When the passage of H.R.3590 kicked up a shitstorm two weeks ago, I thought of Jorge Luis Borges’ short story entitled “The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro.” This 1911 piece tells of Arthur Orton, a ne’er-do-well operating under the alias of “Tom Castro.” When he meets fellow conman Ebenezer Bogle, the two men hatch a plan to scam Lady Tichborne, a grieving mother who is unable to accept the fact of her son’s death at sea. Hoping to squeeze some buckeroos from this rich old biddy, Bogle decides that Orton/Castro should travel to England to impersonate the late Roger Charles Tichborne even though Castro looks nothing like young Mr. Tichborne at all.
Tichborne had been a slim, genteel young man with a reserved and somewhat self-absorbed air. He had sharp features, straight black hair, tawny skin, sparkling eyes, and an irritatingly precise way of speaking. Orton was an irrepressible rustic, a “yokel,” with a vast belly, features of infinite vagueness, fair and freckled skin, wavy light-brown hair, sleepy eyes, and no, or irrelevant, conversation.
…The plan had an irrational genius to it… Bogle knew that a perfect facsimile of the beloved Roger Charles Tichborne was impossible to find; he knew as that any similarities he might achieve would only underscore certain inevitable differences. He therefore gave up the notion of likeness altogether. He sensed that the vast ineptitude of his pretense would be a convincing proof that this was no fraud, for no fraud would ever have so flagrantly flaunted features that might so easily convinced (emphasis mine).
So here’s the Tom Castro Strategy: when an approximation of truth would too easily reveal yourself as fraudulent, shoot for the moon and become as absurdly outlandish as possible.
Republicans knew that H.R.3590 would not bring about Armageddon or trigger the dissolution of these United States. But they can’t exactly fight in the arena of ideas: We think rescission is noble, birth defects are rightly categorized as “pre-existing conditions,” insurance companies aren’t making enough money, healthcare is too affordable already, etc. They can’t just outright say all that and openly admit that they’re corporate shills.
So instead they create this outrageous caricature of the bill that is so obviously divorced from reality that all the Lady Tichbornes in this country actually start thinking, “Yes, this proposal is quite obviously akin to the Holocaust. That is a very rational comparison.” Bogle & Orton knew the Tom Castro fraud would work because of “Lady Tichborne’s repeated and irrational advertisements that she was certain that Roger Charles had not died, and that she would will herself to recognize him when he came” (emphasis mine).
Likewise, we have a large contingent of very angry people who are convinced that Obama is an Anti-Christ dictator, and so they decided that no matter what he proposed they would will themselves into seeing it as the Communist trojan horse they told themselves beforehand it would be. When it turned out to be a wholly unradical, pro-business bill in the end, they were too far along into the Tom Castro ruse to realize that there was no conceivable way the new law could possibly be the harbinger of a totalitarian Muslim apocalypse.
The irony, of course, is that Obama is the greatest Republican president ever.
He’s given tax cuts to the vast majority of Americans, boosted defense spending while waging three current wars, extended Patriot Act provision and kept Guantanamo open, just called for offshore oil drilling, run up our deficit just like every Republican since Reagan, and now successfully pushed through a healthcare plan stolen from Republicans (Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, et al) that has essentially gift-wrapped 30+ million Americans as a Spring bonus for private corporations. Too bad he’s not a rich WASP, otherwise this cat would outshine ol’ Ronnie. Obama’s basically batting for the GOP and those goons are too apoplectic to see it, so sold are they on their invented scenario of impending social collapse. For their total commitment to an obvious fantasy, I think Tom Castro would be impressed.