President Obama must be having a chuckle. For two years, his lurch to the left united independents and conservatives against him. Now a civil war is developing on the right amidst an outbreak of Obama Derangement Syndrome.
The president's Tucson speech is dividing his critics and becoming a litmus test. Those who praised it are accused of naiveté or political treason.
I was among those who thought the speech brilliant, and some readers reacted with horror. They say he "fooled" me again or that I'm a slobbering liberal.
To copy a phrase, let me be clear: There's no question Obama is the most liberal president in modern history. The health-care takeover, the explosion of spending, the assault on capitalism -- they are the handiwork of a statist who believes government should be bigger and grab more power, at the expense of individual liberty and the free market.
So we know who Obama is. That is settled.
What remains unsettled is how he will behave now that voters have thoroughly rejected his policies. The historic midterm victory by Republicans is a warning sign that, if he doesn't change course, Obama will be one-and-done.
For politicians, the prospect of early retirement concentrates the mind. And since November, Obama has behaved in some ways that run counter to the last two years.
He agreed to retain tax cuts on the top 2 percent of earners after swearing he never would. He signed legislation that bans bringing Gitmo detainees to American soil, which dooms his plan to try the 9/11 plotters in civilian courts and close the prison.
In both cases, he acted reluctantly and under protest. But he did act. That's what counts.
It would be great to have a president who, on his own steam, acts responsibly and in tune with the American majority.
For now, we have someone who wants to keep the job and two years to decide if he deserves it. Pay attention to what he does.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column on other topics, including "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua, click here.