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Who had the worst week in Washington? President Obama.

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By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Since we started picking who had the Worst Week in Washington -- lo these many weeks ago -- President Obama has managed to avoid winning the award.

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When the gulf oil spill became a natural (and public relations) disaster, Elizabeth Birnbaum, the ousted head of the Minerals Management Service, took home the prize. When the White House offered a too-candid assessment of GOP prospects in this fall's midterm elections, we went with press secretary Robert Gibbs. And when the dismissal and attempted rehiring of Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod turned into a circular firing squad, we opted for her boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

But in politics, your number always comes up eventually. And so, on this 13th awarding of the Worst Week in Washington, our unlucky choice is the 44th president of the United States.

Last week Obama did everything he could to escape the morass that the capital had become for him and his party, embarking on a five-state, three-day fundraising trip for Democratic candidates in tight races. But he couldn't outrun the controversy created by his remarks the week before on the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan. Obama's initial statement -- made at an iftar dinner at the White House -- was cast by many as an endorsement of the construction, an interpretation that led to a White House statement less than 24 hours later making clear that the president was backing no such thing.

Days later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) broke with the president by calling for the mosque to be relocated. (On an unrelated note, Reid is in a tough reelection fight in Nevada.) Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, then followed suit. The debate was on and, fueled by cable television, the week was lost for the White House.

The hits just kept coming. In Gallup's daily tracking poll, the president's job-approval rating dipped to 41 percent -- his lowest so far. And a Pew poll showed that nearly one in five Americans (18 percent!) think Obama is a Muslim. (Uh, he's not.)

To top it off, the president departed Thursday for a 10-day vacation to that symbol of middle-class America: Martha's Vineyard.

President Obama, you finally -- and definitely -- had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail chris.cillizza@washingtonpost.com

with your nominees.

Can't remember who had the Worst Week last week?


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