Late on a Friday afternoon, five days before Christmas, President Obama held a press conference wrapping up what has turned out to be — for him — a pretty terrible year. 

Here's a breakdown of what Obama discussed. 

Obamacare

The administration's reversal on the individual mandate in certain cases promises to introduce a slew of new political headaches. With the deadline for January 1 coverage approaching (it's Monday), Obama highlighted the success of the revamped Healthcare.gov at signing up users, repeating a line that "a couple million" Americans would have access to health insurance in the next few months. The president also pegged the Healthcare.gov roll out as his biggest mistake of the year

Economy

Economic data out Friday shows that the economy grew much more in the third quarter than expected. It's a rare piece of good news for Obama."In 2013, our businesses created another 2 million jobs, adding up to more than 8 million in all over the past 45 months," the president said at the top of the press conference

NSA Surveillance 

In the wake of his review panel's extensive recommendations for reforming the NSA's surveillance tools, the president was asked about which recommendations he would support, among other things. His answers addressed: 

  • Edward Snowden: when asked about a possible asylum or plea agreement for the NSA whistleblower, the president said "I will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in on the specifics of  Mr. Snowden's case." 
  • Recommendations: Obama will make a "definitive" statement in January on the review board's recommendations, but he specifically pegged one of them as a possibility: a proposal that private phone companies retain metadata for longer, rather than continuing the NSA's bulk storage of that same data. 
  • Oversight: "I have confidence the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around," the President said about the NSA's broad data collection programs. Although that's not quite what an audit of the agency's programs show. 

There was a contentious moment when Fox News' Ed Henry challenged Obama on his past statements — and the misleading statement offered by his director of national intelligence at a congressional hearing.

Henry: "You're not addressing the fact the public statement you made, your Director of National Intelligence, got a question from a Democrat — not a Republican — about whether some of this was going on. He denied it. Doesn't that undermine the public trust?"

Obama: "You're conflating first of all me and Mr. Clapper —"

Henry: "He's the director of national security, and he's still on the job!"

Overall, Obama's NSA answers walked a familiar line of justifications for the NSA and the White House. Here's a sampling, which references a district court ruling from earlier this week against the constitutionality of the NSA's phone collection program: 

What I have said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the NSA, in executing this program believed — based on experience from 9/11 — that it was important for us to be able to track if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the United States calling into the United States, where that call might have gone. And that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats.

"In all the reviews of this program that have been done," he added, "there have not been actual instances where it's been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately." Regardless, "people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse" — which was the concern of Judge Richard Leon in the ruling released on Monday.

His poll numbers.

In poll after poll after poll, Obama's popularity is slipping. Reporters like polls, so this ended up being the very first subject of the day. "We have had ups and we have had downs," the president said addressing his all-time low poll numbers. "I think this room has probably reported at least 15 near-death experiences," he said.  


UPDATES: 

3:20 p.m.: And, we're done, about an hour after it began. 

3:17 p.m.: We're at the last question, which is about staff changes at the White House. "I think the fact that John Podesta will be coming in is terrific," he said. He anticipates more staff announcements after the New Year. 

3:10 p.m.: The New York Times's Jackie Calmes wants to know about Politifact choosing his promise that Americans could keep their healthcare plans as its "lie of the year." She also wants to know about Iran. Obama basically skipped the first question and moved on to the second. He noted that diplomatic negotiations with Iran at this point are intended to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon. "I'd rather do it diplomatically," the president said. As for additional sanctions some members of Congress would like to impose on Iran, Obama argued that "there's no reason to do it right now," given the current international negotiations over the country's nuclear program. "We lose nothing during this negotiation period," he said. "We'll know if they're violating the terms of the agreement."

3:07 p.m.: Phil Mattingly of Blooomberg wants to know whether the White House is sending a message with its delegation to the Sochi Olympics in Russia in February. "I think the delegation speaks for itself," the president said, praising the delegates chosen to represent the U.S.

But the real question here is about the selection of 3 LGBT athletes for the delegation in the wake of Russia's new anti-gay laws. "The fact that we've got folks like Billie Jean King or Brian Boitano," he said, referring to two of the three LGBT delegates attending the Sochi Olympics, "...you should take that for what it's worth, that when it comes to ... Olympic performance," the U.S. doesn't make distinctions based on sexual orientation. "That's a value that's at the heart of not just America but of American sports." 

