As Joe Windish noted this morning, Shepherd Fairey, the artist responsible for the “HOPE” portrait of President Obama, has admitted to tampering with and manufacturing evidence in a lawsuit related to the portrait. The Associated Press claims that Mr. Fairey owes them compensation, since the portrait was based on an AP photo of Obama.
I’m curious to know whether Obama will get a question about the portrait at his next press conference. He bears no responsibility for what happened, of course. Yet on a symbolic level, Fairey’s behavior represents an ironic indictment of the borderline personality cult embraced by so many of the President’s admirers.
We were told that Obama’s election would mark the beginning of a new era of (post)-politics, in which we would leave behind the selfishness, the pettiness and the deceptions of the past. As it turns out, the iconic image at the heart of this personality cult embodies everything we were supposed to transcend.
Which brings us to the Nobel Prize. Once again, Obama bears no responsibility for the strange decision to award him the Prize. To his credit, he stated that very clearly. Yet the premature Prize, like the HOPE portrait, is both a manifestation of the Obama personality cult and a demonstration of its emptiness.
But perhaps all of my carping is irrelevant. The burdens of office have already brought the President’s reputation down from the clouds. Yet as someone who spent seven months working full-time on the 2008 campaign (on the other side, of course), I have a hard time letting go of the contrast between the unbridled expectations of Obama’s fans and the reality that us critics warned them of. But just so you know, I haven’t given up on change: