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In Obama's decision-making, a wide range of influences
"The president will turn to Geithner at the beginning of a meeting and say, 'Did you check into those?' " Dunn said. When it came to loan modifications, Obama would cite everyday anecdotes to counter advisers' assertions that the problems had been fixed. When it came to letters about foreclosures, Dunn said, Obama said more than once: "I get too many of these."
The focus on Obama's dispassionate demeanor is one that frustrates his advisers, who are privy to his more emotional side.
"Part of what's painful to me is to see people describe him as cool and aloof, when he's not at all," Jarrett said. "It's just simply that he has the strength and courage to not let those emotions throw him off course."
After a middle-of-the-night trip to Dover Air Force Base to receive the bodies of fallen soldiers, Obama was both moved and disturbed, said advisers who talked with him about it. The speech he delivered a short time later at West Point announcing a 30,000-troop increase in Afghanistan was also "very emotional," Jarrett said.
"He talked to us all about the trip to Dover and coming back at 4 in the morning, and just how hard that was," she said. "But he couldn't let that interfere with making a decision that he thought was best for the American people. And I think that's a quality you want in a president. You don't want a president who's going to be so shaken by the magnitude of the decision that they can't make the right decision."
Or, as Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) put it: "When people talk about him being cerebral, my point is, what's wrong with that?"
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.