The Emperor has No Clothes

We all know the story.  Con men tailors come to a city and “sew” the Emperor a “new suit” made from “the finest cloth in all the land” — cloth which cost the citizens a pretty penny.  The tailors end up doing nothing, of course.  They pocket the cash and skip town, leaving the naked Emperor parading down the street, surrounded by his henchmen, all of whom have convinced themselves that he is indeed wearing a beautiful new suit.  They all crow (the Emperor included) that this suit is the most luxurious, most beautiful, most expensive, best suit ever made.  Of course, there is a brave (or stupid?) little boy in the crowd watching the parade who starts to point and giggle.  And pretty soon the whole world joins in and the Emperor and his henchmen are humiliated.

Trump is obviously the vain, greedy, gullible Emperor, but what about the rest of the characters? We all are the townspeople, watching the parade, of course.  And many of us are the brave (or stupid?) little boy who points and giggles (though not because any of it is funny).

I used to think Bannon was the con man tailor, but now one of my fellow townspeople suggests that he is in fact one of the vain, greedy, power-hungry, obsequious henchmen.  On Wednesday, Bill Moyers published a piece by Michael Winship, called “A Fish Called Bannon.” Winship reflects:

“Whenever I read or hear something White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says or thinks, I’m reminded of Otto, the character Kevin Kline plays in ‘A Fish Called Wanda.’ You know, the self-proclaimed ex-CIA hit man who believes he’s super-intelligent but really, really isn’t?  It finally takes Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Wanda, to put Otto in his place. ‘Let me correct you on a couple of things, okay?’ she tells him. ‘Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not Every man for himself. And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.’  Am I the only one who hears Otto when Steve Bannon speaks?”

What about KellyAnne Conway? Here is an amazing montage of her ridiculous statements to the press about a variety of issues. She brushed off speculation that she has been sidelined because of statements like these, telling Sean Hannity, “Somebody’s trying to stir up trouble . . . . About 5% of what I’m being asked to do in this White House counsel role is TV, and I think that’s about right.” Huh. What is she doing the other 95%?  Is she one of the con men tailors, or a loyal henchman?

And Jeff Sessions? He lied to Congress about meeting with Russians during the campaign, or did he? Was it a lie or a fudge or an omission or just a brain fart?  Either way, he has recused himself from the Russia investigations — whatever that means — but remains firmly in control of the Justice Department, the highest ranked law enforcement official (i.e. cop) in the country.  Con man or henchman?  And the Republican leadership in congress — they seem like the classic henchmen, don’t they — so determined initially to gain and now to hold on to power that they are happy to go along with the lies, as long as they get reelected.

More people along the parade route are starting to point and scream (we’re past giggling).  More people — in increasingly powerful roles and configurations — are identifying that something seems off.  Indeed, some are even naming the lie.  The “suit of clothes” woven by the likes of Bannon and Sessions and Conway — is that a Trump presidency will preserve and strengthen American democracy and its role in the world.  That is a lie.  And it’s not a funny lie.

The Guardian ran a chilling article last week called “The State of Trump’s State Department,” subtitled: “Anxiety and listless days as a foreign-policy bureaucracy confronts the possibility of radical change.”  Said one mid-level State Department officer, about the empty hallways and lack of activity for the vast majority of staffers and officers,  “This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire. . . . America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”

“America is over.”  That could be the end result of the con men’s lie.  The time for pointing and giggling has passed.