Photos: First year

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  1. President Barack Obama takes the oath as the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. Obama's wife, Michelle, holds Abraham Lincoln's bible as daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, watch. Tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington to witness the swearing in of America's first African-American president. (Chuck Kennedy / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. President Obama, center, is applauded by Vice President Joe Biden and a group of retired military officers in the Oval Office on Jan. 22, moments after he signed the third of four executive orders -- this one ordering the Guantanamo Bay Detention facility closed. Early in his presidency, Obama signed several orders that overturned Bush-era policies, including one that restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research. (Matthew Cavanaugh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Obama walks into the East Room of the White House with Lilly Ledbetter on Jan. 29, moments ahead of signing legislation that bears her name. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act expands workers’ rights to sue for discrimination. Ledbetter sued her employer when she discovered that after 19 years on the job, she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her tire factory. The law, which reversed a Supreme Court decision, was the first piece of legislation that Obama signed. (Jim Bourg / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. President Obama takes part in a town hall meeting at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Ind., on Feb. 9. Obama told the audience, still reeling from recession-related job losses, "Doing nothing is not an option." Obama has visited the beleaguered city, where unemployment has been as high as 18.9 percent, a total of four times. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. President Obama answers a question during his first prime-time press conference at the White House on Feb. 9. Obama said his administration inherited a deficit of more than $1 trillion along with "the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression." He added, "That is a deficit that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe. And I refuse to let that happen." (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Executives from the financial institutions that received TARP funds testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Feb. 11. The $700 billion bank bailout, passed by Congress under George W. Bush, has become one of the least popular among voters incensed by the hefty bonuses received by executives of the same banks that received TARP money. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., is trailed by reporters on Feb. 12 after he abruptly withdrew as the president's nominee for commerce secretary. Gregg cited "irresolvable conflicts" with Obama's handling of the economic stimulus package. Gregg was just one problematic nomination. Several Obama choices for top positions have dealt with tax problems, including the president's first pick for HHS secretary, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. Nancy Killefer also faced tax questions and withdrew her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Code Pink protesters hold signs as Edward Liddy, chairman and CEO of AIG, prepares to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on March 18. Hired after AIG accepted billions of dollars in aid from the federal government, Liddy faced intense scrutiny over $165 million in bonuses paid to company employees. He resigned his position in May, but not before the Obama administration was roundly criticized for not preventing the bonuses. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Obama discusses the economy March 19 on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." The president told Leno, "These financial industries are holding us hostage." It was the first time a sitting president was a guest on a late-night talk show. Republicans seized on his appearance as an opportunity to accuse Obama of ignoring the economy. Obama was also interviewed on late-night host David Letterman's show in September, when he riffed that "it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election." (Larry Downing / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. An Iranian woman watches President Obama's video message addressed to the Iranian people on March 20. The message was timed to the festival of Nowruz, which means "new day" and marks the arrival of spring. "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us," said Obama. The president has made outreach to the Muslim world a foreign policy priority for his administration. (Vahid Salemi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The first lady joins students from Bancroft Elementary School during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 20 for the new White House kitchen garden. The garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt planted one during World War II, is part of Michelle Obama's efforts to promote healthy eating and exercise programs. In May, she appeared on the children's show "Sesame Street" to talk about the value of a nutritious diet. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. President Obama, surrounded by his national security team, announces a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on March 27. He ordered 4,000 more military troops into Afghanistan, vowing to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the terrorist al-Qaida network in that country and neighboring Pakistan. After months of closed-door meetings, Obama announced at the end of 2009 that he planned to send an additional "surge" of 30,000 more soliders to the region. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Surrounded by his economic team, President Obama unveils the details of his plan for the floundering automotive industry on March 30. Obama announced that the government will back new car warranties issued by both GM and Chrysler, an attempt to reassure consumers that their purchases will be protected. The president also announced a short-term infusion of cash for the firms, and said it could be the last for one or both. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Michelle Obama talks with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during a reception at Buckingham Palace in London on April 1. The Queen, straying from protocol, briefly wrapped her arm around Obama in a rare public display of affection. Some in the British press criticized the first lady for breaking etiquette by reciprocating the touch and placing her hand on the royal's back. (Daniel Hambury / Newsteam.co.uk via E) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. President Obama, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have some fun with a "class photo" as they take part in the G-20 summit on April 2 in London. World leaders at the summit agreed to set new global regulations on the financial industry. Obama initially pressed for a specific target for stimulating the world economy but softened that demand in the effort to reach consensus. (Stefan Rousseau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. President Obama, accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visits the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on April 7. In accordance with religious custom, the president and his entourage removed their shoes before entering the enormous carpeted mosque. While in the country, Obama told members of the Turkish Parliament that the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam." (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. President Obama greets military personnel at Camp Victory in Baghdad on April 7 during an unscheduled stop at the conclusion of his week-long European tour. "You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country," the president said. "That is an extraordinary achievement." (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. President Obama runs alongside Bo, a six-month-old male Portuguese water dog, in the White House on April 12. The dog was a gift from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who owned several of the dogs himself. "We love our Portuguese water dogs and know that the girls -- and their parents -- will love theirs, too," said Kennedy in a statement. (Pete Souza / The White House) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. President Obama shakes hands with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez April 17 at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Venezuelan government says Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States during President George W. Bush's tenure, told Obama, "With this same hand I greeted Bush eight years ago. I want to be your friend." U.S. officials say Obama only shook hands and smiled. (Alfonso Ocando / Miraflores Pres via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Congressional Democrats walk out of the White House after a meeting with Obama in Washington, D.C. on May 5. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reached a deal with the administration on a program to allow consumers to trade in their older inefficient cars for new energy efficient models and receive a $5000 credit. The 'Cash for Clunkers' program, designed to spur sales for the ailing American car industry, was so popular that the government burned through its $1 billion incentive budget within a week of the program's launch. (Matthew Cavanaugh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. When one of the president's official planes flew over the Statue of Liberty in New York as part of an unpublicized photo op, hundreds of startled New Yorkers fled their offices, believing that the low-flying aircraft was piloted by terrorists. The White House aide who approved the flyover was subsequently forced to resign. Two other high-profile administration officials -- general counsel Greg Craig and green jobs czar Van Jones -- also resigned amidst controversy during Obama's first year. (The White House via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Obama tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Cairo on June 4. Clinton, Obama's opponent during the bitter 2008 Democratic primary, enjoyed soaring approval ratings in her first year as America's top diplomat. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. First lady Michelle Obama attends an arrival ceremony with French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Caen, France, on June 6. Fashion lovers delighted in the meeting of the most chic political spouses in the world. Bruni is a former fashion model; Michelle Obama has earned fashion diva status by promoting hip young designers and wearing accessible and affordable styles like those available at retail store J. Crew. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Supporters march during a rally for affordable health care June 25 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Obama's top domestic priority, insurance reform, has faced opposition from conservatives wary of government intervention in their health care plans. Many liberals argue that Obama did not do enough to push for a government-administered "public option." (Chris Kleponis / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Iraqi security forces celebrate in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province on June 29, a day before U.S. troops formally vacated Iraqi cities. The movement was the first step toward winding down the American war effort by the end of 2011. Obama's successful campaign for president was largely built upon his opposition to what he called a 'dumb' war initiated by President George W. Bush. (Karim Kadim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade walk towards the helicopter as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2. U.S. forces launched a major offensive into the Taliban heartlands as Obama's new war plan swung into action. Obama angered the liberal wing of his party by committing thousands of additional troops to the Afghan war even as he worked to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. (Manpreet Romana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Obama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, converse while having tea on a terrace at Putin's residence outside of Moscow on July 7. Obama criticized the powerful Russian leader for his "cold war approaches" to foreign relations with the U.S. At the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, world leaders pledged $20 billion towards fighting hunger in developing countries. (Alexey Druzhinin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Obama shakes hands with supporters after delivering remarks at a departure ceremony in Accra, Ghana on July 11. In his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, Obama called for its people to take responsibility for its own woes. "We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans," he said, while underscoring America's commitment to providing aid to a continent often ravaged by disease and political corruption. (Shawn Thew / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Obama wipes off his brow while speaking during a town hall meeting on health care at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on July 23. The summer Congressional recess was marked by contentious town hall meetings over the president's reform proposal. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Obama, right, and Vice President Joe Biden, left, have a beer with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., second from left, and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 30. The so-called "beer summit" took place after Obama waded into the controversy about Gates, who said that race was a factor for police when he was mistakenly accused of breaking into a home. Through his campaign and now his presidency, Barack Obama has tried to keep discussion of race -- his own as well as the nation's still very uncertain relationship with the topic -- at arms' length. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Former Vice President Al Gore embraces Laura Ling as Euna Lee and former President Bill Clinton looks on. Clinton traveled to North Korea to negotiate the release of the two U.S. journalists, who had been detained in North Korea for almost six months after straying into the country. Ling and Lee were reunited with their families on Aug. 5. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Sen Arlen Specter, D-Pa., left, listens to an opponent of health care reform voice his complaints during a town hall meeting on Aug. 11 in Lebanon, Pa. Anger over Obama's domestic agenda rattled many lawmakers during the August recess, when constituents in some states berated members of Congress with objections to health care reform and other legislative proposals. Specter left the Republican Party in April, partly at Obama's urging. (Bradley C. Bower / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Obama and newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor laugh during a reception in her honor at the White House on Aug. 12. During her confirmation hearings, Sotomayor -- the first Hispanic justice on the nation's highest bench -- faced criticism from Republicans for her comment that a "wise Latina" might reach a better judicial conclusion than "a white male who hasn’t lived that life." (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Joe Medicine Crow-High Bird during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House on Aug. 12. The medal is the country's highest civilian honor. Other recipients in 2009 included the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, physicist Stephen Hawking, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Obama, the first lady, and their daughters Sasha and Malia tour Hopi Point at Grand Canyon National Park on Aug. 16. The Obama family's vacations have also included stays in Hawaii and toney Martha's Vineyard. (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A man carries a military style AR-15 rifle during a Obama opposition rally in Phoenix on Aug. 17. While it is legal to carry firearms in many states, the presence of guns at sometimes contentious town hall meetings caused anxiety among lawmakers concerned that violence could erupt. (Jack Kurtz / The Arizona Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Top U.S. officials join members of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's family at Kennedy's funeral services in Boston, on Aug. 29. The "liberal lion" of the Senate was a key ally of Obama's during the 2008 presidential campaign and a lifelong champion of health care reform -- the item that topped Obama's domestic agenda during the first year of his presidency. Kennedy died after a long battle with brain cancer. (Brian Snyder / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouts "You lie!" during Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9. Wilson became an overnight conservative media darling after the outburst, which came as Obama was outlining restrictions on health care coverage for illegal immigrants in his proposal for insurance reform. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Standing in a steady rain, Obama greets family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks after speaking at the Pentagon Memorial, marking the eighth anniversary of the attacks. Republicans criticized Obama for failing to make national security more of a priority for his administration after a Nigerian man attempted to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A man holds a placard outside Federal Hall in New York City as Obama delivers a major speech on the financial crisis on Sept. 14. Obama warned that Wall Street must not return to the "reckless behavior" and "unchecked excess" that led to the financial crisis. But some of his top economic aides, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have come under fire for working too closely with big banks. (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, appear at a press briefing at the Pentagon on Sept. 17. The Obama administration initiated a major reversal in the U.S. strategy to defend against missile attacks, scrapping a Bush-era plan build a ground-based defense system in Eastern Europe. Obama instead favors a shorter-range missile strategy with deployment from ships positioned closer to Iran. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Obama talks with NBC's David Gregory in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Sept.18. Obama blanketed the Sunday morning shows, granting interviews to NBC, CNN, CBS, CNN, and Spanish-language station Univision in the effort to shore up public support for his health care plan. Obama largely dismissed the idea that some of those angry about his agenda are motivated by racism. "The easiest way to get 15 minutes of fame is to be rude to somebody," he told CBS News. (Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton shake hands during the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Cinton Global Initative in New York City on Sept. 22. During the presidential campaign, a tense relationship between Clinton and Obama was thinly veiled and widely reported, but both have tried to project a cordial bond during Obama's presidency. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Obama watches Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a trilateral meeting in New York City on Sept. 22. Obama's efforts to jump start the peace process were frustrated in his first year, as Israel and the Palestinian Authority clashed over American demands that Israel freeze the building of settlements in the West Bank. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Obama watches as a translator explains the word "jump shot" during his meeting with China's President Hu Jintao in New York on Sept. 22. The president, an avid basketball fan, is known for shooting hoops and teeing off on the golf course on weekends, although he has drawn criticism for failing to include more women in the games. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Obama holds a news conference with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the G20 Summit, Sept.25. The British press slammed Obama for allegedly turning down Brown's requests for a bilateral meeting at the summit. Both the White House and the British government denied that there was a snub. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Obama talks to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on Oct. 2 on behalf of the city of Chicago's candidature for the 2016 Olympic Games in Copenhagen. Despite Obama's personal appeal, he received a stinging defeat when Chicago was the first city eliminated from the ballot. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Obama meets with Army General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, aboard Air Force One en route to Copenhagen, Denmark. McChrystal reportedly angered the White House by publicly opposing an Afghan strategy would have relied mostly on special forces rather than an influx of ground troops. Obama met with his national security team almost a dozen times before announcing his strategy, leading former Vice President Dick Cheney to accuse the president of "dithering." (Pete Souza / The White Hous via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. A portrait of Barack Obama is seen next to a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the exhibition hall of the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway on Oct. 10. The president and his staff were surprised when notified that Obama had been awarded the honor, and its acceptance was made particularly difficult for the president because he was in the midst of calculating the extent of the buildup of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In his acceptance speech in Oslo, Obama called the prize "a call to action," but also made the case that some wars are necessary. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Obama speaks to students during a visit to Martin Luther King, Jr., Charter School during his first presidential visit to New Orleans on Oct. 15. Although Obama has frequently criticized the Bush administration's failure to help reconstruct the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he did not visit the area until almost seven months after he took office. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. The president pauses near his desk between meetings in the Oval Office on Oct. 20. Obama considered several strategic approaches to the war in Afghanistan before announcing more than a month later that the U.S. would send an additional 30,000 troops to the region. (Pete Souza / The White House via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Under serious international pressure, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan officially stated in October that he fell short of a decisive victory in the country's disputed presidential election. His opponent, Adbullah Abdullah, dropped out of the runoff contest, and Karzai was re-elected. But U.S. officials remain wary of Karzai's government, which is often painted by the international community as weak and riddled with corruption. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. President Barack Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in the Oval Office on Oct. 20, 2009. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Obama appears at a fundraiser for New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine before the Nov. 3 gubernatorial election. Corzine failed to win re-election, and the Democratic candidate in Virginia lost to Republican Bob McDonnell. Republicans pointed to the Democratic losses as a sign of the public's souring on Obama's domestic and economic policies. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Obama salutes as an Army carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Oct. 29. The president visited the base before dawn to honor fallen soldiers, even as his administration weighed a troop increase in the Afghan region. In 2009, the Pentagon lifted an 18-year ban on media coverage of the return of service members killed in action. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with tribesmen from Pakistan's violence-plagued north-western areas on Oct. 30. Early in his presidency, Obama began ordering drone attacks in the region to target terrorist suspects. His administration has pushed Pakistani leaders to more aggressively fight the Taliban within its borders. (Associated Press Of Pakistan via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi laughs with other House Democrats during a news conference about the House vote on health care reform on Nov. 7. The House narrowly passed the bill, handing President Obama a crucial first victory, but scuffles between House and Senate lawmakers over the specifics of the legislation plagued backers throughout 2009. (Yuri Gripas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Obama and his wife attend a memorial service at Fort Hood in Texas. A shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, opened fire at the military processing center there on Nov. 5, killing 13 people before being shot by a civilian officer. Hasan, a U.S. citizen of Jordanian descent, survived and is awaiting trial. A review by the Defense Department showed that military officials failed to more carefully review statements and behavior by Hasan that indicated he might commit acts of violence motivated by radical religious views. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Obama bows as he is greeted by Japanese Emperor Akihito as he arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Nov. 14. Conservative commentators seized on the moment, saying that the commander in chief appeared to be grovelling with the gesture. Republicans have criticized Obama for showing too much deference to foreign leaders. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Obama walks alone down the Badaling section of The Great Wall of China in Beijing on Nov. 18. Obama's visit to Asia centered on trade issues. China holds about $800 billion in U.S. bonds. The president faced criticism when he declined to meet with the Dalai Lama - an enemy of Beijing - before leaving for the nation that serves as America's top creditor. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Obama and his wife wait to greet Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur before a State Dinner on Nov. 24. The first state dinner for the new administration was marred by a security breach when a total of three intruders gained entry to the event without invitations. Congress held hearings to investigate how an attention-seeking couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, managed to pose as invited guests. (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Obama watches as his daughters Sasha, center, and Malia reach out to touch Courage, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, on the North Portico of the White House on Nov. 25. The first couple has intensely guarded the privacy of their two daughters, and the girls rarely appear at public events. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. The president greets cadets on Dec. 1 after announcing a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan at the U.S. Military Academy. Obama said that the U.S. would send an additional 30,000 troops to the region, but that the transfer of U.S. forces out of Afghanistan would begin in July 2011. "It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak," he said in his address. "This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat." (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. A man holds a poster of President Obama during a march to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen on Dec. 12. Obama changed his schedule to enable him to attend the beginning of the historic negotiations. On the summit's final day, he and leaders from other developed nations announced a deal to limit global warming. But environmental advocates complained that the deal Obama helped to strike during the accords lacked details on how its goals should be acheived. (Bob Strong / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Senate Democratic leaders celebrate at a press conference after successfully approving a procedural vote that paved the way for final passage of the health reform bill on Christmas Eve. Majority Leader Harry Reid heavily courted three holdout Democrats -- Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Mary Landrieu, D-Louis., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., securing their support for cloture shortly before the vote. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Preisdent Obama and the first lady greet soldiers and their family members for Christmas during a visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Dec. 25. The president delayed his vacation to ensure that health care passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve before joining his family in his home state of Hawaii. (Cory Lum / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Obama meets with his national security team in the Situation Room of the White House on Jan. 5, 2010, about an attempted Christmas Day terrorist act aboard an airliner. The botched terror attack led Obama to refocus on national security issues and sharpen his rhetoric about the threat of terrorism. (Pete Souza / The White House via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Obama speaks as former President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton listen in the Rose Garden of the White House on Jan. 16, 2010. Obama spoke about how the American people can help in the recovery and rebuilding effort in Haiti. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. USA presidential inauguration
    Chuck Kennedy / Pool via EPA
    Above: Slideshow (68) Obama's first year in office - First year
  2. Image: President Obama Hold Town Hall Meeting In Ohio
    J.D. Pooley / Getty Images
    Slideshow (65) Obama's first year in office - Second year
By
msnbc.com
updated 1/20/2010 3:49:29 PM ET 2010-01-20T20:49:29

