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Bob's Columns and "Franken Sense" Archives

November 21, 2020

THANKSGIVING SURGE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THANKSGIVING SURGE

“Over the hills and through the woods, the sleigh this year should be empty, And to Grandmother’s house we don’t go.”
Somehow, this year’s adaptation lacks the holiday spirit of the 1844 original, but back then we didn’t have the lethal coronavirus dominating the crisp November air and striking us down, inside Grandmother’s house and in every building where we seek warmth from the cold.
The Thanksgiving ritual of getting together in large family groups to eat ourselves into oblivion, watch football and, of course, argue saturates our culture. But to indulge that tug on the primal heartstrings means plunging into a potential superspreader, no matter how conscientious you are about testing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it is discouraging Turkey Day get-togethers in order to protect Granny: “The tragedy that could happen is one of your family members, from coming together in a family gathering, could wind up hospitalized and severely ill and could die.” In spite of this advice from most public health experts, millions upon millions of Americans are going to be taking to the roads, and millions more flying, as they head hither and yon to keep the tradition going. Maybe they just want a break from Zoom.
As for President Donald Trump (does anybody care about him anymore?), he’s forgoing the trip home, if Mar-a-Lago can be considered home. He’s staying put in the White House. No need to rev up Air Force One if all he’s going to do is sulk and/or tweet grievances and made-up information. In addition to clinging to his Norma Desmond fantasy that he won reelection, he still has enough time left to spitefully create some dangerous misadventures while he still has the power. He even refuses to allow the transition to start, even though it will save lives when the new guys move in. But he knows deep down in what passes for his heart that soon he’s going to have to leave. Or be evicted.

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November 17, 2020

WHAT A MESS!

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHAT A MESS!
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With the Biden victory in Arizona, aka McCain’s Revenge, the extent of the Donald Trump election rejection is now documented. Never mind his desperate fantasies of a legal tap dance to victory -- can you imagine Donald Trump tap dancing? -- there’s no way to soft shoe over the reality of a five million popular vote loss to Joe Biden and, more importantly, Biden’s 306 electoral college accumulation. That’s what the Trumpster collected last time around, which he called a “landslide.”
No matter how many thousand of his MAGA supporters crowded the streets in a show of support for the delusion that he couldn’t possibly lose the election; he did. And on Jan. 20, one way or the other, Trump will be extracted from the White House.
Then what? We know what President Biden will be doing. He’ll be following a really bad act and trying to rebuild a country that was wrecked by the former president.
But what about that former president? Besides trying to stay ahead of his legal problems, stay out of jail and avoid financial ruin, what will he doing during his forced Mara Lago phase? Perhaps he will rename it Elba Lago. Will Melania Trump follow him to Florida? She perfected her enigma act when she was first lady, and there’s really no telling what she will do or where she will go in her afterlife.
But what mischief will Donald Trump get into once he doesn’t have the power to sabotage the transition? What will he do when he’s not meeting with his attorneys? Speaking of attorneys, will Rudy Giuliani continue as his lead lawyer, or will Trump opt for someone who is not as loopy?

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November 14, 2020

JEOPARDY AND U.S. IN JEOPARDY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

JEOPARDY AND U.S. IN JEOPARDY

Answer: Two men who have stopped and posed for a picture with anyone they encountered. Question: Who are Alex Trebek and Joe Biden? We mourn the death of Trebek, for decades the affable host of “Jeopardy.” “Affable” would also describe Joe Biden, who likewise for decades has accumulated the experience that will be necessary to pull his nation back from the jeopardy it faces after ... well, let’s just put it this way:
Answer: The president of the United States who has been defeated by Biden after nearly four years of ruining the United States with his ignorant hatred. The question obviously is “Who is Donald Trump?”
Let’s do one more before we stop milking this dry. Answer: A synonym for jeopardy. Actually, there are several. How about “What is endangerment?” As in President Trump is endangering the nation, because his fragile ego cannot accept the election results, where a record number of voters rejected him so convincingly that even the electoral college wasn’t Trump University — that is to say a useless relic. This time, Democratic candidate Joe Biden won convincingly, or more accurately, Donald Trump lost.
His incompetence has been deadly — just one example is the Covid pandemic, which was so much more lethal due to his leadership. And let’s not forget his bigotry, misogyny and reckless demagoguery, which fires up his base, the millions who are aggrieved or bigoted and display the worst of America.
Now Trump the POTUS is desperately trying to stave off the evidence that he is really Trump the Loser. That would describe his every venture in private life as well as public. But each and every time he manages to use his con man agility to avert being identified as really nothing more than a dud, worthy of ridicule.
This time, he is ignoring the Constitution, putting up a wall of legal puffery to delay the inevitable. His smoke screen has consequences. His refusal to authorize the mechanisms of a transition endangers national security, because the incoming administration will have no idea where the skeletons are buried, and there are clearly a lot of skeletons.
But the Trumpster doesn’t care about national security, even though it leaves his country vulnerable to actions from our emboldened enemies. He only cares about saving face, even if it shatters the credibility of the United States, where democracy is based on the premise that the vote is sacred.
So when he bleats that this whole election is fraudulent and commissions his lawyers to file their baseless lawsuits, he also suborns resistance by his fringe supporters. But he doesn’t care about that. His only concern is whether his hustle will work, and damn the consequences, so he doesn’t have to give up power on Jan. 20 and go out into a world where he has to face charges that could take away his ill-gotten fortune and even his freedom.

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November 10, 2020

THE WAY WE WERE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE WAY WE WERE

It was 1973 when the hit movie “The Way We Were” was released, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford as an unlikely couple with divergent political beliefs and backgrounds. It came with a haunting title song, sung by Streisand.
While most of us wouldn’t want to “light the corners of my mind” with recent memories — unless you’re into nightmares — if it were to be remade about the current political climate, it would be called “Maga,” another way of saying “the way we were.”
Redford would definitely not be playing any of the main characters. Donald Trump, after dominating the twisted plots and subplots for so many years, has been written out of the script, although he is resisting mightily. Despite their statements of support for the Donald’s futile efforts, the couple really trying to recall their relationship of so many years ago would be Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell.
That would make some risky assumptions. It would suppose that Trump had exhausted all of his various subterfuges and had been dragged kicking and screaming out of the executive mansion, the one he renamed Mara White House. It would also hypothesize that McConnell would maintain his position as the opposition’s majority leader of the Senate — a likely prospect, because any other scenario would assume the Democrats had been successful in both Georgia runoff elections to choose the state’s U.S. senators. Given the Democrats’ track record, that would be far-fetched.
The likelihood is that President Biden and Sen. McConnell will resume playing “Let’s Make a Deal,” a throwback to the good old days of the Swamp, when they were both Swamp Creatures.
“Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?”
True, time has rewritten every line. Now so many lines appear as Twitter or Facebook misinformation — actually, let’s call them what they are: lies. But still, it is worth a try to achieve what’s necessary to rescue America, by returning to some good old-fashioned give-and-take. “Compromise” isn’t necessarily a profane word and McConnell and Biden helped write the book on negotiation.
That’s not a book written by an amateur like Trump, even though he had the bestseller “The Art of the Deal” ghost-written for him, which is really akin to “The Idiot’s Guide to Negotiation.” There are reasons why President Trump failed miserably when he tried to bargain with Congress, to say nothing of those sharpies on the international stage.

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November 7, 2020

SLAPP SCHTICK

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SLAPP SCHTICK

Through his entire life, Donald Trump has been a SLAPP master. What is SLAPP, you ask? Good question. It stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” For our purposes, it means frivolous legal action, usually by someone with deep pockets, designed to use the court system to intimidate someone else who doesn’t have deep pockets. The legal dictionary defines it as “a lawsuit involving communications made to influence a governmental action or outcome, which resulted in a civil complaint or counterclaim filed against nongovernment individuals or organizations on a substantive issue of some public interest or social significance.” I’m sure that clears it up.
SLAPPs are against the law in 30 states and D.C. But how does one prove that the litigation crosses the line? The misuse of the legal system is one of the sleaziest tactics available to lawyers and their unscrupulous clients. And who is more unscrupulous than now-President Trump? He is intensely resisting becoming a former president, utilizing dirty diversionary maneuvers that risk being laughed out of court.
We can only assume they will be rejected given how he has stacked the Supremes with ultraconservatives who will soon have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can dispense “Equal Justice Under Law,” as is carved into the entrance of their building, or whether their bench is dominated by political hacks.
That’s because POTUS has gone SLAPP happy. He’s hunkered down in the White House, trying to make a mockery of the nation’s legal system by filing whatever lawsuits he can. All are really nothing more than efforts to clog the courts with barriers to facing the reality of what lies ahead when he gets replaced in office by Joe Biden.
For starters, his distortion of the process may be partially due to the knowledge that he faces criminal and financial accountability for his own many various abuses. So let’s see whether his sleazy use of the law bears fruit.
And let’s see if his remaining time in office — assuming he doesn’t steal the election — is filled with its own corruption. Will he utilize, for instance, his pardon power to grant freedom to his friends who were caught with their hands in the till (either the money till or the ideological one)? For that matter, will he plan to pardon himself? And let’s see whether he makes a final push to do favors for industries he needs and deregulates whatever remaining rules they want discarded. And let’s see if he makes some deal with his authoritarian buddies to escape the United States and avoid facing his future here.

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November 3, 2020

INCURABLE POTUS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

INCURABLE POTUS

“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid.”
It’s not that Donald Trump has lacked for vile, stupid comments since he’s been president. In fact, his entire life has been saturated with repulsive pronouncements, the oafish dribble that can be attributed to sheer stupidity.
His rallies are jammed together with rabid dullards who cheer wildly at every grievance that falls from his lips. It’s there where he tries out many of his paranoiac explanations for the infinite number of failures that has defined his time in office.
None is more glaring than the utter disaster that has defined his leadership during the pandemic. As he argues we are “turning the corner” in subduing the lethal coronavirus, the nation is exploding in new cases of Covid — to the tune of about 100,000 each day. Altogether since the crisis began, nearly a quarter million have died.
Although most experts say both figures are undercounts, the president preposterously argues they are inflated. Which brings us back to his latest slander:
“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid.”
He is talking about the medical practitioner saviors who have routinely risked their health on the front lines and the more than 1,000 who have actually lost their lives combatting the coronavirus. Those are the ones who the Trumpster accuses of somehow gaining financial benefit from this scourge. That would be a gross obscenity of the first order, except it’s just another day in office for the rancid mentality of Donald Trump. He has publicly insulted war heroes, minority victims of fatal police brutality, immigrants who want to begin a new life in this country, women, any politician or legal entity who gets in his way, old people, young people, reporters — you name it, he is an equal opportunity blasphemer.
Now he’s gone after doctors, nurses and all the other providers who have exhausted themselves in the Covid battle. Why? Because he can, plus it is part of his rabble-rousing campaign, plus he simply gets an ego rush doing it.
There is always a horrified reaction to his latest affront to decency:
“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge.” That was from Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association. But she was wasting her time.

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October 31, 2020

UNENDING NIGHTMARE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

UNENDING NIGHTMARE

What was it the new chief executive, Gerald Ford, said as the old one, Richard Nixon, had just flown the coop? “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” It was Aug. 9, 1974, when the Nixon presidency became history. He had been consumed by the overlapping Watergate scandals. 
There are so many differences between the “Tricky Dick” nightmare of more than 26 years ago and Disgusting Donald’s Hategate (or Liegate or Incompetencegate or Stupidgate, whatever you want to call his handiwork) of today, accompanied by the sycophancy of partisans who should have known better but sold out. The once proud Republican party has been reduced by Trump to the Proud Boy Republicans. 
This nightmare is nowhere near over. We have only sleepwalked into the final weekend of this nearly four-year horror show that turned the White House into a horror house filled with Trump and his unprincipled enablers. 
Outside the gates a poisonous world threatens each and every one of us: a pandemic made worse by the ineptitude of the team Donald Trump had assembled to go along with his personal dishonesty. He convinces gullible followers that the coronavirus will “miraculously” disappear, he promotes one bogus cure after another, insists that the experts are nowhere near as smart as he is and makes the preposterous argument that everything is really a connivance of the “deep state” and those of us in “fake news.” “Now, with them you can’t watch anything else,” Trump declares. “You turn it on COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID. ... By the way, on Nov. 4 you won’t hear about it anymore.” 
He and his cheering super spreader crowds are oblivious to the huge spike in cases right now, a ghastly 559-thousand in one week, 9 million since the pandemic began. The United States is tragically approaching 300-thousand COVID deaths. 
The absurdity of his blathering is matched by the astounding foolishness of the millions of people who treat his word as gospel. 

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October 27, 2020

WHAT OIL GAFFE?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHAT OIL GAFFE?

The Trumpsters are hanging on to threads of hope that somehow, some way, they will pull off a November surprise and win re-election for the big guy. And Joe Biden, try as he might to avoid his usual goofiness — make that his gaffe-iness — has unraveled one of those verbal threads that Donald Trump hopes to climb.
Biden lived up to his reputation, or down to his reputation, for habitually uttering self-damaging ... what does he call it? ... malarkey ... at the most inopportune times.
It happened in the final debate. Perhaps Uncle Joe was rattled by the fact that Trump was not engaging in the kind of obnoxious conduct that he had the last time around, which left anyone watching wondering if he had finally crossed the line and revealed himself as a lunatic. This time around, Trump was acting appropriately, at least by his standards. Biden was the one who provided an opening.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to a few days ago, which is an eternity in the political world. At the debate, candidate Trump was badgering candidate Biden about his oft-repeated statements that he’d ultimately replace polluting sources of energy like oil. “I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” said Biden. His campaign staffers could only slap their foreheads and cringe as Trump jumped all over that one: “Biden said,” Trump nearly squealed in delight, “‘We want to phase it out.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ Texas, are you watching? Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio, are you watching?”
Uncle Joe realized that he had stepped in it. The moment the debate ended he clarified, which is another way of saying unstepping from the doo-doo: “We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels. We’re getting rid of the subsidies for fossil fuels, but we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time.” His running mate Kamala Harris also quickly jumped into cleanup duty, as did every Biden supporter or Trump hater in the country. Did Biden the stumblebum trip over his own tongue once again?
Don Trump wasn’t about to waste this glimmer of hope, telling reporters that Joe Biden “put the nail in the coffin” in Pennsylvania. Since Pennsylvania is a vital swing state with a robust oil industry, that might qualify as his wishful thinking. But at least it was better than the wistful thinking that was seizing the Trump campaign at the prospect of losing the election and suddenly having to go into the job market trying to explain the major blemish of service to President Trump.
But thanks to Biden, it was the Democrats to fend off reporters asking whether they gave a frack. But the wisest among them knew that it would just be a matter of time before the Biden gaffe was a laugh.

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October 24, 2020

TRUMP FRIGHTENED

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP FRIGHTENED

Don’t let his relatively sane performance in the debate fool you. Donald Trump is (a) clearly in full panic mode and (b) still bonkers.
His adrenaline or his steroids are pumping a mile a minute. Why? Because Trump is in a corner that he can’t fast-talk his way out of. He is deathly afraid that not only will he lose his re-election bid against Joe Biden, but he will get wiped out and be haunted by the ridicule for the rest of his life and throughout history. Ridicule is his biggest fear.
As for what makes me an expert, I’m not. But it’s so obvious that even a dullard like me can spot it, as he is totally consumed by a spiraling tizzy. What else could explain his intensified attacks on “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, for that matter, any Democratic politician and any grievance he can conjure up?
In this latest debate, the operative words are “relatively sane.” After the first one, where he embarrassed and soiled himself by trampling over any rules of decorum, he was comparatively subdued for this last one. But he was still lying like a rug and scattering unverified charges against Joe Biden along with his predecessor, Barack Obama, who pushes all his emotional buttons.
And he still relied on some of his old fantasies, including my personal favorite: the old saw that he was “the least racist person in this room.” He also compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and ignored the fact that the moderator, NBC’s Kristen Welker, is black, while glossing over the fact that he has based his campaign on nonstop bigoted demagoguery.
No wait: My real personal favorite is his relentless cruelty to those who wanted to escape the dangers of their home countries and settle in the United States. He basically ignored reporting that more than 500 children are still separated from their parents due to a particularly ghastly tactic of trying to discourage any aspiration of migrants to begin a new life in the United States.

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October 20, 2020

THE POSSIBLE ESCAPE OF DONALD TRUMP

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE POSSIBLE ESCAPE OF DONALD TRUMP

editor’s note: Please note the Cyrillic spelling of “tower” in the third paragraph.

Could you imagine if I lose?” President Donald Trump is now actually musing out loud about the possibility that he might not get re-elected. He was speaking, in this instance, at one of his rallies: “My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say, ‘I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics.’ I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”
He may have to leave the country as an alternative to facing all his legal problems, particularly if he’s not successful in pardoning himself. True, his successor Joe Biden expressed the opinion during the campaign that it’s “not very ... good for democracy to be talking about prosecuting former presidents.” But he also said that he’d keep a hands-off approach: “I will not interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue a prosecution.” Additionally, there are tons of state investigations, to say nothing of all the unresolved lawsuits that he finally might have to face when his attorneys run out of delaying tactics.
So where could fugitive Trump flee? That’s easy. Among the dozens of countries that don’t have an extradition treaty with the United States is Russia. Surely he and his buddy Vladimir Putin have secretly colluded on detailed plans for his escape. He might have finally worked out a deal for constructing in Moscow the Trump Bashnya, or Trump башня if you prefer the Russian Cyrillic alphabet translation of Trump Tower. This alleged secret agreement could even allow him to set up a resort property near Odessa. What would he call it? How about Marxist Lago?
That would take care of Donald Trump, but what about his most passionate believers, who would prefer to settle in another country if their hero flies the coop? In particular, where would the white supremacist militias go? People like the ones who came up with the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, apparently because she displeased their hero, King Trump.
They even surreptitiously scouted the Whitmer family vacation home, but not all that surreptitiously. These “Vigilantes Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight” managed to be infiltrated by undercover FBI agents and soon found themselves indicted on a variety of federal and state charges. Mercenaries they’re not.
One might surmise that a president of the United States would temper his incendiary language a tad. But not this president. In a western Michigan rally he was on the attack against Whitmer for her strict anti-pandemic actions. Still again, his rabid supporters screamed, “Lock her up!” at the top of their lungs. Supporters who will become infected with Covid because they crowded together unmasked. President Trump simply basked in their shouted mantra, before sending them all wild again by adding, “Lock ’em all up!”

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October 17, 2020

TURKEY DAYS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TURKEY DAYS

Mark the day. Nov. 26 is Thanksgiving 2020. It’s a Turkey Day unlike any other. If Tony Fauci gets his way, it will be a “Zoom holiday,” not the family gathering it usually is. In his words, “You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected.”
More importantly, it is 22 days after Election Day. They might be through counting the votes by then. And Donald Trump and his Republican axis of evil might be done with all the post-campaign chicanery they might dream up if their voter suppression and intimidation have not worked and Joe Biden has won the race against Trump.
The only way that Biden and his Democratic forces can avoid all the legal contrivances aimed at getting the case before an even more pliant Supreme Court is a landslide victory so massive that the GOP is rubble. That would possibly mean that the Democrats control two of the three branches of our national government — the presidency and Congress — while that other political branch, the judiciary, at least the Supreme Court, is firmly in control of the Republicans and ultra conservatives. And after presumed new Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s evasive pretense before the Senate, don’t believe for a minute that justices are not partisans. They are, and a desperate President Trump is counting on that to put him over the top, if he isn’t crushed by the avalanche of votes against him.
Right now it looks like that is plausible, that the American people, by wide margins, are flat-out tired of his antics. They’re onto all his tricks — the lying, hateful, racist demagoguery. How pathetic it is that the suburban women he was trying to attract with his blatant appeal to their white flight bigotry is no longer effective, that his warning of hordes of poor black and brown people ruining their neighborhoods doesn’t work anymore. Suburban women are no longer a monolith, certainly not a prejudiced monolith. The Jim Crow redlining segregation and anti-busing demagoguery falls on deaf ears.
It leaves the Trumpster no recourse but to grovel:
“Suburban women, will you please like me,” he begged at one of his rallies. “Please, please. I saved your damned neighborhood. OK?”
Apparently, it’s not OK with the female voters, suburban and urban, young and old, particularly the elderly, who supported him the last time around. They’ve grown weary of his insulting misogyny and his dismal record that puts us all in danger from the coronavirus. Even when he caught Covid recently from one of his White House events, which also infected so many of his staff and associates, he blew the chance to appear humbled by the experience, maybe even empathetic.

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October 13, 2020

FAUCI THE EXPLAINER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FAUCI THE EXPLAINER

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The normally low-key Tony Fauci is complaining loudly that the thieves in the Trump campaign have stolen his credibility for a TV spot and
taken his seeming words of praise for President Donald Trump “out of context.”
And that leads to my latest brilliant idea: Let’s make Dr. Fauci the national spokesman to explain all things pandemic.
To say President Trump has damaged his own reputation for veracity is a gross understatement. That’s because Trump is a lying sack of tweets. Everyone around him is also infected with an inability to tell the whole truth. Maybe it’s partly because so many of them are infected by the coronavirus.
That number would include Kayleigh McEnany and the “dissembly” of other Trump press secretaries, and certainly the medical providers he has relied on through much of his life. There was the now famous podiatrist who diagnosed bone spurs in young Donald’s feet, which just so happened to get him out of serving in the Vietnam War. Then there was the Trump personal physician who wrote, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” He later admitted Trump dictated the entire letter.
Trump has found similar doctors of deception in the White House. One said the president was “in excellent health” after his first physical, even though he is obese. And then there is the current one, Dr. Sean Conley, whose briefings about POTUS’ COVID condition were and are selective and incomplete. He glossed over so many important facts that we don’t really have any idea whether it’s safe for Trump to resume a heavy schedule of campaign rallies, -- safe for him or for the people who will be packed together, most of them without masks, screaming their hatreds out at the top of their perhaps infected lungs.

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October 10, 2020

FLY ON THE HAIRSPRAY WALL

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FLY ON THE HAIRSPRAY WALL

A rule of thumb: If you have to say that you’re a tough guy, you’re not, and you’re certainly not “invincible”. But that’s the fantasy President Donald Trump has been peddling. He dodged the coronavirus for months, even though he was endangering himself with his risky behavior, as well as endangering the American people — certainly the 7 million who have been afflicted and the 210,000 who have died in this pandemic.
One would think that catching the infection himself would have put an end to his minimizing the danger. But nooooo. After all, he had a treatment regimen that no other person would get, administered by as many medical practitioners as he needed. Some of them, including the head of his team, top White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, were willing to present misleading reports on his condition ... then and now.
It meant that he could order his team to selectively release information and prop him up so he could even take a spin in his armored SUV, putting his Secret Service protectors in jeopardy for his joy ride in a hermetically sealed vehicle.
And then to agree to release him from Walter Reed Hospital so he could crow about how he had conquered the coronavirus, even though he had not. He told his gullible followers, “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” as he was whisked away by helicopters to return to the White House. There he would take his mask off and preen for the cameras just like the “Superman” he pretends to be, standing resolutely and posing there for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Then he mingled with his staff, who were probably thinking in horror, “Who is that Unmasked Man”? (Sorry, that’s a mixed superhero metaphor.) As the planning discussion was going on, I would have loved being a fly on the wall.
That’s a segue, folks, a particularly shameless one, to pirouette to the vice presidential debate a few days later. The highlight was when that fly landed on Mike Pence’s lacquered hair. He was there for two minutes and three seconds, until he decided the repartee was too boring and took wing into history.

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October 6, 2020

PRESIDENT’S COVID CREDIBILITY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PRESIDENT’S COVID CREDIBILITY

The way this administration has handled the public disclosure of President Donald Trump’s condition will become a case study on mismanaging a chief executive’s personal health crisis. But then, what’s new? The Trump mishandling of the entire pandemic is already one for the ages. No one knows how many deaths can be attributed to the mixed messages, total lies and erroneous information peddled by POTUS and his people continuously minimizing the risk of the coronavirus.
Not only that, but their credibility is nonexistent when it comes to any matter worthy of attention. Which reminds me, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has Covid. We should wish her well in spite of the rule of thumb that we should believe the opposite of anything stated by her or members of this administration — or anything that appears from them on Twitter, the modern day bumper sticker.
As a result, we have little idea of what’s going on with the state of the health of President Trump. We do know what is purported to be video of a weary Trump walking on his own to Marine One, his helicopter, to be transported to Walter Reed hospital. We do know that after so many questions were raised about his actual condition that he appeared on still another tape to declare: “I came here; wasn’t feeling so well. I feel much better now.” But was he propped up for it? And the reckless decision of the Trumpster to take a little road trip and giving a thumbs up to supporters was an obvious raising of another digit to his doctors’ preferences — not only that, endangering the lives of everyone riding in his hermetically sealed armored vehicle.
White House head physician Sean Conley hasn’t helped. His rosy press briefing has left huge gaps in what the nation needed to hear. Finally, Conley admitted Trump was on oxygen. The president’s early checkout flies right in the face of reluctant disclosures that his treatment had included dexamethasone. That raises a red flag, because dexamethasone is a steroid usually given to patients to treat severe lung abnormalities. Was Dr. Conley’s inconsistency the usual physician dissembling, or was he ordered from on high to bob and weave? Was Trump’s return to normal temperature from high fever the result of the aspirin he took?
The televised encounter with reporters was so embarrassing that immediately after the first briefing ended, “a person familiar with the president’s health” painted a drearier description to reporters: “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”

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October 3, 2020

TRUMP COVID

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP COVID

This wasn’t some irresponsible young people crowded in some bar most not wearing masks, this was a group not so young but equally irresponsible people, packed together in the Rose Garden, most of them not wearing masks. The President of the United States has called them together to welcome his new Supreme Court nomination. Now President Trump is in the hospital, battling a case of Covid, the First Lady is similarly infected, and so are many of those in attendance, who should know better, but obviously don’t.
The “thoughts and prayers”platitudinous statements of concern are flying around like crazy. But what were the well-wishers really thinking? (In Mike Pence’s case it was “love and prayers.” More about him in a minute.) I mean, what can you say in public? But in the cynical, transactional realm of politics, most of the uninflected are gathered with their advisers right now to decide what it means for the campaign and for themselves.
The news was conveyed overnight Friday by the president himself. By Twitter, of course: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” FLOTUS meaning the first lady. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Joe Biden was his usual empathetic self as he tweeted a statement about the man he had described as a “clown” and told to “shut up” a couple days before:
“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
In case you need it, here’s the translation: “What does this mean to me? I shared a stage just a couple days ago at the Psycho in Ohio debate!” What it also meant is that Biden was tested for Covid right away and showed negative.
For good measure, Kamala Harris weighed in with “wishing President Trump and the First Lady a full and speedy recovery.”
Phony sentiment aside, it also will inspire countless huddles with campaign advisers gaming out how to play this. It suggests that Trump has been handed an excuse to skip debates two and three with the man who wiped the floor with him in their first encounter.
That left Mike Pence and Harris to verbally duke it out after Pence, who gets tested every day, registered a negative. And so did his wife, the one he drags to every meeting and lunch that he has with a woman.
Of course,

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September 29, 2020

ROSE GARDEN PARDONS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATD
BY BOB FRANKEN

ROSE GARDEN PARDOND

Let’s make some wobbly assumptions and look to the future. Suppose the country survives the onslaught of lies — or “alternative facts,” as Kellyanne Conway (remember her?) used to call the stream-of-conscious gibberish Donald Trump tweets and screams at rallies — and Joe Biden wins the election. Then we get past all of Trump’s post-election chicanery or something even more serious and Biden is declared the winner.
First of all, that’s admittedly a shaky scenario, because Biden has demonstrated he is perfectly capable of blowing a lead, and Americans have a habit of making bad election choices — we are easily fooled by con artists. But let’s presuppose that when all the dust has settled, it is Joe Biden ousting Donald Trump.
At the time of the election, the Trump presidency would have two months, give or take, to go. That is plenty of time for Trump to do a huge amount of damage while still in office. He could approve any number of malicious policies and corrupt giveaways. He could pardon all of his buddies. There are wars he could start, and there is little that Biden could do about it until he is inaugurated. Until noon, Jan. 21, 2021, Trump remains POTUS, with enormous power to act against his political enemies or give further leeway to certain special interests — especially his own special interest. Sometime in the afternoon on that Wednesday, new President Biden would have to undo all that outgoing President Trump has done, particularly during the transition period.
But what about the pardons? There is not much Biden can do. You can’t unpardon someone. But what about pardoning Donald Trump? Biden will have to decide whether to allow federal criminal prosecution to proceed investigating all the crimes that Trump has allegedly perpetrated while in office — or before, when it comes to charges of obstruction, extortion and the tax problems that The New York Times has just alleged, the ones Trump says are “fake news.” By now we have learned that what he calls fake news is actually true.

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September 26, 2020

TIME TO GET OUT THE VOTE

FROM KING FEATURES DYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TIME TO GET OUT THE VOTE

The election is a month away, so the time has come to abandon the protest violence, no matter how egregious the behavior from government officials, and get rid of the racist who is running the country into the ground.
President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again has tried to turn all the civil rights progress of the decades into Jim Crow regression, but any destructive behavior at this point will play right into his hands of scaring some white people. Remember, the election is just a month away, which is the way to get rid of this authoritarian bigot, no matter how many times he implies he might not go peacefully.
Don’t be fooled by that bluster. As the Joe Biden campaign said dismissively in July, the “United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.” No matter how many Black martyrs, like Breonna Taylor, there are to police violence, no matter how many times the officers responsible go unpunished, there is no chance of getting justice if Trump remains in office. He has sided with the racists, and the only chance for change is a vote against him so massive that he won’t be tempted to pull any stunts to stay after his term of office has expired.
He and the Republican nihilists make it clear they will try any chicanery — before, during and after the election — if they think they can get away with it, including Trump’s repeated refusals to even say he will honor the election’s results. For proof, look no further than Republicans maneuvering to replace liberal champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court with an ultraconservative justice. Or remember his deadly incompetence in handling the coronavirus pandemic, or marvel at his constant lying and biased demagoguery.
He is the embodiment of democracy’s decay, and he will expand his authoritarianism if he remains in office. His lemming-like supporters will turn out by the millions, and the only way to counter them will be a laser-like focus on matching an outpouring of fair-minded Americans who can register their disgust at the polls. Rather than attending demonstrations, no matter how worthy the cause, the time and effort can now be better spent making sure that like-minded citizens turn out in gargantuan numbers and cast their ballots, whether by mail or showing up.

