It's that time of year when the Man/Woman/Representative Figure of the Year is unveiled. Their pictures show up on magazine covers, the front pages of opinion sections and business quarterlies and whatever other publications choose to make a big to-do over the hero -- or villain -- of the last 12 months.
The rest of us get to wonder if anyone will remember these Stars of the Year 12 months from now, let alone in 12 years. Fame is fleeting, though infamy, alas, has a way of lasting forever, like damnation. (Hitler and Stalin both made
This year the leading actors of 2014 were pictured in various poses, some almost with halos around their heads, while others might as well have been wearing horns. Let's just say the starring cast of 2014, like that of all years, was various -- from brave Ebola fighters to troublemakers big and little and in-between, from Vladimir Putin in
Who would be your choice to represent the uneven spirit of '14?
Mine would be clear -- someone who represents not just a single year in the news but a zeitgeist, a spirit of the times, a whole way of looking at the (mis)governance that characterized not just the year but a whole era. His name, though let's hope it'll prove one of the forgettable rather than influential ones, is:
Oh, yes, him. He's the character who made headlines, and contributed the quote of the year, when he was caught on an immodest and certainly impolitic video explaining what genius he had displayed in designing, presenting and then selling the much vaunted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, now better and scornfully known as Obamacare.
The trick, Professor Gruber proudly told the kind of captive audience some professors love to prance and dance before, was to take advantage of the act's "lack of transparency" and the "stupidity of the American voter." There you have the whole ethos not just of statist rule in the Age of Obama but in every other.
As the professor summed up his approach, "It's a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter." And for this he collected some
No, you may not be able to fool all the people all the time, as Mr. Lincoln pointed out, but you can make a pretty penny, or rather a pretty million, trying to -- and, in Professor Gruber's case, succeeding. At least till he blew the whistle on himself, unable to resist the temptation to brag on his political prowess.
At least since the ancient Greeks, hubris has had a way of doing our leading men in -- though in Sophocles' plays, the result was tragedy, while in the politics of our times, the result is more like farce.
Once he had let the wildcat out of the bag, nobody in power seemed able to remember who this
It's not that our self-styled elite are evil; they're just resorting to these low tricks for our own benefit, you see, because we the mere people have no idea what's good for us, like a government-run system of health care.
But what may be the worst feature of the Saga of Jonathan Gruber, Man of the Year, is the immense self-satisfaction so many of us have derived from it -- as if we had never had any intellectual pretensions of our own that proved embarrassing.