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Obama in the Eye of the Storm

There are many such balancing acts in Obama's world. He knows he has to spend a lot of money now but insists he wants to "chip away at our enormous long-term budget deficit." He wants to get the "ball rolling" on health-care reform because, while it "may cost money on the front end," it can "save enormous money on the back end."

And where might Republicans fit into all this? Obama still thinks he'll win their support someday on some issues. Because the stimulus envisioned a large government role in rescuing the economy, he said, it may have "exaggerated" the partisan divide because it played on "the core differences between Democrats and Republicans."

But he is aware that some Republicans think they can gain "political advantage" if they can "enforce conformity" within their ranks and thus "invigorate" their base.

He declined to judge whether this strategy will work for the Republicans, but President Obama 2.0, the version slightly chastened since Inauguration Day, did not mind explaining how their approach has affected him.

"You know, I am an eternal optimist," he said. "That doesn't mean I'm a sap."

Maybe that mysterious calm people talk about reflects the temperament of a man who can live with his mistakes as long as he doesn't repeat them.

E.J. Dionne has more on his interview with Obama on PostPartisan.

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