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September 22, 2020

GINSBERG IMPACT-TBD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

GINSBERG IMPACT-TBD

The October surprise happened in September, but it was certainly a jarring surprise. Normally, in a presidential race it will be engineered by supporters of one candidate against the other. But unless we learn differently, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came when her health finally collapsed after years of fighting off cancers. Shortly before she succumbed, she dictated a statement:
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
But in the ways of Washington, the beauty of all the Twitter tributes immediately gave way to ugly politics. A vicious battle is assured as President Donald Trump is locked in a battle with his opponent, with a chance that he will lose; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, is locked in a re-election battle with a chance that he will lose.
It I’s even feasible that Joe Biden and the Democrats will take over the White House and the Senate. So the GOP, in power now, is scrambling to ram a conservative justice through the “advice and consent” ritual and replace Ginsburg, a liberal legend who had become a longtime battler for women’s rights. Her dissents and written opinions were so majestic that she had become a champion of the younger set, the “Notorious RBG.”
If they are successful, the high court would end up with a 7 to 2 majority for decades to come that would be able to reverse so much of the progressive agenda that has grown into reality in recent generations, including the right to get an abortion.
The bitter absurdity is that the passing of the most liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has altered the election campaign. It allows Donald Trump, as opposite as one person can be from Ginsburg, an opportunity to look presidential, to distract from his dismal performance on the coronavirus, which has left 200,000 dead, and his demagogic pandering to racists that antagonizes so many voters of every color.
Trump has been insulting women to the extent that so many, even conservative women, view him as an obvious misogynist. However, many are even more offended by abortion. So they may see the placement of a conservative anti-abortion justice as an appropriate replacement for the pro women’s rights, pro Roe v. Wade Ruth Bader Ginsburg, enhancing the chances to prohibit a procedure they view as murder.

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September 19, 2020

NEVADA INFECTION

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

NEVADA INFECTION

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” How many times have we heard that one? It’s an assurance that the sins in Sin City won’t follow you home. Unfortunately, it’s also true that “What happens in Henderson definitely doesn’t stay in Henderson.”
Henderson, Nevada, is basically a suburb of Las Vegas, about a 20 minute drive away. It’s where President Donald Trump decided to have an indoor rally, attended by about 5,600 of his supporters. They were jammed together in a manufacturer’s auditorium, most of them not wearing face masks. They were willing to take a life or death chance with catching the sometimes lethal coronavirus, and Trump was willing to let them risk everything — to the point that he flouted Nevada’s crowd limitation rules.
When Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, charged him with taking “reckless and selfish actions,” the Trumpster responded in an interview that “I’m on a stage and it’s very far away, and so I’m not at all concerned.”
“This is typical Donald Trump,” the governor shot back on MSNBC. “He’s not concerned about all the folks who were there and who are going to go home. And their kids are going to go to school. He’s only concerned about his own health, not the health of anyone else in the state of Nevada.”
To put it mildly, this was another Super Spreader Event where, after screaming their devotion to Donald Trump, more than 5,000 people left and went home to their families and friends, some of them carrying Covid with them. As for Trump, he simply left and continued his campaign swing through the west, leaving behind his campaign spokespeople to respond to the accusations of selfishness.
And respond they did: “If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the president of the United States.”

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September 15, 2020

THE MORTIFICATION EFFECT

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

The MORTIFICATION EFFECT

I have a great idea for Joe Biden’s campaign slogan! I’m surprised no one has thought of it before. Are you ready? How about “Make America Great Again”?
Yes, I know, it has been Donald Trump’s war cry, but Trump’s first term as president has been a disaster. The U.S. stature at home and abroad under the Trumpster has become an embarrassment. So much so that he might be convinced that it’s kind of mortifying to use it, given how the United States has slid down the slippery slopes of history during his first term.
As a matter of fact, Biden may have to change it to “Make America Adequate Again.” We haven’t heard a lot lately about American Exceptionalism, which may have been national hubris anyway. Could that be because Donald Trump has squandered any claim to fame that we had? Where do we start?
How about Covid? Trump’s motto might have been “Do Something Even if It’s Wrong.” In pursuit of re-election. He has made so many bush league moves that it’s unclear how many thousands killed by the coronavirus in this country are a direct result of the mistakes made by him and his people — if not mistakes, absolute lies told in the name of his campaign. If you want to talk about American Exceptionalism, let’s discuss the exceptional death toll and spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.A. If Joe Biden wins, he will have a major job ahead to undo the public health damage. If Trump wins, it’s possible we are all doomed.
Moving right along our chagrin list ... how about race relations, which is not among our strong suits anyway? It’s hard to believe that President Trump has made it far worse with his blatantly racist actions and demagoguery.
On the international stage, he has managed to antagonize just about every one of America’s allies, although he wins popularity contests with the ruthless autocrat set. He had a NEAR dating relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, for example. He talks admiringly of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and even has an on-again-off-again bond with China’s President Xi Jinping. At the moment it’s off-again, because he’s demeaning China so he can exploit any vestiges of anti-Chinese racism in the United States.

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September 12, 2020

COVID AND OTHER TRUMP DISEASE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

COVID AND OTHER TRUMP DISEASE

What is it about the all-importance of Thomas Jefferson’s “informed consent” in a democracy that President Donald Trump doesn’t understand? How about Abraham Lincoln’s “of the people, for the people, by the people”?
Compare that with Trump’s “I didn’t want to create panic” admission to journalist Bob Woodward as an explanation why he flat out lied to the American people from the very beginning about the severity of Covid-19, even though he knew full well early on that the coronavirus was deadly serious. Why did he declare that the organism would simply “disappear” at the first sign of warm weather?
“I always wanted to play it down,” he said to Woodward, and play it down he did ... from his reassuring initial public comments to his resistance to wearing a face mask, which persists to this day, to his whipping up outrage over efforts to contain the organism by shutting down the economy, to the lies he tells to supporters at every turn that things are getting better. All while the United States leads the world in cases of Covid at more than 6 million and approaching 190,000 deaths.
What possessed him to do 18 candid interviews with Bob Woodward? That one is easy. He honestly believed that he could charm Woodward into writing a favorable book about his years in office. Instead he got what he describes as “a political hit job,” a book that is scathing. Not only about the pandemic, but everything that Donald Trump has tried to do.
Lastly, why did Woodward wait seven or eight months to disclose the contents of this interview? Was he saving them for his profitable book? He did provide an opening for Trump to deflect the criticism now:
He “had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?”
Good question. Whatever the explanation, Donald Trump wasn’t able to dismiss the journalism with his usual “fake news” and “hoax” denials. He is being done in by his real voice.
As for his explanation that he didn’t want to cause a “panic” or a “frenzy,” what is he doing right now trying to scare the daylights out of white people by casting Black protestors as a menace and suggesting “thugs” and “anarchists” will take charge if Joe Biden is elected? And move out to the suburbs and do heaven knows what.
Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger for re-election, jumped all over the Woodward revelations as evidence the Trumpster was guilty of “dereliction of duty.”

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September 9, 2020

SHATTERED CREDIBILITY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SHATTERED CREDIBILITY

Here is why I believe the gist of the Atlantic magazine article that President Donald Trump called American troops “losers,” “suckers” and much more: Trump denies it.
By now we have learned that Donald Trump is capable of lying. He does it all the time. About everything. His denials have gotten pretty meaningless, particularly when he uses terms like “fake news” or a “hoax,” or both. He usually responds on Twitter:
“You work so hard for the military, from completely rebuilding a depleted mess that was left by OBiden [sic], to fixing a broken V.A. and fighting for large scale military pay raises, and then a slimeball reporter, maybe working with disgruntled people, makes up such a horrible charge.”
It should be pointed out that since becoming president Donald Trump has told more than 20,000 lies, as documented by fact checkers.
That’s also why I believe the accusations in Michael Cohen’s new book “Disloyal: A Memoir.” Cohen was Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, calling himself Trump’s “designated thug.” Cohen describes the president in the book as “a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.” Michael Cohen was imprisoned for various lies himself and was released to house arrest, so he’s not the most reliable of sources, he admits. And White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany describes Cohen as a “disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.”
Donald Trump’s lying has become routine, and what’s that old saying ... “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”? What does it make the people he has lied to more than 20,000 times and still believe him and plan to vote for him again?
How about his performance in the Covid pandemic, where Trump has so frequently gone off on some misleading tangent that has resulted in the loss of so many Americans’ lives? It stated with his initial dismissal of the coronavirus and moved to his embrace of ineffective pharmaceuticals, like hydroxychloroquine, that he should have known were useless. It continues with his predictions that a vaccine “probably” will be created in October, which happens to be right before Election Day.
Ask yourself: Would you or your family take a vaccine that Trump and his pliant underlings have certified “safe and effective,” just before Election Day?

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September 5, 2020

EXPLOITING EXPLODED KENOSH

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

EXPLOITING EXPLODED KENOSHA

Let me paraphrase President Donald Trump after Charlottesville and state that there are very bad people on both sides of the racism protests ... violent people. Trump, in his quest to instill fear in the voters he feels are huddled quivering in their suburban homes is using words like “anarchists” and “thugs” to condemn demonstrators supporting Black Lives Matter who are protesting systemic racism and the police killing of unarmed black men and women. He’s seized on the outcry and is defending the cops — and somehow blaming Joe Biden for supporting the “mobs.”
There is a relatively small group of extremist agitators among the largely peaceful demonstrators. These troublemakers tangle with law enforcement and other security forces, set fires and indiscriminately destroy businesses, taking advantage of the situation to turn it into a riot. All they really accomplish is to give candidate Donald Trump fuel for his bigoted “law and order” campaign tactics, at the very time when the racial prejudice issue is finally getting a sympathetic understanding among all Americans. White and black people are marching and reacting together against the overwhelming evidence that bias against people of color is woven into our national fabric.
On the other side of the divide during this frenzied presidential campaign stands the white supremacists, the Trump supporter zealots. Many of those on this far right fringe are carrying weapons; some of them are organized into “militia” units who use social media to organize for “battle.” A few times, the results have been deadly when you get these crazies on both sides assaulting each other.

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September 1, 2020

SCRIPTED SMEARS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SCRIPTED SMEARS

There are two ways to tell that President Donald Trump is reading from a teleprompter: First, when he does, he delivers his speech in an obvious whiny voice, stumbling over words when his aides were able to persuade him to adhere to the address they had written. Second, he doesn’t usually say things that are hateful, bigoted, obnoxious or just plain ignorant. Anytime he ad libs he does. We could call it the “teleprompter strategy” for re-election, but even when he does stick to the script, the script is reprehensible.
He or his flunkies portray him as a compassionate, decisive leader whose quick action saved the country from the coronavirus. The fact is it’s exploding now. The nation has more than 6 million cases of COVID from the beginning of the year; more than 180,000 have died. That’s from a lack of testing that exists to this day, although the president insists the count is so high because too many people are being tested. The administration has dithered its way since the start of this pandemic — from a shortage of equipment for the medical professionals who try to stem the tide, to masks, to the protective suits that are necessary to save their lives. As a result, many doctors, nurses and other front-line individuals have died of COVID.
Meanwhile, there was President Trump trying to wring whatever political advantage he could out of this tragedy. He was front and center claiming that the pandemic is no big deal, that the organism will magically disappear soon. He touted various existing medicines, like hydroxychloroquine, as miracle cures, in spite of expert research to the contrary. In fact, he has constantly ignored the counsel of his public health advisers and continuously showed his ignorance. As a result, he has created a disaster that’s not just physically deadly, but also economically. But now he and his flunkies claim that it was his steady leadership that has turned the situation around. First of all, it hasn’t been turned around, but he and his advisers will count on the obliviousness of voters to accept his claims.

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August 29, 2020

THE SHOW

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SHOW

I know, I know. You’re really bummed out that the party conventions are over. Either that, or you’re so disgusted that you want to “throw all them bums out.” But for those of you who couldn’t tear yourself away from the virtual COVID conventions, perhaps Netflix or Amazon Prime could make them available for binge watching, or maybe C-Span.
Actually, as thrilling as they were, they were only the lounge act; the main show begins now. And yes, it was a four year lounge act, beginning when the ballots were counted in 2016. Because, American tradition has it that the next presidential campaign begins a few hours after the previous election results are known. This time around it’s been a one-man show. President Donald Trump has held the spotlight more than anyone in history. That’s partially on the media, but it’s mainly due to Trump’s incredible knack of being so goofy, so hateful, so preposterous, that all any of us can do is gasp and react to his latest outrage.
Let’s face it, the remaining campaign will also be about the Trumpster. Joe Biden could be the nicest, most capable candidate who has ever run for president — after all, he’s done it three times — but he’s still “What’s his name.” This is an up or down poll about Donald Trump. You either love him or you hate him.

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August 25, 2020

PTB AND DJT

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PTB AND DJT

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” There’s some question about whether P.T. Barnum really said that first, but it’s attributed to him. And certainly it’s true. All you need to do is ask President Donald John Trump, the reincarnation of Phineas Taylor Barnum. Have you noticed the similarities? Trump released “The Art of the Deal” in his own name. True, it was ghostwritten, but let’s not quibble. Among the books that Barnum authored was “The Art of Money Getting.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Barnum was a blatant hoaxster with his various phony freak shows. Trump is a major league huckster, and his administration has been described more than once as a freak show.
P.T. is best remembered for his circus. See? Another dead ringer. Actually, we could say “dead three-ringer.” While the Democrats put on a memorable show last week with their virtual convention, you know that D.J. Trump is producing the “Greatest Show on Earth.” He always does with his high-wire acts. Why? As P.T. said, “The bigger the humbug, the better people will like it.”
That has been Donald Trump’s motto from day one. He convinced folks that he was a master businessman even though his properties went bankrupt six times. He has always had a reputation among contractors for agreeing to a price, getting the work done and welching on full payment, hiding behind a wall of lawyers. Through it all he declared his business failures to be roaring successes, and so they were as far as the public was concerned.

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August 22, 2020

CONVENTION CONTRIVANCES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CONVENTION CONTRIVANCES

It was an experiment that went well, and presumably also will work for the Republican convention. But a little suggestion, if you don’t mind. How about adding pre-recorded crowd noise, like they do in Major League Baseball telecasts? It’s still jarring to see the empty stands surrounding the diamond, but the phony canned audio is a move in the right direction.
Itt certainly would add to the virtual political convention experience. You could even get ambitious and add specific scenarios, like occasional crowd outbursts of “Four more years!” and cheering and booing. Although you must make sure you have a really good audio person. Otherwise, he or she could press the wrong button, and as the nominee speaks he is drowned out by loud booing.
For that matter, it is certainly possible to superimpose images of crowds packing a fictitious arena. This time the video person would have the responsibility to make sure the “spectators” aren’t carelessly selected from some archive somewhere so you don’t end up with stands full of soccer hooligans all displaying the international one finger gesture of defiance or a Nazi salute or some other embarrassing gesture. That could be a sensitive matter for the Republicans and their emperor, Donald Trump, given his affinity for white supremacist hate groups.
Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see who the Republicans put out, particularly since it’s a Donald Trump one-man show. As far as that is concerned, the Democrats’ convention (or whatever that was) could have passed for a Donald Trump one-man show. Whether they were party luminaries or “ordinary people,” all of the speakers had one thing in common: They despise President Trump, who they describe as the one responsible for bringing America to its knees. Then they shot a few Roman candles in the air and went home. Oh, wait ... most of them were already home. Now the GOP gets its chance, holding its variation of a virtual convention, ending, it turns out, with a fireworks display, too. Then it’s on to the fireworks of the campaign.
It brings up an interesting question: Is a party convention, with its crowds and all of its time-consuming pandemonium, really necessary, or has it been exposed as an anachronism? The party higher-ups held out for a convention till the last minute, knowing how much the delegates like to party. But COVID reality dictated the final result: a relatively dignified, slickly produced coronation, without all the hoopla.

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August 18, 2020

THE ANTI-MAIL MALE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE ANTI-MAIL MALE

We’ve all seen it, the motto we associate with the post office:
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Actually, it’s only the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service, as it has been for mailmen and -women since about 450 B.C. It’s not necessarily true, but it’s a grand tradition.
Compare that to the 2020 A.D. letter that the Postal Service sent to most states citing “a significant risk that some ballots will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”
Never mind all that tradition. Donald Trump seems to think he can gum up the works of mail-in ballot delivery so badly that it can’t do the job of encouraging Americans to participate in the fundamental responsibility and privilege of any citizen in a democracy to vote in free and fair elections. It’s so bad that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the House back from its sacred August break to deal with it, and several state attorneys general are pondering lawsuits. It’s obvious that Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans don’t have any intention of holding a free and fair election.
But this may be something else. This may be a bargaining ploy on the part of Trump to work a deal with the Democrats, who have been unwilling to budge from their $3 trillion coronavirus rescue bill because they believe they have leverage over Trump. Supporting that interpretation is the fact that Donald Trump is unduly blatant about his intentions with Postal Service cutbacks. First of all, he makes no bones about his campaign motivation, openly declaring that mail ballots nationwide could put his re-election in jeopardy.
Democrats want $28.5 billion to finance universal mail-in balloting and other aid, because of the dangerous pandemic, where voters might have to choose between risking infection if they show up to cast their ballots in person at the polling places on Election Day, or mailing them in. In spite of his opposition to using the mail — because of the alleged chance of fraud, with minimal evidence to support that concern — Trump has openly stated that he might abandon that position if the Democrats make the COVID deal Republicans want.

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August 15, 2020

SMEAR CAMPAIGN BEGINS

FROM KING FEATURESSYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SMEAR CAMPAIGN BEGINS

“Phony Kamala and Slow Joe.” That was President Trump giving nicknames to the opposition after Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to share the Democratic ticket with him. Of course Trump threw in “extraordinarily nasty,” but he always describes those who oppose him as “extraordinarily nasty.” A couple of days later, he tried to hint that Kamal Harris was not eligible to be vice president, a sad reprise of the racist “birther” campaign he led against Barack Obama. How pathetic.
I have to ask: Is that the best that Trump can do? Has he lost a step in attaching insulting nicknames and racist dog whistles he levels against anyone who riles him, which is just about everyone? “Phony” and “slow” are hardly devastating. “Nasty” seems puny. “Birther”? Been there done that. Is the Trumpster still feeling the after-effects of the hydroxychloroquine pills that he popped?
Trump had better get on his game, because in Harris, Biden has picked someone who might give him a bit of reflected pizazz that’s badly needed. Donald Trump just has Mike Pence, who is not a pizazz kinda guy. Or we think Pence will be his choice.
And both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made it clear at their first campaign appearance together they were intending to make the current incumbents their main issue, particularly the handling of the pandemic. They will describe him as a president who is really an empty suit, or a suit filled with garbage, who generates lawsuits every time he pulls another of his con jobs. Quoth Harris:
“The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut. ... This virus has impacted almost every country. But there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start. ... This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up to the job.”
So it is with his power grab from Congress. His administration negotiators refused to budge from their lowball position when it came to extending the unemployment benefits lifeline to those devastated economically by the coronavirus. This time he was conjuring up a bunch of phony executive orders and memoranda that pretended to solve many of the critical issues.
Take enhanced unemployment payments and eviction prohibitions. He announced that unemployment was $400, down from $600. It’s actually $300, much of it paid for by budgetary sleight of hand, which will be challenged in court. As for the stoppage of evictions, as he announced, it’s really just a memo to federal agencies to “study” the issue. On and on he went, taking pretend grandiose steps to rescue the beleaguered jobless from the mess he created in the first place.
Most of it is a mirage, but he is counting on some of the voters to be taken in by his subterfuge and tuning out the tedious details of why it isn’t just more of his normal smoke and mirrors. Besides, Congress has the authority, according to the Constitution, to control spending. But Trump has never been a big fan of the Constitution and its limitations. And once again he’s trying to take away power from the legislative branch of government and disrupting the balance of power that distinguishes this government from a tin-pot autocracy.

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August 11, 2020

THE STUPID AWARD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE STUPID AWARD

Haven’t we been missing something with our coverage of the political news? Shouldn’t we recognize the tweet or sound bite that is so absurd that it makes the rest of us say, “Did he really say that?” Isn’t it long overdue that we honor the most Senseless Tweet, Utterance, Pronouncement or Idiotic Declaration, and hand out a weekly STUPID award?
Granted, it’s often a difficult choice. The STUPID competitors are tough and have a lot of experience. Not only President Donald Trump, who is in a class by himself, or really no class, but also Joe Biden. With Biden’s long career in public life repeatedly saying something really boneheaded, he has no peer in the gaffe category. Actually, he’s a natural; he doesn’t even have to try. The dunderheaded comments just roll from his mouth.
But Trump is the true champion, not only due to his being a pathological liar, but because when he gets revved up he makes the most nasty statements. He does it over Twitter, during speeches or when he encounters reporters ... aka “enemies of the people,” which was one of his previous STUPID award winners.
But let’s not waste any more time. Let’s choose this week’s winner. Actually, it’s last week, because this week hasn’t happened yet, now has it? It was really no contest. Once again the STUPID winner is Donald Trump.
It was Thursday in Ohio, when the president targeted Joe Biden, who he claimed would “take away your guns, destroy your second amendment. No religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns, he’s against energy, our kind of energy.”
He really said that. The fact that Biden is a man of strong Catholic faith adds to the tarnish of this STUPID award.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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August 8, 2020

”IT IS WHAT IT IS”

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

‘IT IS WHAT IT IS”

This will be another essay about President Trump’s dismissive “It is what it is” when he was talking about the COVID deaths in this country. I can’t always be profound with my commentary, but hey, it is what it is.
First of all, let’s credit Jonathan Swan of Axios for honoring our craft with a really persistent interview and rattling Donald Trump in the process. Besides exposing the president’s insensitivity (as if that needed exposure), we should dwell on the “ism’s” that are a reality in Donald Trump’s America.
The pandemic is raging unabated in the Divided States of America. When it waged all out war on the world, it detected a soft spot in this country. States are going every which way following nonstop blunders by the blusterer at the top of the administration heap. We are losing the war. But it is what it is.
Instead we have economic collapse as the chief executive and his subordinates have made every wrong move. They delayed any action at all, which resulted in draconian measures that forced the wheels of commerce to basically grind to a halt. Oh, and he jettisoned to the governors all off the hard decisions, creating a hodgepodge of policies. Then, before the painfully strenuous measures could affect the heath of everyone, Trump got impatient and started agitating for a “reopening,” a return to “normalcy” that public health experts insisted was wildly premature. But he got his way, and the experts showed why they are experts. The coronavirus flared up again, leaving the D.S.A. even worse off than it was before. Once again, it is what it is.
At the same time he is trying to tamp down civil rights unrest after police brutality against minorities exploded in demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter. To deal with the racial unrest requires a compassionate, steady hand. Donald Trump? You gotta be kidding!
He is out there fanning every demagogic flame he could, proving once again that POTUS is really BOTUS (Bigot of the United States). He and his henchmen outdo themselves to show that they are “law and order” people, pretending to be tough but really betraying their weakness. Still they go about appealing to the prejudices and hatreds of angry white people. All together now: It is what it is.

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August 4, 2020

THE DISMAL FUTURE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE DISMAL FUTURE

“‘Cheer up,’” they said, ‘things could be worse.’ So I did, and sure enough they were.” That’s supposed to be a joke, but when it comes to this country’s governing chaos, it is sadly not funny.
First, you had a president who dismissed the seriousness of the invisible invader. Then, only when it became obvious that the lethal coronavirus could not be ignored, or wished away, the people in his administration made a half-hearted response to the deadly organism, even though it was killing Americans at an alarming rate. They left it to state governors to come up with policies to protect the population against the virus, while failing to provide the tools to do it. This meant a lack of personal protective gear for the medical heroes, who stepped up through the toxic atmosphere to bravely try to save lives even though they were often pathetically under-equipped thanks to a supply line that ground to a halt.
Finally, because they had no choice, some of the governors made the agonizing decision to shut down commerce. Millions of people were thrown out of work. They were helped somewhat by trillions of dollars in federal relief funds and eviction moratoriums that provided relief, though the funds were delayed by bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. Still, it was the lifeline between starving and survival.
Even so, the economic plunge had an effect. COVID spikes where thousands died were slowly flattened out. But an impatient president along with his cadre of right wing extremists started pressuring for a return to economic normalcy even though public health experts warned that it was dangerously premature. Given the slightest chance, too many Americans lapsed into irresponsibility, gathering in crowds, not even bothering with masks. The dire predictions were tragically borne out, and now many areas of the country are consumed by the deadly virus waiting to strike.

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August 1, 2020

FAUCI’S PITCH vs. TRUMP’S PITCH

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FAUCI’S PITCH VS. TRUMP’S PITCH

President Donald Trump was in one of his whiny moods on Tuesday. He was talking about Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 36 years. “He’s got this high approval rating,” grumbled the president. After all, he’s followed some of Fauci’s recommendations. “So why don’t I have a high approval rating?”
Indeed. Tony Fauci threw out the first pitch at Washington Nationals’ opening day and it was wild, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, Topps, the guys that make baseball cards, made one of Fauci in action. They sold out in 24 hours — all 51,512 of them. Trump, on the other hand, gets a big inflated “Baby Donald” balloon.

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July 28, 2020

WILD PITCHES

FROM KING FEATURE SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WILD PITCHES

Tony Fauci memo to himself: “Never EVER throw out the first pitch at a game again!” I don’t want to rub it in to Dr. Fauci, we’ve known each other for a long time, but his toss on opening night was not the stuff of baseball legend, unless a record is kept of the worst ones ever. It was even more wretched than the ones heaved by then-President Barack Obama back in 2009 and 2010. And now the current president says he wants to get in the act.
President Donald Trump, never to be outdone, announced that he’d throw out a first pitch in mid-August. Then he declared that he would not, perhaps because it would be at an empty Yankee stadium where he’d not get to claim it was the biggest crowd ever. Of course he gussied it up a little, tweeting:
“Because of my strong focus on the China Virus, including scheduled meetings on Vaccines, our economy and much else, I won’t be able to be in New York to throw out the opening pitch.”
Maybe he was worried he’d also be embarrassed. Perhaps later, he said. Don’t hold your breath.
The point is that Fauci is not an MLB pitcher, but he is a major league infectious disease doctor, who has tried to apply his experience and wisdom to the battle against the coronavirus. His expertise and amazing ability to speak in a language everyone can understand has made him one of the most trusted people in America when it comes to combatting this pandemic.
Unfortunately, one of the least trusted men is President Trump. There is no way of knowing how many have died because of his and his administration’s blunders. With his initial trivialization of the threat, to the rejection of sound public health advice, to his promotion of various medications without any reason, to his agitation for a premature reopening of the country for political reasons, he has shown that he is exactly the wrong person to be in charge.
And he persists with his ignorance and bluster, trying to peddle the idea that he’s not in way over his head. He still wants to show that he has more knowledge than Dr. Fauci and the other public health experts, who shudder every time he opens his mouth, trying a different sort of pitch. At least now he’s recognizing the fact that the country he pretends to lead is being consumed by the raging coronavirus, because he prematurely declared an “all clear.”


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July 25, 2020

ALL POLITICS ALL THE TIME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

ALL POLITICS ALL THE TIME

In ancient history — that is, before TV — there was a gentleman’s agreement that the presidential electioneering didn’t really get underway until Labor Day. But how times have changed! First of all, there are no gentlepersons left in politics, certainly no bipartisanship. The television news era, now known as the “good old days,” is made obsolete by antisocial media, where everyone has a worldwide megaphone and facts be damned. Meanwhile, there is no end to campaigning; no beginning either. It goes on nonstop, a blurry round of constant demagoguery. No longer does it matter the seriousness of the issue. It’s all about how it can be parlayed into political advantage.
Take President Donald Trump’s dispatching of paramilitary federal forces to deal with racial unrest in American cities. Its constitutionality is dubious, but if Trump’s followers heard the arguments pro and con, their eyes would glaze over. All they need to know is that protestors don’t really know their place. POTUS makes his political intent clear with his justification:
“We’re looking at Chicago, too. We’re looking at New York,” he said. “All run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left.”
And, as he sent in the federal cavalry, he didn’t even pretend it was not part of his re-election strategy: “And you know what? If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell.”

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July 21, 2020

1-800-GRIFTER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

1-800-GRIFTER

Let’s suppose Donald Trump and his family, the Trumpettes, really go down in flames on Election Day, and let’s suppose their last-minute desperate efforts to hold onto power fail. What are they going to do when they’re not facing legal action for all their crimes? That’s easy: The big guy, former President Donald Trump can go back to his life as a successful huckster.
He’s displayed a real talent for pitching products on TV once again with that picture of him in the White House surrounded with Goya products. This, after Goya CEO Bob Unanue had stood in the Rose Garden and gushed, “We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump.”
As one can imagine, that caused an uproar in the Latino community, where Trump is not all that popular. How’s that for understatement? At any rate, it set off a major boycott of Goya products. And that’s what inspired President Trump to make his pitch. Not only that, but daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka modeled her own promo for Goya, posing flashing her pearly whites while holding a can of Goya beans.


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July 18, 2020

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Apparently everyone has decided to ignore my suggestion for replacing the odious nickname of the Washington NFL franchise. Now that owner Dan Snyder has agreed to get rid of the R-word slur that has stained the team since 1933, my idea would be to call them the Washington Crows in honor of the meal that Snyder was required to eat. What was it he said in 2013? Oh yeah: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
It’s too bad that the pro football squad down the road is already calling themselves the Baltimore Ravens. If that R-word was available all he would have had to say is “NEVERMORE”!
Not that Snyder had been influenced by the anti-racist movement that has captured the American imagination right now. Whether it’s a fad or whether it’s a commitment, after so many centuries we can believe it’s for real and long lasting when we see it.
Nonetheless, it has reached the corporate consciousness, and top executives of NFL investors no longer want to be associated with a brand whose name is a study in bigotry. So they hit Snyder where he lived, which is to say in his wallet. Credit FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo with threatening to stop the flow of millions of dollars that are a key part of the profits. Suddenly, Snyder had the league’s rug pulled out from under him. The league and the commissioner made it clear that unless he relented he’d be standing out there with his obnoxious mascot by himself. So he caved.

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July 14, 2020

FRIDAY NIGHT FOLLIES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FRIDAY NIGHT FOLLIES

There it is in the Constitution: The president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” No question about it: President Donald Trump, who claims all kinds of omnipotence that he doesn’t really have, is right in this case. He can, without question, pardon or commute a sentence for a federal crime anytime, anywhere while he’s chief executive. What’s pathetic is when such absolute authority is announced in the mealy-mouthed Friday Night Dump, or Friday News Dump.
It’s a weaselly tactic, used by many presidents. Based on the premise that Saturday news interest is low, administrations announce stories that embarrass them late on a Friday night. It’s nothing new. It got to the point that White House reporters made no unbreakable weekend plans during the Clinton years, because Bill Clinton and his Clintonistas regularly used the Friday Night Dump. The Trumpster did not invent the Friday Dumpster.
Nor was it a surprise that he waited until late at night to announce that he’d be commuting Roger Stone’s 40-month sentence, which was about to begin a few days later. Stone was convicted of seven counts relating to obstructing a congressional investigation, lying under oath and threatening a witness. However, he had the good fortune of a long relationship as a dirty tricks adviser to Donald Trump. So it was not a matter of “if” but “when,” and it was the last Friday before Stone would have to surrender to prison authorities.
Not only did the Trump sneak attack happen in the dark of night, but it was even more pitiful when he hid behind a White House statement, not from him, but in the name of his press secretary and main translator these days, Kayleigh McEnany. It was riddled with the usual resentments, grievances and falsehoods that show she is certainly on message, and all the Democrats could do was sputter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was perhaps the chief sputterer, calling the commutation a case of “staggering corruption” and promising to “ensure that no president can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that president from criminal prosecution.”

