Barack Obama, we have been told by his admirers on the left and right, is an instinctive centrist, a moderate always ready to negotiate compromises, a politician deeply interested in the nuances of public policy.
His image as a centrist took hold at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where he gave a speech hailing not the blue states or the red states but the United States of America.
But over the course of Obama's first term, this analysis increasingly sounded like wishful thinking. And never more than during the past week, with the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense and with Speaker John Boehner's revelation that in his negotiations last month Obama repeatedly insisted that "we don't have a spending problem."
Obama went ahead with the Hagel nomination even though Hagel has been greeted with sharp criticism from many of his fellow Republicans and with eloquent silence by elected Democrats.