From Michael Gerson, the smug, right-wing myth that endures:
Obama arrived with limited experience on the national stage--only to find himself in the fight from the last act of Hamlet. He seemed surprised that Washington could not be changed by the force of his personality.
It's true that rare is the politician who possesses little confidence in "the force of his personality." Especially at the presidential level, and especially in the modern age, politicians are hired because of their self-confidence in adventurously navigating the capitol's sewers of the same old pols. (I am excepting Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover--whose complacency got us you-know-where.)
In Obama's case, however--remarkably similar to FDR's, of 1933--the force of circumstances was presumed superior to personality's power. Jobs were imploding and GDP was tanking and banks were folding and credit was freezing and so how in God's name could Washington choose to sit pat? A speedy, forceful recovery would require a two-party commitment to country over politics; indeed, for a short, post-election period the GOP talked as though it would pitch in and do whatever was needed to help the new president and his Democratic Congress regain the nation's footing. It was, after all, mostly the GOP's unendurable mismanagement that had knocked us on our ass; it was only fitting that Republicans should bow, step aside, and permit competence some room to work.
Well, we know how that morality play turned out. Yet from its final act Gerson sententiously broods that Obama "has become a sobered and hardened figure"--one that might complicate his "leadership role in reforms that require both parties to trust each other and take simultaneous risks." Obama's endlessly unrequited trust. That's all the GOP asks.
"He seemed surprised that Washington could not be changed by the force of his personality." Conceded, to the customary extent of presidential psychology. Far more than that, though, Obama has simply been shocked that Republicans will not change by the force of the nation's wounded circumstances.
Shocked, sobered, and hardened--all perfectly predictable within an idealism betrayed.