Play Both Sides Against The Middle Meaning

(idiomatic) To manipulate opponents or competitors in a manner which benefits the manipulator.

Example: 1932, George Jean Nathan and Henry Louis Mencken, The American Mercury‎, p. 383:
  Some of the lesser Democrats, especially in the remoter reaches of the Bible country, have the same yearning, but they are not as numerous as the Republicans, all of whom have been greatly embarrassed by Dr. Hoover's laborious efforts to play both sides against the middle.
1978, Intercontinental Press/Inprecor, Volume 16‎, p. 1127:
  While the Kremlin stood by and tried to play both sides against the middle, the defeat of the Palestinians in Lebanon helped establish the political atmosphere that enabled Sadat to make his trip to Jerusalem.
1999, Margaret Jones, Patsy: the Life and Times of Patsy Cline‎, p. 50:
  Patsy may have been playing both sides against the middle in an effort to get her career going and to get herself out from under Peer's pressuring and the sexual demands he placed on her.
2005, T. J. English, Paddy Whacked: the Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster‎, p. 133:
  Luciano went about playing both sides against the middle until the two families went at each other in the famously bloody Castellamarese War later in the decade...