THE ‘BRIDGES’ HAVE BEEN GONE FOR A WHILE NOW…. It’s quite a turnaround. As recently as Sunday, the political pundits were debating whether President Obama is “tough” enough. Now, the discussion has turned to whether Obama is an overly aggressive street fighter bent on destroying his political opponents.

As part of the latter case, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen report today on White House efforts to marginalize its political critics. Common sense suggests this is a) a good idea; and b) what every White House tries to do.

President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.

With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News.

Obama aides are using their powerful White House platform, combined with techniques honed in the 2008 campaign, to cast some of the most powerful adversaries as out of the mainstream and their criticism as unworthy of serious discussion.

These sounds like the kind of communications strategies effective White House teams have utilized for quite some time. The White House is a political entity in a political system run by political players seeking political ends.

So, what’s the downside? Aside, of course, from reporters and Republicans making silly claims about Nixon?

Dana Perino, former Bush press secretary, argued, “The more they fight, the more defensive they look. It’s only been 10 months, and they’re burning bridges in a lot of different places.”

And which “bridges” would those be, exactly?

As Greg Sargent explained, “[W]hether it’s powerful interests running multi-million-dollar ad campaigns attacking Obama’s agenda, or leading conservative media figures attacking Obama as a “racist” who wants to brainwash the nation’s schoolchildren, Obama’s foes never seemed all that interested in maintaining cordial relations with the White House to begin with…. Seems like whatever bridges that existed were blown to bits and sank to the bottom of the river long ago.”

I do wish the establishment would pick a theme and go with it. President Obama can be a weak, risk-averse, overly-conciliatory neophyte, or he can be a ruthless, cut-throat, political-machine boss out to destroy anyone who gets in his way. But he can’t be both.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.