February 20, 2017

HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP THE SPY?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 17, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
How much do you tip the spy?
You’ve got to eat at the terrace dining room at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Not only does it have a wine menu, a food menu and a dessert menu, but you also can get a Situation Room menu. On a Saturday night, the resort’s restaurant was offering up Korean selections, North Korean actually, options that President Donald Trump was pondering after he and his dinner guest, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, learned that Kim Jong-un had just fired off a missile test.
That’s extremely spicy fare, burning hot and a threat to the planet and certainly to Japan. In the old days (meaning, a month ago), the president and his national-security advisers would convene to discuss reactions far away from any prying eyes and ears, in super-secret facilities. There would be consultations with other world leaders like Abe, only they would take place over secure phone lines, their confidentiality protected by the latest high-tech scrambling.
That was then. Whatever his many faults, apparently this president believes in open government, really open government, where nothing is too classified to let it all hang out. Either that or you can chalk it up as another fault, and decide that Donald Trump is one super-careless president. At his bizarro prejss conference, Trump described his new administration as a “well-oiled machine.”

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February 6, 2017

THE SUPREME GAMES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 3, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SUPREME GAMES
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Back when I was going through my CNN phase, I was covering a major espionage case. The counterintelligence peeps were holding their alleged spy in a secret location. On a day when he was due for a hearing, I had found out where he was being held: a jail in a rural Maryland county not far from Washington, D.C. We decided to pull a fast one and shoot some video of him that we otherwise would not get.
“You stay here, while I look around,” I said to my camera crew in a hushed voice. Then, doing my best imitation of Inspector Clouseau, I skulked around the property to determine the best spot to tape the deputies and agents as they took the accused to their vehicle for the ride to his Washington court hearing. I was chortling away about how surprised they’d be. My reverie was interrupted when I heard a voice: “Hey.” It was a deputy from the jail. “I think you should know you’ve set off about a dozen sensors.”
Happily, they got a good laugh out of it and took pity on me, showing us a vantage point where we could get the money shot. Score one for the klutzo reporter.
I hate to admit it, but the klutzo president was able to pull a fast one way better than I did. True, the first days of the Trump administration have been a total train wreck -- or a plane wreck in the case of the immigration blockade. (I don’t want to call it a “ban,” because press secretary Sean Spicer argues that it is not a “ban,” even though his boss, President Donald Trump, calls it one.)

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January 30, 2017

BRASHMAN'S EGO

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 27, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

BRASHMAN'S EGO
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How is it that one of the most powerful men on the planet has such a weak or, as the professionals say, “fragile” ego? Psychobabblers speculate that low self-esteem can drive an individual to achieve great heights as a way to show the world, and himself, that he’s not as worthless as he thinks he is in his heart of hearts. It also can motivate someone to act in bizarre ways just to get attention and to deflect for another instant one’s intense self-doubt. If he’s in a position to influence people’s lives, he’s not only self-destructive; he can cause a lot of misery.
You know where I’m going with this: straight to Donald Trump. Even becoming president of the United States and being the constant center of attention while doing all that cool chief-executive stuff that presidents get to do doesn’t seem to fill his egotistical black hole. So he can be counted on to nurse his wounds by hiding them behind repeated grandiose claims that he would have won the popular vote were it not for the millions of people who fraudulently cast ballots against him. Never mind that the evidence is overwhelmingly against that; he’s doubling down by saying he’ll commission some sort of investigation. Of course, there’s that self-demeaning bitter battle with “dishonest media” over the size of his inaugural crowd. It’s a constant embarrassment to those around him, but he just won’t let it go.
The list goes on and on: He can’t stop himself from picking fights over past grudges and slights. It’s easy to conclude, frankly, that the leader of the free world has mental problems. But perhaps it’s more insidious than that. Maybe he and his aides are putting out this outlandish pettiness to mask the substantive steps he’s taking to abandon all civility and to dismantle the federal government’s ability to protect its citizens. Where do we start? His executive orders aim to gut regulation enforcement, sabotage health care, withdraw from or reshape trade deals, build that ridiculous wall, yada, yada, yada.
Except these are not yada, yada, yadas. Each time these major attacks on the nation’s structures or international structures occurs, the president becomes a petty Twitter tyrant, tweeting something so ridiculous that it takes the focus off the poorly thought-out, destructive actions he’s taking. So maybe he’s not such a nutcase at all. Maybe he and his posse are just master media manipulators.

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January 25, 2017

MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 24, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"
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Millions of American are disgusted with where their country is right now. They believe that the inauguration tradition, with all its heavily scripted high grandeur, installed a repulsive, hateful lowlife as president of the United States. For them, their hastily arranged Women’s March on Washington was awe-inspiring. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Washington to register their defiant disgust, and more than a million hit the streets worldwide, jamming up several cities.
Here in D.C., it obviously jammed all the circuits in the president’s brain. He tried to ignore the crowds and the fact that their protest was bigger than the piddly turnout of those who assembled for his swearing-in. But in the end, he went haywire about journalists he describes as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” for reporting the obvious fact that the turnout for his inauguration festivities the day before stacked up poorly with previous inaugurations. That was ascertained by side-by-side photo comparisons. A variety of factors led to estimates that about a quarter-million attended his ceremonies. But he insisted that he’d drawn over a million and a half. As for the media who dared to report otherwise, he promised that “they’re going to pay a big price.” He was indulging his petulance, by the way, at CIA headquarters, speaking in front of the solemn wall memorializing the anonymous operatives who died in the line of duty.
Back at the White House, he unleashed his pugnacious press secretary Sean Spicer to accuse news organizations of intentionally lowballing. Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway then astounded almost everyone by defending Spicer’s blatant fabrications. She came up with the outlandish term “alternative facts” to describe outright lies. Meanwhile, Spicer was threatening “to hold the press accountable” for daring to report alternatives to his “alternative facts.”

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