Goldilocks Obama?

Obama's transition to the presidency has been neither too hot nor too cold, but just right, says Peter Baker in his Inauguration Day front-page story, "In Transition, Clues to How a Leader Might Govern," in which he insisted that Obama was making "centrist" appointments.

On the day before moving into the nation's most storied house, Barack Obama visited a shelter for teenagers with no home. With sleeves rolled up, he spent a few minutes painting for the benefit of the cameras that trail him everywhere now.

Cara Fuller, a shelter worker, asked if he was sweating.

"Nah, I don't sweat," he told her. "You ever see me sweat?"

Not yet. But then again, it is still early.

Mr. Obama arrives at the presidency Tuesday after a transition that betrayed little if any perspiration and no hint of nervousness. Throughout the 77 days since his election, he has been a font of cool confidence, never too hot, never too cold, seemingly undaunted by the magnitude of troubles awaiting him and unbothered by the few setbacks that have tripped him up.

He remains hard to read or label - centrist in his appointments and bipartisan in his style, yet also pushing the broadest expansion of government in generations. He has reached across old boundaries to build the foundation of an administration that will be charged with hauling the country out of crisis, but for all the outreach he has made it clear he is centralizing policy making in the White House.


More than any president since he was an infant, Mr. Obama has taken a place in society that extends beyond political leadership. He is as much symbol as substance, an icon for the young and a sign of deliverance for an older generation that never believed a man with his skin color would ascend those steps to vow to preserve, protect and defend a Constitution that originally counted a black man as three-fifths of a person.

He is a celebrity president in a celebrity culture, cooed over for his shirtless physique on the beach and splashed on the cover of every magazine from Foreign Policy to People. What his political opponents sought to portray in the campaign as arrogance is now presented by his aides as comfort with power and the responsibilities that go along with it.