Old Washington hands have been scratching their heads about the start of President Obama’s second term, with its aggressive liberal priorities and attacks on Republicans. Whatever happened to governing? Well, the answer arrived this weekend as the Washington Post reported that Mr. Obama’s real plan for the next two years is returning Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker in 2014.
“The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office, according to congressional Democrats, strategists and others familiar with Obama’s thinking,” reports the Post, which is hardly hostile to the President.
The article says that shortly after finishing his speech on Election Night last year, Mr. Obama called Mrs. Pelosi and Steve Israel, who runs the Democratic House re-election campaign, to discuss 2014. The strategy fits Mr. Obama’s unprecedented new effort to raise $50 million in $500,000 chunks to fund Organizing for Action (OFA), which will spend millions in GOP-held districts. Mr. Israel says he met in January with Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager who now runs OFA, to discuss the 2014 races.
White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back against the article on Monday, saying 2014 is “not a focus” for Mr. Obama. But that looks like an attempt at damage control after the Post blew the White House’s cover. Mr. Obama has to appear to want bipartisan deals even as he prepares the ground for blaming Republicans in 2014 when those efforts fail.
This is already clear on the budget, as Mr. Obama insists on a second tax increase that Republicans can’t accept. We’re also increasingly worried about White House sabotage on immigration reform, as it pushes the bill left on a guest-worker program and enforcement. Mr. Obama is doing exactly what you’d expect if he doesn’t want a deal and plans to use the issue to drive minority turnout in 2014.
It’s important to understand how extraordinary this is. Presidents typically try to secure major bipartisan deals in their fifth or sixth years, before their political capital ebbs. That’s what Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did, and George W. Bush tried on Social Security. Mr. Obama seems to think he can use the next two years mainly to set up a Pelosi House that would let him finish his last two years with a liberal bang.
The next time you hear Mr. Obama, House Democrats or one of their media acolytes talk about GOP “obstructionism,” refer them to the Washington Post article that shows what they really intend for the current Congress. Bipartisan failure is their strategy.