Some of the best children's stories convey moral messages that speak universal truths. One of my favorites is Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 yarn, "The Emperor's New Clothes," which tells the tale of an arrogant king obsessed with his appearance.
Posing as tailors, two con men convince the emperor that they will weave for him a suit of clothes from material so fine that it can only be seen by those who are worthy. In fact, they tell him, anyone who cannot see his new clothes is "hopelessly stupid." Of course, neither the emperor himself nor any of his advisors can see the cloth, but desiring to appear worthy, they make believe they can.
When the suit is finished, the two "tailors" pretend to dress the emperor, who then parades down the street in a grand procession in front of his subjects, who all play along with the charade — except for one little child, who blurts out, "the emperor has no clothes!"
This simple tale has come to mind many times in the nearly three years of Barack Obama's presidency, but none more vividly than in his "jobs bill" speech last week. After spinning trillions of dollars worth of imaginary fine cloth, out of which he was going to fix the economy, alleviate poverty, institute "fairness," heal the sick, part the seas and end war by making our enemies love us, the President of the United States paraded into a joint session of Congress last week wearing — absolutely nothing!
The speech was billed by the national media as the biggest thing since FDR introduced the New Deal. It wasn't even close. In fact, it reminded me of the ridiculous non-press conference given by Chuck Hagel in 2007. Hagel, then a U.S. Senator from Nebraska, called the national media to Omaha to announce that he had not yet made a decision about whether to run for president. As John Podhoretz wrote of Hagel's performance in National Review, "How do you spell 'megalomaniac'?
Obama read his speech masterfully, as he always does. In fact, as Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert sardonically opined the next day, "I was right in the president's line of sight through his left teleprompter, and I have to say that we have one of the most talented readers we have ever had in the White House." However, it was, as usual (with apologies to the bard), a great deal of sound and fury signifying nothing.
"I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away," Obama intoned urgently. "It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans — including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
I kept waiting for the entire chamber to erupt, ala Joe Wilson, with "You lie!"
For the most part, the president's "plan" is simply more tinkering around the edges, augmented by additional horrendous Obamaesque spending, "paid for" by imaginary cuts and tax increases foisted upon future Congresses ten years down the road — something no president or Congress has the authority to do.
As usual with this president, there is no bill. There is only a speech. As Nancy Pelosi so farcically stated when she rammed through Obamacare last year, apparently Congress is just supposed to "pass the bill in order to find out what's in it."
The truth is that if the president actually had a bill that did what he is promising for the economy, he wouldn't need to come before the nation like a snake-oil salesman selling an inferior product. He would simply send the bill to Congress and release it to the public for open discussion. That is the beauty of great ideas. They don't require a sales pitch.
There is no hope that the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate will save us from this nonsense, which leaves us with the Tea Party House members elected last year. Call them. Write them. E-mail them. Tell them to continue passing real legislation that gets government out of the way of those who can actually put Americans back to work. Tell them the emperor has no clothes.
© 2011 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors.