Where has this Obama been?
Since the State of the Union address, the president has been bounding about, displaying a new sense of vigor and confidence and a fighter’s spirit. He almost looks like the president people thought that he would be — a paladin, not a pacifist.
Last week, he provided a fascinating bit of political theater by toying with House Republicans at their own retreat, dismantling their arguments and disarming their charges. It was impressive. When they asked if he had time for more questions, he responded: “You know, I’m having fun.” Score.
At his New Hampshire town hall on Tuesday, Obama connected with a more colloquial tone, chiding Republicans for voting against the recovery act while glomming onto the glories of the projects it produced: “They found a way to have their cake and vote against it, too.” Score again.
His new persona comes as a welcome reprieve from a year in which he toddled about as if someone had slipped him an Ambien, taking punches and not returning them.
I have no idea if Nuevo O is here to stay, but I could name a few reasons why it would be a good idea.
1. His base needs a hit.
After months of watching their agenda get mired in misinformation, and after a series of deflating defeats, progressives need a champion, someone to remind them of what it feels like to be on the offensive and not back on their heels. Obama gave them that this week.
2. The bipartisan ship has sailed.
Obama rode into Washington with his heart set on fixing it. Republicans came out with their hearts set on breaking him. Both paths have led to gridlock. This made him appear effete and the Democrats ineffectual.
At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Obama quoted John F. Kennedy’s “civility is not a sign of weakness.” Maybe not, but servility is. There comes a time when one must rise to a fight or fall in defeat. Now is that time.
Besides, no matter how hard he tries, Republicans will not reward his efforts. According toa Fox News poll released on Thursday, only 18 percent of Republicans said they believed that Obama is trying to reach out to Republicans to compromise and change the climate in Washington, and only 14 percent approved of his job performance.
3. Neutrality is a nonstarter.
A study published in The Economic Journal during the summer of 2008 found that voters preferred extreme political positions to moderate ones. It demonstrates a level of commitment and conviction. The lesson: fence-sitting leaves scars, too.
I would advise this new Obama to stick around for a season. I prefer my presidents walking tall, not sleepwalking.