Very soon, we may see a new family of words added to the English language. The term “coulrophobia,” (meaning “fear of clowns”) began appearing in print in the 1980s. This took a number of linguists by surprise as apparently no one knew a significant number of people actually struggled with an unreasonable fear of clowns. Obviously, people who draw a high level of pleasure from watching clowns perform would be called “coulrophiles.” Those who suffer from an uncontrollable attraction to clowns would be called “coulromaniacs.” And a government, run by clowns, would be called a “coulrocracy.”
Coulrophobes, naturally, would be opposed to a coulrocracy because their phobia would prevent them from ever voting to put an obvious clown in office. Coulrophiles would be strong supporters of the coulrocracy because — well, they just love clowns and would never pass up the opportunity to see one sworn in. Coulromaniacs would be avid supporters of all things clownish and would be outspoken defenders of coulrocrats no matter how foolish they may be.
A clown or two, here and there in elective office or a government agency, would not, necessarily, constitute a coulrocracy. In order to qualify for this form of government, clowns would have to run things. In the world of political science, exactly what does it take to be a clown? As this is a fairly new field of study, we don’t have all the answers. But we can discuss some broad outlines.
The term “clown” can refer to someone who frequently exhibits boorish behavior, a jester, a fool, a habitually clumsy or inartful character; someone who’s farcical and ridiculous behavior often provides occasion for derisive laughter.
What would government by coulrocrats look like? Observers might expect to see coulrocrats with silly expressions on their faces dumping obscene amounts of money into patently ridiculous projects and then, performing zany verbal dances when those endeavors flop. Such dances might be called, “the Solyndra shuffle.”
Coulrocrats might engage in thunderously noisy boastful trumpeting to draw worldwide attention to a first ever, history making, pyramid-rivaling accomplishment only to blunder into the spotlight stumbling over their enormously oversized shoes and falling flat on their faces in full view of the entire population of the planet. They might call this act the “romp-‘em-stomp-‘em rollout.”
Then, there’s the crowd-pleasing “redline — repeat — redline” skit. That’s where the coulrocrat steps into the center ring and utters the loud challenge, “I dare you to knock this chip off my shoulder.” One by one, audience participants step forward to knock off the chip. Each time a new participant approaches, the coulrocrat says, “OK, now I dare you to do it.” Each participant happily obliges. Great fun for children of all ages.
And, of course, there’s the modern adaptation of the Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” bit. That’s where a collection of coulrocrats are brought together to pretend to answer questions. They all have a great time seeming to be honest while shuffling the questioner’s attention to some other coulrocrat, giving bogus answers, covering for each other, stalling, pettifogging, blustering and engaging in amazing feats of fact juggling. Coulrophiles everywhere join in the fun as no matter what the coulrocrats say, everybody is still in the dark. This gag is called “see if you can figure out which shell the pea is under.”
This week, a series of ridiculous blunders committed by an unknown number of federally paid clowns led to the embarrassing public disclosure of the identity of the CIA station chief in Kabul Afghanistan. The person’s name and title were passed out to thousands of journalists and made public to the world. At this point, we have no idea how many years of painstaking effort were trashed by this disclosure. We don’t know the full extent of the harm done. We don’t know how such a boneheaded snafu could have happened under the noses of those responsible for preventing errors of this kind. What we know for sure is this: When it comes to protecting the identities of our CIA operatives, with friends like this who needs enemies?
History will judge whether this administration will be the first coulrocracy — government by clowns. What we can say for sure is that these blunders, failures, deceptions and gross miscalculations are not funny. They have done damage to America’s economy, prestige and potential that we’re not yet able to calculate. It will be interesting to see in the next round of elections whether American voters have lost their appetite for government by clowns — coulrocracy. Hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson and will return to our patrimony — competent democratic republic. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.