The fact that likability covers a multitude of sins shouldn’t surprise us. Nor should we be surprised that perception is reality. As Postman also argued, “the dishonor that now shrouds Richard Nixon results not from the fact that he lied but that on television he looked like a liar.”
Richard Nixon was never Mr. Charisma, and he eventually grew to look like a crook. But that wasn’t always the case. Don’t forget, Nixon was (to borrow a phrase) likable enough to win his 1972 re-election by a landslide. But there is something about being relentlessly attacked — and watching your power slowly erode — that takes the polish off of even the world-class politicians. And when the press turns on you, too, you’re probably toast.
And it may be that that the decline of Barack Obama is likewise a work in progress. This is not to say he will meet the same fate as Richard Nixon, but it is to say that Nixon didn’t become Nixon over night, but over years. We are now on just week two of the convergence of three scandals. And there is reason to believe we might see a week three.