“The Emperor’s New Suit” gets a presidential twist
Many, many years ago lived a stupid but wicked emperor, who sought to isolate his empire from any and all newcomers. His kingdom was next to a land where many were poor and suffered, so they often tried to journey to the emperor’s lands in search of safety. But the emperor was selfish and cruel, and he believed that only he and those who bowed down to him were entitled to enjoying the riches of the kingdom. More often than not, he neglected his other duties and the interests of his people in order to pursue his greedy obsession: a kingdom where nobody would be allowed in.
One day, two swindlers came to see the emperor at his castle. They declared themselves to be the finest builders in all the land, and pledged to build the finest wall to ever be imagined. Their concrete and bricks, they said, were not only exceptionally strong and sturdy, but they possessed the wonderful quality of being absolutely transparent to any man who was intelligent and deserving of his position.
“That must be wonderful concrete,” thought the emperor. “If I were to build a wall made of these bricks all around my kingdom, I should not only be able to stop these filthy intruders from getting in; I would also see them coming days in advance and I would be able to send my army to attack them. I must have this wall built for me without delay.” And he gave a large sum of money to the swindlers, in advance, that they should set to work without any loss of time. They set up their workshop by the border of the kingdom, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing whatsoever for days on end. They asked for the finest tools and the most precious materials. All they got they did away with, and they pretended to work empty-handed until late at night.
“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the wall,” thought the emperor. He walked to the spot where the swindlers stood before the empty space. “For heaven’s sake!” he said, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all”. Both swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the sturdy bricks and the imposing structure, pointing to the empty space. “Oh, it is very strong, highly satisfactory,” said the emperor, extremely pleased. “We are pleased to hear that,” said the two builders, as they described the structure to him.
Now the swindlers asked for more money and raw materials, which they claimed were required for the completion of the wall. They kept everything for themselves, and not a single brick was ever mounted on top of another, but they continued, as they had before, to work at the deserted border.
Everybody in the kingdom talked about the magic wall. Some subjects were in favor of its construction, as eager as the greedy emperor to keep everyone else out. Some others, meanwhile, lamented the banishment of the newcomers. They liked all the new things that they brought to the kingdom and thought that they also deserved to be safe and happy inside it.
As for the emperor’s advisers and ministers, some of them liked the idea of the wall and some did not. When the emperor wanted to send the swindlers more money and supplies, at the expense of his subjects, of course, some aides tries to fight him. This caused endless trouble all over the kingdom because no decisions could be made.
At last, the wall was completed, and the emperor wished to see it. When he got to the border, the two swindlers were pretending to lean against it, although in reality they were merely posing. There was nothing behind their backs but air.
“Is it not magnificent?” they asked the emperor. “Your Majesty must admire this towering structure, worthy of a grand kingdom.” And then they pointed to the empty space behind them. “Really,” he said, turning to the swindlers, “your work has our most gracious approval;” and nodding contentedly he looked at the land that stretched before him, for he could see it perfectly despite the thick, sturdy wall. All his aides, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything different about the place, they claimed, like the emperor, that it was absolutely wonderful.
Right after this came the finishing touch. A group of mines, hired by the swindlers unbeknownst to the king, walked up to the wall and tried to go through to the other side. They pretended to run headfirst into the concrete, some appeared to be hurt and others repeated the feat several times. The king and all his aides were stunned: the people could not pass through the border. “It is magnificent, majestic, excellent,” one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted.
The emperor appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Builders.” They were given marvelous houses right beside the palace, and enough riches for them to live in luxury for the rest of their lives. However, the two builders did not seem to spend a lot of time indulging in their newly found fortune. On the contrary, they spent their days at the border, where their see-through wall had been built. They always made sure to tell the king that they were safeguarding it and improving it, which in turn made him feel even more pleased. He, dumb and self-righteous, would pat himself in the back and tell himself how smart he had been to hire these two great workers.
Meanwhile, at the border, the swindlers were so deeply trusted that they were left pretty much to their own devices. Which, of course, made it much easier for them to carry out the job they had intended to do all along: Helping as many people as they could reach safety and happiness inside the kingdom.