But then she opens her mouth and the illusion is shattered. As one of the president’s most visible surrogates, she is routinely required to tell the most egregious untruths — a task she seems to perform with relish. Whether denying that she knew the man who accused Romney of murdering his wife or declaring that Mitt politicized the Benghazi scandal, her words and visage are sharply at odds.
This disconnect is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” In the book, Gray is a man so physically handsome that an artist infatuated with his beauty decides to immortalize it for the ages. Dorian then sells his soul on the condition that this portrait age rather than himself.
Subsequent to this, Dorian lives a dissolute life of extreme hedonism. And sure enough, instead of his visage reflecting this gross immorality, the picture ages and becomes grotesque. Only in the end, when he resolves to reform, does he resume his actual exterior. But sadly this occurs after he stabs the portrait in the heart and in the process dies.
Dorian’s story strikes me as being paralleled by the unfolding saga of Barack Obama. Our president is also a physically appealing person who has sold his soul, in his case, for the sake of power. Only rather than seducing and destroying the lives of a string of individual conquests, he has seduced and injured an entire nation.
This, to be sure, is a harsh judgment. But there can be no doubt that Obama’s physical presence has beguiled millions of people. His radiant smile, his easy-going demeanor, and his “cool” persona have convinced many onlookers that he is the very incarnation of what a chief executive should be.
On top of this, Barack is unquestionably intelligent and has the rare gift of giving a compelling speech, despite the fact that what he says is often pedestrian. He can even get away with telling conflicting untruths in the same address because his listeners frequently respond to his spellbinding style rather than his substance.
But now Obama seems to have met his match. Mind you, unlike Dorian Gray, he shows no signs of having decided to reform. To the contrary, he continues to propagate untruths at a rate that beggars all of his predecessors. What has changed, however, is that these have become more visible.
The comparison between Barack and Mitt Romney has been devastating to the president’s image. Standing together, on the same stage, as they have during the debates, has revealed Obama’s shallow, mean-spirited, and dissimulating essence. In other words, his real self is being exposed.
During the debates it has also become clear that Romney is the genuine article. His knows his facts and is an accomplished problem solver who is comfortable in his own skin. Voters may disagree with him, but he is obviously a mature adult who means what he says. In other words, he is someone who can be trusted.
Once a person as intelligent as himself, but someone with actual achievements challenged him, Obama’s carefully crafted façade began to crumble. His honeyed words were unmasked as mere talking points. They might sound good to the uninformed; nevertheless they did not betoken a genuine understanding.
Far from it; they laid bare the sleaziness of the campaign run on his behalf — and with his sanction. Lest it be forgotten, Cutter’s excesses have been a reflection of his wishes.
Where this will end is not yet clear. Obama may still win re-election. But he will never again be seen as a knight in shining armor. His pretense of honesty and competence has been pierced. As a mere mortal, his warts are showing. Indeed, for many, he has begun to look ugly.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.