Life is about choices, and so is a presidency. When the history of Barack Obama’s is written, the scribes will look at his decision to focus on health care and to let Congress write the bill. The verdict will likely be harsh.

He used up his political capital — and may not even get any legislation, now that Republican Scott Brown, who campaigned against it, swept to victory in the Senate race in Massachusetts.

The health care crusade put the worst traits of a (Democratic) Congress on display; made the Obama Administration look elitist, out of touch and too liberal for independent voters; and allowed the White House to be perceived as imperious and incompetent — a toxic combination.

Voters wanted an in-touch government to offer a helping hand and a guiding light out of the recession — not assistance in the form of a confused, massive piece of social engineering.

But in politics (as in life), as long as you’re breathing you have hope — and another chance.

So, on this first anniversary of the Obama inauguration, here's what the president and his team can do to turn things around:

Don't panic
Don’t let your fellow Democrats panic. When bunched together in Congress, party members can behave like a herd of buffalo. They stampede at scary sounds. Now is the time for Obama to use his legendary cool to reassure the Dems that all is not lost — they are only one year into his term, and he has accomplished some worthy things. Invite them to the White House, in groups or en masse. Talk about what has gone wrong and how to make it right. Be leaderly. I have seen him do it.

Focus on Independents
Focus on Independents. Despite occasional slip-ups, Obama was relentless about this when he ran in 2008 — and Democrats have since lost that fire. In Massachusetts, people must realize, more than half of voters are registered as unaffiliated with a political party — creating one of the largest chunks of independent voters in the nation. These voters tend to care most about spending (they are wary of it), badly run government (they see too much of it), and a lack of bipartisanship (there is none of it in Washington).

Cut your losses
Cut your losses on health care. There is no good option in this political disaster. Perhaps the best thing to do is to break the massive legislation into pieces and dare the GOP to vote against the best parts of it, like the requirement that insurance companies permanently cover all patients.

Create jobs
Pledge that, for the next year, your sole domestic focus will be job creation. It’s already clear that the president will focus on this during his State of the Union address next Wednesday. The fact that this is regarded as news, and a change of strategy, proves the problem. The unemployment problem has deepened since he was sworn in exactly a year ago!

Video: Is Obama mired in a slump?

Reduce the deficit
Create a real, substantive, and powerful deficit-reduction commission. Yes, the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill are long gone, but there is no reason not to try to recreate it. Most Americans do care about the country going bankrupt, even as they demand more benefits from government. Congress can’t seem to handle the conflict. An external mechanism, a Deus ex Machina, is required.

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Confess your sins
A confessional speech. Obama doesn’t do confessions — the former president of the Harvard Law Review is not good at admitting he is occasionally stupid. This would be a good time to give such a speech: not an abstract thesis of the lawyerly kind, but one about him. What has surprised him about government, or about running the country? Obama can say that he has learned — in fact, he had better say that.

Video: One year later, did Obama keep promises?

Be a populist
Be a real populist. Obama ran as an outsider even though many of us knew, that except for his race and his relative youth, he wasn’t really one. He was superbly credentialed and well plugged in from the start. He’s not comfortable with us- against-them rhetoric (or at least likes to cover it in lawyerly syrup) but that is the mood the American people are in, and understandably so. They’ve been screwed by the Big Boys in the corporate world and on Wall Street. So Obama needs to pick a real fight with some real enemies — try the brokers and the banks. Force the supposedly populist GOP Tea Partiers to go along, or join the establishment of their own party.

Leave the District
Get out of D.C. more. And not on half-day jaunts to a plant in Ohio or Maryland. Actually spend some quality time outside the Beltway. I know it’s hard as president, but see and be seen taking the time to really listen to real people.

Shake it up
Consider shaking up the political shop. Everyone was asleep as the tidal wave built in Massachusetts. It’s not just Martha Coakley’s fault, nor is the Washington party apparatus totally to blame. What about the people in the White House? Looking within would show that Obama isn’t just looking for outsiders to blame.

Be a ‘real American’
Don’t try to drive a pickup truck. Leave that for the Scott Browns of the world. But you might want to play a little more basketball in, say, Indiana. That’s the “real America,” too, especially during March Madness. There is a serious point to be made: nobody has an exclusive claim to “the real America.”

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