There are two of you: the person you think you are, and the person who sees that person clearly. You can ignore your assessment of yourself; you can even forget about it for long stretches of time, but you cannot un-know it. Insofar as we spend most of our time faking people out and excusing ourselves, we are the people we claim to be. At one time or another, though, our honest assessments fill our heads, and we become the person who sees clearly. That person is a dick. Today is Friday, and our crises of conscience are in the mail. Won’t you put off opening the box with me?
Show of hands, everybody: How many of you remember, from the 2008 election, the specifics of then-candidate Obama’s plan to adjust the federal tax code and gradually undo George Bush’s tax cuts? Okay, now how many of you remember Joe the Plumber? I’m willing to bet that if there wasn’t a massive discrepancy in responses to those two questions, it’s only because Combat! is read by the fourteen smartest people in America. The rest of us don’t like tax code. We like TV, and that’s because we don’t like politics—we like stories. Amidst the blurred tangle of vaguely recollected plans that is* the push for health care reform, nothing is so memorable as the fictional Death Panel, the climactic scene in the story of a government bent on getting between you and your doctor. Don’t believe me? Nearly fifty percent of Americans do, because the difference between history and a story is that you remember a story. According to Eliot Spitzer—yes, that Eliot Spitzer—in Slate, the Republican Party is hard at work concocting another story about financial services reform, and they’ve gotten Frank Luntz to write it. Luntz was the primary author of last year’s Harry Potter and the Abortioner’s Throne, and he’s already released a teaser memo about how Republicans should talk about financial regulation. This sucker’s gonna be a sequel.