Maureen Dowd's column today hits on something she's been tuning into for a while. Dowd's instincts about human character are foolish to bet against. She has essentially read every recent president correctly from the get-go as types. And she has always seen Obama as a bit of a cold fish, aloof, too unwilling to punch back, too arrogant to explain himself too much. MoDo worried about that in the campaign as the Clintons brought more raw human emotion to the trail and Obama often seemed to coast too cockily only to right himself, usually with some spell-binding speech or shrewd piece of campaign management. I generally trusted Obama's instincts. In the campaign, MoDo was nearly right (Obama did let the Clintons get back off the mat a few too many times) but in the end, wrong (look who got elected). But in government? The coolness has yet to be proven effective - as Kissinger has noted.
You see this in the almost clinical way Obama has assessed the politics of taking on the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies. The way in which both Greg Craig and Phil Carter have been dispatched for insisting that Obama live up to his campaign promises (no, I don't believe the personal reasons line) is chilling in its raw political calculation. Ditto Obama's disciplined refusal to fulfill his campaign pledges on civil rights any time soon. And his rhetorical restraint during the Green Revolution. The determination to figure out the very best and most detailed way forward in Afghanistan, even during a war in which allies are waiting and enemies are watching, and to take his time ... well this is also a sign that we are dealing with one very, very cool character here.