Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - If anyone still thinks President Obama is serious about putting our fiscal house in order, Exhibits A and B prove he's been playing political games with this issue from the beginning.

Exhibit A: The White House high command saw the full sequester budget battle -- not as an effort to curb out-of-control deficit spending that's driving the government into unfathomable debt -- but as a relentless, politically-driven opportunity to bludgeon the Republicans in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.

Obama's campaign-style events in recent weeks were a carefully- crafted effort in demagoguery to blame the GOP for the sequester law. But Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward tracked the sequester debacle to the Oval Office, saying Obama was constantly "moving the goal posts" in his negotiations with the GOP by demanding higher taxes.

Every statement, speech, trip and decision thus far this year was strategically engineered for its political impact on the GOP as part of a long term plan to regain control of the House to pass Obama's remaining agenda and burnish his legacy in his last two years in office.

Exhibit B: There were also exaggerated and downright false claims by the administration about the sequester cuts -- long before they were made -- that smacked of political dirty tricks. More about this in a moment.

Soon after his election victory speech last November, Obama made two phone calls -- one to New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the other to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who still harbors hopes of winning back her post as Speaker.

Obama concluded long ago that he would not be able to get anything done in his second term if the GOP held on to the House. In order to save his presidency, he would have to focus much if not most of his energy this year and next on a virtual nonstop political assault against Speaker John Boehner and his party in the 2013-14 election cycle.

"The president understands that to get anything done, he needs a Democratic majority in the House," Israel told The Washington Post last week."To have a legacy in 2016, he will need a House majority in 2014, and that work has to start now."

Immediately after delivering his high-sounding inaugural address, Obama plunged into the messy, parochial battle plans that will consume much of his political capital over the next two years.

He's committed himself to eight high roller fundraisers for the DCCC, and many more were being added to the list. He has retooled his 2012 re-election organization into a full time grassroots campaign called Organizing for Action, dedicated to the recruitment and financing of House candidates.

He put his re-election campaign manager, Jim Messina, in charge of the the House takeover drive, to insure that it was directed from the White House. Messina met in early January with Israel, well before Obama took the oath of office, to plot campaign strategy, fundraising, grassroots outreach and coordinating a White House-driven political offensive against the Republicans.

While Speaker Boehner is the House GOP's leader, he maintains a network of friendships among the Democrats and their advisers. In a January speech, he warned that Obama was plotting to "annihilate" the Republican party.

Messina made it very clear at the meeting that Obama would devote a great deal of his time in his second term to the House takeover operation from beginning to end.

"Israel said Obama told him 'how focused he would be on winning a House majority for the Democrats," many of whom complained that Obama didn't do near enough in his first term to keep the House in Democratic hands, the Post reported.

Obama has ambitious plans for his second term agenda, including immigration reforms, hiking the minimum wage, sweeping new gun controls, and climate change laws, just for starters.

But he knows that little if any of his agenda will become law unless Democrats take control the House and Nancy Pelosi becomes the Speaker.

When Obama's voters went to the polls, no doubt many if not most -- especially tens of millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans -- believed he would refocus his agenda on jobs and the sluggish, lackluster economy.

But by now it has become painfully clear he won't be making the jobless economy a major focus of his second term. He'll be playing political attack games on a new set of issues and campaigning full time to put the Democrats in full control of Congress again.

Obama "would like nothing more than to have complete liberal control of Congress for his last two years in office," says Boehner's spokesman Brendan Buck. "Just look at what he's doing now. He's not even negotiating at this point. It's purely political theater."

For all intents and purposes, Obama has washed his hands of the economy and jobs, issues that a majority of Americans cite as their greatest concerns, but have been the biggest failures of his presidency.

Instead, two Post headlines here starkly reveal what his plans are for this year and next: "Obama sees 2014 as key to legacy", and "Obama to shift focus to different priorities," followed by a subhead, "Amid fiscal stalemate, he turns to gun control, immigration changes."

If you harbor any doubts about Obama's game playing tactics as he heads into the midterm election cycle, Exhibit B reveals how the president and his top advisers invented scare stories in their efforts to nail the sequester cuts on the GOP, or announced faux budget- cutting actions before the sequester deadline.

Even before one dollar had been cut from any budget, the Obama administration announced that hundreds of illegal immigrants in detention facilities were let go to save money.

A typically ugly claim, apparently made up out of whole cloth came from Education Secretary Arne Duncan who said on CBS's "Face the Nation on Feb. 24, "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall."

The Post's intrepid Fact Checker Glenn Kessler dug into this claim, which Duncan made three times, and found it was absolutely false. Duncan's failing score for making things up: Four Pinocchios.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.