Oct. 18, 2009— -- With problems for the president in Afghanistan, health care and unemployment, some critics on both the left and right are asking: Is the president essentially "too nice" to make the important decisions?
The National Journal magazine asks in a just-out edition, "Is He Tough Enough?"
"Be decisive," says Tom Tradewell, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd says the president will have to "break some eggs" to cook up a more perfect union.
And a "Saturday Night Live" skit satirically suggested maybe the president needs to "get angry." Played by actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, President Obama transforms into a Hulk-like character called "The Rock Obama" who picks up his political opponents and throws them out the Oval Office window.
Today on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," a top adviser pushed back.
"I think he has been plenty tough. I think people want toughness, but they also want to have thoughtful leadership. And that -- and that requires reviewing these issues, thinking them through clearly, and bringing people along, and that's what he's doing," senior adviser David Axelrod said.
But the White House is angering its own party by declaring today a public option is not a necessity in a health care bill.
"He's not demanding that it's in there," said senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. "He thinks it's the best possible choice."
White House officials say all this talk about "is he tough enough" is only a matter of style -- the president is trying to build consensus. But that effort is also leading to the criticism, they say.
Republicans Question Obama's Leadership Skills
"The president has reached a tipping point whether deliberation is starting to look like hesitation," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden. "One of the biggest risks there, the American public begins to question whether or not you have the leadership skills."
The president is fighting back against critics, using tough rhetoric Thursday at a fundraiser in San Francisco.
"You can throw whatever you want at me. Keep it coming. We're going to get this done," he said about health care reform.
But for his supporters, the question remains whether his consensus-striving style will get in the way of his campaign promise for change.