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Whew! 2013 is Over

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I thought that the best thing - maybe the only good thing - about 2013 is that it is a prime number.

It is not. There are three prime number factors of 2013: 3, 11, and 61. So, it didn't even have that.

So many people, groups, organizations, and institutions have failed this year that it is difficult to find one that is held by Americans in anything other than what Winston Churchill called "minimum high regard."

In a Gallup poll taken mid-year only three institutions - the military (76%), small business (65%), and the police (57%) - got marks higher than 50% on the question: How much confidence to you have in the following institutions?

Organized religion got a 48, "the presidency" scored 36, and Congress limped in last of the 17 choices with 10 percent.

And that was before September's strategically ill-advised and tactically ill-conducted shutdown fight by Congressional Republicans, or the ill-conceived, designed, and implemented roll-out of Obamacare by the Administration.

House Republicans need to get someone smart to help voters understand that the "Congress" at whom they are so cranky is half run by Republicans (House) and half by Democrats (Senate).

If Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn't want to get down into the mud pit with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) then he should deputize someone with standing - like Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) - to take the cross-Rotunda fight to Reid.

According to the U.S. Treasury's website, the national debt at the start of the year was $16,433,000,000,000 (read that aloud as "16-point-433 trillion.") According to the national debt as of yesterday at half time of the early games was $17,266,000,000.

That, in spite of all the floor time, all the TV time, all the webpage and print space devoted to dealing with the debt, that is still a five percent increase in 2013. This is not going in the right direction.

Neither did President Barack Obama have the best of years.

According to Gallup's never-ending tracking survey of Presidential performance, this week one year ago Obama approve/disapprove was 56-39. As of yesterday it was 44-49. And, that's a major improvement from a low of 39-54 in mid-November.

A great deal of comment has been made about how hard it is for second term Presidents to recover their polling numbers once they sink into the low forty's or worse. Looks easy to me: Have the President spend more time in Hawaii.

One of the many "cliffs" we had to endure this year happened on March 1 when the dreaded sequester began - forced cuts to the budget because there had been no agreement on a deal in November 2012.

We were treated to day after day of horror stories about how we might just as well close the Pentagon completely and how many really important employees at other departments and agencies would have to take furlough days to meet the requirements.

As in most things this year, we quickly forgot about the sequester because there was so much to talk about.

In March, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote of Presidential leadership:

"The elusive breakthrough is always next week, next month, after the next recess, as soon as this gang or that group reaches a tentative agreement on the possibility of proceeding."

And that was before Kurtz went to Fox.

That was also before a high-school dropout with a security clearance just north of Joe Biden's ran off to Hong Kong (and then Russia) with about every detail of every secret intelligence gathering program being conducted by the National Security Agency.

About every 60 days since, Edward Snowden arranges to release more material that inflames the debate all over again. Just this month one Federal judge ruled the NSA's activities were "probably Unconstitutional" but another ruled just the opposite.

In 2013 the Administration had a tough day. Shortly after assuming office, Secretary of State John Kerry effectively delivered a check for a quarter of a billion dollars to the military junta in Egypt.

The military repaid Kerry's largess by suspending the Egyptian constitution a few months later.

A couple of countries over, Syrian's military used chemical weapons against civilians in that on-going civil war which crossed over President Obama's "red line." The President threatened military intervention, sent Kerry out to make an impassioned statement to the press to make the case and then abruptly changed his mind.

The net result of all that was to further embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin who took over control of the Syrian situation adding to his portfolio of to-do's which includes Iran and most recently Ukraine.

On the domestic front, unemployment ended the year at seven percent which was hailed as good news.

In another of those odd confluences, while some 1.3 million long-term unemployed are about to lose their benefits, UPS nearly collapsed under the weight of all the presents that had been purchased on-line for Christmas delivery.

I'm glad it's over. Take down the 2013 calendar you got from your Realtor, hang up the new one, and let's all have a better year in 2014.

On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to that Gallup mid-year poll of institutions, to CNN's look at the military coup in Egypt and to the sequester.

Also the last cat Mullfoto of the year.

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