It's the way he did it that matters:

This is what we’ve learned this year: Obama does not mind defeats if they are procedural or about others saving face. He’s happy to admit error; to give his opponents a chance to lunge at his jugular; to let opponents enjoy a day in the sun; to shave off any small stuff as long as the big stuff remains. He seems oddly impervious to personal insult: he doesn’t mind being affronted by the Chinese or humiliated by Netanyahu as long as it’s a matter of symbolism. On substance, he wants what he wants; and, on the big stuff, he has given up on nothing yet.

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