Congressional Republicans have apparently decided that a (previously) bipartisan package of tax breaks making its way through the lame-duck session will be the (first?) vehicle for venting their rage at President Obama’s immigration actions.  They’ve cut two top Democratic priorities—a child tax credit and an expanded earned-income tax credit—from the bill.  In response, President Obama has threatened to veto the proposed legislation.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum observes, “This is all part of the new Obama we’ve seen since the midterm election, which seems to have had an oddly liberating effect on him… It’s as though he’s tired of their endless threats to go nuclear over every little thing and just doesn’t care anymore. Go ahead, he’s telling them. Make my day.

Old-timers in the Politics Division here at MassCommons World Headquarters have been passionate admirers of Drum’s blogging since his Calpundit days, but the view here is that we’re not seeing a “new Obama”.  Rather, we’re seeing the same old Obama who’s been a major national political figure since his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, and who’s never been secretive about what he thinks his greatest political strengths are:

This is why actually, if you watch my political interactions, I am always best as a counterpuncher.  You know, if somebody comes at me, I will knock them out.  If not, then I will try to understand their point of view; and that actually serves me well.  

I give people the benefit of the doubt.  I try to understand their point of view.  If I perceive that they’ve tried to take advantage of that, then I will (…pause…) crush them. (disarming smile and general laughter)

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of those remarks.  They remain about as good an insight as there is into how Barack Obama thinks of himself—and operates—as a political figure.

With large Republican majorities in the next Congress, he’ll have lots of punches to counter.  And nothing that’s happened in the last seven years suggests he’s any less confident in his abilities to do so than he was as a junior senator trudging around to small-town newspaper editorial board meetings, running an uphill race for president against the most popular family name in contemporary Democratic party politics.

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