It irks me to no end when politicians try to make trite assurances like, “This is most definitely not political.” The fact that you feel the need to say so is a pretty reliable indicator that whatever it is you’re talking about is political, and hey, that’s okay — this is politics. But of course, it’s gauche to say so, and in this particular case, the president needs to try and retain at least some semblance of a public image that he’s even the tiniest bit interested in working with, instead of working around, the currently divided Congress.
After a weekend Washington Post story described how the president and his team are already taking very specific and, for them, unusual steps to prep for the 2014 midterms in an attempt to undo the GOP-wave largely brought on by his signature health care law, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured us on Monday that President Above The Fray is most certainly not focused on something so vulgarly pragmatic as electing a Congress that might help him pass his agenda.
“It goes without saying that a president wants those in his party to do well,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today. However, he added, the 2014 midterm elections are “not a focus of his particularly at this point.” …
Carney today said that Mr. Obama does believe his agenda — which includes a plan to reduce gun violence, immigration reform and measures like raising the minimum wage — would be easier to enact with Democrats in control of both chambers. “But it is also the president’s belief, and it is established in fact in recent history, that you can achieve important policy objectives with divided government,” he said.
Carney insisted the president is expending “great political capital and energy” on working quickly to pass immigration reform. Republicans have shown interest, he noted, in both immigration reform and some gun control measures.
Hey, sure you’re focused on trying to get bipartisan support for your hyper-progressive stances on those issues — but let’s not pretend that every move the White House makes is not strategically viewed through the prism of how it will improve the political balance sheet and help out the Democrats in 2014. As The Post story pointed out over the weekend, Organizing for Action is already on the 2014 prowl, and the president has pledged his time and fundraising popularity to the midterm effort as well as started paying more attention to Congressional Democrats in general — a pretty big divergence from his usual Lone-Ranger political brand.
The man has some major obstacles out in front of his legacy-building, and he knows it — so the long game is already figuring largely in his decisions. As Richard Benedetto put it in January:
It is now obvious to Republicans that Obama has no intention of becoming a lame duck president at the end of his second term. He’s seems willing to bide his time and push for a more-friendly Congress.
His apparent two-year strategy is to work hard to help Democrats win back control of the House of Representatives and use his final two years to build the liberal legacy he outlined in his address — a legacy that will be near-impossible to achieve as long as the GOP controls the House.
But with Democrats in charge of both chambers of Congress in 2015-16, Obama would be transformed from a lame duck to a soaring eagle.