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President Obama retreated briefly to the serenity of Camp David this weekend, leaving behind seven days that showcased both the promise and the limits of his presidency.

The respite lasted fewer than 24 hours, and his return to the White House was marked by a victory for the ambitious agenda he has embraced. His allies in Congress had secured — if only by a hair — a historic milestone on the march toward comprehensive health-care reform.

“Moments like this are why they sent us here,” Obama said, back in the Rose Garden Sunday afternoon. “To finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades.”