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He pushed through the House a spending bill to finance the war in Afghanistan and reversed himself, deciding to fight the release of photos purportedly showing humiliating treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama also announced he would have some detainees at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tried by military commissions, putting him at odds with much of his liberal political base, but winning striking praise from Republicans who contrasted his sober decisions against the accusations of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the CIA has lied to her and Congress continually.
"I think you see the difference between a man who understands the war and the threat and a politician who is bent on political revenge," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
A leader of the antiwar group Code Pink said she now wonders at what point her organization should begin to refer to Mr. Obama as a "war criminal." "To see all of these turnarounds is very disappointing," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. "I think he's afraid of alienating a lot of these military and their families and the right-wing media that has just attacked him viciously."