“Because Obama doesn’t relish confrontation, he often fails to pin his opponents on the mat the first time he gets the chance,” Maureen Dowd has observed in new N.Y. Times column. “Instead, perversely, he pulls back and allows foes to gain oxygen.”

Which has always infuriated me. That too-polite, I-gotta-be-cool wussiness. I’ve never been angrier at President Obama than I have since last week’s debate. For showing me and everyone else that when it comes to one-on-one, do-or-die, be-a-man moments, he’s a sidestepper. Or has this tendency to be. He’s certainly no Lee Marvin.

“It happened with Hillary in New Hampshire and Texas and with Republicans in the health care and debt-ceiling debates. Just as Obama let the Tea Party inflate in the summer of 2009, spreading a phony narrative about ‘death panels,’ now he has let Romney inflate and spread a phony narrative about moderation and tax math.

“Even though Obama was urged not to show his pompous side, he arrived at the podium cloaked in layers of disdain; a disdain for debates, which he regards as shams, a venue, as the Carter White House adviser Gerry Rafshoon puts it, where ‘people prefer a good liar to a bad performer.’

“Obama feels: Seriously? After all he did mopping up Republican chaos, does he really have to spend weeks practicing a canned zinger? Should the man who killed Osama bin Laden and personally reviews drone strikes have to put on a show of macho swagger?

“Plus, he’s filled with disdain for Romney, seeing him as the ultimate slick boardroom guy born on third base trying to peddle money-making deals. Surely everyone sees through this con man?

“Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.”