While Obama declined to do battle for his favorite for State, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, a battle that would have united Republicans, he has chosen to do battle for Chuck Hagel for Defense.
As Hagel is a conservative Republican, this has already divided the GOP foreign policy realists from the neocons and the War Party.
If Hagel is confirmed, Republican resistance will have been routed. If Hagel is rejected, the Republican Party will be damaged in the eyes of many for having trashed a patriot, war hero and friend of veterans who put America first and wanted no more unnecessary wars.
Nixon lost the first two battles he waged to put a Southern jurist on the Supreme Court, then castigated the Senate for perpetrating acts of "regional discrimination," and went on to win all 11 states of the Confederacy in 1972. It's called winning by losing.
Obama's selection of White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew for treasury secretary, a former budget director whose intransigence in negotiations antagonized Hill Republicans, looks to be another fight the president is picking to portray the GOP as obstructionists who cannot accept the verdict of 2012.
The president is also taking a no-negotiations stance on the debt ceiling, saying he refuses to pay ransom to the GOP to prevent their destroying the nation's credit rating. Republicans would do well to walk this terrain before choosing to fight upon it.
The coming gun battle, too, is one in which Obama seems to be seeking a clash where, should he lose on the assault weapons ban, he wins with the public and tars Republicans as lapdogs of the National Rifle Association. And the next time a massacre occurs, as inevitably it will, is there any doubt whom the Democrats will hold responsible?
The president has many weapons in his coming clashes with the congressional Republicans. He has the presidency itself, the bully pulpit. He has forums like the Inaugural Address and State of the Union that Republicans cannot match.
He has a press that deeply dislikes the Republican right and serves as his echo chamber. And while the White House speaks with a single voice, the Republican Party is a cacophony of voices.
With demography moving against the GOP, with more and more Americans becoming dependent upon government, it will take leadership not yet visible to rescue the Republican Party from the fate Barack Hussein Obama has in store for it.