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Can Obama engage in 'self-critique and self-correction'?

After his party's 'shellacking' in the midterm elections, President Obama is getting lots of advice about changes he needs to make – including changes in his character as well as his style.

By Staff writer / November 7, 2010

President Barack Obama listens to a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington the morning after this past week's midterm elections in which he acknowledges that he took a "shellacking."

Charles Dharapak/AP

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If he wasn’t so busy meeting world leaders and acting as chief national salesman for US goods and services in Asia, one could almost imagine that Barack Obama had left the Washington pressure cooker on a sort of soul-searching walkabout this week – listening for guidance and direction as he ponders what went wrong for his party in the midterm elections.

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But, no, he’s in India, en route to Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan to do the actual presidential stuff and not just to muse introspectively, although there’s probably some of that too.

Lots of others among the political and pundit classes are doing it for him, though, and by definition that has to get quite personal.

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Mike Allen at Politico.com has had a look at Hendrik Hertzberg’s “Talk of the Town” column in the forthcoming New Yorker. Hertzberg writes:

“Obama's temperament has become a political liability. In 2008, his calm was a synergistic counterpoint to the joyous excitement of the throngs that packed his rallies. In the tidy, quiet isolation of the White House, his serene rationality has felt to many like detachment, even indifference. For him and for the country, the next two years look awfully bleak. Capitol Hill will be like Hamburger Hill, a noisy wasteland of sanguinary stalemate. There will be no more transformative legislation; it will be all Obama can do simply to protect health-care reform from sabotage. The economy, like the climate, will be left to fend for itself. And the world will watch, wonder, and worry.”

A 'fundamentally new Obama'?

On another cheery note, former Newsweek editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham writes in the Washington Post:

“I would not hold out for a fundamentally New Obama. For better or for worse, Obama is today – and will be tomorrow – what he has always been: a bright man engaged in an endeavor that rewards luck and happenstance more often than it does intellect and good intentions…. Obama has always managed to appear detached and clinical. That seemed a virtue during the campaign, in the madness and fear of the economic collapse. Now it seems a vice to those who expected a human figure to perform superhuman feats.”

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