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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.”