The irony, for the president who spent so much of his early administration trying not to look partisan, is that financial reform may be a bipartisan success precisely because he was willing to play rough. Unlike health care reform, where Obama stayed out of the congressional fight, with financial reform he has been more active. He took on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell directly, saying his efforts to label the legislation a “bailout bill” were “cynical and deceptive” and, questioning his motives, argued that Wall Street bankers were guiding his hand. And twice, Obama criticized specific amendments as favors to Wall Street. Democrats think this presidential pressure (and polls that show 71 percent of the people think Republicans care more about large corporations) helped bring Republicans to the negotiating table.

Republicans, of course, see it differently. They argue that they helped bring the Democrats to a more reasonable piece of legislation by unifying against an earlier, unreasonable version. Yet Republicans also face a risk from bipartisanship: If they can actually work with Democrats, can they really be as crazy as Republicans say?