Scott Wilson's State of the Union preview is a useful taster, a confirmation—thanks to many heroic Senior Advisers—that the president will try to pretend 2013 was a bad trip. "Washington veterans have been brought into the West Wing," he reports, "to emphasize an executive style of governing that aims to sidestep Congress more often." This has been clear for months, ever since Glenn Thrush's profile of the incoming John Podesta. Conservatives are prepping their outrage at whatever executive actions Obama lays out.
But why is the administration looking at executive actions? Why risk alienating a Congress that the president didn't get on well with even when his party controlled both branches? Wilson attempts to explain what was lost in 2013:
A bid for new restrictions on gun sales died in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Immigration reform, thought to be a priority for Republicans after their poor showing with Latinos in the last election, languished.
Oh, that's how we're remembering those fights? Here's how I remember them.
- The gun package that the White House eventually got behind, the Manchin-Toomey amendment, was throttled when 42 Republicans and three Democrats voted against it. Yes, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, but since January 2010 there have been enough Republicans to filibuster bills and amendments, and that was what happened to the gun bill.
- An immigration reform bill passed the Senate, and "languished" because the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans who don't want to pass it.
Right now—at the end of this week, actually—House Republicans are working on a "framework" for an immigration bill that they might pass. It's quite easy to imagine the GOP announcing principles, then saying Obama's rampant executive actions make it impossible to work with him, shunting the blame when no bill passes. It's even easier to imagine that if Republicans can count on the press clocking off Republican efforts to kill bills as, sigh, yet more Obama failures. When will that guy lead, already?