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July 11, 2020

TRUMP AND THE OTHER TODDLERS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP AND THE OTHER TODDLERS

The problem is that young people are love-starved, or whatever term you would like to substitute. As soon as the bars, beaches and swimming pools were allowed to reopen, they swooped in — 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40- and 50-somethings, even the teeny-boppers with phony IDs — hitting on everybody in sight. Tossing caution to the wind, along with their face masks, they crammed together in tight spaces, way less than 6 feet from each other. In effect, COVID became an STD, a socially transmitted disease.
And that’s why we’re seeing so many positive results, when these party animals even bother being tested. After they leave their hot spots and return to their families and friends, they create new hot spots in their communities. Each has the potential to become a one-person pestilence.
Deborah Birx, the White House overseer of all thing coronavirus — almost as famous as Tony Fauci — said the kiddies and kiddie wannabes had been docilely complying with the stay at home orders, except for the militia groups. But when first word came of a relaxing of restrictions, some of them went berserk. Or as Birx more elegantly put it, “When they saw people out and about on social media, they all went out and about.”
To fracture George Bernard Shaw’s saying, isn’t it a shame when youth get wasted? It’s difficult to get Americans of all ages to act responsibly when they have all this pent-up energy after being isolated at home. Many of them seem to consider caution to be a waste of time — particularly the president, who is downplaying the danger and outright lying about it.
Trump’s lackeys in the Republican party and red state governors have gone along with aggressive efforts to reopen and restart the economy. Now they need to scale back and reverse their reopening, because COVID has erupted like wildfire. Suddenly some cities are once again having to deal with shortages of ICU beds, supplies like protective equipment or even enough hours in the day to fight COVID without dropping from exhaustion. It’s a lethal mess, and so many of the public health experts are having a hard time not saying “I told you so.”

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July 7, 2020

SPORTS AND REAL LIFE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SPORTS AND REAL LIFE

This Independence Day weekend, two professional sports teams were finally forced to deal with names that offend people who were here way before them. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump stayed mute on the sidelines.
Yes, even Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL team whose racist name he said he’d “NEVER” change, is now being forced to ponder a CHANGE. Why? It’s certainly not out of principle; Snyder has no principles, nor much ability to field a winning team. But he’s being coerced to conduct a “thorough review” of the name — a review that was forced on him by targeting the only thing he cares about ... his wallet. It seems that his corporate sponsors, who are themselves only now discovering that there is racism in the United States of America, have threatened to withhold the millions of dollars that have sustained these leagues all along.
It’s not just a football team that has suddenly developed a conscience, but a baseball franchise too. The Cleveland Indians, in this new era of examining all things bigoted, can no longer ignore the complaints of Native Americans and has decided to “determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.” In other words, we can chalk up another win to the almighty dollar.
What will they call themselves if they actually change their brand name? Already there are ideas flitting about. I personally prefer the Cleveland Fire, a tribute to the flames that suddenly erupted on the Cuyahoga River back in 1969. As for the Washington R-words, there are so many possibilities. How about the Sleazebags, a tribute to the special interest lobbyists who are the only ones who can afford tickets to a football game?

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July 4, 2020

AMERICA IN DENIAL

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICA IN DENIAL

As the country pauses for the Independence Day break, perhaps it’s time not for celebration but for introspection. Specifically, we can ponder the question of where we went wrong and how. Perhaps it really started on that first July 4 in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence — with its inspiring words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ...” — was signed by blatant hypocrites, many of them slave owners.
In the 244 years since then, we have made some progress, certainly. We’ve moved from slavery, which took a devastating civil war to undo, through Jim Crow, which took dangerous protests in the South, to “I can’t breathe” today. Once again, it took a mass turnout of demonstrators and sometimes violent actions to make a statement against police state brutality that disproportionally targets minorities.
The lingering toxic racial prejudice contributed to Donald Trump’s election as president, and it gives him a fighting chance to win re-election to a second term. But Donald Trump is a symptom of our national illness, not the disease itself. In addition to the racism that saturates our society, our history has bred a suspicion of institutions that have been built over centuries of political leadership, where the rich seemed to benefit at the expense of everyone else. It’s to the point that expertise is turned away and worthy endeavors are met with justified skepticism. It so often turns out to be self-enriching.
Donald Trump has taken full advantage of that national suspicion. Every failure his administration makes, he peddles as a victory. His and their handling of the deadly pandemic is only the latest example. From the get-go his people screwed up the national response to the coronavirus. The result? The United States is now the world leader in COVID cases and deaths. The scourge shows no sign of abating, due in large part to a financial reopening championed by Trump that is still killing our citizens at a dizzying rate. Even governors of states that heeded Trump’s siren song have had to back off and restart a shutdown of the economy.

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June 30, 2020

PREMATURE POLL POSITION

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PREMATURE POLL POSITION

Breaking news! In the polls, Trump is trailing Biden by a ton. In other words, Donald Trump has Joe Biden exactly where he wants him.
While citizens of all hues are engaged in national introspection over the racism that permeates our society and ongoing deadly police violence, Trump has been pandering to bigots. Plus, given Trump’s dismal leadership during the COVID pandemic, the Trumpster has been plummeting in just about every credible survey when matched up with Joe Biden. His disapproval ratings are so low that he’d lose in a landslide if the election were held today.
But it isn’t being held today. It’s more than four months away, and Trump is planning a strategy that is most reliant on Biden doing something so ridiculous that Trump will look good by comparison. Biden’s history has shown that it’s not an altogether bad game plan. Time and again, Biden has pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Democrats have the same habit. At this time in 2016, Hillary Clinton was measuring the White House drapes, and we all know how that turned out. Still, even Donny — whose approach to the coronavirus was wishing it would go away, and when it didn’t, ignoring it — has acknowledged that he could be in trouble this time around. Replying to a puffball question from Sean Hannity about his next term, Trump gave a meandering response, including the dejected tone of his answer that perhaps Biden is “gonna be your president because some people don’t love me, maybe.”
Ya think? Since his inauguration Donald Trump has managed to make himself a national embarrassment with his toxic mix of ignorance, racism and outright lies. Then the country faced two overlapping crises. First it was the coronavirus. His administration’s incompetence managed to turn the pandemic into a debacle. Americans are dying at a startling rate. The spreading tragedy is partially blamed on the president’s all out campaign to prematurely reopen the country. People, particularly young people, flocked to bars to socialize over alcohol while casting aside any semblance of social distancing. You’re now seeing that in an explosion of new COVID cases.
And when these millennials staggered out of the bars and resumed their normal lives, they became carriers, particularly those who, with the president as a role model, refused to wear a face mask.
A great example of his downfall was the puny turnout at his first rally since the lockdown, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you looked around at the screaming crowd, there weren’t a lot of face masks.

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June 27, 2020

DEFUND FUN

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICTE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DEFUND FUN

Many of you dismiss the “Defund the Police” movement as merely rhetorical excess, designed to get everyone’s undies twisted in knots. And you’d be correct. It’s really hyperbole meant to focus everyone’s attention to the need to reform law enforcement in this country, and to weed out racist, deadly brutality by cops who all too often literally get away with murder.
But let’s not dismiss the idea entirely of zeroing out certain agencies in the federal government that are beyond reform, at least right now. Think how Congress could regain control if the members would vote to defund the White House, at least as long as Donald Trump is president. Impossible, you say? Not if the members, Republicans and Democrats, could somehow be persuaded that Trump and his cronies do nothing constructive for the country and are, in fact, bent on its destruction.
Just think: no budget for Air Force One to take the Trumpster to rallies where he whips his dwindling legions of followers into a frenzy with a combination of bigotry, half truths and full lies. No more overlooking the fact that he is most certainly killing off his supporters who cram into venues, most of them not wearing face masks, ignoring the deadly coronavirus pandemic that continues to fatally strike down and sicken Americans who were led to believe by Trump and his administration liars that it was safe to emerge from the lockdown and do whatever they wanted.

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June 23, 2020

CAMOUFLAGING OUTRAGE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CAMOUFLAGING OUTRAGE

This is when the follow-up reporting will be the most important part of the stories. I don’t know if President Donald Trump and his people were using the “Friday Night Dump” to obscure the news that the administration moved to get rid of Geoffrey Berman from his post of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York or whether it was the “Saturday Night Mass Infection” that was supposed to accomplish that.
SDNY is uniquely positioned to prosecute the most important cases in the country, and Berman had moved fearlessly against several of those close to Trump, including an investigation of the Don’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Oh wait, perhaps is it Attorney General Bill Barr who is his personal lawyer. He’s the one who first tried to fire Berman on a Friday night. The thinking goes that people will not be interested in news as they pursue weekend errands and fun stuff. But Berman gummed up the works by refusing to give up his office, and it was the next evening, after Trump got his small dirty hands on it and admitted he gave the “you’re fired” order, that Geoff Berman gave in.
Then it was on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Trumpster for his first rally since the pandemic, in spite of the fact that the pandemic is anything but over. And in spite of the fact that six of his advance team had tested positive for COVID. But narcissist-in-chief Trump was unwilling to wait. Happily, even some of his usually rabid fans decided not to attend, and suddenly Donald Trump had to explain away all the unmistakably empty seats. He did that by blaming some protestors and, of course, the fake news media for scaring some of his supporters away.
But even with the less than full house, someone should do a follow-up on how many in attendance caught the coronavirus and how many they infected after they departed. Actually, it will be impossible to quantify the number of those who caught COVID as a result of his basking in the adulation heaped upon him by his screaming followers. But you can bet that in newsroom “futures files” there is a note to try to cover the aftermath about two weeks down the road.

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June 20, 2020

RACIST BRANDING

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

RACIST BRANDING

If the owners of Aunt Jemima syrup can phase out a brand that’s been around since 1889 because it’s racist, certainly the Washington NFL team can get rid of the racist R-word that has only exited since 1933.
Quaker Oats Company, which is in turn owned by PepsiCo, decided to abandon the familiar trademark even though it’s been around for generations because, in the company’s words, it is “based on a racial stereotype.” To put it bluntly, that stereotype is the black slave “Mammy,” who lovingly raised her white owners’ children. Now Aunt Jemima will soon become a part of the nation’s sordid past.
And presumably so will Uncle Ben, of Uncle Ben’s rice products. Mars, who now owns the brand, announced that it will “evolve,” i.e., slowly disappear. It’s been around since 1946.
Earlier this year, Land O’Lakes announced that it would get rid of the Native American woman who had symbolized its products since the 1920s. And other prominent brand owners are examining their trademarks.
But the Washington professional football team and owner Dan Snyder have no apparent misgivings about slurring the country’s first population. Snyder is on record telling USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”
Well then, Dan, you’re a BIGOT. It’s as simple as that. The definition of the R-word almost always has the word “offensive” attached to it, as in Dictionary.com’s definition: “Offensive slang used as a disparaging term for a Native American.” Why would a sports franchise want to use an offensive term as a brand? How could minority players be willing to play on the team, when at the same time they are decrying the prejudice against people of color that saturates the United States?
We’re hearing the words “systemic racism” a lot these days. To be honest, we have made some progress since the days of Jim Crow, thanks to brave protestors, justices and judges, and thanks to the civil rights acts of the ’60s. But for every step forward we end up taking several steps backward.
When Barack Obama was elected president, the nation celebrated a new Age of Enlightenment. Finally we were putting the ugly bigotry behind us. But it was only hiding and came roaring back. Obama himself was required to tread very carefully, and had to fend off various barely concealed racist attacks. The so-called birther movement was a case in point. And who was one of those who constantly raised the issue? Donald Trump, that’s who. Yes, we elected and re-elected a black man as our chief executive. But then, who did we choose the next time? Donald Trump, that’s who. He ran as a bigot and he governs as a bigot, giving constant encouragement to the white supremacists among us. Time and time again he has accused those who protest police brutality against people of color of being “thugs.” When you come right down to it, he’s charging them with being “uppity.”

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June 16, 2020

TRICKY DON

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRICKY DON

Consider the possibility that President Donald Trump never had any intention of holding his first rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That is so absurdly insensitive even for him. Instead, perhaps he was announcing that plan so he could publicly change his mind at the behest of “many of my African American friends and supporters,” as he said in a tweet.
So he announced he was moving his rally back a day, and appeared to be racially enlightened, as opposed to being so crass as to plan to go to Tulsa on the date that slavery fully ended in the United States when it was finally declared in Texas that blacks must be freed, a full two months after the Confederacy had surrendered to the Union army. Actually, it was 16 months after Appomattox that the final skirmish was fought, but we celebrate the date that slaves were emancipated in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Either Trump or one of his subordinates had to know that holding his first rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa — the city where, in 1921, the worst massacre of blacks by whites took the lives of up to 300 African Americans and injured 800 more — would be even too “blasphemous” for him, which was one of the milder quotes.
If you think that’s too clever for the Trump team, consider how devious it is, which makes that scenario entirely plausible. For many, Donald Trump is the latest symbol of a country that has taken this long to make the grudging progress from slavery to a society that is still permeated by racism — a nation that is going through another intense protest involving millions of Americans reacting to still another video of a white cop taking the life of a black man.
Why would he bother with this song and dance, you ask? Well, it certainly takes the focus off the insanity of even holding a rally this soon, cramming thousands of screaming supporters into an indoor Tulsa venue, overlooking the fact that the coronavirus is an ongoing threat to America and, for that matter, the world. The Trump organizers are certainly aware, as evidenced by the requirement that anybody who attends can do so only after signing a waiver holding the campaign free from any legal liability if participants get COVID, which they will.

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June 13, 2020

DONALD TRUMP: AMERICAN SYMBOL

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DONALD TRUMP: AMERICAN SYMBOL

He might be correct: Donald Trump has influenced the lives of African Americans as much as any president, with the possible exception of ... Jefferson Davis. No wonder he sides so consistently with those who want to maintain statues of Confederate leaders, including Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
To refresh your memory, the South was defeated in that one. Although many people still consider it the “Lost Cause,” suggesting to this day that the Southern way of life was worth defending, with its easygoing charm, good manners and its slavery — that was really why the Southern states seceded from the Union and set up their own government in Richmond, Virginia. Davis is honored by some Southerners as representing the genteel stereotype they like to portray, but the fact is he was a nasty person, inept as can be. To know him was to dislike him.
How fitting that a few days ago, protestors pulled down the statue of him that had stood in Richmond since 1907. There is a long-overdue movement to take these monuments to slavery down, the ones that honor the heroes of the Confederacy — Robert E. Lee on down to lesser-known figures. Let us not forget that after a deadly turn in an August 2017 white supremacist demonstration to defend a Robert E. Lee statue to be taken down by the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump memorably said there were “very fine people on both sides,” including the racists who marched to defend the Lee statue.
And it is President Trump today — even in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and “we’ve had enough” massive upheavals that are the nation’s latest fresh wound — who opposes the renaming of several military bases in the United States that currently memorialize Confederate luminaries, if there ever was such a thing. There is a movement afoot in the U.S. to deny the racists a place of honor in our stained history, and certainly to get rid of symbols of hatred like the Confederate flag.
It’s even happening at NASCAR, which began when moonshiners — some of them hillbillys, or hillwilliams, as the well-mannered used to call them in Arkansas — used fast cars to protect their moonshine and outrun the “revenooers.” They then started racing these cars on dirt tracks, and NASCAR grew out of that. But even NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag, embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.

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June 9, 2020

THE STAGES OF BIGOTRY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE STAGES OF BIGOTRY

There are various degrees of bigotry. At the top of the dung heap are the perversely proud racists, those who used to dress in hooded robes. These days they are wearing camo and carrying weaponry that should be illegal but is not. They form militia groups and are usually white supremacists, and many have allies in police departments across the country.
Most of the members of law enforcement are conscientious first responders who take seriously their “protect and serve” mission. However, they are tarred by some in their ranks who have a twisted hatred of people of color, like Derek Chauvin. He took it upon himself to allegedly squeeze the life out of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street, just one of a series of murders of black citizens by violently abusive police.
Then there are the ones who often wear business attire. President Donald Trump and his henchman Attorney General William Barr fit into this category. They are insidious and perhaps more vicious. Oftentimes, they will pretend not to be racist. In the old days they were segregationists who would argue: “I’m not prejudiced. Why some of my best friends are ...” And then they would usually use the N-word. These days, Trump will insist he’s “the least racist person” he knows.
There is a third group of bigots, although they would vehemently deny it. These are the ones who will acknowledge when confronted by a video of abuse that a cop might have been overzealous, but they cannot understand the rage of those who would destroy property or become violent in protest marches, no matter what the loathsome provocation by law enforcement.
They cannot understand the Black Lives Matter movement, and respond that ALL lives matter. This is a dead giveaway of maybe unconscious prejudice, and an absurd argument. Just how absurd was described in 2016 by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who is among the corporate executives who pays attention to social problems, not just the bottom line:
“When a parent says, ‘I love my son,’ you don’t say, ‘What about your daughter?’ When we walk or run for breast cancer funding and research, we don’t say, ‘What about prostate cancer?’ When the president says, ‘God bless America,’ we don’t say, ‘Shouldn’t God bless all countries?’ And when a person struggling with what’s been broadcast on our airwaves says, ‘Black lives matter,’ we should not say, ‘All lives matter’ to justify ignoring the real need for change.”

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June 6, 2020

TRUMP TATTERS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP TATTERS

Back during the pandemic (remember that?), nearly every corporate advertiser rushed out TV commercials stating, “We’re all in this together.”

No, we’re not.

Even our name, the United States, is a load of hooey. There’s nothing united about this country. We are instead bristling with divisions: right and left, white and black, pro-Trump and anti-Trump. Obviously, that refers to President Donald Trump, who, as his first defense secretary Jim Mattis said in an extraordinary statement, “is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
Even matters of public health, as in fighting the coronavirus, collapsed into anger, as heavily armed ultraconservatives, agitated by Trump, succeeded in prematurely reopening the country. Even wearing a mask became the subject of a violent dispute.
.

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June 2, 2020

THE CASE AGAINST VIOLENCE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE CASE AGAINST VIOLENCE

“No justice, no peace.” Surely we have all heard that chant for decades at various protests ... well, all but the most cloistered in their white privilege. One can debate about the justification for violence in the wake of still another police murder of an African American man, this time George Floyd. But there is, in the final analysis, one major reason to go home and shut down the rioting: the sheer numbers and arsenal that the power structure can rely on for brute force.
It is not worth more human sacrifice to make the point that African Americans, and those whites who support them on the street, have had enough of the police state in which they live. Certainly blacks have. But several governors have already called in the National Guard to supplement heavily armed and armored law enforcement forces. Besides, the support from Americans of goodwill collapses when justified rage is overtaken by hooliganism.
The answer is to leave the streets and organize for the upcoming election. And then, in an overwhelming turnout, vote to remove the unvarnished bigot who is president with clear instructions to Joe Biden. He must make it the priority as president to untangle the racism that ties the United States of America in knots, starting with police reform that removes the bigoted psychopaths in the ranks. It is a country of broken promises for so many of our citizens, including the pretense of “equal protection under the law.”
President Donald Trump is showing his true colors, which are supremacist white, with his series of tweets and other pronouncements like, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” If that sounds familiar, it was part of the repertoire of George Wallace the segregationist, and also part of the act for a police chief in Miami in the ’60s who also said, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.”

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May 30, 2020

FACE MASK FACE OFF

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FACE MASK FACE OFF

In the United States these days we fight about everything, even about wearing face masks, where the advantages are obvious. In addition to protecting others from your coughing and sneezing, which can spread the deadly coronavirus, it has several cosmetic benefits. Personally, I don’t shave as often as I used to; the stubble is hidden. This concept is also true for women, with any blemish from chin to above the nose hidden from view. As for bad breath, who will know?
But President Donald Trump has convinced his unthinking followers (pardon the redundancy) that the face mask, or lack thereof, is a cultural statement, or lack thereof. He has convinced his people that the mask is a sign of elitist liberal cream puffiness, as opposed to going barefaced to prove one is a macho man or macha woman. To lead the way, the president refuses to be seen in public wearing one. To get personal for once, if there is any man who should cover as much of his face as possible, it is Donald Trump.
But Trump’s followers wouldn’t be caught dead in a face mask, in spite of the experts warning that they and all those they are close to will in fact be caught dead soon enough, struck down by the coronavirus they spread by their vanity or selfishness. You could see them by the thousands, crowded on so many beaches the moment they got permission to be stupid by the water. There they were, crammed together, anti-social distancing inches apart, flirting, drinking, spreading disease. As everyone knows, they finally leave the beach or resort and go back to society, hungover and possibly contagious. By rights, they should all be required to isolate in self-quarantine, but rights are distorted in this country, particularly with its current government led by the maskless man who fancies himself as Superman.

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May 27, 2020

U.S. CRAPSHOOT

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

U.S. CRAP SHOOT

Have you ever wondered how it is, in polite company, you are able to say that it’s a “crap shoot” — as in Las Vegas planning to gradually reopen casinos even though there’s no way they can maintain social distancing at a casino — but you cannot say that President Trump is full of cr-p? He has announced he is declaring that churches and other houses of worship are “essential” and that if governors don’t cooperate he will “override” their inaction.
Would it help to explain I mean he is full of dice? And he is rolling them, using the American people as his pot in a potentially deadly wager with the lethal coronavirus. He’s trying to appear as though he’s rescuing the country from economic disaster and thereby win the big jackpot: reelection. By the way, he has no legal authority to “override” state governors in cases like these.
It’s really not a gamble for him at all, since he only needs to be seen staunchly defending the right of churches — and, oh yeah, synagogues and even mosques — to basically do whatever they want when it comes to holding services. He’s targeting his evangelical base, which internal polls show is beginning to fall apart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (you remember them) even put out guidelines:
— Modify the methods used to receive financial contributions. Consider a stationary collection box or electronic methods of collecting regular financial contributions instead of shared collection trays or baskets.
— Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community.
The Trumpster makes it clear that churches can feel free to ignore those guidelines, and many have. To be clear, many have not, but others have ignored local laws and crammed congregants in, “shaking hands, hugging or kissing” at will. And so this Sunday passed with emboldened evangelicals doing whatever they please, their choirs singing away (also dangerous).
Of course, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the United States, but, unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the tabernacle does not stay in the tabernacle. In other words, whatever contagions they pass back and forth in their pews, they take into their communities.

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May 23, 2020

TAKING HIS OWN SNAKE OIL?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TAKING HIS OWN SNAKE OIL?

Admit it: You don’t know whether to believe him or not. Is President Donald Trump lying about taking hydroxychloroquine? He usually does make things up, but one thing is absolutely true about the Trumpster: He always manages somehow to focus all of the attention on himself.
And we in newsbiz fall for it every single time. The moment he slipped into a news briefing that he was popping “hydroxy” pills, reporters went scurrying to find the first commenters they could, particularly those who would be so shocked that they could barely contain their outrage/fright/
distress. It didn’t matter whether it was a medical expert or opposition politician, as long as the reactor went nuclear. Trump was once again controlling the agenda. Nevermind that, if true — a big “if” — it was a crackpot idea to take this anti-malaria-lupus-rheumatoid arthritis drug, but not, as several studies have demonstrated, anti-coronavirus.
For starters, notwithstanding the president’s endorsement early on, its off-label misuse is dangerous. Side effects can include a disruption of heart activity, leading to death. And another one: It can make you bonkers. That may not be an issue with this POTUS, but quoting the Mayo Clinic description listing possible side effects, it can cause:
— Feeling that others are watching you or controlling your behavior.
— Feeling that others can hear your thoughts.
— Feeling, seeing or hearing things that are not there.
That would explain Trump and all his conspiracy theories, except that he was spouting off those long before he started his hydroxychloroquine and zinc regimen. Why zinc? It bolsters your immune system.
Forgetting whether the president of the United States should be taking such a dangerous drug, his doing so and publicly announcing it creates an instant shortage. Those who have a medical need are out of luck, as the gullible Trump followers ... uh ... follow his example and start demanding prescriptions themselves.
They should know that their guy has decided to end his journey into the pharmacological unknown, but he’s certainly not finished risking the lives of millions of Americans. His self-serving support for the premature reopening of the country contradicts the advice of most medical experts who say it’s too soon and that thousands will die as a result.
I’’ve seen reports that his campaign consultants are trying to recruit doctor supporters to go on television and endorse the lowering of restrictions. It reminds me of the MDs who were paid by a tobacco company to do commercials for one brand of cigarettes or another.

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May 19, 2020

THE SURRENDER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SURRENDER

A month or so from now, it will be interesting to see how many of the customers who crowded into Wisconsin bars without masks the moment their local government leaders lifted the taverns’ restrictions have caught the coronavirus ... and how many have died. It’s morbid, but so is the trade-off that comes courtesy of the highly political conservative State Supreme Court, which ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers did not have the right to extend the restrictions that have locked down the state without permission from the Republican majority state legislature.
Horrified mayors and county officials in many urban areas immediately clamped down and extended their own strict security measures. It created a statewide hodgepodge. Gov. Evers went on MSNBC and complained, “We’re the Wild West!” If residents really had to race to their favorite saloons to have their shots and beers but were not allowed to do so where they lived, they could simply drive a few miles and get hammered nearby. One wonders if they drove themselves home, and how many got pulled over for DUI, but that’s another issue.
Let’s concentrate on those who absolutely needed alcohol and had to demonstrate their “liberation” spirit by not wearing a mask. Then let’s survey those whose hangovers included COVID-19. It would not be surprising to discover the patrons of Cheers — or whatever their favorite watering hole is called — ended up cheerless.
It was the worst of politics. President Donald Trump and all of his accomplices are single-mindedly focused on getting reelected, particularly getting him reelected. So, they used the “reopen” gambit to deflect attention from the administration’s disastrous public health campaign that allowed the coronavirus to unnecessarily run roughshod over the United States. Now he is willing to risk thousands of lives with careless winding down of sensible restrictions in the face of evidence that the organism is nowhere near ready to go away.
While we’re at it, let’s keep track of a beauty salon and the customers who rushed to make an appointment to get styled (by now, shouldn’t we have embraced “shaggy chic”?) or get their hair dyed. Let’s find out how many died in the quest to cover the telltale gray. We’ve already heard stories about defiant barbers who trimmed customers’ hair and defied shutdown orders and who subsequently tested positive for COVID — and at least one case where the barber lost his life to the coronavirus.

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May 16, 2020

TRUMP OFFENSIVE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP OFFENSIVE

I Ican never remember: Is it “The best offense is a good defense,” or “The best defense is a good offense”? Let’s choose offense as defense, because the president, Donald Trump, wants to get re-elected. He constantly uses his offensiveness to shield him from accountability for various obnoxious acts. And it usually works. At least so far. Note that I didn’t say “criminal acts,” because he’s taken the position in court that he can’t be investigated. So we don’t know what evil lurks beneath that legal facade. Yet.
But Trump has made an art form of bombarding adversaries with charges of wrongdoing as a way to fend off answering for his shady past — or, for that matter, shady present. Remember how he turned on Hillary Clinton and accused her of so much corruption and even encouraged his rabid followers to chant “Lock her up”?
Four years later, he is in rare form. On May 10, after tweeting “HAPPY MOTHERS DAY,” he proceeded to flood the cyber world with accusations, leading to the third highest total tweets in a day of his presidency — 126 in all. During Trump’s rampage he accused his predecessor of criminal acts — excuse me, “Obamagate” — charging Barack Obama with illegally trying to use his presidential powers while in office to sabotage Trump’s campaign. That was apparently a retaliation for a conference call Obama had with former staffers where he referred to the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus invasion as a “chaotic disaster.”
Trump was not done that day of making outlandish criminal charges of those he perceives as enemies. This was his attack on Joe Scarborough:
“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”
That has to do with the 2001 death of a young female aide, two months AFTER Scarborough had announced he’d be leaving Congress. He wasn’t even in the same town as the aide, who died, investigators determined, due to natural causes. But that didn’t stop Donald Trump from making innuendoes against Scarborough, who regularly roasts him on his MSNBC show.

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May 12, 2020

WISHFUL THINKING

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WISHFUL THINKING

Let’s take one of those magical trips down memory lane, way back to 1939. One of the popular tunes back then was “Wishing (Will Make It So).”

“Wishing will make it so, Just keep on wishing and care will go.”

It was sung by Vera Lynn, among others, and covered by the likes of Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby and now, 80 years later, by Donald Trump and his Bootlicker Chorus. In his version, the lyrics have been revised to reflect the coronavirus era:

“This is going to go away without a vaccine, It’s going to go away, and we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.”

He’d better hope so. The coronavirus has already breached the White House complex, infecting Secret Service agents and a few key people thus far who have been in close proximity to not only the president, but to his obsequious vice president, Mike Pence.
If both got ill it’s feasible that the duties of the chief executive would pass down to the third in the order of succession. Who would that be? None other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If that ever happened, there would be chaos as the lawyers would come out of the woodwork. Of course, there is already chaos in Washington these days.
To the Trump faithful, Pelosi for even a short time as acting president would be a bigger disaster than the devastation of COVID. Donald Trump is advocating a “reopening” of America in spite of the fact that the danger is increasing, not decreasing. Most of the governors are wilting under the political pressure, even though public health officials predict almost unanimously that they are courting a national disaster.
Meanwhile at the White House, Trump is being a role model. A role model for bad behavior. Normally when someone is exposed to the coronavirus in the way President Trump has been, he would self-quarantine, isolate himself so he wouldn’t be contagious. Even the today Mike Pence decided to stay away from the White House a couple of days, but an aide insists he “is not in quarantine.” Tony Fauci has imposed a modified form of quarantine on himself, so have other of Trump’s top health officials. But not POTUS, who has also been exposed. He continues to refuse to wear a mask.

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May 9, 2020

BELIEVE NO ONE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BELIEVE NO ONE

I t’s a sad commentary on the United States when you have to wonder if either side is telling the truth when you see a spat between our government and China.
China’s leaders cannot be trusted; we all know that. We’ve had that pounded into our heads as part of our indoctrination — er, education — from our first days of school. And we’ve had it reinforced watching TV, with its “Americans are always the good guys” presentations.
What we are not taught is that U.S. leaders engage in propaganda too, providing the straight scoop only when it’s convenient. That’s particularly the case with our president, Donald Trump, whose credibility is nonexistent after years of constantly lying through his teeth.
That has certainly been a major factor in his failure to get people to follow him as he tries to guide us through the twists and turns of the biggest crisis of all: the attack on the world by the vicious coronavirus. It’s that plus the pathetic performance of the administration he’s assembled. His every utterance bespeaks fact-challenged ignorance and reeks of self-serving politics, as opposed to effectively dealing with the “invisible enemy.”
He and his appointees have done such a poor job that his A-No. 1 priority has become the search for scapegoats. He’s settled on China, where the virus originated, and whose dismal job of informing the world wasted precious weeks, because their candor was clearly incomplete.
Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is point man in the battle over blame-placing with China. Pompeo takes a shot, for instance, suggesting that COVID was the result of some embarrassing-to-China laboratory mishap in Wuhan. He presents not a shred of evidence to back up his version, knowingly inspiring conspiracy theorists that it was really a plot by Beijing’s leaders to spread the virus. China responds on state TV, that Pompeo is “spitting poison” and “telling lies,” with one commentator even ridiculing the United States as “narrow, self-interested, buck-passing; not the world’s No. 1.”

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May 5, 2020

BUSH NOSTALGIA

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BUSH NOSTALGIA

Do you miss President Bush? I mean Bush the 2nd, “W,” “Shrub” — you know, the one Democrats spent eight years ridiculing when they weren’t condemning him. In the Trump era, a lot of those same Democrats marvel at their pinings for the good old days of the 43rd presidency. True they had Barack Obama’s terms to put on their emotional pedestals, but we’re talking about the Bush gang, complete with the national security excesses after 9/11, the Iraq War, Afghanistan, Vice President Darth Vader, torture, Katrina ... wait a minute, perhaps the Bush nostalgia is misplaced. Still, we prefer to recall his reaction after 9/11, his embrace of Muslims in the face of intolerance and anger.
W has found it necessary in this crisis to dust off his presidency and issue a plaintive video statement that should be obvious but in this day and age is not.
“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful, in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
How quaint. Trump thrives on exploiting differences, and predictably he responded quickly by tweet:
“Where was he during impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside?”
Bush, in this age of Trump, was engaging in wishful thinking. To be clear, there was plenty of partisan combat during his years. Trump just enjoys splashing around in a toxic political culture that has gotten deeper for generations. So we combat this crisis, ripped apart by division, exacerbated by the Trumpster and his gang of stumblebums whose every failure is magnified by his lack of credibility and ineptitude.
Now, in the face of evidence to the contrary, evidence that it’s dangerous to do so, he has declared that the country can “reopen” and go back to the way of life that predated the crippling quarantine that suddenly threw millions out of work. Now, with a wary eye on the upcoming election, he has recklessly declared that we can start the process to return to “normal.”

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May 2, 2020

THE QUITTERS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE QUITTERS

"My liberty ends where yours begins.” There’s some dispute over who first said a variation of this, but do you really care? The point should be as obvious as, say, “Don’t ingest household disinfectants.”
But apparently neither is. The liberty-ends insight has been out of sight to the small crowds of Trump followers who have gathered to loudly demand that their freedom, uh, trumps the safety of everybody else. They say they should be allowed to ignore the COVID restrictions that have hobbled this country as we are trying to stave off this deadly invader. The problem with their thinking, or lack thereof, is that their freedom impinges on mine and that of everyone else who makes a priority of surviving.
Which includes most of our countrymen and -women. And certainly country kids.
The vast majority of Americans worry that we will lower our defenses far too low and allow the invisible killer organism to come roaring back just as it appears to have started its temporary demise. But the half vast minority has successfully intimidated many governors into beginning an abandonment of protective tactics that were admittedly draconian but all that really stood between relative safety and disaster.

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April 28, 2020

INJECTING EMBARRASSMENT

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

INJECTING EMBARRASSMENT

There is Twitter and there is Nitwitter. You decide which this is as the president of the United States was tweeting why he didn’t hold his daily coronavirus briefing:
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
We have now gotten all too familiar with the ways that the Trumpster lashes out at those who dare contradict him, to say nothing of outright heckling him, for something that he said: When all else fails, blame the media.
And this one was a doozy. He had become a national embarrassment with his stream of unconsciousness questions about using household cleaning products meant to disinfect counters and the like and injecting them into humans:
“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.”

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April 25, 2020

TRUMP'S BASE INSTINCTS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP'S BASE INSTINCTS

When he faces trouble, Donald Trump has a default accusation — it’s De Fault of the immigrants. That would explain his latest executive order, where he is desperately looking to deflect criticism of his administration’s badly bungled response to the coronavirus. He’s doing what he always does — inventing scapegoats. He first announced that he was shutting the door to any foreigner who wanted to enter the United States, thereby solving the unemployment problem by forcing the hiring of Americans. That was his motivation, so he said.
But big business interests screamed bloody murder. They need their cheap labor, so he made tons of exceptions. Still, he appealed to his xenophobic base. These are the same people called out to rally against the restrictions put in place as the commonsense alternative to dying from COVID. The killer virus is still killing, so the restrictions are still commonsense. But these demonstrators chant that it’s time to “liberate” the country and return to that time BC, Before Coronavirus, after which farsighted governors shut everything down in the name of social distancing.
Surprise surprise: They are echoing President Trump. If you think this is all spontaneous, I’ve got some land in Georgia to sell you.
Georgia is perhaps the most ridiculous of the states abandoning the public health protections. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Trumpster if there ever was one, has declared his state open for business, at least until it is consumed by the coronavirus. Among the enterprises that he wants to open: hair salons, restaurants and movie theaters, along with bowling alleys and tattoo parlors. Apparently, the bowling and tattoo interests are big campaign contributors. In the case of hair salons, though, it’s obvious where the pressure is coming from. Let’s face it, we are all getting shaggy these days, and to steal a line from somebody else, it wouldn’t be long before 90% of the blondes will just disappear from the face of the earth.
Still, even Trump feels his groupie has gone too far: “I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, the beauty parlors, the barbershops, tattoo parlors. I love them. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit — not much — because safety has to predominate.”
Nevertheless, Georgia was marching to the tattoo of Kemp’s own drummer, even while joining a regional coalition of other Southern states throwing caution to the coronavirus wind.

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April 21, 2020

DANGEROUS REVERSALS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DANGEROUS REVERSALS

With the COVID crisis, the worst case scenario has often proven too optimistic. But here it is, for what it’s worth: The loosening up of restrictions that President Donald Trump is now advocating, along with his GOP politician bootlickers and his jackboot demonstrators, would slightly dampen the economic pain but at the same time reignite the disease and plunge America right back into the pain of countless deaths caused by the coronavirus, which would come roaring back with a vengeance. In other words, what Trump and his lackeys are demanding would lower the defenses that have provided some effective barriers and push the country into an irreversible spiral.
His so called guidelines for reopening the nation were really just nothingburger suggestions that any competent governor could ignore. Some have, but others from the reddest of states are only too eager to please their lord and master.
In just a few days, he has gone from his claim of “total authority” where he would “call the shots” to a complete reversal where now, not only has he told governors “you are going to call your own shots,” but he is heckling from the sidelines. He’s backing the mobs of his supporters — some of them carrying guns, all of them, with their disregard for social distancing, endangering those unfortunate enough to be around them — who demand that states abandon restrictions, in effect casting their fates to the lethal winds. Trump egged on his hordes with his Twitter messages to “liberate” various states. That liberation would violate his own guidelines. But then Trump has always marched to different guidelines:
— Guideline No. 1: Create scapegoats. Blame the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, ungrateful governors, particularly Democrats, Democrats in general, media, anybody who gets in the way of his fragile ego.
— No. 2: Incite his gangs of supporters, who will find their own scapegoats and trash them in their vile ways.
-- No. 3: Ignore facts but take any thoughts, no matter how incendiary or downright stupid, to Twitter.
— No. 4: Raise false hopes in drugs that don’t work. Make stuff up, like: “We have a great testing system. Right now, we have the best testing system in the world.” He actually said that, even though the United States lags far behind.
— No. 5, although it should be No. 1: Lie like a rug. Then lie about lying.

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April 18, 2020

TOTAL AUTHORITY BUNKO

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TOTAL AUTHORITY BUNKO

President Donald “Total Authority” Trump has got those fascinated by the roots of words clamoring to research “totalitarian.” Relax, etymologists, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. “Totalitarian” dates back to the 1920s and is from the Italians. Their version was “totalitario,” introduced to describe fascism.
You can draw whatever conclusion you want from that. But Donald Trump is no Mussolini. His autocratic tendencies waver. Here he was, saying it was up to state governors to do the ugly work of imposing brutal restrictions on their populations to save them from the deadly coronavirus, but at the slightest glimmer of hope, here he is, galloping to the rescue, claiming his “total authority” over governors to order them to end their debilitating lockdowns, even though most medical experts were arguing it was way too soon.

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April 14, 2020

AMERICA'S CRUMBLED INFRASTRUCTURES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICA"S CRUMBLED INFRASTRUCTURES

Pick your poison. What’s worse about U.S. society: our racial prejudice, or the disparity between rich and poor when it comes to fundamental human rights like the right to proper nutrition and health care? Obviously these are not separate but all mixed together.
Statistics show that the indiscriminate killer coronavirus is discriminating against African Americans, who are dying from it in amounts exceeding their demographic numbers. The reason is sadly obvious: COVID is particularly deadly against the physically vulnerable — those afflicted with a variety of chronic conditions: diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, asthma, even obesity, to name a few.
And people of color are predisposed to poor health because so many of them are poor and live in poor areas where they don’t have ready access to proper medical facilities or, for that matter, to proper nutrition. It’s more profitable for the owners of hospitals and supermarkets to locate in wealthier neighborhoods. And just about anyone besides the most ardent white supremacist is well aware of the reality that in the US of A, people of color are denied the equal opportunity that the colorless take for granted.
Between 20% and 25% of African Americans and Hispanic Americans live in poverty. For Native Americans it’s even worse. Even though the coronavirus is an equal opportunity death machine, it attacks the weakest populations first. We are still mired as a nation in racial bias.
We can also see evidence of America’s malaise in the decay of the public health system. Once the envy of the planet, with victories against so many scourges, from smoking to polio, now its fumbling response to the coronavirus has made it a national embarrassment.
By definition, public health is supposed to be egalitarian. But in this country, with its concentration of wealth, nothing is:
“While presumably we are all created equal, the conditions in which we are born, live and work within are not.”
Those are the words of Karen McDonnell, associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She goes on to say that her life’s work has another disadvantage:
“Public health is not glamorous ... Our success is when a crisis you didn’t even know was brewing was averted.”

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April 11, 2020

AMERICAN DISASTER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICAN DISASTER

Breaking news — as they say to open every newscast — Breaking news: America is breaking. Its public health establishment certainly is. We have the most confirmed COVID cases per capita of any country, because at the very top of government, leadership has been replaced by hucksterism.
And where is President Donald Trump getting his misinformation about the pharmaceuticals that threaten to poison already fragile victims? None other than the huckster whisperer himself, Rudy Giuliani, the same guy who spread falsehoods about Joe Biden, causing POTUS to try to extort foreign heads of state. That got him impeached.
But let’s not just focus on the Trumpster, which we do far too much. Let’s also talk about how his screw-up top appointees’ astounding ineptitude has taken a public health crisis that might have been managed and turned it into a full-blown national tragedy.
Breaking news! The federal government has started a program to examine the blood of those who have survived the coronavirus for antibodies. Smart, until we learn that one of the testing programs will be run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, better known as the bonehead CDC. If this was television, we’d accompany that information onscreen with Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” backed up by appropriate shrieking sound effects. That’s because the CDC’s actions thus far, designing and distributing the test for coronavirus, have made the once vaunted agency a worldwide laughingstock, except that it’s no laughing matter.
The actions — or, should I say, the inactions — of those in charge of the logistics necessary to supply medical centers with the basic tools they require have left hospitals in desperate need of basics like enough beds and ventilators, and their brave physicians, nurses, all their practitioners and support staff in mortal danger because of a lack of PPEs. We’ve sadly all learned that PPE stands for “personal protection equipment.” Unfortunately, the manufacture and distribution of PPEs is a chaotic mess. More breaking news: The president has given that portfolio to his always unqualified son-in-law Jared Kushner.

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April 7, 2020

THREATENING TONY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THREATENING TONY

How sad. Too many internet trolls need to cross over from their cyber hiding barriers to the rational world and back by using a troll bridge to sneak across the gap. Somehow all the high tech amplifiers provide them, in coronavirus parlance, with an antisocial distance to share their darkest fantasies.
How else to explain the hate campaigns against the likes of Dr. Tony Fauci? Tony (like any person in newsbiz, I’ve known him through decades of dealing with him through many a public health crisis) has had the audacity to contradict the mindless meanderings of President Donald Trump. Dr. Fauci is a member of the White House coronavirus task force. He is polite about it, expressing his differences ever so gently, but firmly. As the Trumpster spews out misinformation, Fauci, using his expertise, reins him in.

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April 4, 2020

THE ROGUE POGUE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE ROGUE POGUE

Pogues — we’ve all experienced them. They’re the bad managers who get in the way of the job getting done. From the feckless supervisor to the CEO, the term Pogue is actually scornful military slang, an infantry slur. It means “people other than grunts,” and pogues were best described to me as “those in their air-conditioned offices who make life a living hell for those on the battlefield.”
They certainly also flourish in civilian life. On the battlefield against the insidious coronavirus enemy, for instance, they’ve led the charge — a charge that, thanks to them, looks oftentimes like a retreat. It starts at the top, with Donald Trump, POTUS — Pogue of the United States. His daily pronouncements have been both feckless and reckless, fatally downplaying the danger until it came crashing down upon us all. All of his administration’s incompetence was described by The New York Times, laid out in a lengthy article called “The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19.” It describes in painstaking detail how Trump-appointed public health agencies were overwhelmed by the early warnings and engaged in one incompetent miscalculation after another.
The nation is now paying the price as a result, with nearly a quarter million deaths projected as the best we can do. We are running out of personal protection equipment to shield the valiant medical providers who are trying desperately to treat the victims coming to them in overwhelming numbers.
Meanwhile, the pogue in chief takes full political advantage of the crisis by holding daily briefings, which are mainly devoted to his self-serving pretenses, before he finally turns it over to the heroic experts , the ones he assigns to deliver the bad news after he has completed his dog-and-pony show. Drs. Tony Fauci and Deborah Birx have revealed themselves to be standouts in this mess, both because of their knowledge and their ability to deliver the dismal daily reports in language we can all understand. They are the anti-pogues, partly because their statements are such a contrast to the streams of unconsciousness from Trump.

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March 31, 2020

HIPPOCRATIC OATH APPRECIATION


FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

HIPPOCRATIC OATH APPRECIATION

We still have shreds of civility left. I love it when people walk up to those in uniform and say, “Thank you for your service.” It is a
recognition of their courage and sacrifice. And now we should add gratitude for those in the medical profession.
Many of them are risking their lives on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. They are living up to the ethical standards of their public health calling.
The precise phrase “First do no harm” is not really in the original Hippocratic oath. In fact, Hippocrates probably didn’t even write it back in 3 to 5 B.C., when he was a physician. But whoever did jot it down or chisel it established a grand tradition of medicine: “ I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgement.”
They are doing so by the thousands, even though our politicians and other leaders aren’t equipping them with the protective gear necessary to shield them from this invisible but vicious attacker. To those inept klutzes, the ones making our crisis worse, we should walk up to them and say, “Thank you for your DISservice.”
Nevertheless, our doctors, nurses, technicians and ambulance drivers are selflessly trying to restore health to the afflicted. Some of these men and women are forced to improvise when they don’t have the PPE (personal protection equipment) gowns and masks they need. In some cases they have resorted to garbage bags, in the hope that some corrupt supplier won’t gouge them by raising the price of garbage bags.
“Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.” That’s also in the Hippocratic oath, which Donald Trump did not take because he is not a physician. But he is out there as president advocating the use of pharmaceuticals that, until they are proven safe and effective, are the equivalent of poison.
Perhaps at his swearing-in he took the “Hypocritic oath.” Although he claims to care about public safety, he is ignoring the physicians who are combating this scourge. They also have to combat his reckless comments that are so clearly motivated by his desire to avoid accountability for the economic damage the country is undergoing. Actually, because of his desperation to get re-elected, he istaking whatever credit he can and trying to deflect criticism, using scattershot rhetoric, when precision is needed.
So there he is, carelessly recommending drugs and threatening to prematurely end social distancing, which experts say is the only hope to avoid being struck down as individuals and as a country. Happily, this nation is governed by a constitution that allows state and local authorities to make such decisions, painful that they are.

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March 28, 2020

THE NONESSENTIALS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE NONESSENTIALS

No matter what the paralyzing national crisis, some things never change, like the inevitable disputes over who is “essential” and which jobs are “nonessential.” Through all the partial federal government shutdowns, that distinction has become a status symbol. And even though this worldwide medical calamity is an infinitely more serious threat to millions of people it’s still left to some federal, state or local official to determine what private services are essential and what should be shut down, with millions sent to almost solitary confinement, or even worse, forced to spend all their time with the kids, imprisoned by a scary organism.
The newscasts are filled with gargantuan cancellations or postponements: The Olympics just set back for a year; many schools shut down for the semester; restaurants, deemed a luxury in these dangerous times, are ordered closed in the name of “social distancing.”
You might have guessed where I am going with this. Certainly many in the public health field would like to declare President Donald Trump definitely nonessential — or worse, an impediment to their efforts to save the planet, or at least the nation, from this frightening plague. As a matter of fact, in their heart of hearts they would prefer that he enter lockdown, voluntary or not.
Because nearly every time he appears on TV for the daily briefing he says something stupid, something that interrupts the professionals as they go about their tedious chipping away at this complex problem.
But President Trump, who is the boss man at the moment, is a mile wide and an inch deep, too shallow for tedium or, for that matter, complexity. He cannot wait for the experts to do their job and methodically develop a way to treat this stealthy invader. He always finds it necessary to muddy the waters, recklessly spouting off misinformation — for instance, his unschooled analysis of drugs that may or may not work.

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March 24, 2020

COMMANDER COVID

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

COMMANDER COVID

Donald Trump has taken to declaring himself a “wartime president,” but the commander in chief cannot resist getting in the way of what few competent generals he has at his disposal. No matter how hard he pretends, Commander Covid is unable to rise to the occasion and rise above his flimflam flimsiness.
Try as he might, he just can’t sell his con, and nothing aggravates him more than the realization that his scam isn’t working.
One thing about the Trump era, it has been a case study of the two H’s: hostility and hucksterism. And by now, a growing number of us have long recognized that he never can sustain his playacting for more than a day or so. So when he assumes the role of chief executive, he just can’t pull it off. He will inevitably be betrayed by his limited intellect and an inability to tamp down his obnoxious impulsiveness.
So it was that Donald Trump, despite his early insistence that this was all a “hoax,” was at the same time ignoring secret warnings from intelligence agencies that the coming crisis was a potential danger. But when it became clear that he could no longer escape grim realities, he stopped with his phony assurances and tried to lead from behind as what few genuine experts he had retained advocated a stern response — one that, out of necessity, ratchets up the pain that is necessary to combat the scourge.

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March 21, 2020

THE BS TEST

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE BS TEST
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It’s high time someone came up with a way to quantify the BS factor. No, that doesn’t mean what you think it does. What this one would measure is the number of times officials at their various task force public briefings Bow and Scrape to President Donald Trump, obsequiously flattering him and ignoring his daily deluge of nonsense. I suppose that nonsense could have its own BS rating. But whichever, a unit of measurement could be developed that would range on the sycophant scale from a Fauci to a Pence.
Again, Trump has constantly demonstrated that he’s way over his head. But even he has concluded that the pandemic is more than a “hoax.” What is needed right now is leadership by the nation’s chief executive, but the nation is not getting it. Instead, it’s coming from elsewhere -- governors, mayors, the private sector and a few experts sprinkled in the federal bureaucracy -- those who have survived his various purges. While he fumbles, they are carrying the ball.
And so are those who lead the Congress. Swimming against the toxic stream of poisonous division, the politicians in the legislative branch have found a sliver of bipartisanship and have managed to pass constructive measures that have addressed the very real problems of America going through a tremendous scourge. Among those treated kindly by history might even be Steve Mnuchin, who has emerged as an honest broker as he represents the administration in maneuvering through the treacherous and differing policy outlooks and egos.

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March 17, 2020

TESTING OUR SOCIETY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TESTING OUR SOCIETY

Admit it. Many of you who heard that President Donald Trump had finally decided to take a coronavirus test were rooting for it to come back positive, meaning he had contracted the disease and at the very least would have to self-quarantine.
That is not acceptable, people. We can’t wish harm on anyone — not even Donald Trump, not anyone. Period. The very fact that so many were wishing for the worst for him is a reflection of how toxic the atmosphere has become in our society, thanks in great part to where he has taken us. But repeat after me: The negative result for Trump is a good thing, like it would be for any human. Unfortunately, too many humans are being threatened by this new pestilence that a malicious Mother Nature has unleashed on an unprepared world.
A few of our leaders have been heroic, but all too often they have not, to put it mildly. Through blithering incompetence they have retreated to wishful thinking, ignoring the warnings of the true experts, like Tony Fauci, who has been around worldwide public health crises for decades as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Put him in the heroic category). But for the most part, the ones they report to have wasted valuable time with their bluster and outright ignorance.
In addition, they are saddled with a U.S. health care system that could be charitably described as rickety, made worse by a series of past decisions that were based on politics or budget considerations. As a result of this absence of well thought out analysis, future catastrophes were inevitable — like this one, where we are clearly unprepared. Glossing over these many shortcomings just won’t cut it. The lack of tests and hospital emergency equipment are just some of the examples of the current breakdown. Finally, officials are scrambling to catch up. That is inherently difficult, particularly in an environment polluted by self-serving infighting instead of the pulling together that is vital if we are going to dig out of the mess and address this problem effectively, before it overwhelms us.

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March 14, 2020

NON STOP SURPRISES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

NONSTOP SURPRISES

It’s true for politics as well as investing: Bubbles will burst. Right now, for example, the economy that seemed to be riding high has suddenly been laid low by a virus that was discovered only a couple of months ago. And in politics, if I were Joe Biden, I’d be really worried about the spreading virus of success.
Suddenly he’s up, to the point that all of us are anointing him the Democratic Party nominee and writing epitaphs for the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. You remember Sanders, don’t you? He’s the socialist who just a week or two ago was at the top of the heap. The filthy rich were sweating buckets about their future accountability for conduct like how they game the system by bribing all the lawmakers — excuse me, make campaign contributions — to exempt them from paying their fair share and distribute their wealth to the rest of society.
But their panic was for naught. They should have known that the Bern would be burned, come tumbling down from his perch, a victim of the political law of gravity. And sure enough, he did fall to Earth. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who the pundit herds had counted out, seemed to score a knockout punch on Super Tuesday, followed by another in Michigan and the rest of the states that came up a week later, vacuuming up nomination delegates, which is, after all, the name of this game.
So, Bernie Sanders has Joe Biden just where he wants him. Biden is now the favorite, and we all know what happens to favorites. Their former opponents who crowded the debate stage are now offstage, all of them who matter ... left, middle of the road. More importantly, they take all the diversity that the party bragged about with them.
The women are nearly gone, the people of color, the variety of ethnicities, sexual preferences and generations. Gone. We’re left with two old white guys, both in their 70s, running as the wave of the future, post Donald Trump. Trump is also an old white guy, also in his 70s, who is currently endangering the nation with his bumbling during the coronavirus crisis. Handling cleanup is left to his vice president and presumed running mate Mike Pence, who is 60 but has always seemed like an old white guy.

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March 10, 2020

THE KNIFE CONTAGION

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE KNIFE CONTAGION

Forget March Madness brackets; the real gambling has to do with Trump Madness. The hottest bet of all: How long will Mark Meadows last as White House chief of staff?
Meadows, the right wing Congressman from North Carolina, is resigning and moving from the Capitol to the White House and replacing Mick Mulvaney, who had been the right wing congressman from South Carolina before he joined the Trump team and ended up as acting chief of staff. “Mick the Knife” was Mulvaney’s nickname, because of his ruthless campaign to cut any federal expenditures that helped the poor, elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. But now he’s been stabbed in the back by “Mark the Knife.” Meadows takes over as the fourth chief of staff that blunt instrument Donald Trump has had in the 38 months of his administration — a record, by the way.
Actually, Mark Meadows is way more of a smooth talker than Mick Mulvaney, who had a bad habit of going off message when he spoke in public. History will remember Mulvaney as the one who admitted that Trump had been trying to squeeze the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and his immortal words “get over it.”
Meadows doesn’t make mistakes like that. After all, he had taken the usual career track to the top of Trump’s world: He looked good on TV as he vigorously defended the Trumpster. He has always had plenty of material.
Trump’s latest outrage involves his perennial habit of making things worse, this time during the coronavirus panic. He constantly contradicts the experts as they do their level best to combat an illness they don’t fully understand. Trump regularly makes it clear he doesn’t even comprehend what they don’t understand. He shoots off his mouth misstating facts, in a nutshell, acting like Donald Trump. Not that the experts are covering themselves in glory.

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March 7, 2020

WHITHER MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHITHER MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

Will I get in trouble if I observe that Samoa is not just a Girl Scout cookie? American Samoa is a U.S. territory, some 6,000 miles from the mainland, and the site of Michael Bloomberg’s first victory on Super Tuesday. He even beat Tulsi Gabbard, who was born there before moving on to become a congresswoman from Hawaii and an outlier Democratic candidate for president.
Still, Bloomberg whomped favorite daughter Gabbard, nabbing four delegates to the Democratic convention to her two. Altogether Bloomberg collected a grand total of 52 delegates. Given that he spent at least half a billion dollars on his advertising strategy for Super Tuesday, where his name was on the ballot for the first time, after avoiding the early voting states, it amounted to about $10 million or so for each delegate.
Sharp businessman that he is, Mike Bloomberg astutely decided that his plan to purchase the presidency was too expensive even for him. He had financed an organization that was the envy of every political consultant that he hadn’t hired. Those he did take on were paid lavish wages. He also saturated the country with field offices. And all he got was slightly more than 50 lousy delegates.
In pulling out, he endorsed Joe Biden, just like many of the moderate candidates, against Bernie Sanders, the immoderate socialist. Bloomberg’s termination of his egotistical spending spree leaves a few questions on the other side: What will Elizabeth Warren do now that she, too, has pulled the plug? She’s almost as progressive as Sanders, but she hasn’t really caught the left world on fire like the Bern has. Will she be an asset to Bernie Sanders?

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March 3, 2020

CORONAVIRUS AND OPENING DAY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CORONAVIRUS AND OPENING DAY

Anybody who is acquainted with me knows that I’m a baseball fan and root for my hometown team, the Nationals. Did I mention they won the World Series? It’s a new season, and opening day is coming up, when I traditionally walk around Nats Park shouting “Happy New Year!” This year, there’s a possibility that opening day next month might not happen, because we are dealing with the uncertainty of a possible pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, which is also known as Covid-19. That’s because it was identified as a new disease at the very end of 2019.
Since then, the illness has swept from China to much of the world. Obviously we’d survive the cancellation of a ballgame, and that worse case scenario is a real possibility. Already, soccer games have been played before empty stands in countries that are already dealing with this apparently highly contagious bug, too new to have a protocol in place for how to avoid or treat it.

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February 29, 2020

THE FUTURE OF BLOOMBERG

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE FUTURE OF BLOOMBERG

What if Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to buy the Democrats’ presidential nomination doesn’t work, in spite of the billion dollars or so that he’s spending? And worse for him, what if Bernie Sanders goes all the way and is the party’s selection? Would Bloomberg endorse Sanders? Could he possibly?
He can’t really back Bernie with a straight face. Sanders is way too far to the left ... even though Bloomberg is really good at keeping a straight face. He’s not in the Vladimir Putin straight face category, but a smiling Joe Biden glad-hander he’s not. He does have a little bit of Biden’s gift of gaffe though, as he demonstrated in the South Carolina riot masquerading as a debate when he talked about how he had plowed so much money into electing a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
“They talk about 40 Democrats. Twenty-one of those are people that I spent a hundred million dollars to help elect. All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bought — I, I got them.”
You gotta give Bloomberg credit; he’s fast on his feet, quickly realizing that “bought” is not a word he should use, considering how so many are accusing him of trying to purchase the Democratic presidential nomination.
But he wasn’t that fast, and the Twittersphere went bonkers, particularly because when he was going through his GOP phase, he was showering campaign contributions on Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, as Elizabeth Warren was only too happy to point out.

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February 25, 2020

DEMOCRATIC STRUGGLES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DEMOCRATIC STRUGGLES

The Democrats’ presidential battle is starting to shape up as a war between the socialist who will never win any congeniality competitions and the antisocial anti-socialist, Michael Bloomberg, who is also not known as “Mr. Personality.” Bernie Sanders, at this point, is the one whose ragtag organization is creating the momentum for him to go all the way to this summer’s party nomination.
There is a primary next weekend in South Carolina as the Democrats are weakened by division. Then it’s on to Super Tuesday, which is the big prize. That’s where the candidates show their ability to run a national campaign and put the embarrassment of the party’s meltdown in tiny Iowa behind them.
But it’s historic South Carolina, home of the first shots fired in the Civil War, that could also become known as the home of Joe Biden’s Last Stand. Put another way, if Biden doesn’t win South Carolina, he’s toast. He did finish a feeble second in Nevada, although Pete Buttigieg is challenging that result. Nevertheless, to Biden that would be construed as progress, but if he doesn’t prevail big time in South Carolina, his march to Super Tuesday will be stuck in shattered expectations.
Super Tuesday brings its own set of expectations and risks. It’s 14 states — north, south, east and west — holding their primaries on the same day, including California, with its massive number of nomination delegates. Sanders must maintain his winning momentum. Others — Biden and the rest — must recover theirs, but perhaps the stakes are highest for Michael Bloomberg.
You’ve probably heard of Michael Bloomberg. He’s the rich guy who will have spent half a billion dollars from his fortune’s petty cash on TV ads. They appear whenever you turn on the set and don’t stop until you turn it off.
Super Tuesday is his target. It’s the first time he’s on a ballot, so it will determine whether he’s a credible candidate going forward or just another rich dilettante with an ability to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a bodacious ego trip.
Bloomberg’s main selling point is that he can save the Democratic Party from Bernie Sanders and save it from itself. With Joe Biden and the others faltering, their argument is being overwhelmed that a socialist (Sanders’ word) will be easy pickings for Donald Trump and his upcoming demagogic campaign. He’s had lots of practice with his demagogic presidency.

