It was a bright Sunday. The birds were chirping, the bees were buzzing, and the morning breeze was blowing serenely into the garden behind Ronald the Clown's villa. Ronald was the most famous comedian in America. He hosted a whole range of shows where he doused Hollywood's greatest stars with water and pulled down their pants before pinching his nose with a wink and a mischievous smile. He had authored an international best-seller, The Art of the Farce, in which he modestly bragged about the jokes he made.
Up to this point Ronald the Clown's life had been a perfect crescendo of glory and success. He had found his place in the universe, up there with the kings of kings. But then came the morning's papers and the devastating news therein. He trudged through each word of each line of each article on each page of each newspaper, once, twice, three times before the horrible truth became inescapable:
None of these articles was talking about him.
Nothing in the Financial Times about his latest exhilarating bankruptcy. Not a peep about the lawsuit he had filed against his arch-nemesis, Donald McRonald, who mocked the size of his feet (some things are no joking matter). The review of the latest Spy Kids failed to mention his cameo. And what about the line of pot-flavored steaks he was releasing for the Colorado market and of the delightful pun he had created them for (“The steaks have never been higher!”)? Nothing! Zilch! Nada!
How Humiliating! A distraught Ronald stormed inside his meditation chamber, an oblong room with white walls on which hung an unending collection of pictures and clippings that told the story of his dazzling ascent from rich heir to rich man.
He came there every time he needed to find calm and reassurance about his own magnificence, but alas! The morning papers had wrought terrible devastation on his pure heart: for the first time in many decades a seed of doubt was corrupting it, growing and gnawing at his sense of superiority, and even the gold-framed picture of him shaking God-President Ronald Reagan's hand brought him little solace.
Impossible, he thought. Impossible.
It is at that moment that, smelling his tears of frustration, Corey the Acrobat knocked softly on his door. Corey was Ronald the Clown's very best sycophant.
“What is wrong?” he asked.
“Corey, my dear Corey,” cried Ronald, “have you read today's newspapers?”
“Why, yes, my dear Ronald!”
“Have you noticed anything… strange?”
“Hmm, I know not. A Buddhist extremist blew himself up in Argentina. I suppose that's strange, yes? Perhaps we could make a joke about it.”
Poor Ronald gritted his teeth. How could his friends be so unobservant? He paid them so handsomely, too.
“No, I mean… have you noticed… something missing?”
Blood drained from Corey's face.
“That's what I thought, but I cannot deny what wasn't right before my eyes!”
“But why, dear Corey? Why me? What did I do to deserve such an ignominious fate?”
The part of Corey's brain that contorted falsehoods and half-truths into flattery, which was so well developed a brain scan would have thought it was a tumor, started spinning. His lord's intense glare, his anticipation of validation, made rivulets of sweat flow down on Corey's fair skin. But he had no need to worry: in all of California, there was no better sycophant than himself.
For proof, observe this daring flattery:
“Golly, dear Ronald, it is quite simple indeed!”
“It is not about what you did, but about what you didn't do.”
“You speak like a riddle, dear Corey, I would be grateful if you could explain yourself.”
“People love you, dear Ronald, oh, they adore you. They think of you as the greatest of models. Alas! Of all the shows and products you have made in the past decades, which ones are truly worthy of your greatness? Forgive my being frank, my friend, but they are beneath you!”
“So… so…” Ronald was hungrily awaiting the conclusion.
“So, people feel it! They see you on television and they tell themselves, what is he doing there? This is not his place! His place is much higher! He should be at the top! They feel embarrassed for you. This, my friend, is what they mean to say when they ignore you.”
Ronald was shaken. This new perspective, according to which he was in fact wasting his immense potential, filled him with modesty and humility. He thanked Corey for his keen insight and that very day he announced he would seek the Presidency of the United States of America.
The next week was terrific. Ronald the Clown's powdered face, his bright red nose, the trademark faux skunk he had kept on his head for nearly a half century, all reigned supreme on the front pages of all newspapers.
It was obvious that none of his adversaries were worthy of him. Christie Crisp was an elephantesque moron whose words were as empty as his stomach was full, whereas Minerva McGee was an ass who—quite absurdly—promised to work against the very people who funded her campaign. The jokes wrote themselves.
Ronald the Clown made great speeches by stringing together the best words: words like “best”, “great” and “terrific”. Despite his great eloquence among friends, when Ronald spoke in public he was simple and direct, a kind of rhetoric that he had refined throughout decades of monkeying around to make sure children of all ages could understand him.
Unfortunately, the honey moon did not last. Not even a week passed before the papers stopped talking about him. A wave of despair threatened to rein in his flourishing narcissism, but thankfully his lapdog in command was there to help:
“Ronald, dear Ronald,” Corey said, “if you wish for people to pay attention to what you say, you must tell them what they want to hear! You have to cultivate a relationship with the electorate. You must connect with their deepest concerns.”
“Corey, that is a terrific idea! But what do people want to hear? What are their deepest concerns?”
“They hate difference.”
“Golly! But everyone is different!”
“Ah, but some people are more different than the others! They are the ones who must be mocked and jeered until their disenfranchisement makes them sink into violence and despair.”
“Edifying! But on what differences should I base my newfound hatred? Color?”
“That went out of fashion. I would suggest hating another nation.”
“Say no more!” answered Ronald the Clown, who already bore a profound hatred of all the Canadians who threatened to take over show-business with their entrancing voices and rugged good looks. Those scoundrels who dared make his public laugh! It was about time someone raised concerns about the unbearable reality of their existence.
“When Canada sends its people,” Ronald said in front of a mesmerized audience, “they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with them. They're bringing their terrible music. They're bringing their posh humor. They're rapists.” He railed against them tirelessly, mocked their tendency to be sorry about anything, faked nausea when talking about their sweet maple syrup breath, and he alienated all fourteen-year old girls when he said he wanted their idols to be deported. He felt a little awkward about it, but they only made up 0% of the electorate.
Both Christie Crisp and Minerva McGee raised their voices against Ronald the Clown's crass racism, but that had no effect on the polls. The fiercer Ronald's incoherent ramblings about the evil lurking up North got, the higher his numbers rose. On his image makers’ judicious counsel he proposed to build a great ice wall on the northern border.
He became racist, sexist, fascist, espoused ideas from the right to seduce conservatives and ideas from the left to lure socialists, and his ratings rose, rose and rose.
But one September evening, shortly before election day, he brought Corey into his meditation chamber and closed the door softly. He was very agitated. Corey had never seen him like this.
“Corey, my dear Corey, I have a great problem.”
Has the FBI finally uncovered the child prostitution ring operating inside Ronald University? Corey thought to himself, and panic creeped up his throat as he realized he might not have time to dump. But Ronald took him by surprise when he confided:
“I do not wish to be president any more.”
“But why not?” Corey inquired.
“I have just informed myself about what the presidency of the United States entails. Would you believe me if I told you that the president has a lot of responsibilities? I am not being facetious, Corey, they really do.”
By Jove! Would this be the end of Corey the Acrobat's dreams to be Chief of Staff? No. Not on his watch. He had to salvage this.
“Indeed, Ronald, I had never considered it that way. But you surprise me! Do you truly believe anyone on the planet is better tooled than you are to face these responsibilities?”
That argument was indisputable, but Ronald the Clown was not satisfied. Something else bugged him. Something that did not put into question his innate competence.
“Yes, of course, Corey, you are right, like always. Unlike Governor Crisp or Senator McGee, I am highly qualified. But Corey… wouldn't you agree that responsibility is the most boring thing there is?”
It was time to use the H word:
“My God, Ronald! That perceptive observation is turning my world upside down! You are correct, responsibility is an unbearable bore! However, you cannot simply retract your candidacy, for that would mean… Humiliation.”
But seeing Ronald's distraught expression and his haggard, exhausted look, Corey saw that his heart simply wasn't in it. The poor man was decomposing before his very eyes! Something had to be done to boost his morale and motivate him to excellence. It is thus that he came up with the most brilliant of ideas—a foolproof plan.
“I have an idea!” he said. “The people are racist, sexist, crass and immoral, but that only works for them for as long as they can pretend that they are not. So if there is one thing that they cannot bear, it is to look at themselves in the mirror. And you know what, Ronald? You shall be that mirror! From terrific you will become terrible, you will wallow in the people's baseness as if it was your own.”
“But Corey!” Ronald balked. “The people will hate me!”
“At first! But then they will see that it is only themselves that they hate, and when all is said and done, you shall reveal your master plan and become a hero. It shall be your greatest stunt!”
Ronald the Clown started his purposeful descent into unabashed evil on the set of the famous Jiminy, host of The Fortnight Show—a show so unbearable to watch it could only air every two weeks. Ronald presented his new plan: under his rule, all enemies of the United States of America would be tortured, and their families would be murdered.
Jiminy laughed through the whole interview, which perturbed Ronald, who for once was not trying to be funny. Between two laughs, Jiminy told Ronald that he was the most authentic, the most honest, the most human person he had ever interviewed. The audience was in extasy, for they had finally found the savior they were looking for.
So Ronald the Clown trudged deeper into despicable rogueness. He made his followers make a Nazi salute, he spent entire debates mocking the age, gender and appearance of his competitors, he compared women to farm animals, Canadians to brainless leeches, the Middle East to Mordor. He demonstrated a spectacular lack of understanding of all subjects of all debates, which made him look all the more honest to the voting public.
The establishment started panicking, as they had lost all control over the election, which it was Minerva's turn to win. Having identified Corey the Acrobat as the mastermind behind the operation, they ruthlessly assassinated him and dumped his naked corpse at Ronald's doorstep with an Illuminati symbol carved in his chest.
“Corey! Poor Corey!” said Ronald, weeping over his friend's lifeless body. “God bless your soul, I shall honor the rest of the plan. You will not have died in vain.”
And thus Ronald successfully pinned the blame on Buddhist terrorism and vowed not to rest until the Buddha himself was hanged, drawn and quartered. He revealed that once elected he would not suffer to go through the process again and would crown himself God-Emperor. He would invade Canada, and then England (which he would share with the Scots). Alas, he never reached as many people as he did making a pugnacious, warmongering speech under the burning flags of every nation in the world.
Finally came election day, and every candidate polled equally. Desperate, Ronald the Clown went all in. He walked into a polling station to cast his vote, but before doing so he took out a submachine gun and swept the room with bullets, mowing down thirty people who were going to vote for him.
The massacre's gut-wrenching sincerity moved America deeply. Most of the Americans who had not yet voted took it upon themselves to support him hand over heart. A few months later, Ronald the Clown was inaugurated the forty-fifth president of the United States of America.