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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Obama: From Uniter to Rock-Thrower

At Politico, Glenn Thrush and Reid J. Epstein neatly sum up the president's approach to Congress:
Picking a few choice fights “is a very good strategy if you know that applying all that pressure gets you the result you are looking for,” said former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, an adviser to Obama’s 2012 campaign. “But if you pick a fight, you have to be sure the tactic helps ensure the result you want rather than making it harder to achieve.”

There’s also a long-term strategy: Two months after a decisive presidential win, Obama and his party already are eyeing the 2014 midterms. Highlighting the contrasts between the White House and congressional Republicans could flip the House back to Democrats, giving Obama a final two-year governing majority that bookends the one he enjoyed during his first two years in office.

But it would be a mistake to attribute all of Obama’s actions to dispassionate tactics. After four-plus years of embittered partisan combat, he views his GOP bargaining partners with more than a little contempt, and he momentarily vanquished enemies who just can’t say “yes” to him.

His apparent conclusion, after watching the implosion of the House GOP’s effort to pass a modest tax increase before the final fiscal cliff deal, is that the best way to deal with the Capitol is to throw rocks at it — then send Vice President Joe Biden in to clean up the glass.

“There are 536 people who will be negotiating deals — the House, the Senate and the president,” an Obama aide said. “Only one of them isn’t running for reelection again. That gives us leverage.”

This last point is dubious.  Not two-thirds of senators and an unknown number of House members will not be seeking reelection in 2014.  And for those who are, opposing Obama may not carry much of a price.