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February 22, 2020

TRASHING MIKE BLOOMBERG

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRASHING MIKE BLOOMBERG

In Las Vegas, Mike Bloomberg’s half-billion-dollar crapshoot was revealed as a load of, well, you know. Half a BILLION dollars! That’s what he will have spent before Super Tuesday, when he is first on any ballot. But even before then, his lavishly paid advisers had allowed him to participate in a debate where, unlike his saturation TV ads, the actors and actresses didn’t stick to the script. Instead, they stuck it to him, relentlessly.
Elizabeth Warren awakened from her hibernation to come roaring at Bloomberg just after the opening platitudes:
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she hissed, “a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
It was “Stomp on Mike Night” at the Democratic debate, as most of the candidates were more than willing to trash Michael Bloomberg, who has the personal financial billions to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in a blatant attempt to buy a nomination. Even with a saturation campaign of TV ads that paint a glowing picture of Bloomberg, the luster is soiled by a past that includes severe offenses against minorities and women, who are vital if the party has any chance to unseat Trump.
But this is a Republican-turned-Democrat who is really still a Republican when it comes to his support of a plutocracy. And he is effectively a bigot, or he was when he championed a stop-and-frisk policy that targeted minorities for demeaning treatment at the hands of his NYPD. He has found it necessary to apologize every chance he gets, now that he needs people of color because they are solidly Democratic — you can’t win the nomination without them. So Bernie Sanders teed off: “Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop-and-frisk, which went after African American and Latino people in an outrageous way. ... That is not a way you’re going to grow voter turnout.”
Bloomberg, who has not participated in a political debate since his mayoral days, was no match for the presidential candidates, who have had eight previous confrontations to sharpen their knives.

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February 19, 2020

THE LOW BARR

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE LOW BARR

President Donald Trump is right that he does “have, as president, the legal right” to meddle in Department of Justice decisions. However, when he makes public comments, or when it can be shown that he has privately discussed any federal criminal case with his Justice subordinates, it should be considered undue interference, and a judge should order that all prosecutions of affected individuals or groups be halted. Furthermore, another count of Obstruction of Justice should be added to the list of criminal charges he will face when he leaves the White House.
Attorney General Bill Barr was also correct when he said in his ABC interview that the POTUS’ incessant Twitbitzing “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
For millions of Americans it might be too late to salvage the DOJ’s credibility, particularly since Barr, as its leader, has been all too willing to sacrifice its image of law enforcement independence to cater to whatever malicious whim Trump is having. Time and time again, Barr has demonstrated a willingness to act on Trump’s personal political vendettas or interfere with action against his friends, leaving the impression that he’s willing to be just another Trumpster attorney, as opposed to maintaining an unyielding reputation of being the nation’s chief federal law enforcer. Among millions of Americans, that reputation is shot. His coziness with his boss has been widely scorned.

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February 15, 2020

THE STACKED DECK

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE STACKED DECK

Overused but shameless cliche alert: In the political campaign schedule, Nevada is next, and for a few Democratic candidates, they will have to play their cards right.
Joe Biden, for instance, must prove that Nevada and South Carolina, which are not lily white like the first states were, are more like his natural stomping grounds. He also has to prove he has any stomp left, not only because he’s perceived as a befuddled old man, an impression he’s left on too many, but that he has yet to shed the verbal befuddlement that has plagued him for decades. If he doesn’t recover credibility after drubbings in Iowa and New Hampshire, his contributors will conclude that he and they are just spinning their wheels and will place their bets on someone else.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has to keep his momentum going not only because of the growing resistance from the rich and powerful who take his brand of democratic socialism as a threat to their cushy privilege, but also from big “D” Democrats who believe that Donald Trump would chew him up and spit him out in the general election with a campaign that presented Sanders as a threat to the free enterprise system — the kind, for instance. hat has brought Trump profits from sales of MAGA hats.
Elizabeth Warren has much the same problem, and she’s already dropping like a stone. Both of them are being threatened by the centrists in this elimination race, which has thus far not eliminated all that many hopefuls.
Pete Buttigieg is presenting himself as the candidate of the future, which is appropriate since he doesn’t have all that much past ... or experience. He’s 38 years old — just three years past the Constitutional minimum for president, which was written when life spans were way shorter. His entire political experience has been as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, population a little over a hundred thousand. There he compiled a mixed record, particularly in his dealings with minorities. That continues to be an issue for him. Besides being mayor, he lost one statewide election. That’s it. But he’s viewed as the fresh face that impresses those who cover this game, particularly the fresh faced reporters.

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February 11, 2020

BREAKING NEWS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BREAKING NEWS

I’ve ranted about the expression “Breaking News!” before. But like any issue I confront, it only gets worse. So it is with this one. Nowadays, all the networks, without exception, open each and every newscast with that worn-out expression. Obviously, the anchormen and -women have been ordered to start with their robust “BREAKING NEWS” declaration as a way of contriving drama and immediacy, even if the top story happened hours ago. It’s the handiwork of the marketing consultants who rule TV reporting, hucksters whose job it is to improve ratings by trivializing journalism. Donald Trump has made the accusation of “fake news” his way of attacking any story that displeases him. He’s probably wasting his time, because the consultants have already turned it into junk news.
Sooner or later, one of the network bosses will realize that the phrase “breaking news” will have gotten stale or even moldy. Look for them to come up with embellishments, like the sound of china shattering, or even a new cliche. How about “OMG-WTF!”?
You must admit, that one has a certain ring to it, definitely with the younger generation of viewers whom the broadcast bosses are desperately seeking. The pursuit is a waste of time, since most of them are not paying attention because they’re too busy trying to find love.
The only defense of the oldie-but-goodie hype is that “Breaking News” isn’t hype at all. Much of the news these days is about a country breaking up, fracturing even before the leadership of President Donald Trump, just as surely as a great glacier is that began long ago because of the climate change that Trump and all the other deniers insist isn’t happening. They continue with policies that accelerate the demise of planet Earth, as opposed to saving the world by using human ingenuity. Ingenuity is costlier and harder work than the few wealthy, selfish rulers of the energy interests want to expend. In Donald Trump they have a pliable dupe, one who has become convinced that the increased intensity of forest fires and evidence of flooding to come are all a “hoax,” or whatever other word he uses to dismiss any truth he faces.
Cooperating with both the breakup of the country, and for that matter all countries, are the members of an inept opposition, meaning the Democrats. Their hearts may be in the right place about the vital issues of the day, but their minds are not when it comes to countering the corrupt regime in power. Democrats waver between sputtering in outrage and becoming a laughingstock as they go through the motions of putting together a ticket to try to depose Trump.

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February 8, 2020

IOWA EYESORE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

IOWA EYESORE
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Who needs Russia, North Korea, Iran or any other members of the Hacksis of Evil to sabotage our elections? We’ve got Iowa. We don’t need the Republican Party to suppress the vote of Democrats; the Democrats are able to do the dirty work without any outside assistance, thank you very much. At least the ones in Iowa.
But let’s give debit where debit is due: The party, which seems hellbent on forfeiting another election to Donald Trump, came up with a really creative way to embarrass itself. It’s creative and oh so modern. The untested smartphone app they foolishly relied on to quickly calculate the results of their caucuses crashed and burned, a fiasco that left them with tech on their face. Instead of providing momentum to the various candidates to spin the count in ways that were favorable to them, they were sent packing to New Hampshire with their Iowa puffery deflated.
We didn’t need this reminder that Iowa is a dopey place to start a presidential campaign, with its largely rural, 90% white population that in no way reflects the demographics of the United States. The only thing dopier is that the second state, New Hampshire, is even whiter.
Who had any earthly idea that Iowa would dominate the news past the Monday night caucuses? The way it usually works is we all strike the set and suddenly head off, never to visit the state again for three years or so, until we once again start to focus on the next presidential election. But this time, to put it in newscast terms, the Des Moines Debacle was a lead story far beyond its shelf life.

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February 4, 2020

STATE OF THE UNION-MUST SEE TV

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

STATE OF THE UNION IS MUST SEE T
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"Ho hum. It’s State of the Union night again. I wonder what else is on TV.” My faithful readers, both of them, know that this is my usual attitude about the long-running cliche that is the State of the Union speech, nothing more than a pretense that all is well and that our government is functioning.
But all is not well, and it’s not functioning. Besides, it’s always a ridiculous show, unless you enjoy watching the news networks feature endless blabbering from people like me about how this is really, really important.
This year, however, the ridiculous show is worth watching, as long as you take a bathroom break every time you hear a commentator speaking. This one has it all. Where else could you find a lead character like Donald Trump? With his every whiny word he divides the nation. As always, he will be sharing that talent with those who are crammed onto the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, to say nothing of those who watch at home.
All of this happens just a few hours before Trump is expected to dominate the other side of the Capitol building in the Senate chamber. There Trump the president has been Trump the defendant after being impeached by the House. But he will be acquitted after the charade of a Senate trial due to end in a glorious anticlimax.

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February 1, 2020

TRUMPSTER GANGSTERS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMPSTER GANGSTERS

It’s not just that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chewed out NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly after she dared to ask him questions he didn’t like. Nor is it so objectionable that his tirade was saturated with F-bombs. And it certainly is not because she’s a woman. When it comes to reporters, Pompeo is not just a misogynist but a mistersogynist. He’s an equal opportunity jerk, as evidenced by his decision to block NPR from his plane for his trip to Kyiv. No wonder President Trump likes him so much.
He’s not your stereotypical diplomat, but he will have to explain in Kyiv his shouted question during his conniption fit: “Do you think Americans (blankin’) care about Ukraine?”
First of all, Americans do care about Ukraine. The fact is, Trump has come all-too-close to being ex-President Trump. He already has been impeached over the incriminating way he handled the country’s new leader. Granted, it was preordained in the Senate that defendant Trump would beat the rap i but at least he had to break a sweat. And at least his lawyers had to expose themselves as duplicitous.
One has to wonder what they really think of Trump’s claims — “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” and “I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president” — mean he believes he can get away with murder, literally. His fellow Republicans are terrified of him and desperately seek his approval. And they control most the government.
So it probably meant a lot that Trump singled out Pompeo’s boorishness toward the NPR reporter by stating, “I think you did a good job on her actually.”

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January 28, 2020

SCHIFF FOR PRESIDENT?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SCHIFF FOR PRESIDENT ?

Let’s discuss the fantasy that so many desperate Democrats are having. In their minds, they’re asking, “Is it too late for Adam Schiff to run for president?” Actually, since his dynamite performance as lead House of Representatives counsel advocating in the Senate for the conviction of Donald Trump and his extrication from the White House, it’s not really a secret dream for some in the party who are wholly unimpressed with their mix of wannabes.
Schiff has been rattling around the Capitol as a member of the House of Representatives since 2001, so he had his D.C. creds long before he emerged for his star turn as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and his boffo role in the impeachment melodrama. If you wonder about all the showbiz terms, they are appropriate since his district includes Hollywood.
By the way, Schiff first got elected to Congress by defeating the incumbent, James Rogan. Rogan achieved his prominence by being a Republican House manager in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. What does that mean exactly? Probably nothing, but I’m sure back in their La-La Land home district, the Gwyneth Paltrow types are all over this.

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January 25, 2020

IMPEACHMENT PLAYTIME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

IMPEACHMENT PLAYTIME
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Right now, you are probably asking yourself: Where do senators go first when they get a break in the impeachment trial, called a “recess, subject to the call of the chair”? Do they head for their phones, which have been taken from them so they can pay attention to the squabbling, or do they rush to the bathroom? The question gives new meaning to the terms “No. 1” or “No. 2,” although some of them have figured out how to grab their electronics in one motion as they race by. That way, they can combine both needs at the same time. For a few of them, the answer is “It Depends.”
What does “subject to the call of the chair” mean, anyway? It indicates that the chairperson has had his or her toidy time and perhaps caught up on messages. Otherwise, the senators are supposed to just sit there and ponder in silence whether Donald Trump should be removed from office, while watching the interlopers do battle and largely make total asses of themselves. The Constitution requires that the chief justice presides over this most solemn of government processes, but he really doesn’t have a lot to do, other than take his robes and walk across the street from the Supreme Court building to the Capitol, put on his robes and well ... just sit there.
Chief Justice John Roberts famously described himself as nothing more than an umpire, as opposed to the hard-right ideologue that some of his colleagues are. But finally, even the non-assertive ump had enough of the antics in this Washington Senators game, with attorneys on both sides throwing verbal beanballs at each other:
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms,” he scolded, “to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

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January 22, 2020

DALLAS, THE PALACE AND OTHER MALICE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DALLAS, THE PALACE AND OTHER MALICE
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For the kiddies, it’ll be necessary to start this rant by explaining that there was an immensely popular TV show called “Dallas” that ran from 1978 through 1991. It traced the antics of a grossly dysfunctional Texas family dynasty. Now we have the soap opera about a grossly dysfunctional British family dynasty. We could call it “Palace.”
Where “Dallas” was fiction, “Palace” is stranger than fiction. But there are similarities: The Ewings of South Fork were caught up in intrigue for their entire 13-year show run. In the case of London’s Windsors, they have a history of plotting and murder that goes back centuries. Both have absolute rulers: the Windsors’ royal QE2, and the Ewings’ JR2, who is a royal pain. So are all their squabbling offspring.
Prince Harry is the latest one to give Queen Elizabeth fits. He and his wife Meghan have basically done a Johnny Paycheck. (For the benefit those who watch too much PBS and wouldn’t be caught dead listening to country music, Paycheck recorded a song called “Take This Job and Shove It.”)

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January 18, 2020

FAIR GAME FOUL GAME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FAIR GAME FOUL GAME
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Let’s give a little credit to President Donald Trump: He’s not a plagiarizer. His wife has been known to lift a few passages, but that’s not his thing.
Actually, Twitter has retweeting, so plagiarism is not necessary. You can steal ideas without raising a sweat. Sometimes Trump’s most despicable stuff comes from others, like the doctored picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer photoshopped in a hijab and turban standing before a morphed Iranian flag. In this case, the Trumpster was borrowing the work from one of his Islamophobe supporters, but it could just as easily have been from one of his white supremacy backers.
Actually, when it comes to white supremacy, you don’t have to be an “Ever Trumper,” nor even a fan of his. Look no further than the Oscar nominees if you want to see a left-leaning group that’s almost lily white. Or look at the most recent political debate, which by the way was the Democratic presidential debate, you know the Democratic organization, that sanctimoniously bills itself as the party of diversity. The Democrats managed to stage a debate that looked like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Is there not anyone of color who can capture America’s interest, or is America’s interest overridden by bigotry, some of it subtle?

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January 14, 2020

"I" WORDS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

“I” WORDS
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Let’s deal with the letter “I.” No, it’s not because we are run by a bunch of self-involved leaders, including the narcissist in chief, President Donald Trump. It’s because, for whatever reason, much of our news right now involves “I” words.
Where do we begin? How about with IMPEACHMENT, which is back to dominating the news cycle now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stopped IMPEDING the transfer of the articles of Trump’s impeachment to the Senate for reasons that were never clear, no matter how many times she explained them.
Perhaps it’s because the Senate majority leader looks ready to blatantly ignore the oath of IMPARTIALITY that members take before they hold a trial to determine whether the Trump presidency would be INTERRUPTED for good. And yes, I will freely admit that this will quickly become a stretch, but onward and downward.
Where was I? The impeachment narrative was overtaken by the IRAN one, which is fair, given that for reasons only he or his accomplices know, Trump decided to take us to the brink of war by assassinating one of Tehran’s really bad actors, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of proxy forces that have been responsible for killing hundreds of Americans. But Soleimani had been in that murderous role for decades. Why did Trump order his obliteration by drone now? Was it by sheer coincidence that impeachment was about to rear its ugly head or, as the Don Trump and his henchmen claimed, was he bypassing the legal requirements to notify Congress and taking this country into an all-out military confrontation because of an exception when there is an IMMINENT danger to America or Americans. Yeah, that’s the word they came up with ... Soleimani presented an IMMINENT danger. What it was, the Trump mob failed to make clear, either in subsequent congressional briefings or in various public pronouncements. As for the Don himself, his descriptions of the threats spiral with his every telling. His latest version is that unless the Iranian general had been taken out now, an INCREASING number of U.S. embassies would have been attacked. And we should take him at his word, because we all know how INVIOLABLE his word is.

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January 11, 2020

NEWSBIZ AND SHOWBIZ

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

NEWSBIZ AND SHOWBIZ
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Pardon my sharing a personal preference, but I don’t give a rat’s patootie about the opinions of some showbiz notables because, notwithstanding their star power, they usually don’t really know what they’re talking about. I also hate to interview other journalists, often for the same reason.
Once, I was covering a political story and a prominent actress who happened to be nearby decided that she would love to express her opinion, ON TV, and expected me to jump at the chance because she was a celeb. So she sent some lackey over to request that I put her on right away. When I politely declined, he, in effect, escalated that to a demand. I still refused, admittedly a little less politely, and he called somebody he knew at CNN, where I was working at the time, who leaned on the newscast producer to order me to just do the blankety-blank interview. Even less politely, I still said no. I believe the producer solved the dilemma by having the anchor person do it. He did; I didn’t; and after the actress contributed nothing whatsoever to the story, she glared at me as she flounced off to her next ego trip.
By the same token, I try to avoid covering congressional hearings where the sponsors of some issue recruit an actor or actress to represent their cause as a way to suck in coverage, paying the performer to memorize lines like they’re playing a part.
I hasten to point out that this not universally true. Many entertainment types really do know their subject and dedicate lots of genuine hard work on its behalf; Audrey Hepburn, Danny Glover and Robert Redford come to mind. But many others are just naive news groupies or publicity hounds.

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January 7, 2020

SAME DISTRACTIONS, DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SAME DISTRACTIONS, DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS
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The president is smack-dab in the middle of impeachment politics. Suddenly, he directs a bold but perilous military action. His defenders vehemently argue that petty politics is getting in the way of his exercising his hugely important duties as commander in chief.
By now, you are probably aware that Donald Trump, the 45th president, has ordered a fiery drone attack that assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force. For decades Soleimani was the coordinator for Tehran’s proxies and had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. While he was a hero in Iran, he was a terrorist in U.S. eyes. Trump and the top officials of his administration have vague answers to the question “Why now?”
Also by now, you are aware of the eerie similarities to 22 years ago, when POTUS 42, Bill Clinton, ordered an airstrike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The questions about motivation were the same, the answers also unsatisfactory, leaving suspicions then and now that they were really nothing more than cynical misuses of power during his own impeachment troubles. Skeptics say they were efforts to conjure up massively dangerous distractions by chief executives with a survival instinct that borders on narcissism.

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January 4, 2020

SEASONS GREETINGS NEVER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SEASONS GREETINGS NEVER
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With the multitude of holiday celebrations and hopes for a new year and the new decade, we have also been forced to realize that evil is still festering. The horror of anti-Semitism is on the increase in the United States and around the world. Here it resulted in a series of attacks against Jews this Hanukkah season. Our politicians universally condemn these manifestations of hatred, of course, but at best they do little to combat them and at worst they contribute to an atmosphere where reasoned behavior and opinions have no place. And now it’s time to go from bad to worse.
2020 is a leap year, so named because we are leaping into the sewage of a presidential campaign. This year, it gets even more deranged, with a mob of candidates in the Democratic Party primaries pretending that they actually enjoy traipsing around the frozen tundras of Iowa and New Hampshire. They’re seeking the momentum that has escaped them in their endless debates.
As for the Republican mob, it is controlled by Don Trump. You now have an entire party dedicated to kissing his ring -- or kissing, what’s the word the Don used -- “whatever”?

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December 31, 2019

UNCLEAR REFLECTIONS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

UNCLEAR REFLECTIONS
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Add this to the list of gripes about the media: At the very same time they are riddled with commentators complaining about how the Yuletide season is overdone, particularly the Christmas gift-giving frenzy, the media are the ones overdoing it. That’s because of advertisers, of course, the businesses that profit from the sale of those presents. From the moment the temperature dips below 90, the snowflakes begin to pop up in malls and online, along with all the other holiday decorations announcing one Black Friday price reduction after another. It starts in mid-September, once the back-to-school sales have petered out.
So you’d think finally, we are past the seasonal annoyance, right? WRONG! What could be more irritating than end-of-the-year commentary? Every pundit and expert who has ever existed has found it necessary to review the past year and predict the one coming up. Our papers are full of them right now -- trends in politics, every form of art, the whole gamut of sports. I’m sure that some writer somewhere has persuaded a publication to run a piece on the latest strategies in curling, just as I’m convinced that a knitting expert has found a home for his or her thoughts on the latest techniques for purling and what they mean for making ugly holiday sweaters.

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December 28, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR. REALLY?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

HAPPY NEW YEAR. REALLY?

Now that we’ve gotten over the traditional Yuletide frenzy of regifting and exchanging, we hurtle toward the new year as any glow from Christmas becomes a distant memory. After January, the pall of winter settles over the land. Even in the semitropical parts of our country, climate change has intensified the destructive force of nature. Meanwhile, shared human experience has hibernated.
If you think that’s a gloomy picture, it’s inspired by the national malaise triggered by our political situation. Let’s face it: We are no longer united in common purpose — we are either adamantly anti-Trump or fanatically pro-Trump. There’s little in between, and little chance to resolve our differences. Debate deteriorates into bitter argument in which insults are routine (the more outrageous and distasteful, the better) and amplified by high-tech anti-social media.
Donald Trump stands in the middle of the whirlwind he’s created. On the one side are those who are horrified by the man who has wrenched away leadership of the country. They believe he has manipulated the millions alienated by a world they feel is passing them by. His legions of supporters are mainly white, have less than a top-notch education, but feel that what they have and their values are being stolen by elitists who are their mortal enemies. Furthermore, they perceive threats from people of color who want their piece of the pie, and from those who challenge their conservative cultural values and, most of all, their economic security. They despise the self-serving, arrogant leaders of a system they believe is stacked against them, who look down on them as “deplorable.”

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December 24, 2019

THE NIGHT AROUND WHATEVER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE NIGHT BEFORE WHATEVER

’Twas the time around Christmas and through Mar-a-Lago,
Not a creature could be heard, except one with his bellow.
It was really quite scary as he ranted and screeched,
In a tantrum he hollered, “I’ve been impeached!”
He’d gone down South, to escape D.C. with all of its monuments,
Besides he could use a few more emoluments.
The staff paid full rate, fake newsers, on their beat,
Breathlessly reporting on each Trumpster tweet.
He did not disappoint, no ifs, ands, buts or maybes,
He condemned all the Democrats to go straight to Hades.
Still, the stockings were hung by the chimney with cheer,
Next to his bogus Time magazine “Man of the Year.”
The children were nestled, all snug in their beds,
With visions of franchises racing ’round in their heads.
Don and Eric in hunting PJs, Ivanka in her shawl,
Dreaming of profits to be had from the wall.
Sell signage, perhaps, on those barricades to enter,
Or maybe buy up the migrant jail centers.
There’s money to be made in their fear and diseases,
As they wait, oh so desperately, for their asylum and visas.
Trump was on Twitter sending out something crass,
When he heard such a clatter on his golf course’s grass.
Away to his window, he flew like a flash,
He was sure as could be that something had crashed.
His wondering eyes were amazed to observe,
A sleigh, nine little reindeer and a red-suited perv.
“Ho, Ho, Ho,” said the perv, he was obviously sick,
He then introduced himself as, you guessed it, St. Nick.

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December 21, 2019

THE ROLE CALL

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE ROLE CALL
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I don’t know if they take attendance in schools anymore. Maybe surveillance cameras, facial recognition and all the other high-tech intrusions make it unnecessary, but back in the day, the teacher would always start out with the roll call. You were expected to announce “here” when your name was called. But there was always one, usually some guy, who would say “present,” just to be different. There was always one.
There is also one in the House of Representatives. Actually, Tulsi Gabbard is not a guy at all; she’s a congresswoman, an alleged Democrat from Hawaii. When it came time for her appearance in that horror show “The Night of Impeachment,” she declared herself to be “present.” She has made a career out of being different. This time, she had advocated that President Trump be censured, not impeached, and said that after doing her “due diligence,” as opposed to UNdue diligence I suppose, she declared herself “present,” therefore not registering a yes or no vote.
Gabbard is, however, running for president as a Democrat. But she did not appear in the party’s latest debate, which happened to fall the night after the gruesome Impeachment Nightmare Under the Big Top, which those of us particularly hip insiders in the know call the Capitol in Washington.
In fairness, I should have issued a cheap segue warning at this point so I could subtly switch to the debate in Los Angeles, otherwise known as Washington West. It was the Democrats’ latest display of why President Trump might actually get a second term. True, they dumped on Trump at every opportunity, but it was also “Trash Pete” night at this get-together.

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December 17, 2019

BORIS AND DONALD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BORIS AND DONALD
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How fitting it was that on Friday the 13th, Boris Johnson trundled over to Buckingham Palace and received permission from the queen to form his government. Fitting because it was bad luck for those who had fading hopes of somehow stopping Brexit before it actually happened, and really bad luck for those who put up a fight against Boris Johnson.
He’s a serial liar and buffoon, but he had the incredibly good fortune to run against Jeremy Corbin, someone the British people despise even more than Johnson. His Conservatives were pitted against a Labour Party that Corbin has dragged far to the left, leaving Brits with the impression that he’d nationalize everything if he gained power. Add to that a faction in Labour that is downright anti-Semitic, and you have an overwhelming bloc of voters who are anti-nationalizing everything and anti-anti-semitic, and who had nowhere to go but to vote for the buffoon. Politics U.K. style is not exactly parallel to politics U.S. style, but there are certainly similarities -- lots of them.
For starters, candidates in the Democratic Party’s centrist non-wing are making sure they were highlighting those similarities. Joe “Moderate but No Malarkey” Biden was not bothering with nuance: “Look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly.”
You listening, Democrats? You listening, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? You listening, AOC and all those who argue that the party must come up with radical approaches to America’s problems in order to win over fed-up voters? They were listening, but of course, they came up with a different spin. Their take was that the Brits have a different dynamic, what with Brexit and all that. In addition, in this country, they argue that the moderates look too much like Republicans.

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December 14, 2019

THE IMPEACHMENT PARADOX

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE IMPEACHMENT PARADOX
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For those of us who thought a paradox was a couple of medical providers, it is not. The dictionary defines the word as “a self-contradictory and false proposition.” We certainly seem to have a paradox going in Congress these days.
Just when the House of Representatives is seemingly all consumed by trash talk, we discover that it’s not all garbage. Even as the two parties mud-wrestle over impeachment, those same two parties are crafting important bipartisan legislation: a new, slightly modified North American trade agreement, and a bill that will avoid another chaotic government shutdown just as the holiday season is in full swing. One could argue that these two antithetical political dynamics exist not in spite of one another, but because of one another. Why, you ask, should these poles apart factions of our government be cooperating? Because they need to prove that they can actually govern.
Nevertheless for obvious reasons, the main preoccupation is still impeachment, considering that if it ultimately were to run its full course, President Donald J. Trump would be wrenched from office before his term is completed.
The Democrats, who are presumably going to get their way in the House, decided to shape debate with only two counts of impeachment. First is that Trump’s corrupt dealings with Ukraine and its president were an abuse of his power and that “he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.” Count two is probably the more serious one, charging Obstruction of Congress, and violating the very balance of powers that the founders designed to separate this republic from any other.
Courts have ruled that congressional oversight of the executive branch is a fundamental part of that balance. However, as the second article of impeachment points out, this chief executive ordered his administration to defy any oversight, even when it was backed up with subpoenas: “In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies and officials not to comply with those subpoenas ...”
Serious charges. But Donald Trump’s Republicans have several advantages. For starters, they’re shameless. While Dems are somberly laying out their case, the GOPs are clouding the merits in a fog of dilatory tactics, half lies and full lies. In the model of their great leader, there is no truth, only spin.
They will make their same twisted arguments when the ominous legislation hits the House floor, although the Democrats, who hold the majority, will probably prevail, and Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. But as Democratic President Bill Clinton, who was also impeached, will attest, that turned out to be no big deal when the process ground to a predictable halt in the Senate. It’s just as foreseeable this time around.
Donald Trump and his Republican enablers hold the majority in the Senate, and party loyalty, uh, trumps any sort of loyalty to the nation. Any hopes for his removal from office by the Senate are pathetic fantasies.

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December 10, 2019

THAT IS WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THAT IS WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
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For a town where friendship is really a matter of expedience, where Best Friends Forever, or “BFF” in kiddie talk, has become “BFT,” Best Friends Temporarily, we sure have conjured up many sound bites about friendship. “You want a friend in Washington?” said Harry Truman, “Get a dog.” Unless, of course, Fido can get tastier kibbles elsewhere.
How about this one? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That one captures the transactional nature of geopolitical friendship. Collaborators in one battle can shift to adversaries in an instant. The Middle East is riddled with such shifting sands. We can always turn on yesterday’s loyal ally -- and we do. The United States, under President Donald Trump, has, at Turkey’s behest, just stuck the knife in the back of the Kurds, who were, up until the shiv went in, our fiercest compatriots in the battle against ISIS. Just the latest sad example.
But there is still more insight about friendship and its opposite. One of my personal favorites comes from Pogo, the brilliant cartoon character of whom a whole generation is not aware. Pity, kids, because Pogo, as drawn by Walt Kelly, dropped so many political pearls of wisdom on us; among them, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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December 7, 2019

THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY
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They’re called “lower thirds” or “chyrons.” Whichever term you use, they’re the television news version of bumper stickers, the sometimes-accurate digit reduction of stories to little word spurts. By comparison, tweets are weighty stuff.
But hey, I’m a TV twinkie, meaning an airhead, and my chyron, in this case, would be “Vlad Must Be Glad.” “Vlad” being Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who doesn’t even bother anymore to hide his chortling at his betting on the right guy to be U.S. president. “Right” for Russia, that is; totally wrong for the United States.
Setting aside any evidence of collusion, no matter what Bob Mueller said, Putin was not only able to manipulate the American election in 2016 -- just ask every intelligence agency -- but his “useful idiots” in the Republican Party are now defending their Great Leader (President Donald Trump) by spreading the thoroughly fraudulent smokescreen that it was really Ukraine that was acting on behalf of Hillary Clinton to sway the voting her way.
In other words, the KGB spymaster has been successful in obscuring his actions by coming up with a counternarrative. It’s an old espionage deception, but the Trumpster and his jesters have spread it around to their unwitting millions of followers. Come to think of it, they count on the fact that few of their followers are witting, except for their superrich puppeteers who have gotten even richer now that Trump is in charge.

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December 3, 2019

BLOOMBERG: THE POWERS AND PITFALLS OF MONEY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BLOOMBERG: THE POWERS AND PITFALLS OF MONEY

This will be sacrilege to “Never Trumpers,” but Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump share some similarities. It is true that Bloomberg’s charitable foundation actually does good work, while Donald Trump had to pay a $2 million fine for basically using his for self-promotion. And it is true that Bloomberg has financed gun control efforts, while Trump, as president, has groveled before the National Rifle Association.
It is also true that the Donald now calls himself a Republican — in fact, he’s taken over the party — but he has switched between GOP, Democratic and even independent in his past. The Michael has a similarly checkered past, running as a Democrat in his current incarnation, but he was mayor of New York City as a Republican.
Bloomberg is filthy rich, worth more than $50 billion, and Donald Trump claims to be, although he refuses to release his tax returns, so we just have to take his word on that, and we know how much his word is worth. Bloomberg also has been stingy about making his tax returns public, but what he has shared is enough for the astute accountants to estimate he could buy Trump’s holdings out of petty cash.
It’s what they do with their wealth that is the same — obnoxiously the same. What they do is mishandle what they own. Much has been made of the Trumpster refusing to divest his properties and facing lawsuits charging him with violating the “emoluments clause.” The founders believed that a president must avoid profiting from the office, so much so that they made it part of the Constitution. It sure looks like his administration is for sale, to the point that it’s surprising he doesn’t do TV ads that come with a 1-800 number. What could be worse than that, you ask?

