Thomas Sowell
Confidence men know that their victim -- "the mark" as he has been called -- is eventually going to realize that he has been cheated. But it makes a big difference whether he realizes it immediately, and goes to the police, or realizes it after the confidence man is long gone.

So part of the confidence racket is creating a period of uncertainty, during which the victim is not yet sure of what is happening. This delaying process has been called "cooling out the mark."

The same principle applies in politics. When the accusations that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton first surfaced, he flatly denied them all. Then, as the months passed, the truth came out -- but slowly, bit by bit. One of Clinton's own White House aides later called it "telling the truth slowly."

By the time the whole truth came out, it was called "old news," and the clever phrase now was that we should "move on."

It was a successful "cooling out" of the public, keeping them in uncertainty so long that, by the time the whole truth came out, there was no longer the same outrage as if the truth had suddenly come out all at once. Without the support of an outraged public, the impeachment of President Clinton fizzled out in the Senate.

We are currently seeing another "cooling out" process, growing out of the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11th this year.

The belated release of State Department e-mails shows that the Obama administration knew, while the attack on the American consulate was still underway, that it was a coordinated, armed terrorist attack. They were getting reports from those inside the consulate who were under attack, as well as surveillance pictures from a camera on an American drone overhead.

About an hour before the attack, the scene outside was calm enough for the American ambassador to accompany a Turkish official to the gates of the consulate to say goodbye. This could hardly have happened if there were protesting mobs there.

Why then did both President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice keep repeating the story that this was a spontaneous protest riot against an anti-Islamic video in America?

The White House knew the facts -- but they knew that the voting public did not. And it mattered hugely whether the facts became known to the public before or after the election. What the White House needed was a process of "cooling out" the voters, keeping them distracted or in uncertainty as long as possible.

Not only did the Obama administration keep repeating the false story about an anti-Islamic video being the cause of a riot that turned violent, the man who produced that video was tracked down and arrested, creating a media distraction.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate