New Year resolutions and lucky number 14

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The year 2014 – the number itself has a nice ring to it. The number 14 was retired by the Red Sox as Jim Rice’s number, and the Sacramento Kings retired number 14 for Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson (who played under that number for the team when it was the Cincinnati Royals).

For our friends across the pond, 14 is the number of pounds in a stone, and the number of days in a fortnight. Fourteen is the atomic number of silicon and it is the approximate atomic weight of nitrogen.

Being 14 years old has happy memories for me – my driver’s license was within sight, and I had acquired almost every Jose Feliciano album, a big goal of mine back then.

President Obama has got to be facing 2014 with a slight knot in the stomach. He has seen a year of embarrassments and frustration, with not one large signature accomplishment to his credit as he transitions with all of us into what he promises to be “a year of action.” Benghazi rears its insistent head again here at the brink of 2014, as the New York Times presents a report that no terror groups were involved in the Benghazi attack, and the whole mess was, in fact, started by an anti-Muslim video.

Back to Theory Number One with the Benghazi atrocity? Personally, I call any group that can murder four people and drag an ambassador’s body through the streets because of a lame video a “terrorist group,” but that’s maybe just me. I still can’t fathom that a U.S. Ambassador’s murder hasn’t sparked more strident public outrage in a sitting President, political restraint be damned. Outrage is always a good strategy by a world leader when it’s called for; anything less shows weakness and even worse, a kind of top-down and frighteningly deep moral uncertainty.

The President has not been helped at all in 2013 by his own manner of dealing with colleagues on the Hill. He is often noted for his dispassionate (read, chilly) demeanor. According to beltway insiders — childhood note: as a little kid growing up outside D.C. with a father in State Department service, I thought that “inside the beltway” was a group of people actually trapped in D.C. by an enormous men’s belt, and they would try to escape through the giant belt holes, climbing out in their suits, tossing their briefcases out first —

Paraphrasing John McCain, who has attempted to work with the president on issues including immigration reform, “he never calls, he never writes…” But it is not his imperial demeanor that has Obama’s favorability polls dropping to record-lows — that started with the Syria debacle.

When you say to the world that you have a line that cannot be crossed, you’d better have a line. America is now looked at geopolitically with a mixture of pity and scorn reserved for Rob Ford’s financial backers or the Kardashian in-laws. “Never” turned into “OK, well, maybe this one time.”

But the kicker of 2013 was the healthcare website. Oy vey, that website. Let’s put it this way – in sixth grade I had to make a baking-soda volcano for science. You know the kind – it spews baking soda lava on cue, and looks as realistic as paper-mache molded onto bent coat-hangers can look. My teacher warned: “Do not even come into class unless your volcano works. Don’t even bother. I am not interested in good intentions, or rushed failures.” (I liked her; she sat in her VW bug reading Rod McKuen poetry and drinking Tab during lunch.) If Obama had put the effort into his website that I had put into my volcano, well, he’d be in lava-erupting, Americans-signing-up Heaven.

All we can do, I suppose, is look forward, and watch Washington like hawks, because it just won’t watch itself.  I, and Jose Feliciano, would like to wish you “Feliz Navidad y Feliz año Nuevo, 2014.” From the bottom of our hearts. Go get your New Year on!