Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

May 19, 2020

Keeping the Elephants Away

By David K. Shipler

                “I’ll tell you why I’m taking hydroxychloroquine,” Trump told his Cabinet after the press left. “Because you can’t believe the so-called experts. They don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ll prove it. They laughed at me the last time I was down at Mar-a-Lago—the most beautiful resort in Florida, by the way. No, in the country. In the world! Beautiful. The best. And it has the best grass. The grass is amazing. It’s green. Really, it’s green. So I’m down there and I got worried.”
                Eyebrows of worry soared around the table, a condition known as sycophantic supercilium, especially prominent on the otherwise passive face of the Vice President.
                “In the middle of the night, when I get most of my brilliant ideas, I suddenly worried about what would happen if elephants came in and tramped on the grass. Can you imagine?” He looked around the table to make sure everybody was imagining. Sure enough, they were all nodding in acute bouts of imagination. “What a mess. Big holes in the fairway, and you know what comes out the back end of an elephant? I won’t say it because Betsy is here.” He nodded respectfully toward the Secretary of Education, who smiled knowingly because she constantly peddled that stuff-which-could-not-be-named.
                Everybody in the Cabinet was on the edge of their chairs, which were specially designed to have comfortable edges, where Trump wanted them to sit when he was speaking.
“I almost tweeted about it, but then I thought, no, I’ll take action myself. In a bar long ago I heard this story about a guy in some suburb tearing up a newspaper and spreading it on his lawn. I remembered it verbatim, because I have a phenomenal memory, always the best memory in the room. Right? Don’t you think?” Nods of affirmation, a condition known as sycophantic neurocranium.
              “So I figured, if it can work for that guy in some suburb, it can work in the most beautiful resort in the world. ‘Get me a newspaper,' I said. 'No, not just any newspaper. Get me the Failing New York Times.’ So I take the Failing New York Times, which finally would be good for something, and I go out onto the grass in front. The grass was green, did I tell you that? So green! No grass anywhere is green like that.
                “So I start to rip up the Failing New York Times into long strips, just like that guy I heard about in the bar, and I’m spreading them around on the grass when some expert comes up to me—I don’t know his name. I never met the guy. I never heard of him. Have I fired him yet? I should fire him.
“He says, ‘What are you doing, Mr. President?’ I say, ‘I’m keeping the elephants away.’
“He says, ‘There aren’t any elephants around here.’
“And I say, ‘See? It works!’ Just like that guy in the suburbs."
            “What do you think, Mike?”
              The Vice President’s beatific look lit up the room with an ethereal glow.

This is satire. It never happened (as far as I know), which is necessary to point out because people tend to get confused by the satirical reality of the Trump era. It also relies on an adaptation of an old joke, authorship unknown.