President Barack Obama genuinely believed he could buck the second-term curse of fecklessness and scandal that afflicted the last three two-term presidents, even if history — and his adversaries — suggested otherwise.
The combination of clever and determined Republican resistance on nearly every front, bad luck, Obama's overconfidence in his capacity to leverage a decisive reelection victory into legislative clout and his own administration's past mistakes have left the president feeling deeply frustrated, even angry — and eager to find a way to recapture the offensive.
The mood around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. isn't gloomy, but it's a far cry from the optimism of his triumphant inaugural address just four months ago.
"I don't think morale is the highest it's ever been," said an Obama veteran. "It's been a hell of a way to start a second term. … The gun vote was infuriating, depressing. … Then you went from Boston to North Korea to Syria to Benghazi to the IRS" — referring to last week's revelations that federal revenue agents singled out tea party groups for special scrutiny.