President Barack Obama isn’t looking for political wins.
Just ask him.
Obama has taken to declaring that nothing’s about him or giving the White House a political victory — it’s all about the American people. Since he’s not running for office again, Obama can say he’s above the fray, his argument goes.
Of course, saying something isn’t about politics is usually the first sign it’s entirely about politics. The issues the White House has said are not political this week — Obamacare implementation, immigration reform and gay rights — stand to be major victories for Democrats if successful and a significant part of Obama’s legacy no matter what happens.
And if comprehensive immigration reform or the Employee Non Discrimination Act fail in the House — and there is little reason to believe they won’t — Democrats plan to use them as centerpieces of their 2014 campaigns.
“This is not an issue where we’re looking for a political win,” Obama said Tuesday said before meeting with CEOs to press his immigration agenda. “This is one where we’re looking for a substantive win for the U.S. economy and the American people and the businesses that are represented here.”
With immigration, Obama has tried to make it apolitical by tethering the issue to George W. Bush, who made an unsuccessful push for a reform bill during his second term, and House Speaker John Boehner, who has said immigration is an issue to be dealt with, if not by the means the White House favors.
He tried a similar argument on gun control, which Republicans blocked in the Senate earlier this year.
“I’ve also heard some in the press suggest that what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will be a political victory or defeat for me,” Obama said in April. “You know what? This isn’t about me. And it shouldn’t be about politics. This is about doing the right thing for families like yours that have been torn apart by gun violence, and families going forward.”
And the White House insists there’s no politics involved in the Obamacare rollout.
“The fact is that he’s focused on delivering the access to quality and affordable health insurance to the American people that the Affordable Care Act promises,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. “He’s not concerned about the politics of that.”
But earlier in the day, Obama met at the White House with Senate Democrats who will face the voters in 2014 to assure them the Obamacare rollout will be fixed before it causes them too much political damage. And that afternoon, Obama spoke about health care in Texas — home of top Obamacare foes Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz.
Of course, the White House kept up the apolitical argument, introducing a Twitter hashtag #PeopleOverPolitics and tried to tie the trip – scheduled to accommodate a Democratic fundraiser – to highlighting Perry’s refusal to accept a federal Medicaid expansion in the state.
“This isn’t a political issue. This is about making sure people where they live have access to good quality, affordable health care,” White House deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy David Simas told reporters.
When talking to high-dollar donors to Senate Democrats in Dallas, Obama stressed his desire not for overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress but to guide the GOP to a place where it is more willing to cooperate on the White House agenda.
“I’m a proud Democrat and am committed to the values that the Democratic Party represents, but I’m also interested in getting the Republican Party back in a functioning state,” Obama said. “Because this country has two parties, and we need both of them operating in a way that allows us to move forward.”