Robert Schmuhl: Second term will truly test Obama's mettle
When Barack Obama was preparing to seek the US presidency, he introduced himself and his views in a book, 'The Audacity of Hope'. With shrewd self-awareness, he observed in the prologue: "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes can project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them."
Since winning the White House in 2008, Mr Obama has come into sharper focus, with the "screen" depicting him to America and the world filled with images that reveal a complicated, at times contradictory, figure. Beyond his million-dollar smile is a strong ego willing to disappoint anyone not agreeing with him.
As Mr Obama embarks on his second term with Monday's inauguration ceremonies, who he is and how he conducts himself as president are much less mysterious than four years ago when expectations for him defied gravity. Today clouds intrude on the past's sunny optimism.