Weekend meme: Obama #1 is Bush #3.
It's a tempting thought as we watch our President morph into the Rodney King of American politics--savagely beaten around the head and shoulders, only to emerge with a plaintive "can't we all get along?" People said he'd come to hate it soon enough: the Presidency as long-term confinement.
There's certainly a degree to which he's brought it all on himself. He never quite warned us (though we might have noticed, if we'd had our eyes open) that he was a compulsive centrist at heart--we weren't really prepared for the shock. He might not have suspected himself how comfortable he would be with the experience of power once it was his hand on the lever. And he really does not seem to have mastered the knack of articulating his vision--meaning that he'll be burned in effigy at the tea-party convention, the same time he is being skinned alive by Glenn Greenwald.
In his (partial?) defense, you'd have to say also that what we are observing here also is a phenom of modern first-world politics: every modern leader takes office the prisoner of a larger agenda, and the agenda is eye-poppingly narrow. As the original proposer points out, it's not just Obama--Bill Clinton remained captive of Ronald Reagan, and Tony Blair, of Margaret Thatcher. People who do try to rewrite the script--Bush #2, Reagan--do succeed in breaking some crockery, but at the end of the day, they probably change a lot less than they wished.
So Obama's natural instincts play naturally into a larger framework which might serve to define him even if he wasn't so willing to be defined. The really successful ones (I suppose Reagan is the example again) are the ones who convince us they are bringing "change" when they're leaving no sacred cow unbloated. Still, at least once in a while you'd think he might reach for the crockery. I mean, is that too much to ask?