Every four years several dozen individuals contemplate themselves as taking on the mantle of the Presidency of the United States and immortalizing themselves as the select leader of the most powerful nation on earth. It is an enormous prop to the ego, and entering into the job most see the progressive withering of the individual preceding them as more a consequence of the character flaws of that individual, rather than any sum effect of the burdens of the job. The ego provides a negligent purview of the true cost physically and mentally of being the singular person responsible for the most powerful military and greatest economy on earth.
In a relatively short period of time, however, with little recognition on their part, the crushing hyperbolic pressure and microscopic focus of each decision inevitably and profoundly effects them. The time demands and the continual focus and responsibility become overbearing. They become churlish, defensive, and reactionary to events and particularly to any personal criticism. None are immune, and the physical deterioration becomes apparent over time, like fresh fruit exposed to air and temperature.
Oscar Wilde wrote the famous treatise on hedonism, youth, and the ravages of age in “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” in which the lead character sells his soul and in return, transfers all the ravages of his sin and age to his portrait and living, for a time, in immortal youth. The Presidency is essence, the living portrait of Dorian Grey, where the ideal of vigor, confidence, and youthful energy sold to the public every four years in an orchestrated marketing campaign gives way to a lasting portrait of the idealist in decline, his powers diminished, his whithered image magnified for all to see. He has become King Lear in the winter of his professional life, reduced to trying to re-create the lost vitality and energy of the original portrait, with the reality of the current portrait only increasing the skepticism of the public’s faith with each passing view.