Obama is something of a robust self-contradiction, if not a living oxymoron: He is, it seems, a kind of delicate but thunderingly hardass Illinois pol.
Hillary Clinton and John McCain learned this the hard way. Now Republicans and obstructionists in his own party are learning too. While Obama — quite genuinely I think — prefers reasonable debate and collaboration as a way of solving problems and getting bills passed, you don’t get to the top of Chicago and Illinois politics without having a core of steel.
Moreover, Obama’s style is to wait a bit before responding to attacks and challenges. It’s rope-a-dope. Let opponents tire themselves out and make mistakes, then clobber them. He’s brilliant at this.
Hey, it worked for Lincoln, and there were many who misunderestimated that man throughout his inexorable marches to triumph, too.