Reinventing yourself is a promise of the American Dream. Barack Obama, once a community organizer, is now in the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan, a movie actor, transformed himself into the same role.
But evolution stops short of fantasy and now, as the GOP demonizes our 44th President and deifies the 40th, come reminders of the limits.
Speaking near Reagan’s grave, Haley Barbour, a conservative, tells colleagues:
“In the 2012 campaign every candidate for the Republican nomination has invoked Reagan...But Reagan did not demand or expect everyone to agree with him on every issue. He wasn’t a purist...
“Some candidates are vying to be the most conservative candidate, and some voters are seeking purity in their choice...Well, in politics purity is a dead-dog loser. You need unity. And purity is the enemy of unity.”
Before taking office, Barack Obama worried publicly about trying to hold onto his authentic self, telling Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” with a worried smile that his wife and friends thought he was still there behind all the hype but admitting on 60 Minutes that the “attempt to airbrush your life...is exhausting.”
In this campaign, airbrushing has escalated to fictionalizing as Newt Gingrich’s minions are caught trying to rewrite his Wikipedia entry to alter the self-professed historian’s own history, making 60 “adjustments” about his three marriages and the ethics charges against him while he was Speaker of the House.
Fact and fiction are getting so entwined that even Clint Eastwood’s Super Bowl ad is an issue, with an “offended” Karl Rove seeing it as “using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”
The usually taciturn Eastwood explains: “It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK. I am not supporting any politician at this time. Chrysler to their credit didn’t even have cars in the ad.
“Anything they gave me for it went for charity. If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it."
And that’s that. Read his lips, and keep it real.