Frank Rich's latest points to the possible problem generated by a collective dependence on this defensive maneuver:

One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans' reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly "changed everything," slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama's toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Indeed, a contemporary reliance upon this kind of self-stupefaction dates back to the Reagan presidency, which combined a politics that masked system decline by occluding this decline with rhetorical flourishes composed of false hope and national triumph. It is a shame that Dutch Reagan is not alive and sentient so that he might bear witness to the world he promoted by his actions and words.

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