Is Obama throwing Pelosi and Reid under the bus? Yes, this column is a real exercise in cynicism. But in the world of politics and its big-boy nastiness, it's entirely possible that's it's true, nevertheless.
I learned during the years of Newt Gingrich's control of Congress that it's a lot easier for an incumbent to win the White House when there's somebody else to blame for his and the nation's ills.
Look at the polling. President Obama and the Democrats in Washington already weren't faring very well when the president chose to publicly defend the proposed construction of an "Islamic community center" -- aka a mosque -- just a few blocks from the destruction of the World Trade Centers. Once he did that, those polling numbers tumbled some more. Then Obama made it even worse for himself by "clarifying" his statements, which consisted of him basically reiterating his position.
Harry Reid in particular went ballistic. With his own re-election campaign in Nevada in jeopardy, the Senate majority leader had to openly distance himself from the president.
Since that day, the president has seemingly gone out of his way to say things, or to have his administration do things, that only deepen the hole he and the Democrats are in. He has taken an inflexible stand against extending the George W. Bush tax cuts. His White House has leaked memos about alternative ways to keep illegal immigrants stateside. He's appeared at a town hall meeting and gone away utterly embarrassed. It seems that Obama has made all the right moves to benefit one person -- Barack Obama.
I'll grant that my view may be unsurprising coming from someone who wrote a book called "Paranoid Nation" -- someone utterly cynical about politicians. But this is little wonder. I was there in 1996 when President Bill Clinton and his team successfully attached at the hip the by-then unpopular Speaker Gingrich with GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole. This worked like a charm by dooming Dole's campaign from the start.
Ask yourself: If you were Obama, would you really want Reid and Pelosi standing on the stage with you in two years, when you're running for re-election, and you're trying to explain why "Change We Can Believe In" has morphed into "Nightmare on Elm Street"? You wouldn't.
You'd rather have a Republican speaker to blame should the economy take another dip in the wrong direction. Or a GOP Senate leader as a fall guy if foreign policy deteriorates.
The latest fashionable cliche in Washington is to characterize Obama as a professorial type who is easily led astray by a cast of liberal characters who are pulling him in various new directions.
I don't buy it. This man is exceptionally bright and exceptionally ruthless. You don't go from being a small-potatoes legislator in a tough-as-nails state like Illinois to being president within 10 years unless you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive politically. I think that's exactly what Obama is doing now.
His answer to our economic plight is to ignore public protests even from Democrats that he is wrong and wrongheaded on taxation and other related issues.
Pelosi apparently is too dim-witted to realize that her continuing devotion to the liberal politics and policies of San Francisco is burying any chance that she can remain as speaker. Of course, Obama will shed few private tears if she falls from power. Pelosi has been nothing if not a pain in the rear to Obama, even as she supposedly has been his supporter.
For Obama, the best case would be for the Democrats to lose Congress, just as they did in 1994 during Clinton's first term. This would allow Obama to lay the blame for the sputtering economy at the GOP's doorstep, as well as provide him with an excuse for not passing the boatload of additional liberal agenda items that his support base will continue to demand.
It might even help the president further if the number of Republicans in the Senate goes up to the point that the magic 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster attempt would be impossibility. That would ensure one of the Democrats favorite words -- gridlock.
The media are focusing on the silly alleged divide in the Republican Party between the "establishment" and the tea party -- this, without ever even entertaining the possibility that this may be a White House bound and determined to rid itself of a Democratic congressional leadership that is plagued by members under investigation; a House and Senate that is by the day becoming more and more despised by a public that usually doesn't give a fig one way or the other.
Don't forget: Obama may be a professor by trade, but he can be as big of a political butcher as the anyone raised on Chicago-style politics.
If some readers find my concept overly cynical, so be it. The White House likely would just call it being practical.