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Date: Monday, March 01, 2010, 5:09 am

By: Deborah Mathis,

We could not have expected President Obama to go full street in his health care summit with Democrat and Republican members of Congress last week, but it was good to see him flex some muscle at last.

A lot of folks were worried that, once again, the president was bending over backwards to accommodate his critics and nemeses from Capitol Hill – the very ones who have built a fort against any progress he tries to make on any thing. Ever since he took the oath last January, they have been about the business of bullying and daring, the equivalent of setting a block of wood on their shoulders and daring Obama to knock it off.

One did not have to be in the room at Blair House on Thursday to feel the tension in the room; it transferred intact across the airwaves. Although he was always civil, often professorial, sometimes philosophical and invariably business-like, Obama was quite obviously fed up.

When House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Ohio) began his opening statement with perfunctory niceties about how nice it was to have been invited and how hopeful he was that some good could be accomplished, the president cut him off.

“Let me guess,” he said, taking note of the large stack of papers near Cantor. “That’s the 2,400-page health care bill. Is that right?” Obama then explained that the conversation would be better off without “props.”

The president also had testy exchange with his 2008 rival, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is now fighting to keep his job away from the absurd-leaning, super panderer J.D. Hayworth. Obama answered McCain’s contentiousness and finger-wagging with a reminder: “We’re not campaigning anymore; the election is over.”

And there were other instances in which the famously cool, unflappable chief executive showed some heat and spunk.

How the event is digested depends, of course, on where your hopes lie. To his critics, “it is illustrating what a bunch of mean, arrogant, petulant, just lousy people the Democrats are at this summit” – the assessment of conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh.

But, to those of us who believe there is nobility in turning the other cheek, but only to a point lest it crosses that thin line into cowardice, Obama’s jaw tightening was a welcome sight. It’s time.

If past is prologue, there is no reason to believe that he would have drawn better reviews or results had he personally baked cookies and passed them out with Michelle, following up with tea. Been there, done that (albeit with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) and to no avail.

Not that I expect the president to become a menacing hard ass. Not that I want him to. It’s not who he is, and I’m of the to-thine-own-self-be-true school.

But, I have yet to meet the man or woman who has unlimited patience, though some thresholds are exceedingly high. There is, in all of us, a fighter somewhere.

I think we have gotten a glimpse of Obama’s inner warrior. I hope it wasn’t a one time shot. It would be good to see him every now and then.