Presidential dignity

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My mother and I were discussing the debates yesterday, and she made, what seemed to me, a very interesting observation.

“Obama can’t just fire back at Romney. He’s the president. He has to hold up some level of dignity.”

Watching the debate, I didn’t think that Obama was holding back to make himself seem more dignified. I am pretty sure he was just a little surprised that a completely different Romney than that from the primary debates was showing his face. I told her so much.

Romney had done a near 180 on many issues that he had been stumping on for months, including health care and government oversight. Obama may not have been prepared for a milder, middle of the ground Romney.

But going back to my mother’s question, and the subject of this class: leadership.
As the president of the United States, is Obama obligated to hold himself to a certain standard of composure while under attack? Is it different standard than the candidate who is running to be the president?

The best world leaders are those that retain their composure while under stress or attack. They can quite effectively defend themselves, not anger and retain their dignity.

Yet in this age of divisive American politics, must the leader of the free world hold himself to that same standard? Optimistically, yes. Realistically?
I am not sure of the answer to that. Any ideas?