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November 30, 2019

OK ZOOMERS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

OK, ZOOMERS

OK, zoomers: Here is your trigger warning. What was the name of Roy Rogers’ horse? The answer is Trigger. You were warned.
For those who are wondering who in tarnation is Roy Rogers, he called himself the “King of the Cowboys” and was one of the big stars of Western shoot-’em-up movies. Those films really contributed to the cultural mindset that has made us such a gun-totin’ country today, which results in one automatic weapon massacre after another. The idea that these killing machines are so embedded in the American identity makes it politically impossible to have any meaningful regulation of gun possession today, with deadly results.
The glamorization of killing without consequences had its roots in Roy, the Lone Ranger and others who roamed the Wild West on the screens and into our subconscious. In retrospect, these observations definitely should have had a trigger warning.
If you’re wondering who zoomers are, they make up Generation Z, and have barely made it out of puberty. As well as millennials, who just seem like they haven’t. It’s a snarky reference to those who are too young to have accumulated the mileage necessary to take over, well, just about anything. It’s also an irritable reaction to the “OK, boomer” dismissal of anyone who might offer the benefit of experience to anyone younger who thinks he or she knows everything and doesn’t need the benefit of seasoning that only comes from years of existence.

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November 26, 2019

CONFESSIONS OF A THANKSGIVING TURKEY


FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CONFESSIONS OF A THANKSGIVING TURKEY
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How does a vegetarian who is avoiding NFL football this weekend and wouldn’t be caught dead in a shopping mall on Black Friday celebrate Thanksgiving? I’ve run out of traditions.
However, it’s not all that bleak. I can still eat myself into oblivion without consuming meat, and gorge myself with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and lots of desserts. There’s always Tofurky, which tastes like rubber, but can be smothered in gravy. It’s the best meat substitute for the holidays, so far. And, I can still have embarrassing arguments about politics and ruin everybody else’s dinner.
By the way, it is always nice to see the president, any president, pardon the turkeys, usually two of them. That leaves countless millions on the dinner table, but by next year we may have Impossible Poultry, just like we can now scarf up plant-based hamburgers and sausages that taste, well, close enough. Perhaps in years to come, a chief executive can pardon a chemically manipulated pea protein isolate.

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November 23, 2019

CHARM OFFENSIVE VS.JUST OFFENSIVE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CHARM OFFENSIVE VS. JUST OFFENSIVE
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Which of these campaign posters would be better: “Fiona Hill for President” or simply “Fiona!”?
Whichever, the all things Russian foreign affairs specialist has demonstrated that she also has what it takes to unite our own badly divided country with her powerful combination of intellect, toughness and charm. Unfortunately, she was born and raised in the United Kingdom, not the United States, so she doesn’t fulfill the constitutional requirement that the chief executive must be a natural hatched citizen, as we learned all too well from that racist poison that Donald Trump and the other “birther” bigots spread about President Barack Obama.
A Brit who emigrated to the colonies to seek opportunity, she found it in service to her adopted country. She explained: “I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement.”
Back then, the U.S. of A. welcomed immigrants, even those from England’s coal country, although that is not as bad in the Trump lexicon as a “sh**thole country.” Her daddy was a miner, but she left that life behind and ended up getting a doctorate from Harvard. Obviously, she took no classes from Professor Henry Higgins, because she still has that same twang. Nevertheless, she is an intimidatingly smart combination of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Ivy League.

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November 19, 2019

THE CAPITOL'S KING LIAR

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE CAPITOL'S KING LIAR
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When it comes to people not to be believed, Devin Nunes rates right up there with the Nigerian prince who tells me on the internet that I’m about to inherit millions of dollars if only I send money to him. Although come to think of it, maybe Nunes is that Nigerian prince.
Once again, he has slithered into our consciousness as the ranking -- or as some prefer to describe it, rankest -- member of the House Intelligence Committee, defending the indefensible conduct of President Donald Trump, as Trump digs himself deeper and deeper into the impeachment cesspool.
There was Nunes doing his dead-level best to cloud the hearings in a smokescreen, following the party line by claiming that the Democrats tried to get “nude pictures of Trump” (a disgusting thought) or that Ukraine was the country colluding with Democrats in the last election. But he met his match in Marie Yovanovitch as the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine testified in her understated way before the committee. She had been suddenly removed from her post by Trump after his money-grubbing henchmen, acting on behalf of their oligarch client accomplices, smeared their slime on her. Now she was telling her tale of woe before House Intel, which is building a case that Donny is grossly unfit for office and should be rooted out.

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November 16, 2019

HILLARY PLAYING NIXON

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

HILLARY PLAYING NIXON
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Let’s return to yesteryear. Richard Nixon, coming off an already bitterly controversial career and countless tangles with the media, had just been beaten in the 1962 campaign to become California governor. He was severely resentful, and snarled at reporters, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
It became known as “the last press conference,” and “kick around” ranks right up there as one of the most famous quotes in politics, particularly since just six years later, Nixon was elected president of the United States.
Fifty-seven years later, the never-say-die Nixon spirit apparently hasn’t been lost on Hillary Clinton. Let’s make it, uj. perfectly clear: Nixon is not her shining role model. In fact, she began her career in Washington as a 27-year-old lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee during its Watergate investigation. That was aimed at impeaching President Nixon, who resigned before he could be removed.
It was not the last time Hillary Clinton would be intertwined with the process. She lost against the man who now faces impeachment himself, Donald Trump. Or more accurately, she blew the 2016 election against Trump, a man who should never have won and would never have won except he had the good fortune to be running against a terrible candidate.

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November 12, 2019

ANOTHER BLOOMBERG DALLIANCE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

ANOTHER BLOOMBERG DALLIANCE

It’s not fair to call Michael Bloomberg just a superrich dilettante. He is, after all, a former mayor of New York City, so he does have some experience as a political officeholder. It is fair to describe Bloomberg as a superrich guy who obviously was looking for something to do, so he decided, “I think I’ll dabble in presidential politics.”
"Let’s see. What am I, a Republican or a Democrat? This time around I’ll be a Democratic, because that other rich guy is claiming to be a Republican. He’s nowhere near as wealthy as I am. That much we know, even though he refuses to release his tax forms, possibly because they would show he’s really dirt-poor. Still, he is currently GOP president of the United States. so, Democrat it is.”
There’s a ton of Dem already, vying to replace President Trump. That’s provided he’s still in the White House, what with impeachment and all. If Trump does make it through Election Day, Bloomberg has decided that none of the Democrats has gone beyond dithering, leaving too great a possibility that Donald Trump would get a second term. So Michael Bloomberg has offered a way out: He’s the way out. And he’s pulling a Mighty Mouse — as in “Here I Come to Save the Day,” which if you’re not a TV cartoon aficionado, is the “Mighty Mouse” theme.
How would he pull off the superheroic deed just a few months before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, where all the others have such a gargantuan head start? He’d simply ignore those first states as just overhyped media events anyway, and focus on Super Tuesday states later that are more populous and diverse, aftrr the others have stomped on each other early on. Besides, with an estimated net worth of $50 billion plus, Bloomberg could probably just purchase Iowa and New Hampshire. Then he could simply declare their elections null and void.
That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Michael Bloomberg’s fortune was accumulated by his ownership of countless media properties. So the question comes up, How would those news organizations cover his candidacy? The answer is, well, nobody really knows the answer, other than the one he gave during another of his candidate flirtations, when he suggested that they may just drop campaign coverage.

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November 9, 2019

BASEBALL STRIKES OUT

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BASEBALL STRIKES OUT
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Remember when baseball was referred to as the “national pastime”? Well, these days, hating is the national pastime. Look no further than President Donald Trump’s venture out to watch a World Series game last month. He encountered a tidal wave of boos and other unprintable jeering when he was introduced via the Jumbotron.
But then look what happened after the Washington Nationals won the Series and held a parade for adoring fans so big that I’m tempted to say they exceeded Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd. Actually, they didn’t. That was just fake news. But still, the Nats brought together the D.C. region like it hasn’t been together for a long time.
Unfortunately, the unity was temporary, to say the least. It lasted a weekend, right up until the Nationals accepted the offer from POTUS to visit the White House. When will anybody learn? An invitation to the White House is a certain invitation to trouble. First, the team’s individual athletes always need to decide whether to attend or to boycott because they don’t agree with the president enough to be in the same room with him. Some of those who stay away make their feelings known publicly, like relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, who even poured his out to the Washington Post:
“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories, and widening the divide in this country,” he said. “At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”

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November 5, 2019

BETO'S EVAPORATION

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BETO'S EVAPORATION

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Here’s the thing about those bright, shiny human objects that are so irresistible to those of us in media: The truth is that, like so much bling, they are merely fool’s gold, soon tarnished by reality. It turns out that the overexposure reveals that there’s little under the gloss, and this “next big thing” is very quickly reduced to “same old, same old.”
So it was with Beto O’Rourke. He skyrocketed to national fame as the Democrat who almost beat a Republican for U.S Senate in Texas, which has turned deep red. But the Republican was Ted Cruz, who has not exactly been Senator Congeniality. Through his career he has managed to antagonize just about anyone he encounters. That doesn’t exactly endear anyone with the voters, who are usually turned off by someone who mainly exudes smarm. As an actor in an old silent movie, he’d be playing the villain. If his nickname isn't Snidely Whiplash, it should be. Even so,he ran for president and got derailed by Donald Trump, who was in a crass by himself -- and still is.
But since Trump stunned Hillary Clinton -- and, might I add, those of us in media -- by winning the big prize, the muddled Democrats were looking for someone, anyone, to fill the void. They realized that they didn’t have any heir apparent, so they basically opened it up to virtually every American who had a pulse. Among those was Beto O’Rourke, who, after losing to Cruz, didn’t really have much to do, so he decided to run for president.

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November 2, 2019

DOG EAT DOG

FROM KING FEATURES SYDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DOG EAT DOG
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Once again, out of the fog of war there has emerged a heroic dog of war. Conan is a Belgian Malinois, a shepherdlike puppy who was slightly wounded during the commando raid that resulted in the explosive death by suicide vest of ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. Belgians are a favorite of military forces and law-enforcement authorities because of their physical prowess, bravery and, uh, dogged willingness to follow orders. No canine mutiny with these pups.
We know he’s called “Conan,” even though his identity is supposed to be classified, like the human members of his special forces unit. But there was a leak and his name was made public, although it is unknown whether the leaker raised his or her leg.
The commander in chief has intense scorn for all those who spill the confidential beans. Come to think of it, President Donald Trump has intense scorn for just about everyone who doesn’t shine a favorable light, real or imagined, on him. He’s obsessed with them, at one point tweeting “Leakers are traitors and cowards,” particularly when the information is supposed to be classified.

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October 29, 2019

A DEADLY GAME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

A DEADLY GAME

Let’s give credit where it’s due: As commander in chief, President Donald Trump can claim success for the military operation that took out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the long-elusive founder of ISIS, who, according to the White House and military sources, blew himself up, setting off a vest of explosives that also took the lives of three of his children. This was the president, making his nationally televised announcement Sunday morning:
“Last night the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice. ... He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”
The commando raid happened in Syria. It was a coordinated operation, involving forces that oddly included Kurdish troops, the same allies that Trump had just jettisoned when he cleared the way for Turkey to annihilate them by pulling out a U.S. contingent that had offered a buffer zone of protection for the Kurds.
Since then, the region has been in turmoil, as the Russians have moved in to replace the Americans, who are in an embarrassing retreat. Still, al-Baghdadi’s violent end was certainly a positive development.Trump relished it and offered his typical self-serving embellishments, saying he watched live as the terrorist leader “died like a dog” and was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” before he blew himself up.

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October 26, 2019

LAWYERS AND LEGISLATORS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

LAWYERS AND LEGISLATORS

Carl Sandburg said it, giving his advice to attorneys:
“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”
Sandburg, as you know, wrote the massive biographies of Abraham Lincoln. Taking anything he said and applying it to President Donald Trump might seem like sacrilege, but there are some parallels or near parallels. Lincoln was in office during the Civil War, dealing with the darkest period in United States history. Trump keeps implying the threat of a civil war if his political enemies are successful in removing him from office. His short tenure as chaotic and corrupt as it may be, doesn’t compare with “Honest Abe’s” time, but Dishonest Don’s ghastly partial term is right down there among the most miserable.
And now his Democratic vilifiers have accumulated enough evidence of his crimes that they’ve revved up the gumption to try to remove him from office, starting with an impeachment effort in the House of Representatives, which the Constitution specifies. Democrats are in the majority in the House, and the rules say they control how it’s done.
So they have been collecting smoking guns, laying out unmistakable evidence of Donald Trump’s abuse of office.
That means Trump and his Republican supporters are left with nothing to do but take Sandburg’s advice and apply it to the present crisis. The daily drumbeat of “facts” has already made it obvious that The Don and his accomplices have broken the law. There’s really nothing to “argue” about. So his hench people are left with no tactics other than distorting the laws, in particular the Constitution’s clearly laid out instructions.

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October 22, 2019

FINGER POINTING EVERYWHERE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FINGER POINTING EVERYWHERE

It’s really difficult to tell because his hands are so small, but it looks for all the world that President Donald Trump has an extended middle finger raised at, well, all the world. Who knew that he could speak in sign language? Or at least that he knew how to say one word? Come to think of it, it’s two words. He seems to have decided on a defiance strategy, his last resort, since his “high crimes” and his low crime of total incompetence are there for everyone to see as he faces impeachment.
Every once in a while, he pokes himself in the eye with his raised midget digit. So it was with his Doral debacle. First he sent out his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to announce that POTUS had decided to choose the National Doral resort and golf courses in steamy Miami for next June’s G-7 summit, just as he had warned he might do. By now you know who owns the Doral: The Trump Organization. The president makes millions each year from the company from which he never financially removed himself when he had moved into the White House. But after he was reminded that he was the defendant in various lawsuits for violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which prohibits other nations contributing something of value personally to a sitting president, he decided to back down. But even when he lowers his finger, he raises another one, as evidenced by his retreat tweet: “... based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately. Thank you!”

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October 19, 2019

BASEBALL AND THE POLITICAL GAMES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

BASEBALL AND THE POLITICAL GAMES

Oct. 15 meant that those of us who call D.C. home had to make a decision. We were forced to pick between keeping tabs on another Democratic presidential candidate debate or going to the ballgame to watch Washington at Nats Park sweep the St. Louis Cardinals (sorry for gloating, St. Louis), thereby winning the National League pennant and heading to the World Series for the first time since 1933, when this country and most of the planet was in the grips of the Great Depression. Now, the U.S. is seized by another kind of depression, an emotional one caused in large part by the Donald Trump roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, unlike a normal roller coaster that goes up and hurtles downward, this one starts at the depths and careens even lower.
But back to baseball. The last time a D.C. Major League Baseball team played in a World Series, it was called the Senators. Franklin Roosevelt was the 32nd president, responsible for many enduring social programs that represented hope to millions of desperate citizens. Now, Trump, the 45th president, seems intent on rolling them back.
So the swamp creatures here had to opt for either doing our professional duty and covering the debate or going to the game. No problem. There I was with more than 43,000 of my closest friends at the old ballyard, watching the Nationals, safe in the knowledge that I could later catch a recording of another debate that, at best, would simply provide one of a dozen Democratic candidates some viral moment. As I said, easy choice.
The Nationals have had a remarkable season, but that’s also true of the wild and wacky game of politics. What’s interesting is how they align. On May 23, as an example, the Nats were in the throes of a severe slump. They had a won-loss record of 19 and 31. The next day, they began an astounding comeback. On that same day, May 23, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney convened a White House meeting to order officials to ignore official channels regarding Ukraine, and deal instead with President Trump’s personal freelancing attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

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October 15, 2019

THE SMOKESCREEN

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SMOKESCREEN

President Donald Trump and his accomplices are really busy deflecting all the damning charges against them by using every misleading tactic available. They are putting the “con” in “Constitution.” When he doesn’t flat-out lie, his lawyers are utilizing that time-dishonored tactic of obfuscation, muddying up the clear meaning of the nation’s fundamental user guide.
It’s all meant to cause everyone’s eyes to glaze over by putting forward bogus arguments for why they don’t comply with the rules as they were written back in 1787. The House, unambiguously, is given the sole power to impeach. Still, you have the White House counsel, under order from his boss Trump, writing that neither Trump nor his underlings will cooperate because the House of Representatives is conducting an “unconstitutional” investigation. It’s totally contrived, but they’re counting on the probability that those who have not taken a Con Law course will get bored really quickly with a process argument. That includes the vast majority of Americans and certainly the members of his base.
But there are some cracks in the crackpot wall they’ve constructed. Some of those who report to the Don Trump or his other capos -- in this case, his Secretary of State -- have defied the orders from on high. Notably, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled and basically fired as ambassador by Trump. All because she wouldn’t play ball with his shenanigans aimed at discrediting Joe Biden. Also Gordon Sondland, Trump’s buddy and ambassador to the European Union.
Features Syndicate, Inc.

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October 12, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VLAD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VLAD

Vladimir Putin is not a Facebook friend of mine -- that I know of, anyway. He could be, perhaps registered under an alias put out by the Moscow Troll Department, but to my knowledge, I didn’t send a “Happy birthday to Vlad” greeting to mark the Russian president’s 67th.
Nor did Donald Trump send his good wishes, at least not on Facebook, even though Mr. Putin had a lot to do with his being the American president in the first place.
But he didn’t really have to mark the occasion. For Putin, Trump has been the gift who keeps on giving by tattering the United States of America and its already frayed tapestry of democracy. The U.S. political system is supposed to be an intricate knit of balancing powers that are woven into the legislative, executive and judicial branches of federal government, as any high school student is taught. Apparently, Trump missed class that day, or he simply chooses to ignore it. The same way he chooses to ignore any time-tested rule or moral standard that gets in his way. His conduct, both before he assumed the chief executive role and since, is splattered with the stain of corruption and hateful demagoguery.

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October 8, 2019

NOT READY FOR DEMOCRACY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

NOT READY FOR DEMOCRACY

In his “Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln described a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The problem for any democracy is that those people can make a mistake -- a dangerous mistake -- by electing someone who’s severely unqualified or a bloomin’ nutcase.
Look no further than Donald Trump, our current president, who possesses the power to wreak terrible damage. In fact, he’s doing just that, both with his policies that roll back decades of progress, returning America to a menace to the planet, and even more so with his rhetoric, which has exposed wounds to the nation that might never heal.
By the way, didn’t Trump refer to our 16th president as “the late, great Abraham Lincoln,” sounding like some sleazy lounge singer performing on a world stage? Those lined up against Trump in the impeachment fight hope that he will go down in history as the 45th president who was forced to prematurely step aside for the 46th president, Mike Pence. Actually, the get-rid-of-Trump forces shudder at the thought of replacing the deranged current act with his smarmy sycophant, but that’s how it works in our democracy. Unless, of course, they can make it a twofer.

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October 5, 2019

AMERICA-FINLAND FUNLAND

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICA-FINLAND FUNLAND
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Pity the poor head of state who visits the White House. This time around, it was the Finnish president watching another fight to the finish by his host, American President Donald Trump.
Finland’s Sauli Niinisto was the latest human prop, maintaining a stone face and keeping his thoughts to himself, but perhaps worrying whether his U.S. counterpart had rabies. Trump has been foaming at the mouth more than normal these days, going bonkers before our very eyes, as his attacks against anyone and everyone involved in his impeachment probe get increasingly vicious, seemingly with no regard to the safety of those who stand in his way.
First, one of his milder tirades: He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of handing out subpoenas targeting his accomplices “like they are cookies.” Perhaps that’s his half-baked response to getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar, a whistleblower charge that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine’s new leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to reopen an investigation against Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption in Ukraine, even though a probe was already concluded with no charges. Trump is accused of seeking foreign help for his reelection bid -- which by the way is a crime -- after a transcript of his July call with Zelenskiy provided strong evidence that he was holding back more than a quarter-billion dollars in military aid until he was satisfied that Zelenskiy was playing ball. Apparently, Donald Trump considers Joe Biden his greatest barrier to reelection. But now there is a threat that his term won’t make it to re-election, because the heretofore timid Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have launched their aggressive impeachment process.

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October 1, 2019

THE SPIT AWARD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SPIT AWARD

As the summer of our despair turns to an equally bleak national autumn, it’s time to take note of those who have excelled at a unique political art form (I bet you never thought you’d see those words together). We really should pay homage to the victor in the month’s competition for best sound bite.
The winner of the Superlative Propounding of Incomplete Thoughts competition, the treasured SPIT award, for September is (pause for effect) Devin Nunes! This is an upset, because the champ is almost always Donald Trump. But he’s distracted these days, and appropriately so because he’s in deep spit over his attempted shakedown of Ukraine’s president.
Devin Nunes is a Republican congressman who is in President Trump’s pocket. He is among the most stridently partisan GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee, which is traditionally nonpartisan But traditions have been exploding left and right. Speaking of the left, in all fairness we should acknowledge that Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the committee, is no slouch when it comes to partisanship. In fact, he’s been among the most aggressive in pursuing the impeachment of Trump, now that his fellow Democrats have taken the plunge into those murky waters.

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September 28, 2019

PIG LATIN

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PIG LATIN

Latin is supposedly a “dead language,” meaning no one speaks it as their native tongue. Except attorneys, of course, who use it to make law indecipherable so that they can charge exorbitant billable hours to untangle the messes they create.
English, in this era of antisocial media and texting, is on its way to being another dead language. But I digress, which, by the way, is from the Latin “digressum.”
Let’s regressum: Back when kids were forced to suffer through a Latin course in high school, we all were required to ponder the Roman forces crossing the Rubicon River in defiance of Senate orders (some things never change). “Alea jacta est,” meaning the “die is cast,” said Julius Caesar, and for more than 2,000 years, “crossing the Rubicon” and “Alea jacta est” have meant “Well, now we’ve gone and done it.”
So it is now, as the Democrats in the House of Representatives roll their dice and cross into impeachment land. It’s nearly as momentous as it was back in Caesar’s time, opening an entire salad of possibilities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that her members will directly take on President Donald Trump, a wannabe emperor, and investigate him in a coordinated fashion because of his “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

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September 24, 2019

GAMES WITH NO RULES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE,
BY BOB FRANKEN

GAMES WITH NO RULES

“The best defense is a good offense.” That is true in football as well as in that even more brutal contact sport, politics. And be warned that this piece is riddled with shameless sports metaphors, because what we are discussing here is the championship game between Trump University and Deep State — although the whole concept of a “deep state” is a contrivance by Donald Trump’s team to feed the paranoia of the base, which is united in the belief that a coordinated “state” is plotting against him, and them. The fatal flaw in this concept is that this organization of secret rulers has no capability to be organized at all. In fact, the members of the so-called establishment are always running every which way.
Back to the best defense-good offense thing: The legitimacy of Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been severely hampered by the accusation that the election was influenced by the Russian government, led by the sinister Vladimir Putin, the master of blocking in the back. So Trump and his teammates are trying to neutralize that attack by hurling their own slime at their perceived main opponent for reelection, Joe Biden.
They’re raising discredited accusations that it was Biden, as vice president, who was involved in a nefarious arrangement with the Ukrainian government to protect his son Hunter Biden, who was accused of shady business practices there even though the Bidens had been investigated and cleared. But Trump and particularly his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been pressuring the new Ukrainian government to reopen the investigation, which would fake out the opposition.
In the smarmy game of politics, such diversionary tactics are routine plays. However, the field is also swarming with referees, and not impartial ones. Those who play for the Trump opposition in Congress are just looking for the chance to blow the whistle and penalize him for an egregious foul.

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September 17, 2019

THE COMPLETE STORY

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE COMPLETE STORY
---
I always worry when people on one side of an issue praise a story I’ve done. Ideally, at least in the twisted mind of a journalist, all the parties should be upset. We should be viewed as equal-opportunity jerks. After all, this column has been described as “a gesture of defiance pointed in all directions.” (Actually, the gesture of defiance was specified. Use your imagination.) I am fine with that.
But if one side was filled with praise, was I being fair to the other side? And what does being fair really mean? Can it be defined as needing to bring a 50-50 approach to each report? Should such automatic equivalence be our standard? Or is false equivalence an inherent distortion? What about context?
And what about the indecisive navel-gazing through which you’ve just been forced to wade? Let’s face it, those of us in newsbiz are really neurotic. And why wouldn’t we be? Hewing to the harsh demands of hate-everybody journalism means we don’t have many friends. The ones we do have are only pretending to be buddies so they can promote their causes.

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September 14, 2019

FICKLE TRUMP

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FICKLE TRUMP
---
It’s the really big question in Washington, which goes to show how pathetic things can get here: Did John Bolton resign, or was he fired? President Donald Trump and his now former national security adviser disagree about that, much as they disagreed about everything else. It was not exactly a marriage made in heaven.
To call Bolton “abrasive” is definitely an understatement. “Caustic” is more like it. Since he became the administration’s third national security adviser, he had rubbed nearly everybody in the White House the wrong way. That would include, more and more, the Trumpster, who claims to enjoy vigorous internal debate but really prefers sycophancy.
It’s tempting to call John Bolton a warmonger, although Bolton would insist he’s really a “peace through strength” kinda guy. On the other hand, Donald Trump fancies himself as a master deal-maker, who can work his magic to turn enemies into partners in ending dangerous hostilities. Never mind that he has bungled each and every initiative so far. The latest one -- opposed by Bolton, of course -- would have brought representatives of the Taliban to Camp David, for not only a successful Afghanistan deal, but one with the kind of whiz-bang showbiz touches that Trump prefers.

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September 10, 2019

TRUMP AND WWE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP AND WWE
---
It’s a good thing that President Donald Trump has spent time with WrestleMania. He obviously used that experience to finally muscle his way into the main event, when he had been body-slammed aside by the real reality of the devastation from Hurricane Dorian. Yes, I know “muscle” is probably not the first word you’d use when you think of the Trumpster, but there will be no fat-shaming here. Let’s leave that to him.
It clearly occurred to a few people in the White House, including the big guy, that during the network evening newscasts in the early coverage of storm, a broadcast or two went by where Trump was not mentioned once, when the consequences of Dorian were obviously too severe and compelling to spend time on political trivialities.
Obviously, POTUS and his enablers couldn’t have that, so that’s when he summoned the lessons he’d learned from his WWE encounters and applied them to the meteorology ring (actually it’s called a “cone” in the always-serious climate-biz, as in a “cone of uncertainty”; nevertheless, in his case “WWE” stands for “Wacky Weather Entertainment”).

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September 7, 2019

SHARPIES AND DULLARDS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SHARPIES AND DULLARDS
---
Weather forecasting really has come a long way, as evidenced by the days and weeks of advance notice we get in our part of the world when disturbances that may become massively dangerous hurricanes form far, far away off the coast of Africa. But, as Hurricane Dorian demonstrates, the science has a long way to go.
Precisely how close to home a catastrophic storm is going to hit and indeed, just how devastating it’s going to be are truly speculative. Just look at the “spaghetti models” of various meteorological organizations that struggle to pinpoint the path any given storm will take and where it will land. Consider too the wide-ranging “cone of uncertainty” that accompanies any prognostication. Nevertheless, I am amazed at the relative accuracy of the forecasters, on camera and behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, there is always the hustler who will exploit his “cone of unreality.” Donald Trump, who long ago severed his relationship with the truth -- a kind of “Trexit” -- is fouling the turbulent air with his in-expertness, while trying to create a phony image of his being in charge of Dorian operations. As is so often the case, he couldn’t hide his lack of comprehension. That was made crystal clear in a tweet where he declared that the roster of states that might be hit included Alabama.
Understandably, that scared the bejabbers out of those residing in Alabama. Never mind that it was false. The National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly put out its own tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”
Even though he demanded that their bosses in Washington tried to say that their earliest spaghetti strands did include Alabama, before they went away long before the hurricane arrived, it was another case where POTUS was simply wrong by the time he paid his usual inattention to the situation. But the Trumpster, in an effort to avoid having his ignorance found out, tried to bluster his way past his hurricane misstatement. He even displayed a map in the Oval Office showing the original cone of uncertainty projection from the National Hurricane Center. It still didn’t cover Alabama, except that someone had taken a Sharpie and had drawn an extension of the cone that now included the state. It was so obviously phony that Trump mumbled, “I don’t know” when asked who had drawn the Sharpie add-on. Obviously, not someone who was very sharp.

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September 3, 2019

ANDROIDS RULE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

ANDROIDS RULE

I have gotten to the point that every time my cellphone blasts its generic ringtone, I assume it’s a robocall. My algorithm favorites are the recorded voices that start out saying, “Can you hear me?” and then pause a few seconds before continuing with their pitch. I’ve taken to filling that brief void with a Bronx cheer or some other obnoxious sound. Then I hang up.
Unfortunately, it is not foolproof. Sometimes, when I check for messages or run into a friend, he or she might say, “I tried to call you, but all I got was you making bad-taste sounds.” Worse is when it’s a business call or a medical provider.
That is just one illustration of the perils of advancing technologies. Artificial intelligence has taken the inefficient human beings almost entirely out of telephoning, except that it also enables nefarious humans to come up with new and different scams to steal our money; for instance, scaring the daylights out of vulnerable, trusting marks who believe that the Social Security or IRS calls they get are truly official demands for payment -- or prison. Ironically, progress has equaled a step or steps backward.
So it is with anti-social media. Our gadgetry has enabled us to communicate with each other in all parts of the world. The problem is that we usually find that what is communicated is repugnant, or outright lies. A case in point is virtually everything a certain president of the United States shares with us in tweets. What’s even worse than that pollution is the genuine phoniness. Now it comes out that the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has been hacked, and for a while his account was spewing out racist mini messages and bomb threats on his monster creation. At least, he claims he was hacked.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if that same certain president, at some point, insists that he was hacked, which would be plausible because it would explain the stream of ridiculous and obnoxious content sent out in his name. The only other explanations would be ignorance, hate, lying or outright insanity.

