(The Root) — Throughout much of his first term, President Obama faced criticism from a variety of corners for his seeming lack of passion, more specifically his unwillingness to get angry. There were columns devoted to how his lack of ire actually enraged pundits and voters. There were also those who commented that his lack of visceral anger somehow made him seem less authentically black. During the presidential debates, when a lackluster performance cost him a lead, there were those who theorized that the president was struggling to find the balance between being a tough competitor whom voters respect and the angry black man voters fear.
Well, it looks as if now that he has been comfortably re-elected to his second, final term, the president doesn't fear being feared for being angry anymore. During his first press conference since being re-elected, the president was tough, forceful and angry at times, most notably when defending the woman whom many believe will become his next secretary of state, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. The headlines that ran immediately after the press conference say it all: "Obama Angrily Rebukes GOP Senators Over Susan Rice," "President Obama Got Angry Today" and "Visibly Angry Obama Defends Susan Rice."
It is likely that this is not the last time we will see the president display this level of anger regarding Rice, the first African-American female ambassador to the United Nations. After savoring what even conservatives are deeming an impressive and resounding victory in the last election, the president is already gearing up for his next big fight.
In some ways the fight is shaping up into a rematch. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom the president defeated four years ago, threw down the gauntlet by saying during a press conference that he would do everything in his power to block the nomination of Rice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should Clinton step down and Rice be nominated. Joined by fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain has called for a special select-committee investigation into Rice and the Obama administration's handling of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Rice's comment that the attacks "began spontaneously," as opposed to being planned terrorist attacks, has come under fire by conservatives.
The Benghazi affair became a popular conservative point of attack against the Obama administration during the presidential election, resulting in one of the most memorable exchanges of the presidential debates. Attempting to attack the president for his administration's response to the incident, Mitt Romney was embarrassed when debate moderator Candy Crowley sided with the president regarding which candidate's recollection of the facts was most accurate. Since then, Benghazi-related criticism of the administration has become a staple of conservative media, with Fox News leading the charge.
Conservative conspiracy theories of an administration-based Benghazi "cover-up" have become so rampant that they even made their way to The View during a heated debate about the sex scandal that has ensnared former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Speaking of Rice's statements on the Benghazi affair, Graham said, "This is about the role she played around four dead Americans when it seems to be that the story coming out of the administration — and she's the point person — is so disconnected to reality, I don't trust her. And the reason I don't trust her is because I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America."
To which President Obama replied in his press conference:
If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham, and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
After four years of obstruction and nearly two years of a nasty, fact-challenged campaign, perhaps the president has finally had enough, and with nothing left to lose — such as a second term — he has finally decided that now is the time to get angry, in an effort to protect one of his people, his second-term agenda and, ultimately, his legacy.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.