The poet Robert Graves wrote, "One hard look can close the book that lovers love to see." On Wednesday night, Americans saw Barack Obama in a new, hard light. He was not the smooth, confident leader they imagined him to be. He was rambling, unfocused and ultimately bested by another, more able man. His defeat defied what was expected, or what many believed was even possible.
The scene was reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King" where Danny Dravot, a British soldier with delusions of godhood, is bitten by the native girl he seeks to wed. Seeing Danny's blood, the locals realized that the exalted figure they had worshipped as the reincarnation of Alexander the Great was merely mortal, and they turn on him with a vengeance. During the first presidential debate, the man once hailed as the greatest orator of the century was reduced to what disappointed Obama supporter Nicholas Kristof described as a "constipated professor."
Mr. Obama was visibly annoyed he even had to show up. Some analysts hypothesized the president's problem is that he has surrounded himself with supplicants and sycophants and no one challenges him. This is true, but it has been so for his entire career. Mr. Obama's sense of entitlement is born of years of fawning reinforcement. In the left-wing academic world he was immersed among nodding heads. In state politics and as a U.S. senator he took the easy, expected liberal positions. In the White House, he has walled himself off from contrary views. He avoids meeting with the opposition, escaping the hard work of compromise. The mainstream media has given him more passes than are thrown on a typical NFL Sunday.
As a result, Mr. Obama was helpless when faced with a true alpha-male challenger. His buffers were gone and he had nowhere to hide. He stood on the stage alone, sans teleprompter, sans chanting crowd, looking pleadingly to moderator Jim Lehrer to simply make the beating stop.
If the White House was writing the movie version of these events, the scene would shift to a montage. We would see images of Mr. Obama hunkering down and rediscovering his mojo. He would get back to basics and toughen up for the rematch. "The Comeback" would be the story line and Mr. Obama would regain the momentum. But life is not Hollywood. When the myth evaporates it leaves only the man. On Wednesday a balloon was pricked. People saw the emperor had no clothes. The curtain was pulled back on the Wizard of Oz. Americans witnessed a god who bleeds.
The Washington Times
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