2:59 p.m.: Chuck Todd wants to know about the incremental changes to the Affordable Care Act, including a series of extensions and adjustments to the enrollment process in recent months. Asked whether the delays are essentially a delay of the mandate itself, the president says "No, that's not true." He repeats an earlier statement that "a couple million" people will have health insurance in the next few months. "The basic structure of that law is working, despite all the problems," he added. He added that over 500,000 bought health insurance plans through Healthcare.gov in December. 

2:55 p.m.: Major Garrett asks the president about the circumstances under which he would consider offering NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum or a plea agreement. "I have to be careful here," the President says, noting that he's not really going to talk specifics on that question because Snowden has been "charged with crimes." "I will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in on the specifics of  Mr. Snowden's case," the president added. 

2:54 p.m.: Keilar's follow up? What is the president's New Year's resolution. It is: "To be nicer to the White House press corps." 

2:51 p.m.: Brianna Keilar of CNN asks the president about raising the debt ceiling. In case you were wondering, the president isn't interested in negotiating with Congress on the debt ceiling when it surfaces again as an issue in 2014. 

2:48 p.m.: John Karl of ABC asks the President about his biggest personal mistake, which brings us on to healthcare. Obama's just little bit more frank here than he was on the NSA, saying that "we screwed it up," in reference to the Healthcare.gov website. 

2:45 p.m.: Obama's responses here are more or less repetitions of how the NSA has justified its surveillance programs all along. In response to a question about statements by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Obama said that Henry was "conflating" him with Clapper. Here's the testy exchange: 

Henry: "You're not addressing the fact the public statement you made, your Director of National Intelligence, got a question from a Democrat — not a Republican — about whether some of this was going on. He denied it. Doesn't that undermine the public trust?"

Obama: "You're conflating first of all me and Mr. Clapper --"

Henry: "He's still on the job!"

2:39 p.m.: Ed Henry of Fox News followed up on the NSA question, asking about apparent inconsistencies in Obama's statements on the NSA's reach. Basically, Henry is interested in whether the president was fully informed about the scope of those programs or not. The president again cites public confidence in his answer. "That trust in how many safeguards exist...has been diminished," the President added. Regarding the 215 program — or phone metadata collection — the president suggested that private phone companies could keep collected data around for longer, instead of having the NSA store it themselves. 

2:33 p.m.: Obama's second question is on the NSA's surveillance programs, the recent lawsuit challenging the agency's broad collection of phone metadata, and a recently-released set of recommendations to reform those programs. "what we're doing now is evaluating all the recommendations that have been made," noting that he will "assess" those recommendations over the next several weeks. The president promised a "definitive" statement on those recommendations in January. 

Specifically addressing the NSA's collection of phone metadata, Obama said that "the NSA, in executing this program, believed based on experiences for 9/11 that it was important for us to be able to track" data pertaining to phone conversations that might contain useful information about potential terrorist attacks. 

"I have confidence that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around," the president said. But he added that "we may have to refine this further" to give confidence domestically and abroad. 

2:28 p.m: Julie Pace of the Associated Press had the first question, about Obama's approval ratings, straight-up asking whether 2013 was the "worst year of your presidency." Surprise: Obama doesn't think so. "I have now been in office close to five years," he said in response, adding, "we have had ups and we have had downs. I think this room has probably reported at least 15 near-death experiences." 

Obama also criticized Congress's inaction on a number of issues, specifically mentioning failed federal legislation to require background checks before gun purchases. The president acknowledged that a lot of issues on his legislative agenda were not accomplished, noting that "I think 2014 needs to be a year of action." 

As for polling, Obama noted that "my polls have gone up and down a lot." 

2:26 p.m.: The president also had some cautious praise for the new budget bill's bipartisan compromise, but expressed his disappointment in the legislative branch's non-action towards renewing benefits for long-term unemployed Americans. "When Congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right."

Those benefits expire on December 28, affecting 1.3 million Americans just after Christmas. An effort by congressional Democrats to include the measure in the budget deal ultimately failed. 

2:22 p.m.: Obama kicks off "the most wonderful press conference of the year" with some remarks on the economy.

"In 2013, our businesses created another 2 million jobs, adding up to more than 8 million in all over the past 45 months," the president said. The president also addressed the Obamacare exchange problems, noting that more than half a million Americans have enrolled in the federal exchanges, despite the Healthcare.gov's ongoing technical issues.