Friday 18 August 2017

The unmasking of a president as Obama enters his sixth decade

Few outside Barack and Michelle Obama will be celebrating
the presidents's 50th birthday tomorrow
Few outside Barack and Michelle Obama will be celebrating the presidents's 50th birthday tomorrow

Matthew Norman

At 50, observed George Orwell, "everyone has the face he deserves". Unusually for that godliest of lefty seers, he was wrong. Rupert Murdoch passed that milestone three decades ago with no appendages emerging from his temples (although in Orwell's defence, he may have endured a pioneering double hornectomy).

With Barack Obama, on the other hand, Orwell was broadly correct. The US president hits the half-century tomorrow with the handsome, placid features he deserves. It is the phizog of a gentle, decent if intellectually arrogant man, untormented by the self-loathing that made Nixon look so cruelly vulpine, and free from the lupine seediness that hinted at Bill Clinton's appetites long before that woman Ms Lewinsky's blue dress went to the DNA analysis section at Sketchley's.

Signs of middle age are evident, it's true, from the rapidly greying hair and heavy creasing at the sides of the mouth. But his face remains enviably unravaged by the sleep deprivation and unimaginable stresses imposed by the rapid imperial decline set in motion by his predecessor's monstrous cabal.

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