"I think it's fair to say I was just too polite."—President Barack Obama, on his performance during the first debate.
One of the best things about President Obama is that he affords people good faith.
One of the worst things about President Obama is that he continues to afford people good faith even long after they have demonstrably proven they are no longer deserving of it.
Part of that is rooted in a fantasy about changing the tone in Washington through sheer force of will, a notion which members of the administration have admitted was arrogant and naïve, but to which they lingeringly subscribe nonetheless. The President has incentive not to let that fantasy go: He was carried to the steps of the White House on the shoulders of the people who believed he could do it. To abandon that fantasy is to let them down, and to admit he was wrong.
Part of that is the reality that Obama can't express himself in quite the same way as a white president could, thanks to racist narratives about Angry Black Men. He can't let naked fury cross his face without a cost—although I suspect, given the nature of protest against this president, it would ultimately be no bigger cost than simply being a man of color in the first place.
Part of that is just something in Obama's constitution: He wants consensus, even when it is manifestly obvious that it's never going to happen. One of the ways in which President Obama most infuriates me (and always has) is his refusal to hold Republicans/conservatives accountable, and his insistence on drawing equivalencies, while fetishizing bipartisanship as inherently superior to any solution even distantly associated with a partisan ideology.
And part of it is that Obama is just a decent man who wants to believe that he people with whom he's trying to run the country are decent people, too. When he says that he believes Republicans are good people who love their country and just have different ideas about what's best for it, I think he really believes that shit. (Or used to.)
The President has good reason not to let that fantasy go, either: The fact that a lot of Republicans are plutocrats who genuinely don't prioritize this nation or the needs of its people is terrible and terrifying and super grim.
No one wants to look that shit in the face, least of all someone who really does love this nation and carries some measure of personal responsibility for keeping it out of the other guys' hands.
I hope that President Obama, if he wins reelection, makes it his highest priority to be profoundly impolite.