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August 31, 2019

TRUMP HOTEL HUSTLE AND THE POPE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE,
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP HOTEL HUSTLE AND THE POPE

True story: I used to live a couple of blocks away from the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States, which is the official name of the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in D.C.
Its proximity had obviously not been a problem -- at least for me. That changed in 2015, when Pope Francis came to tour America and, for the duration of his visit to Washington, stayed at the embassy. Suddenly, the ’hood was swarming with security people: Secret Service; local law enforcement; presumably a contingent of his Swiss Guard, although they were not in uniform. Traffic was blocked on certain streets. The point is that it curtailed our access.
It’s not an unusual problem in the nation’s capital, where residents have to adjust to protection details for those who warrant it. Nevertheless, one day during the pope’s visit, I decided to walk my dog in the woods that ran between my house and the embassy. I figured I’d see how far we could get. Imagine my surprise when there was no perimeter at all. Nothing.
Rather than shoot any video, I took my dog and high-tailed it back. We sought out the first group of people talking into their sleeves that we could find, and I did my duty as a good doobie citizen, informing them that their protective net had an opening. They immediately got on their communication devices, and suddenly the little neighborhood forest was crawling with agents.

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August 27, 2019

THE INSULTS ASSAULTS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
By Bob Franken

THE INSULTS ASSAULTS

To paraphrase the country and western song, when it comes to outright scorn, the North Koreans were insulting before insulting was cool. And all those decades of practice mean they are still setting the standard. Who else would refer to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a “poisonous plant”? Yup, that’s what the nation’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called Pompeo after his routine comments about continuing sanctions against that totalitarian government. Mike Pompeo is a “poisonous plant”. Admit it: that’s inventive invective, even better than anything from that “Little Shop of Horrors”, also known as the Trump administration.
However, in the quantity of verbal abuse, versus quality, President Donald Trump is unmatched. Every time he heads to a world leaders summit to do diplomacy, expect to cringe. He’s running out of allies to offend.
Other than the UK’s Boris Johnson, who has also parlayed meaningless promises into real power, the American president constantly trash talks those who head up democracies and are traditional allies of the United States. Instead, he has an obvious preference for autocrats , the more despotic the better. How else to explain North Korea’s tyrant Kim Jong Un, and Trump’s unabashed declaration that he and Kim “fell in love”? How else to describe his relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a nation that so offended the others, with his takeover of Crimea in 2014 that they tossed the country out of their economic group the G-8, making it the G-7. Now, although Crimea remains occupied, Trump has rattled the cages of the others leaders by suggesting that Russia should be allowed back. Like that old vegetable juice commercial, he’s exclaiming “Gee, we should be a G-8!”. The others aren’t swallowing it, but it’s one more prick in their sensitivities, from a man who they already consider a word we can’t use here.

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August 24, 2019

THE BIGOTRY OF THE PIOUS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE BIGOTRY OF THE PIOUS

For a man who doesn’t read a lot, President Donald Trump sure has been influenced by history. What’s amazing about the days of yesteryear is not just that we keep repeating their errors, but that these mistakes move so seamlessly through time, the past being prologue and all that Shakespeare stuff.
So it is with the defining tradition of prejudice in the United States. There is no group we haven’t hated and abused: ethnic groups, racial groups, gender groups and, of course, religious groups. Our intolerance casts a wide net.
Does anyone remember that John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic president? Why was he the first? Because of anti-Catholic bias. In spite of the fact that there were 42 million Catholics in the country in 1960 -- 16% of the population -- there was a prevalent belief that any Catholic politician would owe his first allegiance to the Vatican. One of John Kennedy’s most important speeches was to the Houston Ministerial Association: “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”
It worked. John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president, overcoming the Catholic issue and a strenuous opposition from many prominent Protestant clergymen, among them Norman Vincent Peale.

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August 20, 2019

GREENLAND-NOT ANOTHER TRUMP "FOLLY"

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE,
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 20, 2019
BY BOB FRANKEN

GREENLAND-NOT ANOTHER TRUMP "FOLLY"
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For once the Trumpster has a thought that's not garbage. President Donald Trump was considering the idea of purchasing the massive and largely frozen island of Greenland from Denmark. Cue the laughter. My Montreal-raised wife tells me that in the nearly uninhabitable frozen tundra country of her youth, she and her Canadian friends grew up exclaiming, “It’s as cold as Greenland!” But POTUS, evidently, was serious.
It’s not new. In 1946, the U.S. offered $100 million for Greenland; $1.3 billion in today’s dollars, or 9 billion Danish Krone, give or take. A mere pittance, even if the real estatesituated in the frigid Arctic wasteland.
Actually, it’s because of its location location location that countries are so interested. There’s a brutal competition going on between the U.S., Russia and China for dominance in that Godforsaken part of the world, what with all the natural resources buried in the permafrost, which is gradually turning to mud because of global warming. It’s a strategic legion, as evidenced by the American Thule Air Base, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in Greenland.
The island is an autonomous territory of Denmark, which immediately said it’s not for sale.

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August 17, 2019

OUR SPECIOUS SPECIES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

OUR SPECIOUS SPECIES
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For all their bluster and destructiveness, it turns out that the Trumpsters are really just frightened little politicians. They wait until the media herd is focused on overcovering everything Jeffrey Epstein to quietly announce that they are making another move on their continuous rape of the Earth.
It was only in May that a major report from a United Nations science panel warned that because of climate change and other largely human causes, the world faces the loss of a million plant and animal species: “The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast ...”
Not only are we neglecting our responsibilities as stewards of our planet, but we are jeopardizing our own species as well, because spreading extinctions ultimately threaten our food supply and ability to cope with so many environmental challenges. So what is the Trump administration’s response, as officially announced during the swirl of Jeffrey Epstein coverage? The finalization of plans to seriously weaken enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. That’s nothing more than a continuation of the ongoing effort to pander to energy companies and developers, who are major culprits in the relentless pillaging of natural resources. It’s part of an ongoing water torture to eliminate regulations, which threaten the corporate bottom lines.
It was during that same Epstein coverage orgy that other elements of the Trump gang declared war, and not just on the usual illegal immigrants who are trying to enter or stay here in the shadows. Now they are targeting legal immigrants, those who are seeking to become permanent residents. From now on, the path to a green card will be reserved only for those who have the means to live without government benefits like Medicaid and food stamps. Those who are poor or vulnerable are unwelcome.

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August 13, 2019

AGE-OLD GAFFES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 13, 2019

AGE-OLD GAFFES
---
When Joe Biden says he’s running for president, he means it literally. He likes to be seen jogging around at his various campaign events.
Obviously, that’s his way of showing that at 76, he’s not too old for the grueling physical and mental challenges of being POTUS. But it does raise a few questions: Does he stretch before he breaks into a trot? Is he aware that the bigger problem is his running off at the mouth?
Now, this is not a new concern. Joe Biden, after all, taught us what a “gaffe” was -- he’s been at it for a generation. He describes himself as “a gaffe machine,” tripping over his comments since at least 1987, during his first presidential campaign, which ended after he was caught repeatedly plagiarizing the speeches of a British politician. Over the years he has been a constant source of laughter. In the greatest hits of Biden classics there was this one, from 2007, describing Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
In 2008, he bounded onto a stage with this gem: “I’m told Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up, Chuck; let ’em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about? I’ll tell you what, you’re making everybody else stand up, though, pal.” Chuck Graham was confined to a wheelchair.
Joe is still at it, telling people during a speech last week in Iowa: “We have this notion that somehow if you’re poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright, just as talented, as white kids.” He then had to untangle his tongue and get it right. So he has been mangling his language for a long time. But now, given perceptions about his age, it’s a serious problem. It’s no longer funny, and no one is cutting him any slack, wondering if his missteps really mean he’s lost a step.

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August 10, 2019

RED FLAG POTUS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 9, 2019

RED FLAG POTUS
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First of all, the “red flag” idea, by itself, is a mealy-mouthed approach to gun control. It takes its name from the idea that police or others in authority may seize deadly weapons when someone raises that “red flag,” a warning about an individual who is unstable and therefore, as the expression goes, “a danger to himself or others.” Usually, it nods to due process by requiring a judge to issue an order. It’s sort of like a warrant.
It’s a tiny first step, unless it would raise that red flag against anyone who is deemed dangerous simply because he possesses or wants to possess one of the AK-47-like assault rifles, which have become the go-to weapon for mass murderers. There is no reason to have them outside of a war zone, other than to have the ability to slaughter other civilian victims. Let’s call removing them entirely what it really is: justified confiscation. We need to aggressively take these killing machines out of our society, and attach severe penalties, including prison time, for the manufacture, sale or even having one of them.
Of course, nothing like that will happen. We have a political system that includes at least one party that rolls over in fear of offending the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association and other similar organizations come armed, so to speak, with the U.S. national insanity over gun ownership. People will die to protect their right to own weapons. Ultimately, Americans are only temporarily moved when people frequently die in large numbers after some pathetic but heavily armed person loses control of his resentments, acquires an assault rifle and ammo, and goes on a slaughtering rampage. There are two reactions. At first, as a nation, we indulge our instinct to protect our loved ones, and are horrified by the loss of life that accompanies one of these tragedies. But after a day or two, we instinctually switch to protecting our personal cache of weapons.

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August 6, 2019

STILL MORE MASS MURDERS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 6, 2019

STILL MORE MASS MURDERS
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It has become routine: President Donald Trump spends a golfing break at one of his properties. Tragically, horrific gun massacres also have become part of the routine, two of them in the past weekend; one of them clearly the consequence of a white supremacist who had gone over the edge, armed with the most lethal handheld weapons of mass destruction.
By the time the president finally emerged after sending platitudinous tweets of support for El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, he faced the assembled reporters to declare, “Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”
With all due disrespect, Mr. President, we should take care of it by standing up to the National Rifle Association, which you have not done, and by prohibiting the devastating warfare armaments that enable some pathetic loser to become a killing machine. And you -- that means you, Donald Trump -- need to understand that your language has consequences. You, sir, are what passes for the country’s national leader, and when your careless rhetoric inflames resentment into hatred, domestic terrorism becomes inevitable. Unfortunately, you have resorted to outright racism lately.

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August 3, 2019

HANDS DOWN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 2, 2019

HANDS DOWN
---
I want a show of hands here: How many of you have an idea as to what we should call a group of Democratic debaters? Should it be a herd? A flock? A gaggle? How about something unique? Before the demeaning candidate hand-raise is a thing of the past, raise yours if you like “squabble,” as in a squabble of Democrats, because that’s what they’re doing, squabbling a lot. (And that’s the entire hand, people -- a single finger will not count.)
Now that the huge, 20-person squabble has spent two debates looking for the killer sound bite -- in many cases to lift low-performing candidates from the depths so they can make the cut for the more stringent next level -- some of them have stood out. They’ve been roughly divided into two camps: There are moderates, led by Joe Biden, and the “immoderates,” represented by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and her male clone, Bernie Sanders. Oh, and there are the straddlers, like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and child prodigy Pete Buttigieg, but it’s really a battle between centrists and leftists.
Biden says stuff like “malarkey,” which, roughly translated, means “bulls**t.” He’s made a career of winning Mr. Congeniality contests. Warren and Sanders definitely have not. Instead, they put forth policies like “Medicare for All.” She might have won the ongoing sound bite competition so far with her “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” She was defending against those who argue that a full-blown, single-payer health plan in the United Plutocracy of America is not doable.

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July 30, 2019

HUMAN HIGHS AND LOWS


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019

HUMAN HIGHS AND LOWS

How is it that some of humankind’s most soaring achievements are inevitably followed by disappointment? I’ve been thinking about that in the days after we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Those of us who were around can remember all the commentary about how this “one small step” was that exquisite moment where we seemed united as earthlings, reaching out to the infinite possibilities of the universe. Then gravity took over, and we quickly crashed back down onto our divisive reality.
It’s always like that, as we struggle to reach otherworldly heights but instead descend to the depths of conflict. Our potential works both ways, but invariably it’s mostly our divisions that motivate us. Even as we shared the perspective of our astronauts looking back at our planet, on the ground we were fighting wars over cultural and religious differences, hoarding resources while others were starving, and ravaging the climate so a few could profit. Quickly the magnificent adventure on the moon faded into malice.

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July 27, 2019

PELOSI AND MUELLER MUSH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2019

PELOSI AND MUELLER MUSH
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing a sophisticated game. Since her Democrats took the House, she’s the one who has steadfastly fought off a hasty plunge into the impeachment of President Donald Trump. In the process, she has appeared to resist the more volatile factions in her caucus, particularly the attention-grabbing newbies, along with impatient Democrats nationwide who have loudly demanded that she clear the way so they can drop the I-Bomb.
She will not like this comparison, but Pelosi has been the tortoise racing with her rabbits, her rabid-bunny fellow partisans. Except that it’s all a subterfuge.
Nancy Pelosi knows the nuances of exercising power. She should. She has been around long enough to gain a huge amount of experience. Experience is routinely discredited by each succeeding generation as they are hellbent on making the same mistakes that their predecessors made. One mistake is making their big moves before they’re fully prepared.
Pelosi, by leaving the public impression that she wants to avoid any premature action that can be perceived as politically unfair, has put herself in the position that when there is some development so compelling, “she has no choice” but to change her mind and clear the way for impeachment. Reluctantly, of course. At that point, she will have way more impact.

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July 23, 2019

CLASSIC GYMNASTICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2019

CLASSIC GYMNASTICS

Here’s why President Donald Trump is not a bigot: Bigots have to believe in something beyond themselves, even if it’s hateful. Trump doesn’t believe in anything but self-promotion. If exploiting ignorant prejudice accomplishes that, he is relentless. No danger to the country, no matter how divisive, will get in his way. After all, he’s had a lifetime of practice. Like a gymnast, his constant exercising of narcissism muscle memory has made him a national champion.
It is true that the Trumpster doesn’t look like a gymnast. Anything but. Still, looks can be deceiving. His verbal gymnastic talent is awe-inspiring. Take his current tactics in the Rabble-rousing competition, characterized by an ability to inspire his hordes of spectators to sink en masse to loathsome depths.
As usual, the tournament of Political Games began with the preliminary events, held in the Twitter Arena. This time, as always, it was a breeze for Trump. He started out with a frontal racist jingoism move that obliterated all the others fighting for attention: “‘Progressive’ Democratic Congresswomen,” referring specifically to four loudly critical rookie members of the House, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
All four happen to be minorities. Never mind that three of them were born in the United States and the fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar, is a naturalized American citizen from Somalia; it wiped out any competition in the demagoguery category.

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July 20, 2019

THE TRUMP DUMP

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

THE TRUMP DUMP
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What a sad debate between those who contend that Donald Trump fires off his increasingly hateful comments because he’s cleverly trying to distract and those who insist it’s because he simply has no impulse control. Is his racism uncontrolled or is it calculated, the worst form of demagoguery?
In spite of his halfhearted claim -- “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” -- he really makes no bones about the fact that he’s an out-and-out bigot. And here’s the scary part: It works. Look no further than his massive rallies, where thousands of his fans rattle the rooftops with rabid hatred. There he was the other night in Greenville, North Carolina, in what was supposed to be a show of strength after Bob Mueller publicly testified before Congress.
Call it counterprogramming for The Mueller Show, except that his hearings were put off a week at the last minute. Whatever damning testimony from the special counsel, whatever fuel he might have added to the Democrats’ impeachment fires, it’ll have to wait. Donald Trump will have to contrive some other storm next week to steal Mueller’s thunder.
Right now he has thrilled his hordes by wrapping himself in jingoism and prejudice once again, this time by attacking “The Squad.” That’s the group of four hard-left congresswomen who are inexperienced but loud enough to have become cable news and social media (same thing) supercelebrities. President Trump, who never misses an opportunity to cause his rabid base to collectively foam at the mouth, stooped to new lows with his ugly dog whistles. But this time he did not even bother to waste time with subtlety. He started off by tweeting an old slur that critics of the U.S. face, particularly those of color: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?”

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July 16, 2019

PRESIDENT BUNKER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2019

PRESIDENT BUNKER

It’s obvious to many people that our president, Donald Trump, is really Archie Bunker in the age of social media. Actually, in President Bunker’s small hands, it’s antisocial media, as his small mind cranks out old-fashioned racism.
The problem is, for a country that claims to be a democracy, we have to deal with Archie. He is our duly elected chief executive, after all. So it’s essential that Congress reach an occasional accommodation with him, otherwise do-or-die measures like raising the debt ceiling will be left undone, and the country will continue to wither.
Amping up the limit is crucial, otherwise the “full faith and credit” of the United States will become meaningless. Our government won’t be able to borrow or finance basic services because, for the first time in history, we will have welched on our obligations. While that might have been a normal way of operating when Donald Trump was in the private sector, even he seems to comprehend that it would ruin the U.S.
Many congressional Democrats are well aware that they have no choice but to hold their noses and reach an agreement with this blatant bigot. Even with his frequent eruptions of his deep-seated prejudice that spew to the surface, usually flooding his Twitter sewer.
It has happened again. Referring to the four newbie Democratic members of the House -- all women of color, all aggressively anti-establishment -- he managed to unite their party behind them, even as their know-it-all attitudes had been causing hard feelings with the more realistic members.
But all party squabbling was set aside after President Bunker tweeted the following from his White House bunker:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he tweeted.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

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July 13, 2019

IN DEFENSE OF BACK STABBING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY JULY 12, 2019

IN DEFENSE OF BACK STABBING
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I don't remember the first time I heard this, but it's been a while: "Things are so bad in Washington that they're stabbing each other in the front!" Backstabbing is a way of life, not just in world capitols, but across the planet, in government and certainly in politics. And for good reason. It works. Where is that truer than diplomacy? Just ask Sir Kim Darroch.
Darroch is now a household name as the former British ambassador to the United States. He's "former" because he got caught being candid and had to resign because of it. He had made his mark in Washington as a social butterfly, ingratiating himself with the powerful, particularly the Trumpsters. That included a swirl of parties at the British Embassy, where various highly placed government figures were constantly seen.
It's a platitude that the U.S. and the U.K. publicly enjoy a "special relationship" and even though that nation and this administration have had some prickly moments, when President Donald Trump decided to do London recently, he was greeted by all the pageantry the Brits could muster - and they do great pageantry. There was even time with the queen and tea with other royals. They spread it on thick.
At the same time, Darroch was sending cables to the home office describing Trump as "clumsy and inept," "radiating insecurity," and his administration as "Dysfunctional and "unpredictable."
All well and good, as long as his cables were super-secret, like they were supposed to be. But alas, the tabloid Daily Mail got hold of them. In this age of hacking, nothing is secret anymore. Certainly not old-timey diplomatic cables. And Donald Trump let loose with some vicious front-stabbing, using his favorite butcher block: Twitter.
He described Daarroch as "the wacky ambassador" and "a very stupid guy." Not "well liked," Trump ranted. Most damningly, he continued, "we will no longer deal with him." Well, that one was the killer. It is the ambassador's principal job to "deal" with the home government. So he had no choice but to write a take-this-job-and-shove-it letter. He had broken the first rule of backstabbing: "Don't get caught."

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July 9, 2019

THE FUTURE PAST TENSE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2019

THE FUTURE PAST TENSE
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Let’s give the highest praise possible to President Donald Trump: He didn’t mortify his country on Independence Day.
Other than his Revolutionary War airport thingy, he stuck to the script and gave a vanilla salute to the nation, which tries to overlook that most of its founders were slaveholders. He also choreographed a display of military might, a few flyovers and some tanks scattered around for good measure. Thanks to his staff’s frantic efforts, he even drew a good crowd.
But it’s time to engage in any pundit’s favorite pastime, which is forgetting the past and gazing at the future. As I’ve pointed out before, we enjoy it so much for two reasons: We pretend we have special insights, which, if true, would make our commentary worthwhile. Also, no one remembers our predictions, so there’s no harm in our being dead wrong. Consider us the prophets without particular knowledge. So onward and downward I go with my soothsaying act.
July 4, 2020: Put your money on the president doing another spectacle, a more spectacular spectacle next year. (Update: Since this was filed, he has said so, which just shows you which just goes to show you what an easy things this is) There will certainly be more tanks, more flyovers, more him. While this one ended up being relatively noncontroversial in that it did not embarrass him, the commander in chief got to show off his playthings, his toys of war, just like his autocratic friends do. Before you reproach me to say that he was really inspired by France’s Bastille Day festivities, it is true that the French leaders aren’t autocrats. Just a tad arrogant. But they do make great cheese. We just do cheesy. Anyway, save the date for the repeat next year, prominently featuring POTUS. Did I mention that he’ll be deep in the throes of running for re-election?

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July 6, 2019

ONE MAN RULE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2019

ONE MAN RULE
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What a whirlwind life President Donald Trump leads! One week he’s cavorting around Osaka, Japan, and Korea, networking with his various autocratic buddies. Then he heads home in time to muscle into the celebration of the independence of his home country and a system of government designed to shun absolute authority.
He chafes under his restrictions, and at the G-20 summit he had warmly compared notes with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all of whom have records of ruthlessly smothering dissent and unfavorable news coverage. On the way back, he stopped off for a pretend “I was in the neighborhood” drop-in with North Korea’s absolute dictator Kim Jong Un.
Clearly he has his moments of despot envy. Look no further than his thousands of tweets condemning unfavorable court rulings and reports from media he calls “enemies of the people,” just like Josef Stalin did. Recently he labeled a New York Times account of cyberwarfare with Russia “a virtual act of Treason,” an accusation the Times called “dangerous,” particularly since the paper had run the story past various national security officials in Trump’s own administration, and they had raised no objections.

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July 2, 2019

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2019

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
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President Donald Trump’s itinerary at the G-20 summit in Japan included a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government is accused of using dirty tricks to interfere in the U.S. election to sway things Trump’s way. As Trump was leaving the White House on his way there, reporters asked if he would bring the subject up and warn Putin and his people not to meddle in the 2020 campaign. Then it happened: “What I say to him,” Trump shot back, “is none of your business.”
With all due respect, Mr. President -- which I’ll admit is very, very little -- it is our business, not just of those covering him, but of every American. An informed citizenry is what a democracy is all about, so we can vote knowledgeably. That knowledge could start with a certain confidence that a foreign adversary is not mucking up the process and distorting the will of the people.
The special counsel investigation has credibly established that Putin’s propagandists successfully accomplished just that during the last go-round in 2016. Trump regards that not as a mystery, but a challenge to the very legitimacy of his presidency. He bristles when anyone suggests that he must do whatever it takes to avoid a recurrence, because to him, it didn’t occur in the first place.
Sometimes he deflects the issue with humor; sometimes not. But he was showing his comic side as he and Putin took questions before they began their talks behind closed doors. Would he warn the Russians not to meddle? “Of course,” said Trump, as he turned to Putin, who was sitting next to him with what passes for a smirk on Vladimir Putin’s face. “Don’t meddle in the election.”

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June 29, 2019

OPENING ACTS AND MAIN PERFORMANCES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2019

OPENING ACTS AND MAIN PERFORMANCES
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Now that the first Democratic debates of the 2020 election are history, so begins the party’s candidate-winnowing process. The consensus losers were Beto O’Rourke from night one, for reinforcing his image as a millennial empty suit, and Joe Biden on the second evening, whose shopworn suit was ripped by Kamala Harris. NBC, which held the debates, garnered substantial ratings, but those June numbers should pale in comparison with the upcoming July performance that promises to be the true summer blockbuster.
Get set for “The Bob Mueller Show”! It’ll have one run, July 17, although recordings of it, or at least excerpts, will be played for the rest of time -- or, at any rate, until the next crisis or outrage, which these days means it’ll have a shelf life of a nanosecond or two. It stars special counsel Robert Mueller in the title role, although the co-star is President Donald Trump who was the focus of Mueller’s investigation. It failed to hold Trump criminally accountable but did tease with its outlines of Trump’s conduct. Mueller will be publicly testifying before not one, but two congressional hearings, one following the other.

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June 25, 2019

MAGA-MIGA

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2019

MAGA-MIGA

He actually said it! While talking to reporters on his way to Camp David, he used the phrase “Make Iran Great Again”! Does this mean that President Donald Trump has ordered that Iran will join America in the Greatness Club? “MIGA” as opposed to “MAGA”? Of course, Trump insists that since he’s taken over, he’s already accomplished that for America. Could it be he’s branching out and that it’s Iran’s turn? Will there be new baseball caps with the slogan embroidered in Farsi? What will we do about the fact that Iranians call the United States “The Great Satan”?
But Trump said it, so he obviously meant it, like everything else. Perhaps it’s just another step in the wake of his decision not to respond with an attack against Iran after that country’s military shot down a U.S. drone. His determination, said Trump, was made just moments before a retaliation was launched and just after he had learned that the missiles would kill up to 150 Iranians,. That led Trump to decide on the spur of the moment the return operation wasn’t “proportionate.” Whether you entirely believe his version of events — and there’s every reason not to — or even feel it was highly embellished, it doesn’t matter. It was certainly a smart move. Did I mention that the drone was unmanned? It turns out that Iran had avoided another U.S. surveillance aircraft with about 35 living human beings aboard, so a fiery rain of death from the skies would be overkill, to say the least.

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June 22, 2019

ATTITUDES NOT PLATITUDES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2019

ATTITUDES NOT PLATITUDES
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We’ve all been lulled into believing that good manners will ultimately pay off, but let’s get real. The truth is, when people go low, you shouldn’t go high, as Michelle Obama famously advised. You should stomp the daylights out of them. Ifsomebody hits you, turn the other cheek -- and when the other guy has been faked out by that, beat the snot out of him. Similarly, forgiveness is for suckers. Actually, that one comes with an asterisk. If the offender is truly sorry, you might eventually decide to let bygones be bygones. But in general, civility is highly overrated.
Are you wondering why this rant is happening now (and maybe theorizing that I’ve forgotten to take my meds, which is always a safe guess, but not the reason this time)? The answer can be summed up in two words.No not those two words. I this case the two words are "Joe Biden".
Yes, Joe Biden, the former vice president who is now running a quaint campaign for the presidency. Not only is he presenting himself as an alternative to Donald Trump, but as an alternative to all those wild and crazy other Democrats who are seeking the same office he’s sought for decades.

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June 18, 2019

EMPTY LIVES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY JUNE 18, 2019
Editors: Note vulgarity in first graf.

EMPTY LIVES

In my role as a pundit-wannabe, I have always been strongly influenced by this single guiding principle: “If you can’t dazzle them with your genius, baffle them with your bull----.” In my world, it is a mortal sin not to have ready answers to any question, whether or not you know what you’re talking about. So, I’ve always dreamed, as I’ve mentioned before, that my fantasy live shot from Capitol Hill or the White House, or whatever styrofoam prop I was using, would go something like this:

Anchor: “And now for a report on what it all means, here is Action Eyewitness News correspondent Bob Franken. Bob, what does it all mean?”

Befuddled Bob: “I have no earthly idea.”

The truth is that it quite possibly is worthless rhetoric; much of what happens in politicsbiz is nothing more than empty sound bites or obnoxious social media distractions, like those from a certain president we all know. Donald Trump’s next book should be called “The Art of the Tweet.” He has an amazing ability to send us all atwitter with his every impulsive thought, whether it’s delivered by smartphone or the old-fashioned way, during a traditional TV interview.
So it was that his latest asininity escaped during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who asked whether he’d report it to the FBI if some foreign government offered him opposition research material on a political opponent. “It’s not an interference,” he blurted. “They have information. I think I’d take it.” Since he’s still accused among many of his non-believers of conspiring with Russia to win his election, that startled most of the TV babblers and the rest of us who get paid to look like we know everything. The truth is, we haven’t a clue after all this time whether he says this outrageous stuff because he’s an ignoramus with no impulse control or he’s a diabolically clever showman who knows how to distract us from the important stuff, like possibly starting a war with Iran.

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June 15, 2019

A BALLOONING INDEPENDENCE DAY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2019

A BALLOONING INDEPENDENCE DAY
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Let’s not get too excited over the plans of the protesters to bring over the hilarious “Baby Trump” balloon from London and put it aloft during the president’s Independence Day speech at the Lincoln Memorial. First of all, shouldn’t we remember the nation from whom we declared independence? Duh! July Fourth, after all, celebrates the self-evident truth that 243 years ago the founders declared they were cutting the cord with England. So why would we import anything from there for use on the Fourth? Besides, do you know the chances that our customs people would allow that illegal alien balloon through our ports if it tried to sneak in? The Brits would say chances are nil. We might describe it as, uh, a fat chance.
Americans: Where is your entrepreneurial spirit? Shouldn’t someone in the U.S. of A. make plans right now to mass produce our own Baby Trumps? Or at the very least, shouldn’t we follow the normal corporate model and manufacture them in China -- just like some MAGA hats are. (At least they are right now; we don’t know if they’d be covered if Trump really did level more tariffs on China.)

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June 11, 2019

OUTER SPACE FUNDRAISING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2019

OUTER-SPACE FUNDRAISING
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Surely we can agree that the people at NASA are showing some true ingenuity with their plans to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station. Starting next year, private citizens will be able to book space (pardon the pun) for up to 30 days at a rate of $35,000 a night. Contact your travel agent for a special deal on transportation and accommodations, for an initial bargain of about $60 million.
Of course, that's not counting the "resort fee" and not counting the tariffs that President Donald Trump will likely impose on souvenirs. Yes, the newly outfitted space hotel would certainly have a gift shop. Plus, we imagine there will be gambling, because there's bound to be a new Trump Casino, which would be his latest property acquisition since his hotel in D.C., widely known as the "Washington Emolument."
Now, why didn't I think of this? I have been the one to suggest so many ways to raise money for the government, particularly since revenue dropped precipitously with the latest GOP tax hike. Selling naming rights for government buildings like the Boeing Pentagon, turning the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay into luxury condos (the ultimate gated community) -- these have been just a few of my ideas that have become the stuff of legend. Actually, they have been totally ignored, but now that NASA is offering the vacation trip of a lifetime, maybe some of these other proposals will see finally see the light of day.

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June 8, 2019

THE GAME SHOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

THE GAME SHOW
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Let's play "Jeopardy," where the answers are questions. If Alex Trebek were to ask contestants to specify "A glaring contrast between Queen Elizabeth II and President Donald Trump," the correct response would be "What are class and crass?"
Of course, there are other differences between the two. The player says, "I'll take 'Liz and Don' for $400!" Alex would read, "The one who served in the military." The winning answer-question would be "Who is the Queen of England?" Certainly it's not the President of the United States. As we all know, Trump's rich daddy got a podiatrist to write up a diagnosis of bone spurs for his son, real or imagined, which meant that he got to avoid the draft. The queen, then princess, who had a rich daddy herself, begged and pleaded with him until he allowed her to enlist in England's uniformed Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II. She served as a mechanic and truck driver.
We'll never know if that thought crossed her royal mind as she sat beside the president during ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He certainly was on his best behavior and did nothing that would have turned the solemn commemoration from D-Day into T-Day.

