Is President Obama feeling a little Beltway fatigue after a rough couple years and a dispiriting midterm election?

During remarks Tuesday to more than 2,800 senior federal employees, the president, rumored to be exploring options for a post-White House home base, joked that he might "hitch a ride" to Mars with NASA after his term ends.


A NASA Orion capsule on top of a Delta IV rocket lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 5, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Obama made the comments while praising the space agency's recent successful launch of the unmanned Orion spacecraft test flight that sent it 3,600 miles above the Earth. But the president also sounded a bit weary of the Beltway ideological debates and media second-guessing.

"This will continue to be a tough environment," he said. "There will not be a lot of new money flowing. There will continue to be ideological battles for those who think the market is king and there's no room for any kind of regulatory efforts. … There's going to be easy copy for the press to focus on the one thing that goes wrong, instead of the 99 things that go right. That's not going to change."

Still, the president sought to buck up the spirits of the federal workforce by thanking them for their often unheralded service and urging them not to focus on "hunkering down and trying to push back against the complaints and criticisms, many of which are unfair."

"If we're not engaging in self-reflection and figuring out every single day how to do our jobs a little better, we're failing the American people," Obama said.

Obama announced the creation of an executive leadership program that would allow federal managers to rotate through different agencies on temporary assignments to gain new experience. And he said he would launch a new outstanding service award.

"I've got your back," said the president, who recently ordered the government to be closed on Friday, Dec. 26, so workers can have an extra day off. "For many of you, your jobs are more than a paycheck, it's a chance to serve the nation that you love."