Andrew Sullivan is still fascinated by the Face, which holds him in such a spell that he can't believe anything bad about it. Describing his re-evaluation of Obama after the revelation of Jeremiah Wright's sermons, Sullivan writes:
A reader says that we cannot know what is in Obama's heart, and to a certain extent, that's true. ... I don't know how you can read Obama's writing or listen to any of his speeches and believe that Wright's ugliest messages are what Obama believes or has ever believed.
Mona Charen is less charitable. She believes that Barack Obama is one of the most skilfull con artists of all time. A man who hid the obvious in plain view by the simple expedient of appealing to his audiences' better natures. She wrote:
I am coming to believe that Barack Obama is one of the greatest con artists we've seen. His entire campaign has been about "coming together," a post-racial consensus, etc. Any mention of his middle name was immediately condemned as ignorant fear-mongering. He has played the role of racial unifier with great skill and finesse.
One of the more interesting Obama quotes was one he let fly before an audience at the Mississippi University for Women. "You all know the okey-dokey, when someone's trying to bamboozle you, when they're trying to hoodwink you?"
The subject of Obama's remark was Hillary Clinton's machinations. Hillary Clinton is one person who knows all about swindles. But to return to his question. No. Not everybody knows about the "okey-dokey". And often the more academically cloistered a person is; the less exposed to the cut and thrust of the streets one is, the less likely is one to know anything about being bamboozled and hoodwinked.
One of the problems with bringing up your son or daughter to be "too good" in a home in which violence is absent and consideration is uppermost is that they may get the mistaken idea that people out in the wild world always tell the truth and are always what they seem.
I've had the great good fortune to have met a large number of swindlers in my life. And here are my own rules of thumb for spotting them. First. They are always just a little too nice for comfort. Second. They have always have a story to tell. Whenever you deal with them something always "comes up". Third. They always suggest the possibility of getting a deal that is too good to be true.
A man who got took told me that "no swindler succeeds without the help of greed on your part. A man who is willing to pay fair price for something hardly ever gets fooled". This is some of the best advice I ever heard and it is mostly true.
Swindlers are hardly ever willing to admit to their lie, but when they are forced to it's a sight to behold. A long time ago, a few days after coming back from grad school I got a call from a friend who had entrusted $20,000 of his family's money to a labor lawyer in order to invest it. That sent my spider-sense tingling right off the bat because I knew what labor lawyers were like.
Anyway the labor lawyer promised my friend to invest the sum in high-yield securities but now the family had difficulty getting it back. And since I had some passing theoretical familiarity with finance, I agreed to talk to the lawyer. His office was in a place called the Diamond Building in one of the back streets of Quezon City. He had a couple of burly men in the front office and a secretary who was doing not very much but file her nails in a table in the reception area.
The lawyer had horned rimmed glasses and nice, open smile. He told me the $20,000 was locked up until maturity. So I kept at it. What type of security? With whom? What was the face value? The interest rate? But I kept a close eye on his face. He floundered around and he knew I could see him floundering around. So the moment finally came when he gave up on the okey-dokey.
His expression changed completely into some other face and then he snarled, "you ask too many questions. Be careful when you walk out nights." You really have to experience a moment like that to believe that such facial transformations can happen outside of the movies. I won't continue the story except to say that the next five minutes were truly interesting. The $20,000 were never recovered even though the crooked lawyer had what the British would call "a turn".
But it takes more than "a turn" to stop a real con-man. They keep going until they run into something as hard and slimy as themselves. Players live in a place where you don't want to go. Maybe the genius of the American political system is that it takes a brawler to get to the top. I think Hillary and Barack understand each other perfectly. Of Andrew Sullivan I have my doubts.
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