Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Emperor's New Suit, Modern Version

I wanted to get this week's column up in advance. I'll post how it turns out in the paper at the usual time.


Why did our emperor take us to war in Iraq -- based on a fairy tale, perhaps?

The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never emperor’s clothes were more admired.

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! Listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.

Hans Christian Anderson, “The Emperor’s New Suit” (1837)

It was a simpler time then, when the whole people were willing to recognize the truth once the little child spoke. Today, however, there’s an entire army of chamberlains desperately trying to spin each other, and everyone else, otherwise:

Rep. J.D. Hayworth: By questioning our emperor’s choice of clothing, unpatriotic opponents like this little child, whether wittingly or unwittingly, provide aid and comfort to our enemies. Terrorists want to destroy both our way of life -- and our pants. If our emperor says his new clothes were magnificent, anyone who says otherwise is a traitor.

Thomas Friedman, The New York Times: Debate over the emperor’s attire misses my latest version of the real reason the emperor purchased his fabulously expensive new suit. He bought the magic cloth from the two swindlers to bring human rights and democracy to the region -- because once people have seen this emperor in his underwear, it’s only a matter of days before market economies and free elections arrive.

Jonah Goldberg, National Review: Critics of the current imperial administration are peddling a blatant lie. The emperor never used the phrase “new clothes.” In his State of the Empire speech, he said only that he would wear a new suit. And in any case, he wasn’t wearing nothing; he wore his imperial underwear, so the little child was wrong.

Bill O’Reilly, Fox News: My guest tonight is the ungrateful little child who unbelievably and unpatriotically said that our emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. Shut up! I’ll give you 15 seconds to respond once I’m finished with my 10-minute harangue.

Judy Woodruff, CNN: It’s not enough to criticize the emperor for making a mistake. Instead, his opponents must explain, in detail, how they would fix the problem the emperor created. We must spend another $87 billion trying to make the invisible “cloth” visible.

David Ignatius, The Washington Post: The emperor has access to better intelligence than you or I do. If he said he was wearing a new suit, then the burden falls upon his opponents to prove that he wasn’t.

Vice President Dick Cheney: By saying “9/11” and “new clothes” together frequently, perhaps our subjects will conclude -- without me actually saying it -- that the emperor wore no clothes because of 9/11. It’s an open question whether there’s any connection between his lack of clothes and 9/11. Did I mention 9/11?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: It’s all Colin Powell’s fault. What part of “all” don’t you understand?

Rich Lowry, National Review: It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault.

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