This has been a season of leadership tests for President Obama. From Egypt to Libya and now the budget, he has been called upon to deal with rapidly unfolding events, and questions about his leadership style have followed a consistent pattern.
Is he too slow to react? Is he diffident in the face of serious challenges? Is he reluctant to exercise the full powers of the presidency? Would events have turned out differently had he moved with greater force earlier?
His advisers argue that his forward thinking, his persistence and his patience have produced desired results and allowed him to achieve notable successes. But they have come at the price of doubts about the strength of his leadership and his commitment to take on fights that his supporters think are necessary.
The battle over this year's federal budget is the latest example. For weeks, Republicans have called on the president to get his hands dirty in the struggle to fund the government for the current fiscal year and thereby avoid a government shutdown. For weeks, he resisted. Now, in the past few days, he has dived in.
What explains the president's approach? Everything from personal temperament to lessons learned to political survival, according to other politicians and independent analysts. One other factor may have contributed to Obama's strategy — the recognition that this fight is but a prelude to a more titanic struggle over deficits and entitlements that will begin later in the year.
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