Naked Emperors

Member Group : From the Kitchen Table

Everyone is familiar with the Andersen fairy tale about the emperor who hired two swindlers and wound up parading down the street in front of his subjects with no clothes on. No one said anything until a child, who didn’t care what people thought about him, simply told the truth. The crowd was freed by that fearless statement of truth, and the emperor became a laughingstock.

For most of us, that is where the telling of the story ends. It is not, however, where Andersen intended the ending to be. In the original story, the emperor’s response to the laughter is included. He didn’t turn in embarrassment and run back to his castle. He continued his naked parade in an even more dignified manner, refusing to accept the fact that he had been a fool, or to take a single action to correct the situation.

That emperor would feel right at home in Washington.

First there was the non-battle of the budget. The federal budget for this fiscal year was supposed to have been finalized last October. It wasn’t. It still isn’t done.

Then there were the non-existent spending cuts. They went from a promised $100 billion during campaign season last year, to $50 billion, to $30 billion, to a final figure of less than ½ of $1 billion.

Afterwards, members of the Washington crowd appeared in every possible media market congratulating themselves and each other for their fine work. Anyone watching would have assumed that the entire deficit problem had been effectively solved.

In any other industry, a performance record like this one would be met with something other than congratulations.

Now we have the death of bin Laden.

There is legitimate credit here. It goes to the brave men and women in uniform who have literally stood in front of bullets to obtain and then act on the information that led to justice for this terrorist. It isn’t just the Navy SEALS who actually administered that justice, it’s every single soldier, sailor, and Marine who has been part of our military effort in those hot and dangerous war zones.

But instead of a clear and consistent expression of gratitude to those men and women, we have been treated to a chorus of "I did it" and "You didn’t do it" by Washington politicians, most of whom have been more interested in political posturing than in supporting the very folks who actually DID do it.

These are the same politicians who were willing to use those troops as bargaining chips in their budget drama just a few weeks ago. The reality is that the men and women who serve on the front lines are the ones who would have been most hurt by the pay stoppage in the threatened government shutdown. Those on the front lines tend to be the youngest, and therefore the ones with the lowest financial reserves.

And now, those politicians are fighting to take the biggest bow for work done by the very people they took advantage of.

Andersen doesn’t tell us where the two swindlers went. He doesn’t need to – they went to Washington where they have found not just one pompous and dishonest emperor, but an entire capital full of them.