But in life, and especially in Washington, people sometimes end up becoming what they start out scorning.

It is uncomfortable to watch the president struggle to reconcile his two conflicting identities as he weighs what he calls the unappetizing choices on Syria, and as he is weighed down by the malignant choices on the Middle East made by his predecessor.

In his head, is Barry at war with the commander in chief?

One side of him is Barry, the smooth consensus builder and community organizer, the former constitutional professor and the drive-by senator who must stand by the argument he made when he ran for president excoriating W.’s and Dick Cheney’s highhandedness: checks and balances must be observed. As he told Charlie Savage, then reporting for The Boston Globe, in 2007, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”