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.
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Thomas Sowell (photo) is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA