The President’s New Clothes (With Apologies to Hans Christian Andersen)

With Apologies to Hans Christian Andersen
The President’s New Clothes (With Apologies To Hans Christian Andersen) Image credit Peter Lemiska

WASHINGTON, D.C. – There once lived a ruler of a far-off land. The people there called him their president, but he was old and addled and had come to believe that he was really their king. He was also corrupt, greedy, and selfish, caring very little about the people he ruled over. His decrees were becoming progressively bizarre and were driving his country into rack and ruin. 

You might wonder how such a man came to power.

Though he really didn’t know much, he knew all about things like scratching backs and peddling influence. Twice before he’d scratched and peddled his way to the brink of success. But on the third try, he had help from an ensemble of devoted prevaricators. They came from all walks of life. There were politicians, newsies, and entertainers. Unlike his run-of-the mill supporters, their loyalty was fanatical, and their knack for deception was unmatched; it seemed to come to them naturally. They had no qualms about lying audaciously, convincingly, and continuously in order to enable and protect the old man – even if meant the ruination of their country.   

To that end, it was necessary for them to surrender both their common sense and their self-respect. They considered it a small price to pay. They called themselves the Lickspittles, and their motto was Fides Ante Honoris, (Loyalty Before Integrity.)

Without them, the addled old man could never have become president. It was late in his campaign that a special team of 51 Lickspittles gave him the boost he needed to overcome a major crisis. With their help, his back-scratching skills, a dash of trickery, and a heap of deceit, he was able to fool enough people to win the presidency.  

Unfortunately for the people, he ruled in exactly the same way he came to power – with trickery and deceit. He told them they were rich, while many struggled to make ends meet. He told them they were safe and secure, while they were being attacked in the streets. And while the people suffered, he was enriching himself. Soon, their disappointment grew into unhappiness, which then grew into anger. They began to deride the old man, mocking him wherever he went.

Now despite all his power and wealth, he, too grew miserable. “Why can’t I be respected, even admired like the last guy,” he thought. “And why can’t I be smarter, or at least remember where I am?”

Then he heard someone say that clothes make the man. He said to himself, “Maybe a new set of clothes is what I need.” So he set out to find the best clothes his money could buy.

His journey brought him to a shop operated by two unscrupulous tailors. They were even more unscrupulous than their new customer. After listening to his plight, they saw an opportunity. They told him that a new suit of clothes was exactly what he needed.

They told him that they would make him a very special suit, sewn from a very special cloth, woven from very special thread. This suit would have unique qualities. Yes, it would make him popular with the people, but more than that, it would make him appear smart as a whip.

They added one small caveat. Only the most intelligent and perceptive people would see the improvement. Fools and dolts would still see a confused, greedy, and selfish old man.    

Incredibly enough, he fell for it. Yes, it sounds crazy, but remember; he was rather addled, and besides, this is just a fable.

So, he watched as the two swindlers pretended to weave invisible thread and sew non-existent cloth into an invisible new suit.

When they were finished, the two con men could barely contain their mirth as their customer disrobed and modeled his new “suit.” He couldn’t wait to get back home and impress the people.

At first, the Lickspittles were aghast! But they were, after all, committed to making him look good. And besides, after hearing the tailors’ caveat, they didn’t want to appear foolish or doltish.

So they showered him with praise, telling him how smart he looked. 

All this seemed to fill the man with a renewed sense of pride, prompting him to travel the countryside in his invisible suit, boasting about his imaginary accomplishments. The Lickspittles were right behind him, parroting his words while praising his leadership, his stamina, and yes, his brilliance.

They told the people, “The man is a dynamo! We can’t keep up with him!” “He does more in five minutes than most people do in a day. And smart? Why, he’s smart as a whip!”

But despite their most sincere, convincing lies, the people saw only a naked, pathetic old man.

The Lickspittles were beside themselves. They were becoming laughing stocks! What more could they do to convince the people? One beady-eyed, bespeckled Lickspittle was absolutely livid. He said as sternly as he could, “That man is one smart cookie!” And if you’d rather believe your own two eyes …well then screw you.”

Then on one summer night during his reelection campaign, something inexplicable happened. It was almost magical. The charade began to crumble. A few of the Lickspittles suddenly seemed to develop a modicum of integrity. Or maybe they came to realize that the people no longer believed them. Perhaps they just ran out of audacious lies.

The details of what happened next are unimportant, but as quick as a wink, the old man found himself far away from the president’s mansion and on the beach, where he spent his remaining years frolicking with his six or seven grandchildren.

And the people were happy again.

Important: This story is categorized as an opinion piece. This means it bypasses ordinary fact checking and is likely based entirely on the authors opinion. Please see disclosure in author bio below story.
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