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Obama Previews High-Road Strategy Versus GOP

President Barack Obama, with daughter Sasha, 9, and first lady Michelle Obama, with daughter Sasha, 9, exit Air Force One after returning from vacation in Hawaii, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) i i

President Obama, with daughter Sasha and first lady Michelle Obama, with daughter Malia exit Air Force One, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

itoggle caption Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Barack Obama, with daughter Sasha, 9, and first lady Michelle Obama, with daughter Sasha, 9, exit Air Force One after returning from vacation in Hawaii, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Obama, with daughter Sasha and first lady Michelle Obama, with daughter Malia exit Air Force One, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.

Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS

When a president walks towards the back of Air Force One to visit the White House press corps in their very pleasant compartment, it's typically not to shoot the breeze but because he wants to send a message.

So it was with President Obama who returned to Washington Tuesday. While the presidential plane was still in flight from Hawaii where the president spent the recent holidays, Obama came back and pretty much sent the message that he intends to frame his disagreements with congressional Republicans as the GOP playing politics instead of tending to the concerns of the American people, namely jobs.

In other words, the president wants to establish that he will be the one on the political high road.

Of course, it's mutual since Republicans will seek to frame their disagreements with the president as the president catering to his political base as they hew to the more principled course.

Here's the president's exchange with a reporter after the obligatory banter with reporters and the president about Hawaiian shave ice.

REPORTER: A serious question:  Are you concerned you're going to get a chilly reception in Washington?  Republicans, on Sunday, were talking about the first thing they’re going to do is repeal health care.  They’re talking about asking you to get rid of Eric Holder, the Attorney General.  It sounds like a relatively chilly reception awaiting you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I mean, I think that there’s going to be politics.  That's what happens in Washington.  They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time.  But I'm pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that were creating a competitive economy for the 21st century; not just for this generation but the next one.

And so my expectation, my hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012, and that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery.  We started to make good progress on that during the lame duck, and I expect to build on that progress when I get back.

The die is cast. If there isn't progress, which Obama defines as the kind of legislative success he enjoyed during the lame duck, the president will accuse post lame-duck Republicans of gumming up the works for political expedience.

Since it appears the success of the lame duck had much to do with Democrat control of the House and having more senators than they'll have in the new 112th Congress, the expectation is for gridlock.

So Obama should have plenty of chances to trot out the high-road strategy. And so should congressional Republicans.

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