Obama’s roller-coaster year: Highs and lows from 2013
President Obama warned in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad would cross a “red line for us” and bring a strong U.S. response, likely including military action. Then, in 2013, when the United Nations confirmed that chemical weapons had been used on civilians and all signs pointed to the Syrian government for the attack, Obama changed his tone. It’s not my red line, he said. It’s the world’s red line.
Above: Obama meets with his national security staff to discuss Syria in the Situation Room of the White House on Aug. 30. (Pete Souza / Associated Press)
Though he’s the United States’ first African American president, Obama hasn’t talked a lot about race. Then George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. A few days later, Obama gave a surprise speech in the White House briefing room on being black in America. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said, recalling how he’d been followed in department stores and often heard car door locks click as he walked by. A powerful statement from the president.
Above: Obama speaks on the Trayvon Martin case from the White House briefing room on July 19. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
A month after the massacre of 26 children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Obama said he would “put everything I’ve got” into passing gun control legislation. He said: “In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality, because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” His efforts were blocked in Congress.
Above: Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, second from left, listen to remarks from Mark Barden, whose child was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, alongside other victims of gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 17. (Michael Reynolds / EPA)
After Russia granted temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor and classified information leaker Edward Snowden, Obama canceled a summit in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama complained on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” about Russia’s “Cold War mentality.” A few months later, with Obama unlikely to get congressional support for military action in Syria, Putin came to the rescue, offering an agreement to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
Above: Putin, left, and Obama exchange words while meeting before the first session of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 5. (Anatoly Maltsev / EPA)