Five months into his second term, allies and enemies are as confounded as ever about who President Obama really is.

Is he the dyed-in-the-wool liberal that his biggest supporters and critics suggest? Or is he a pragmatic, even cynical, politician who cares more for his popularity than taking risks for his ideological goals or living up to his rhetoric?

Even in the short period since his reelection, Obama has provided evidence to support conflicting interpretations.

His efforts to pass immigration reform, the unsuccessful push for stricter gun controls and tax hikes on high earners buttress the case for Obama-as-ideologue. But the president has also stoutly defended National Security Agency (NSA) programs that seize U.S. phone records and monitor Internet use, prompting comparisons with his predecessor, George W. Bush.

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