First-Year Winners and Losers

January marks the end of President Obama’s first year in office. The administration has tackled a big agenda—from Afghanistan to health care to climate change. Who gets a pat on the back and who doesn’t?

By: Garrett M. Graff

Cabinet Secretary
Loser: Janet Napolitano. The Arizona legislature is auctioning off the State capitol to raise money to fix a budget crisis, but Napolitano still might wish she were back in the governor’s office rather than heading Homeland Security.

Winner: Bob Gates. George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense has reupped his contract for another year, proving he just might be the most powerful man in Washington

Financial Guru
Loser: Larry Summers. Looks like the economist is going to be working hard at reelecting Barack Obama to a second term—four years from now is the next chance he has for another shot at running the Federal Reserve.

Winner: Ben Bernanke. The Fed chair, who everyone thought would be out of office, gets a new lease on life and has emerged as a shrewd financial leader calling for more regulation and transparency.

Congressional Leader
Loser: Harry Reid. After proving so ineffectual that pundits are calling for a total remake of the Senate, the majority leader looks likely to lose reelection this year anyway.

Winner: Nancy Pelosi. The speaker of the House turns out to be the more ambitious and effective leader in Congress. Beware of being damned with faint praise, Madam Speaker.

World Figure
Loser: Nobel Peace Prize medal. Well, the Norwegians certainly got everyone talking this year—though the collective world laughter at Obama’s award didn’t help him.

Winner: Hillary Clinton. Obama’s onetime primary opponent has by most accounts reinvigorated the State Department and won accolades from world leaders.

White House Staffer
Loser: Desirée Rogers. Probably no one came in with bigger ambitions and had a harder fall this year than the social secretary, who is ruing the day she first heard the name Salahi.

Winner: Dan Pfeiffer. Rising in only a few years from Senator Evan Bayh’s spokesman to White House communications director, Pfeiffer is now the President’s message man.

Golf Aficionado
Loser: Tiger Woods. Sure, he didn’t have much to do with Obama’s first year, but did anyone have a worse 2009 than Tiger?

Winner :Tom Friedman. The only journalist invited to golf with the President, the New York Times columnist is one of Obama’s favorite thinkers

Chicago's Future
Loser: Olympic dreams. Not even Obama can land you the summer games. The world would rather give the event to a Brazilian city where drug dealers shoot down police helicopters than let Chicago have it.

Winner: Mayor Rahm. Watch out, Chicago, the White House chief of staff has his eye on your city hall.

Food Item
Loser: Anything unhealthy. White House chef Cristeta Comerford, once obscure under President George W. Bush, earns the Food Network its highest ratings ever with an Iron Chef episode built around Michelle Obama’s White House–garden veggies.

Winner: Beer. Never have brewed grains with hops factored as highly on the global diplomatic stage as they did during the much-heralded “beer summit” between Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him.

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