year-end press conference with a corny joke and a statement on the economy and Obamacare. But the mood quickly shifted with the first question: 'Was this the worst year of your presidency?' 'If I was interested in polling I wouldn't have run for president,' he responded, adding that he was polling at 70 percent approval when he was in the Senate. It would take more than a pointed question to get this president off his positive talking points. At this point, Obama said, 'my goal every single day is just to make sure that I can look back and say we're delivering something. Not everything, because this is a long haul.' The tone of the questions were downright feisty, pressing the president on the lowness of his polling. 'My question is, do you have any personal regrets?' Ed Henry of Fox News said, for example. It didn't get brighter from there."
"We Screwed It Up": NBC News: "Obama's second term began with grand ambitions to tackle gun control, immigration reform and fiscal agreements. Congress only managed to reach a modest accord on the last of those three issues, and only after a politically bruising government shutdown that extracted a political toll on all of Washington. The troubled launch of HealthCare.gov and other key components of the president's signature health reform law only worsened Obama's second-term blues. Asked what his biggest mistake has been over the past year, Obama fingered the rollout of online insurance portal. He put it bluntly: 'We screwed it up.'"
The Positive Spin: Politico: "More than one million Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the first three weeks of December, including 500,000 through the federal exchange, President Barack Obama announced Friday. The president mentioned the numbers during the opening remarks of his year-end press conference at the White House, and pointed to them as evidence that despite early problems with HealthCare.gov, the process of implementing the health care law is now going more smoothly. 'All told, millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come New Year’s Day,' Obama said."
And on the NSA: Washington Post: "President Obama said Friday that he would review the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance programs over the holiday break and would make a 'pretty definitive statement' in January about possible reforms. Obama gave his clearest signal to date that he may end the NSA’s ability to collect and sift through millions of Americans’ call records, even if some of that capability is preserved through different mechanisms. He signaled that he may end the NSA’s collection and storage of millions of Americans’ phone records and instead require phone companies to hold the data. More broadly, Obama indicated that his views on the viability of the NSA’s surveillance programs have changed significantly since they were publicly revealed in June."
Another Big Victory for Marriage Equality: Salt Lake Tribune: "A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. 'The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,' wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. 'Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.' Shelby’s ruling came just 16 days after he heard arguments in the case and well before his self-imposed deadline to render a decision by Jan. 7, when the next hearing in the matter was to be held."
A Close Call in Colorado: Associated Press: "A week after a student opened fire in the halls of a suburban Denver high school, police in Colorado say they thwarted a similar, but separate plot by two teenagers, one of whom they said idolized mass shooters. Police Chief Charles Glorioso says the department's school resource officer got a tip Thursday that two boys, ages 15 and 16, planned to carry out the attack at Trinidad High School after winter break. Because of the warning, extra security was in place at three Trinidad schools Thursday, the last day of classes before the break. Glorioso said investigators learned the 15-year-old had been bullied and had said he idolized the Columbine High School and Colorado theater shooters. The teens were arrested Friday for allegedly making a credible threat against a school and inciting destruction of life or property. Glorioso, who said the boys planned the attack for about a month and a-half, would not release the details of their plot or how they would carry it out."
Update From India: Reuters: "Indian protesters ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb on Friday, demanding a ban on U.S. goods as officials from the two countries struggled to defuse a row over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York. Police and the Indian franchise of the U.S. chain said no-one was hurt in the attack, which came amid unrelenting rage in India over the arrest and subsequent strip-search of Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud and under-payment of her housekeeper. India has demanded that the charges be dropped against the diplomat and her father threatened to start a fast if U.S. authorities pressed ahead with the case. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret over the case in a phone call to India's national security adviser this week, but U.S. prosecutors have defended the investigation against Khobragade and her treatment."
Travel Safe, Everyone: CBS/AP: "Holiday travelers in the Midwest and in parts East and South were keeping a leery eye Friday on a band of foul weather that stretched across the nation's midsection and that was threatening to mess up opening weekend of one of the year's busiest travel periods. Forecasters were predicting a stew of foul weekend weather, from freezing rain then snow in the north to torrential rain in the Ohio Valley and Appalachia and possibly even tornadoes in parts of the South. The worst of the storm wasn't expected to hit Midwest population centers until Saturday.... The foul weather could cause headaches for the estimated 94.5 million Americans planning to travel by road or air during this holiday season, which runs from Saturday through New Year's Day. Concerns were similar to just a month ago, when a winter storm hit just as people were traveling for Thanksgiving."
That's all for today. See you back here Monday. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.