Column Date 2008-07-25

Confused about the election? Me, too.

I'm having trouble remembering who stands for what in the upcoming election. And lots of my friends can't remember, either.

(My theory about this is that anyone over 50 was born with an 8K memory chip in their brain, while all the younger people I know have the new 64 Gigabyte chips.)

This is particularly dangerous right now, since politicians depend on us to forget what they said last year, or even last week.

We all need help.

So I'd like to propose a brand new government agency. I call it the U.S. Department of Memory (USDOM).

USDOM's job is to remind us of the really important stuff we've forgotten.

And we've forgotten a lot over the years – which makes it hard for us to avoid some of the stupid mistakes of our fathers and forefathers.

(Quick review of stupid mistakes: "It's called the domino theory – as soon as one country in S.E. Asia becomes communist, all the others will soon follow." "We have complete confidence that every citizen's vote in Florida will be counted." "Sheik [fill in name and country here] is one of freedom's greatest friends." Etc.)

And since misleading campaign oratory is now at full volume, remembering where politicians really stand is crucial.

Here's a random example of how USDOM might jog our failing memories:

U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan of Florida recently had one of those miraculous election-year epiphanies: he's just discovered that cars can run on batteries! And these newfangled cars don't pollute as much!

So Congressman Vern decided that hybrid and electric vehicles are exciting new ideas for American drivers – and is now positioning himself as a "green" candidate, deeply concerned about the environment.

A perfect case for USDOM! A quick fact check would remind us that this is the same man who made his millions by selling monster Ford SUVs and vans for decades. (And you still don't believe in evolution? Shame.)

We should scrutinize the media the same way.

For instance, how many of you remember that Bill Kristol, now a columnist for the New York Times, was Chief of Staff for Vice-President Dan Quayle? And is now a foreign policy advisor for John McCain?

Kristol's foreign policy wisdom includes this gem (in 2003): "There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America...that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni, and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all."

Good to remember all that, isn't it?

Which makes it clear that establishing a U.S. Department of Memory has got to be the #1 priority for this country.
Dredging up forgotten stuff like this a tough job – but somebody's got to remember to do it. 

©2008 Peter Tannen