Phase Two: Obama Fights

Barack Obama's posture toward recalcitrant congressional Republicans took a sharp turn toward the confrontational on Thursday – and just in time.

The new president spent the last few weeks playing the role of magnanimous bipartisan leader, making public shows of outreach to Republicans and shying away from direct attacks. It won him a grand total of zero Republican votes in the House for his economic stimulus package.

On Thursday, with public opinion turning against the plan and emboldened Republican ratcheting up their hysteria, Obama called his G.O.P. critics out at a White House signing ceremony.

"In the past two days," he said, "I have heard criticisms of this plan that, frankly, echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place. I reject these theories – and by the way, so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change."

Many Democrats believe Obama should have been talking this way from the very beginning of his presidency, and that his cooperative posture before today has given his Republican opponents leverage and needlessly endangered the stimulus package. But this is a short-sighted view.

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