13 American Politicians Who Screwed Up Bigtime in 2013

Former President Barack Obama sitting in a crowd wearing a blue button up shirt looking worried

As 2013 comes to a close, we reflect on the past year — our achievements, our screw-ups, our ups and downs — and make resolutions for 2014. Here are 13 politicians that should do the same.

1. President Barack Obama

President Obama’s second inaugural address was full of sweeping promises on gay rights, gun control, tempering a divided Congress, immigration reform, and improving the economy. Instead, Obama spent most of his second term defending his signature health care law and it’s not-so-perfect rollout, dealing with NSA leaks (and a very angry German Chancellor Angela Merkel), stalling on gun control legislation, and failing to bring together Republicans and Democrats in Congress during the government shutdown. In 2014, he should try to remind a pissed America why we elected him in the first place.

2. Senator Ted Cruz

After partially shutting down the government in the hope that Obamacare would be defunded — and instead causing federal contractors to lose pay and tourism to suffer, among other things — Senator Ted Cruz has become an eyesore. Though his unyielding stance on the Affordable Care Act was applauded by some, it has also created a deep wedge between him and his Republican colleagues. If he wants to have any clout in budget negotiations in the future, he’ll have to find a strategy that doesn't involve throwing tantrums and expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces.

3. Senator Marco Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio started off 2013 as a favorite in Republican polls, as the face of immigration reform, and as a serious presidential contender for 2016. Where is he now? In June, Rubio was actually booed at a rally in Washington, D.C. because many conservatives feel betrayed by his flip-flopping approach on immigration reform; he was a key player in a sweeping immigration bill passed in the Senate in June, a move that was denounced by Tea Party activists for giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. But now that the bill has been stalled by members of the House, who favor a slower approach, Senator Rubio is starting to anger immigration activists too. Playing cautious is certainly a political ruse but it won’t be enough to secure a 2016 presidential nomination.

4. Speaker John Boehner

Ever since he narrowly won re-election as Speaker of the House back in January, John Boehner’s relationship with the more conservative members of the House has become increasingly strained. The government shutdown was a clear example of his failure to lead, as he allowed freshman Senator Ted Cruz take over as de facto leader (though Cruz is not even part of the House.) In the eleventh hour, Boehner had to rely on a Senate bill to end the shutdown and allow the government to continue borrowing until February 7, instead of his own clean spending bills which failed to get full support in his chamber. Whether or not he retires as Speaker at the end of this term, John Boehner’s legacy will be as leader of two highly unpopular congresses unless he finds a way to run a tighter ship.

5. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius


Simply put, Kathleen Sebelius screwed up. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, giving the Obama administration ample time to figure things out and make sure the federal health insurance exchange program rolled out smoothly. Instead, it was a huge mess and Sebelius is largely to blame. She’s now calling for an investigation into the contracting and management process that could’ve caused the botched launch of HealthCare.gov, but the damage to her reputation is already done. Many Congress members have called for her resignation, but that most likely won’t happen. As long as she radically reorganizes her team and fixes the damage in time, she should be ok.

6. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

When you’re taking part in a gubernatorial debate at Virginia Tech, the site of the worst shooting massacre in U.S. history, it’s probably wise not to mention your love for the National Rifle Association. Except that’s exactly what Ken Cuccinnelli did, boasting about his "A" rating by the NRA while his opponent Terry McAuliffe received an "F."  And that wasn’t the worst of it. Cuccinelli’s campaign was brought down by a multitude of problems like the shutdown, an unfocused campaign, and his rigid, conservative stance on social issues. He’s already decided to opt out of the 2014 Senate race against Democrat Mark Warner — the perfect chance to kick out his campaign manager and reconsider if his ultra-conservativeness is really worth losing the support of the Republican establishment.

7. Former New York Representative Anthony Weiner

When Anthony Weiner revealed earlier this year that he had continued sexting with women after resigning from Congress in 2011, we wondered whether he really thought he had a solid chance at running for New York City mayor. Predictably, he lost the Democratic primary with less than 5% of the vote. Weiner recently posted a message on his Facebook page hinting at another comeback and a "better 2014." But can we really trust him again? Perhaps it’s time for Anthony Weiner to find another career.

8. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer

In 2008, Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York amidst a huge prostitution scandal. He came back again this year to run against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller. But even after spending about $10 million of his own money on a political comeback, Spitzer lost. Clearly, the name recognition did not work in his favor. Now he’s just another disgraced Democrat desperately looking for a second chance that New York is not ready to give.

9. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

After four years as governor, Bob McDonnell leaves his position in the midst of a scandal. At one point, he was considered as a potential running mate for presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Currently, federal investigators are looking into allegations that Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave thousands of dollars in lavish gifts to the McDonnell family, including paying for his daughter’s wedding reception, in exchange for preferential treatment by the governor. McDonnell has returned $120,000 to the state and publicly apologized. But running for office again? That’s definitely not happening any time soon.

10. Vice President Joe Biden

Joe Biden has always played a big role in President Obama’s decision making process — pushing for infrastructure spending, meeting with leaders in China, Japan, and South Korea, and becoming the point man for gun control legislation after the shooting in Newtown last year. But he couldn’t succeed at the latter. In fact, POLITICO writes that Biden is slowly taking a back seat in the gun control debate as the Obama administration shifts its focus from passing legislation in Congress to passing reforms at the state level. He was noticeably absent during the government shutdown and debt ceiling talk. Should he decide to run for president in 2016, he’ll have to show a bit more muscle and prominence — especially if he’s up against Hillary Clinton, a possible contender and crowd favorite.

11. Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Having only been in office since December 2012, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resigned this year due to multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Over a dozen women came forward to accuse the mayor of inappropriate touching, kissing, and groping before Filner was finally sentenced. He will be serving three months under house arrest, three years of probation, and will have to pay about $1,500 in fines. In a public apology issued in court, he promised to "earn back your trust and my integrity no matter how long it takes" but under a plea deal announced in October to avoid prison time, Filner won't ever be able to hold public office again. As he is 71 years old, it's probably best for him to just quietly disappear into retirement.

12. Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler

In October, a YouTube video of the Republican assemblyman from Nevada surfaced. In it, he tells a Republican town hall meeting that he would vote for slavery if that's what his constituents wanted. Granted, he'd have to "hold his nose" and have a gun to his head, but he'd do it. His comments prompted a lot of outrage from both Republicans and Democrats for obvious reasons. Wheeler defended his comments, saying that his words were taken out of context; that it was a metaphor to show he was elected to represent the people and that he "would never vote for something like that." It may have been a poorly thought out metaphor. But Wheeler might also want to reconsider whether he, as an elected official, is meant to blindly follow the wants and wishes of his constituents.

13. New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono

There wasn't really any hope for Buono once she announced she was running against current governor Chris Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election. Her campaign was unfocused and she was an underdog that no one really knew. Christie, on the other hand, was already extremely popular and his no-nonsense way of talking really stuck with voters. That popularity was too difficult to beat, even though voters agreed with Buono on the issues, like legalizing gay marriage. She's planning to step down from her Senate seat in January, perhaps traumatized from the election or disappointed with New Jersey politics. If she plans to ever run for office in the future, she'd be better off waiting until voters actually got to know her before trying for governor again.