The Note: Bad Humor

"It is not the small adjustments to previously-held positions -- FISA, the Second Amendment, Iraq. It's a sense that Obama's ample self-regard is lapsing into hubris," Andrew Sullivan blogs for The Atlantic. "Any one of these misjudgments would be a trivial lapse -- and we all make mistakes. It's the combination that concerns me - and the possibility that this campaign is becoming far too cocky for its own good."

"I'm not saying we're there yet, but that's the danger," David Sirota tells The New York Times' William Yardley. "He is a transformative politician, but he is still a politician."

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza traces Obama's eager image-making back to its Chicago roots: "Although many of Obama's recent supporters have been surprised by signs of political opportunism, [Chicago Alderman Toni] Preckwinkle wasn't. 'I think he was very strategic in his choice of friends and mentors,' she told me," Lizza writes. And later: " 'Can you get where he is and maintain your personal integrity?' she said. 'Is that the question?' She stared at me and grimaced. 'I'm going to pass on that.' "

(Lizza recounts an angry, possibly physical exchange between Obama and a fellow state lawmaker, where Obama "supposedly" said: "I'm going to kick your ass!" And let's see how Republicans play with Obama's post-9/11 column, where he said the "essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers."

Chicago is the setting for The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray, who looks at the tight circle of Obama insiders -- and includes some hints of just a little loosening. "As Obama's campaign expands for the general-election campaign and the candidate has less time for his friendships, certain strains are starting to show," she writes. "At his Chicago headquarters, insecurities have flared as the circles multiply and more people crowd inside. [Valerie] Jarrett said her main focus in the coming weeks will be to help the new hires integrate smoothly: 'It's important that people feel good about this.' "

Maybe he knows what he's doing. David Broder casts him as an "intrepid aviator": "When the pilots were over a target heavily defended by antiaircraft guns, they would release a cloud of fine metal scraps, hoping to confuse the aim of the shells or missiles being fired in their direction," Broder writes in his Sunday column. "In the weeks since he effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, the Illinois senator has done a similar trick, throwing out verbal hints of altered positions on any number of issues. This is creating quandaries for the Republicans who can't figure out where to aim."

Key point: "Obama will be in trouble only if the pattern continues to the point that undecided voters come to believe that he has a character problem -- that they really can't trust him."

Are these the right moves? "While Obama has clearly reframed his Iraq position with an eye toward November, he also has good substantive reasons for backing away from some of his past rhetoric," The New Republic writes in an editorial. "All in all, the recent flaying of Barack Obama makes for a depressing object lesson in how our press and our political discourse treat nuance. If Obama, as we've been told, suddenly has a 'problem' on Iraq, it's only because American politics has a much deeper one."

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