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June 4, 2019

S & T FETISHIST

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BOB FRANKEN
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S&T FETISHIST
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As he exercises his Putin-given right as president to lay waste to the United States, it turns out that Donald Trump can really draw from only a very few weapons in his quiver as he causes all the traditional allies to quiver. When all else fails, he pulls out his favorite economy-piercing arrow: the tariff.
Got a problem with immigration? Shoot an escalating tariff at all things Mexico. Never mind that Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, after Canada and China, where he has also aimed the tariff arrows.
In the case of Mexico, because of the North American free trade agreement, the borders have little meaning when it comes to commerce. Crops move north constantly, a regular flow that keeps prices down. In manufacturing, assembly parts shuttle back and forth incessantly, so the accumulating tariffs would add to the price of just about every consumer good that we Americans purchase. The resulting downturn would mean American layoffs, lots of them. Mexicans also would be put out of work, making sure this economic debacle was spread evenly. That might be a perverse incentive for added numbers of them to try to sneak into the United States.
But when the Trumpster gets an idea in his head, particularly one whispered by his anti-immigration fanatic adviser Stephen Miller, it doesn’t matter whether the outrage is bipartisan or not, as it is in this case. He also doesn’t need the approval of his other aides, who oppose the idea as needlessly destructive to the economy; Trump fires his tariffs willy-nilly at any country that dares to irritate him.
As for those nations where trade is not a reality, like Iran or North Korea, he automatically turns to sanctions. Or blusters about sanctions, otherwise known as BS. Between sanctions and tariffs, the man clearly is an S&T fetishist.

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June 1, 2019

HIGH VOLUME QUIET

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2019

HIGH VOLUME QUIET
Eds: Note use of vulgarity “impeach this motherf-----” in graf 4
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In a toxic national environment that usually rewards loud, hateful bluster, it warms the heart to listen to points rendered far more effective by being delivered in an understated manner. “If you really want to be heard, whisper,” so the saying goes. When you need living proof, look no further than now ex-special counsel Bob Mueller, who joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in delivering soft jabs that do enormous damage to their antagonists.
Much has been made of Nancy Pelosi’s ability to clobber in such a demure way. A reader reminded that me that Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra put it this way: “She’ll cut your head off and you’ll never know you’re bleeding.” Note that Mueller is another one who gets a rise without raising his voice. He was even retiring while retiring.
He broke his long silence with the public announcement that he was officially ending his term as the special counsel investigating all things Donald Trump. Well, he sorta broke his silence, coming close to mumbling his way through his statement. In the process, he laid waste to Trump’s “no collusion, no obstruction” bleating, and left little doubt that a man who wasn’t president of the United States would have been prosecuted for obstruction of justice: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said in the hushest of tones. There are Justice Department constraints, he murmured, on pursuing criminal action against a chief executive.

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May 29, 2019

WRESTLING WITH THE NATION'S BUSINESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2019

WRESTLING WITH THE NATION'S BUSINESS
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I avoid making fun of someone’s physical appearance. I really do. But I’m totally struggling here, folks. All I can say is that the White House image mavens who allowed Donald Trump to be seen with a 390-pound sumo wrestler in Tokyo really blew it.
I can’t imagine how it was that Donald Trump, who is all about branding, would agree to such a setup, which is made for ridicule and fat jokes from those who are insensitive. In this modern era where we have crossed that one-way troll bridge to anti-social media nastiness, that means just about everyone.
Usually, it’s Trump who’s mud wrestling on Twitter, oozing out his insults and setting the tone for what passes as political debate in the not-really-United States. Among his latest targets is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pressed his buttons with her understated insults. All he can do is have his putrid posse distort videos of her, and call her names like “Crazy Nancy.” By the way, which is it -- “Crazy Nancy” or “Crazy Bernie”? His repetition shows how rattled he is; that or he’s lost his creative insult touch.

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May 25, 2019

OUR "OBNOXIOUS" POLITICIANS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2019

OUR "OBNOXIOUS" POLITICIANS
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Pardon the name-dropping, but according to James Madison’s notes, Benjamin Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention was supporting the necessity for impeachment when a high official has “rendered himself obnoxious.” It’s a crying shame they settled on only “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Those terms are so sedate compared with “rendered himself obnoxious.” Besides, just what are “high crimes and misdemeanors”? The answer, for the U.S. House of Representatives, is whatever a majority of its members says they are. Of course, that’s also the case with “obnoxious.”
The Democrats, who hold the majority these days, are doing what Democrats always do, running around all over the place like they’re in a Mack Sennett slapstick comedy. That’s not to be confused with a Senate comedy, where the actors don’t move at all. But I digress.
Right now, the House Democrats are in unanimous agreement that President Donald Trump “rendered himself obnoxious” with his very first breath, but they can’t get together on whether they should stop tippy-toeing and stomp ahead with impeachment.
Their leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the others in her team who have been around the track for several decades, hold firm to the idea that it’s tactically a lousy idea. It simply gives Trump something to jolt his supporters, as if they need jolting. Besides, House leaders insist, impeachment wouldn’t amount to much, because the Republican-dominated Senate will not come anywhere near voting to remove Trump from office, which, after all, would seem to be the point.

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May 21, 2019

TOO LATE FOR CENSORSHIP

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2019

TOO LATE FOR CENSORSHIP
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They say that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I never quite figured out who “they” are, but they say it. Like that broken clock, when President Donald Trump complained recently about social media censorship, he was onto something. We should be very concerned when Facebook executives decide to kick somebody off their social media site just because the offender is anti-social.
Actually, the term they use is “dangerous individuals.” and arguably what these expelled guys regularly spew out is dangerously crazy. Alex Jones was given the boot, along with removal of links to his Infowars site, which constantly puts out extremist conspiracy theories. So was Louis Farrakhan, but most of those on the do-not-vie list were either on the far right, or even further right, out there in Goofyland.
The problem with censorship is in who decides who’s dangerous. One guy’s “dangerous” is another one’s provocative or perhaps someone who is just a worthwhile but annoying dissenter. Do you want Mark Zuckerberg, some other techie or businessman or, most ominously, a government official deciding who’s “dangerous”? Obviously, the bozos who were kicked off Facebook (and Instagram, too) have a screw loose. Society would be a better place if their fantasies were not shared with anyone, much less everyone on the planet, but who draws the line?
But like the broken clock, whenever Trump happens onto a correct point of view, it’s a momentary stop before he ticks toward another con. So it is with his take on social media censorship.

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May 18, 2019

THE DEM FLOCK

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2019

THE DEM FLOCK
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Quick -- name all the Democratic candidates for president. There are only 23 of them, now that Gotham Mayor Bill de Blasio has joined the hunt. It's not enough that so many New Yorkers hate him; he wants to go nationwide. Of course, most New Yorkers hate everyone. Just look at Donald Trump.
But of the Democrats, how many can you recall? Maybe it would help to have some clues. Who is the old white guy running far to the left? Bernie Sanders, of course. Not to be confused with the old white guy who wants to be all things to all people. That's Joe Biden. The best way to keep them apart in your mind is their personalities: Biden is Mr. Congeniality; Sanders definitely is not.
Nor is Elizabeth Warren, who resembles Bernie in ideas and disposition; of course there's the gender thing too. Sen. Warren is not an old white guy. She is 69 years old. You can decide whether that makes her an old white woman, particularly since she's younger than both Sanders (77) and Biden (76). You also can decide whether you give a hoot about age, since she's younger than Trump, who is nearly 73. Chances are, you've heard of him.
If you are into that generational thing, perhaps your taste runs to the youngsters. There's that guy with the last name no one can pronounce, Pete Buttigieg. He's just 37, a mere two years above the constitutional minimum. He'll turn 39 on Jan. 19, 2121, which is just a day before Inauguration Day. What a celebration that would be. Might be.
Also in the March of the Millennials is Beto O'Rourke. Do you remember him? For a while he was leading the parade -- he even had the Vanity Fair cover imprimatur. But he's faded and now promises a redo, telling Rachel Maddow, "I recognize that I can do a better job."

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May 14, 2019

TRUMP DEPENDENCE DAY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019

TRUMP DEPENDENCE DAY
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Ever since he made that trip to Paris in July 2017, President Trump has tried to steal Bastille Day. Trump watched all the grandeur of the French national day -- accumulated over 230 years since the storming of the Bastille -- and saw it, as he always does, as a personal branding opportunity.
First, he promoted the idea of a massive parade, perhaps on Veterans Day, in the fall, featuring the U.S. armed forces and most of all featuring him. He’d review the troops from a special platform, just like the French president does. That plan never got off the drawing board for logistical and expense reasons, and because it was laughed out of the room. Plus, let’s face it: France has better cheese than we do. That was merely a challenge to Donald Trump’s “America First” cheesiness. One might have thought that his attempted display of ostentatious narcissism would be a lesson learned. One definitely would be wrong.

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May 11, 2019

TWO WORDS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2019

TWO WORDS
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May 1, 2003: Then-President George W. Bush landed in a jet on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to announce that just a few weeks after his Iraq invasion, all major battlefield operations would end. It was a made-for-television event. Dominating the picture was a huge sign declaring "Mission Accomplished." Thousands of combat deaths later, the banner has been so scornfully ridiculed that even Bush admitted he wished it hadn't been used.
May 7, 2019: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell takes to the Senate floor. He derided Democrats' insistence on pushing for congressional investigations of President Donald Trump, even though special counsel Robert Mueller's probe had landed with such an inconclusive thud. "Case closed," said the Republican leader in his most memorable two-word sound snippet.
Then and now, the best retort might also be summed up in two words: "wishful thinking." (You were expecting two different words?) Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who has never in his life uttered just two words, summed things up with this: "Our leader saying 'let's move on' is sort of like Richard Nixon saying 'let's move on' at the height of the investigation into his wrongdoing."
His fellow Democrats over on the House side, where they now hold a majority, are bellowing a three-word response every chance they get: "Contempt of Congress." That's because the administration has decided to refuse every attempt to coerce its figures to appear in person before House committees or to produce any of the tons of documents the House has identified as necessary to pursue all manner of wrongdoing by Donald Trump. Attorney General William Barr, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and anybody in the White House or ever remotely connected to The Donald are being instructed to give their own two-word response.

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May 7, 2019

TABLE GAMES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2019

TABLE GAMES
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"All options are on the table." It's one of my favorite cliches, mainly because it really says nothing. It's constantly used by U.S. officials who are trying to appear tough at the same time they have no earthly idea what they're doing. Since the age of Donald Trump is defined by constant crises and since the Trump administration has no earthly idea what it's doing, the phrase is uttered almost daily.
We hear it a lot these days when it comes to Venezuela and the hostile Nicolas Maduro, who is, in effect, giving a gesture of defiance to the United States simply by remaining in power. (Do I need to spell out which gesture?) We have every administration foreign-policy type repeatedly stating that "all options are on the table." John Bolton, the White House national security adviser and all-around wild man, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan all say it, as does Vice President Mike Pence and press secretary Sarah Sanders. If Sanders says that all options are on the table, does it really mean that all options are not on the table, given her disregard for the truth?
Did Donald Trump use the expression when he was having his telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin? Or did Putin himself, who has some operatives in Venezuela, declare "vse varianty na stole"?

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May 4, 2019

SHOWBIZ-POLITICSBIZ

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2019

SHOWBIZ-POLITICSBIZ
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Back when I was a TV local newspup, I met Muhammad Ali to do an interview. This was during his boxing days. While my video person set up, I discovered, to my utter surprise, during our chat, that he was friendly but soft-spoken and cordial, the exact opposite of his loud, brash shtick.
Then it was time for the camera to roll. Ali immediately accelerated into his high-volume, “I am the greatest!” manic patter. When we finished, it was back to normal conversation till we parted. Thousands, if not millions, of people experienced his gracious side, not including Howard Cosell.
Now, several decades later, we can witness that same dynamic from the opposite edge of humanity. Ali was a demigod; Donald Trump and so many politicians are demagogues. But they have one trait in common: They are slapstick entertainers. When the camera turns on, they turn on.
That’s why, when it was time for a bipartisan meeting at the White House recently to discuss one possible political agreement -- coming up with legislation addressing the desperate need to repair and replace the nation’s crumbling physical infrastructure -- the Democrats had one request: cameras should be kept out of the room. They had been burned by open coverage of their last big meeting when Trump decided he’d turn it into a verbal circus. As a result, we suffered through a record-breaking government shutdown. The Democrats really wanted to avoid a similar outcome, so they requested that their meeting be held behind closed doors.

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April 30, 2019

SAME OLD SAME OLD?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2019

SAME OLD SAME OLD?
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Is Donald Trump slipping? In his endless quest to give everyone a derogatory nickname, he's now calling Joe Biden "Sleepy Joe." It's not clear why he's calling him "Sleepy," but it might be a typo. Perhaps, he meant "Sloppy Joe." That would be spicier.
Then again, maybe that's Trump's subtle way of mocking Biden's age. Or maybe not, since one thing we've learned about The Donald is that he's not subtle. The problem for him is he's nearly as old as Biden. Neither of them matches Bernie Sanders, who is so crotchety that he's in a geriatric class by himself.
President Trump still insists that even though he's a senior, he's actually a freshman: "I just feel like a young man. I'm so young. I can't believe it. I'm the youngest person. I am a young, vibrant man."
Now, there are those tacky enough to say that he acts like a kid barely past puberty, flooded with hormones, but let's set that one aside for now. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it's a pity that youth is wasted on the old. Or on the pretense of youth.

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April 27, 2019

UNITED STATES OF PHONY CLICHES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF PHONY CLICHES
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I think we can agree that we as a country give lip service to the concept of the rule of law. Unfortunately, what we actually have is a rule of lawyers. The stated ideal is literally chiseled in marble over the entrance to the Supreme Court -- “Equal Justice Under Law.” Lofty. Or it would be if it wasn’t largely a lie in the United States.
Nevertheless, that’s the argument these days from those who contend that President Donald Trump should be removed from office to prove that “no man is above the law,” which is part of the same lie. Almost always, someone can avoid appropriate punishment for the most egregious misdeeds if he or she has enough money. It takes a ton of it to afford the exorbitant fees of attorneys whose ultimate skill is getting the wealthy but guilty client off by unleashing an impenetrable legal smokescreen. It is true that you and I are not above the law -- in fact, we can get crushed by it. But for those lucky enough to have the resources (meaning huge bank accounts) to pay for all those billable hours, punishment for even the most abhorrent violations can be deflected.
For the most devious corporations, which created failed products or services because of negligence, profit-mongering or worse, whatever fine that might be assessed is just a cost of doing business. So when debating about whether or not President Trump is getting away with whatever he gets away with, he’s certainly not the only one who disproves that “no man is above the law.” Just like “rule of law” it is a phony platitude in the United States.

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April 23, 2019

IMPEACHMENT WASTE OF TIME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2019

IMPEACHMENT WASTE OF TIME

Impeach Donald Trump? What a bad idea for the Democrats, in spite of the pressure from the party’s left flank, and in spite of various presidential candidates, like Elizabeth Warren, pandering to the ultra-progressives. After all, the ultimate goal of a House of Representatives impeachment is to set up the Senate to remove him from office. In a rough form, it’s kind of like an indictment and trial. Actually, in the Senate it’s called a “trial,” nothing rough about it. One would think that with the Democratic majority in the House, impeachment, at least, would be a lock.
That’s not necessarily the case. A lot of the Democrats who are there hail from districts that are normally conservative. They benefited from the fact that their voters were turned off by the boorishness of the Trumpster — so much so that they ignored their normal Republican instincts and elected a Democrat. So that Democrat knows full well she or he is on shaky ground. Those rookies might not be inclined to vote for impeachment if the pollsters tell them that the voters are sick and tired of the rough-and-tumble games of politics. There would be nothing rougher and tumbler ... or gamier ... than an impeachment fight with the Trump forces, led by a man who finds it impossible to hit above the belt. So, it’s plausible that even a Democratic-majority House would vote not to impeach. What an embarrassment that would be. No wonder Nancy Pelosi and her long-experienced team of leaders range between caution about the whole idea and outright rejection.

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April 20, 2019

HOLIDAY DUMPING GROUNDS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2019

HOLIDAY DUMPING GROUNDS

Editors: Please note use of profanity in Trump quote, graf 4.

Before we get too worked up at Attorney General William Barr for his cheesiness in scheduling the release of the partially full report of Robert Mueller’s investigation for when very few people would be around to pay attention, let’s remember that it could be worse. It’s true that Barr is quickly establishing a reputation for being just another Donald Trump shill. He conveniently decided that the intensely controversial document could be put out only right before the Easter weekend, smack-dab in the middle of spring break, when members of Congress and so many others are out partying.
This is worse timing than the usual “Friday night dump,” which is when sleazy politicians make public information about their unseemly activities when others are distracted by weekend time off. Even with a couple of days warning so all the reporters and analysts could break their family plans (remember, in D.C., water runs thicker than blood), it was still a big cluster scramble for us to go on TV and/or write our columns after absorbing all the available documents. Frequently, we did so before we had read the stuff, or thought about it, meaning we didn’t have any earthly idea what we were talking about.

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April 16, 2019

PRESIDENTIAL CON

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2019

PRESIDENTIAL CON
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We should do better, but how can we? By “we,” I mean media wretches -- the purveyors, so President Donald Trump charges, of “fake news.” The reality is that we constantly deal in his fake spews of outrageous controversy, which he concocts to feed his insatiable need for attention, and our perpetual need to have something to feed our beasts.
Astronomers made a big deal about actually photographing a black hole; we all know that it doesn’t compare with the black hole that is Donald Trump’s desperate inner child. But what can we do? As journalists, we can’t just ignore the guy. He is, after all, our emperor. Thankfully, he does have clothes -- one dark suit and a red tie that’s too long -- but imagine the alternative. If the expression “Don’t go there” ever had meaning, this would be it.
The point is that he sucks us into the fake ooze of his latest contrivance. No matter how preposterous, we run with it, breathlessly reporting the absurdity du jour, while various news networks convene a panel of “experts” who chew on whatever nonsense he has dreamed up until it’s mush. What does it all mean? Is he really going to do that? What would be the impact if he actually did? What will the courts say? How will Congress react? What about big business, which bribes Congress? After a few hours, or until he is alone in the dark recesses of Twitter, the Trumpster will tire of that heap and create new garbage. This not only starts a new cycle, it also allows him to control the entire news agenda.

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April 13, 2019

THE TOADY SHOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2019

THE TOADY SHOW
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Mike Pence had better watch his back. There may be others in the Trump orbit who are aiming to take over his SSS role. That stands for "Shameless Simpering Sycophancy," and Pence has excelled as the Don's best ring-kisser in an administration mob where the key to keeping your job is a willingness to kiss the boss's whatever, if you get my drift.
It's Pence's most important role. In fact, as vice president, it's really his only role. And he has embraced it. (Can we say "embraced" these days?) Who will ever forget the recent Cabinet speech where he buttered up the Trumpster every 12 seconds? He was "humbled" to work for him; it was a "blessing" to do so. He is the SSS kisser in chief.
Not that he doesn't have to constantly guard against competition. Steve Miller comes to mind; he's the White House speechwriter and anti-immigration fanatic who is constantly whispering in the president's ears and inciting his darkest impulses, which are his only impulses. Another Steve, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, is someone else who has survived by blowing smoke all over POTUS. There are many, many others in the groveler category who keep their jobs that way. Mnuchin's latest is to refuse to turn over the Trump tax returns, legally demanded by the new Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In effect, he's saying "so sue me," which delights the boss man. When the chief says "jump," they say, "How high?" Perhaps that's why they call it toadying.

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April 9, 2019

TOUCHY-FEELY TOUCHY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2019

TOUCHY-FEELY TOUCHY
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And here I thought that “tactile” was something you did while playing football. Silly me. In the contact sport known as politics, it suddenly means “trouble.” The online dictionary defines it as “of pertaining to, endowed with, or affecting the sense of touch.”
Here’s how to use it in a sentence: “Joe Biden is really tactile.” Or, if you believe his video: “Joe Biden WAS really tactile.” After a lifetime of grip-and-grin campaigning -- where the cuddle or nuzzle was the way you showed compassion, phony or not -- now he is learning the hard way that so much of his warm and fuzzy hair-sniffing and nose-rubbing was unwelcome, intimidating, an invasion of space and paternalistic, particularly when the recipient was female. In this day and age, even when everyone insists that they never suspected anything sexual, some have stepped forward to say that he was creepy or they were bugged when Biden hugged them or otherwise showed physical familiarity.
There are several perspectives to this. Among them is that it’s generational. Joe Biden is an old-school politician, the kind who always puts his hand on your back or around your shoulder. Just look at wide shots of the U.S. Senate floor on C-SPAN; you’ll still see the members doing it. It is often insincere, but let’s stipulate that it’s preferable to holding a knife and backstabbing their colleagues in public. They can do that when they’re off camera. That’s been Joe Biden’s world and the way that politics has been done for eons. Until now, that is.

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April 6, 2019

TRUMP WHACK ATTACKS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2019

TRUMP WHACK ATTACKS
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President Trump obviously loves playing whack-a-mole. You know, the amusement-park game where once a thingy is knocked back into a hole, another one pops up somewhere nearby. Trump is a political whack-a-mole wizard. Just as his carnival roadies tamp down one of his outrageous controversies, another one explodes. Did he go too far, though, with his guacamole whack-a-mole?
To review the record on the past few moves in his never-be-bored game: Just as Donald Trump was taking a misleading and totally premature victory lap after special counsel Robert Mueller, for reasons yet unknown, decided he didn’t have enough on Trump to prosecute him, he tripped himself up by firing off another, uh, donnybrook. This time it was the health care issue that his fellow Republicans have been avoiding like the plague since they took a battering in the midterms for their constant efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. But President Plague was not to be avoided.
Here was Captain Trump, venturing still again where no one else in his party wanted him to go. He instructed his Justice Department to support a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that would gut the Affordable Care Act. Typically, he kept that one alive for a few days, until his horrified advisers and equally horrified supporters in Congress convinced him they’d be badly burned in the next election. More importantly to him, he’d be badly burned.

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April 2, 2019

TRUMP AND HIS REPORTER BUDDIES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2019

TRUMP AND HIS REPORTER BUDDIES
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Do you know what’s fake about the expression “fake news”? It’s bogus. Donald Trump, who famously deflects any unflattering story as “fake news” and who incites his followers against media, is really just being phony, in that he is really friendly with many newspeople, the very ones he condemns as “enemies of the people.”
We have so much in common: He knows full well that any story about him is better than no story. At the same time, we shrivel up without stories to report. We also are alike in that any reporter worth his or her salt is insecure and he is clearly motivated by insecurity. The more outlandish his behavior and rhetoric, the more he demonstrates a deep psychological need to always be the center of attention.
That incessant focus on himself works by the way. The scared little rabbit has had huge financial success by his buffoonish distractions from one failure after another. Before you scoff at my lack of professional credentials to make such a judgment, the truth is you don’t need any expertise to figure that out. So he obviously can relate to us.

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March 30, 2019

OFFENSIVE TO DEFENSIVE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019

OFFENSIVE TO DEFENSIVE
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Donald Trump’s enemies are in agony after Bob Mueller’s probe did not uncover sufficient evidence that candidate Trump and his people had colluded with the Russians. Meanwhile, he and his supporters are in a vengeful bliss.
But not so fast: There is ample evidence of collusion, all right -- of President Trump colluding with the Democrats. That could be the explanation for what possessed the Trump Department of Justice to file a legal brief in support of doing away entirely with Obamacare.
Actually, what Justice did -- over the reported objections of Attorney General William Barr (you remember him: the guy who glossed over the Mueller report) -- was to abandon its position defending the Affordable Care Act from elimination before an appeals court considering just that. If that position prevailed, it would be “Goodbye, ACA,” along with its hugely popular protection for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Can you believe it? Obamacare has gotten popular over the years. So the Republicans had gotten pummeled in the midterm election over their longstanding efforts to “repeal and replace” it. Their years of attempting to sabotage what is now accepted as a better-than-nothing health care system had caught up with them.

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March 26, 2019

ANOTHER WEEKEND BUSTED

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2019

ANOTHER WEEKEND BUSTED
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One lesson the Washington reporter learns very quickly is that he or she should never EVER have unbreakable plans for the weekend. It’s a major strain on the relationships that newspersons have with significant others who can accept only so many disappointments resulting from the Friday night news dump.
The unpredictable dump has become sadly predictable. For good reasons and bad, officials wait until most people have stopped paying attention because they’re focusing on their Saturday and Sunday activities, errands and fun stuff, and not on the incessant scandals that define politics. That’s why Friday evening becomes the preferred time to release the definitive reports, to minimize embarrassment when sane people aren’t watching. But we are, and must scramble to cover the new developments.
To be fair, there are honorable reasons to delay the blockbusters; for instance, to reduce the jolt to the financial markets, which are always looking for some reason to crater . They are closed until Monday, when the impact of overcoverage might have dulled. So it was with news that the final report from special counsel Robert Mueller had been delivered to Attorney General William Barr at about 5 p.m. Friday.

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March 23, 2019

THE TWITTER DIAGNOSIS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2019

THE TWITTER DIAGNOSIS
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At one point during a 2016 presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump was citing possible culprits for the hacking of Democrats’ emails. He was his usual sensitive self: “It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?” Was he projecting, talking about himself in his pajamas communicating his dark thoughts through his devices? He’s been a wild man recently.
You have your morning routine; President Trump has his. The first thing he does after he awakens is to take a tweet -- lots of them -- to start his day. It’s a Twitter shower before he gets to anything else. On a recent Sunday, he began before 5:30 a.m., ripping into the “fake news media” and, before the day was through, cyberattacking many of his favorite enemies. This multimillionaire who holds the highest office in the land has a ton of grievances, and it’s an ever-growing list.
It was a combination of old and new that day and night: General Motors, for closing an auto plant, and his grudge against John McCain -- he’s been on a nonstop tirade about McCain, who has been dead for seven months. He’s also attacked social media companies like Twitter for suppressing Republican points of view. This might surprise some, considering how he was twittering those hard feelings.

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March 19, 2019

THE FINAL FOUR

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2019

THE FINAL FOUR
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The Democrats could use some sex education. Right now, their candidates are multiplying like crazy, all clamoring for that top berth on the party’s presidential ticket. They’re clearly in need of some berth control.
Absent any family planning, however, they’ll keep sprouting -- young sprouts and old ones, black and white, male, female and alternative. There’s even an avatar named Beto. Beto O’Rourke is an empty baseball-cap-wearing concoction of millennial cliches, sharing every facet of his existence on social media.
Naturally, like every new bright, shiny object, he’s seduced the media, even scoring big wet kisses from Vanity Fair and Oprah. You don’t play the superficiality field better than that. His pronouncements are innocuous platitudes clearly aimed at the younger generation, but they borrow heavily from previous ones. Beto:
“We must all ask what each of us can give to this country and to the people who will inherit the consequences of our choices.”
Is it just coincidence, or is that borrowed from an applause line delivered more than 58 years ago by John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address? “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”

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March 16, 2019

THE REAL AMERIICAN ECONOMIC LESSSON

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019

THE REAL AMERICAN ECONOMIC LESSON
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Actually, the college admission bribery case, where rich, doting parents bribed their underachieving offspring into elite universities, is a possible scandal within a scandal. It is true that the U.S. Department of Justice indicted several wealthy individuals, including movie stars, for allegedly paying a fixer and athletic coaches, among others, to help their kiddies cheat their way into various prestige schools. But go back and reread the list of affected institutions at the highest levels of higher education. Notice which one is not mentioned. That’s right, Trump University is nowhere to be found.
How could that be? Is there some hidden chicanery involved? Did the Trump administration’s Justice Department just turn a blind eye to please the boss? An inquiring mind wants to know. Oh wait, isn’t that similar to “An Enquiring Mind Wants to Know,” which was the slogan for the National Enquirer back in the days when it was “catching and killing” stories about Donald Trump fooling around? That’s still reverberating today, still being probed. Should Bob Mueller sic his investigators to determine if there was any collusion involved in the exclusion of Trump U?
Or is there an innocent explanation, like the fact that T.U. is now defunct (D.T.U.?) Or that it wasn’t ilisted in the U.S. News and World Report’s catalog of colleges even when it was still funct, unless U.S News had a scam category. Then again, the magazine also didn’t include Deep State University.

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March 12, 2019

FIRING LINES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2019

FIRING LINES
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I’ve always wanted host a telecast and start it off with, “A hearty welcome to our dozens of viewers around the world.” Alas, there would always be some humorless executives (I know, a redundancy) who would refuse to allow it. Perhaps they wouldn’t want to call attention to the fact that many of my programs could, in fact, count the audience in the dozens.
In those cases, it wouldn’t be long before they either replaced me on the show or just canceled it. They wouldn’t announce that I had been a total loser. No, they’d mercifully cushion the truth, stating that I had been “reassigned.” Never mind that I would work out my contract on the overnight shift, reporting on sports, with an emphasis on curling. My main competition on the other channels would be infomercials. Those details wouldn’t be spelled out.
My dozens of readers might remember how I’m fascinated by the way we go to such lengths to camouflage failure. The memo declaring that someone has been fired never say it that way. Usually that terminated someone “resigned,” and the suddenly former employer always, always will “wish him well,” which really means “may the scumbag burn in hell.”

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March 9, 2019

THE POLITICAL KENNEL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2019

THE POLITICAL KENNEL
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Donald Trump definitely is not introspective. If he thought about it, he’d probably decide that such self-reflection is navel-gazing and a total waste of time. But, of course, since he’s not introspective, he’s never thought about it. Whatever bubbles up from the Trump sump of his mind dumps out of his mouth, with no regard for what it fouls in the process. His millions of minions love it. They roared last weekend in gusty approval at the Conservative Political Action Conference as the Trumpster let fly with a two-hour toxic stream of consciousness. Never mind that it was riddled with inaccuracies (a polite way of saying “distortions,” which is a polite way of saying “lies”) -- it didn’t matter to the rabid crowd, and it certainly didn’t matter to their president. It seems that no matter how many times his bigotry or ignorance is identified, he doesn’t ever deflate. In fact, his gas only inflates him. To his base, his ugliness is beautiful.

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March 5, 2019

REFORM SCHOOL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019

REFORM SCHOOL
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Reform is inevitably a difficult process, and not just for the reformees. It’s particularly painful for the reformers, no matter how meritorious their cause. Who would admit opposing fundamental changes to a health care system in this country that is glaringly overpriced and significantly underperforms? Who would resist efforts to rescue the planet from boiling away? As the reformers are learning, once they stop preaching to their own choirs and face off against those who benefit and prosper from the current setups -- like the insurance companies or the energy corporations -- their entrenched adversaries will do anything in their power to maintain things just the way they are.
The latest batch of reformers who have thundered into Washington armed with what they believe to be these obvious needs for change are facing a harsh reality. They are learning that our political system is sullied by foul play that protects the interests of those who pay for things. The real “deep state” in this country is the deep status quo protectors and their bought-and-paid-for officeholders. Their propagandists churn out a steady diatribe of accusations that those seeking change are “radicals,” or even worse, “socialists” who would destroy the American way. Seriously.

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March 2, 2019

FAQ NEWS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2019

FAQ NEWS
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I’ve always appreciated the Frequently Asked Questions format. There are few techniques that offer the kind of superficial understanding I prefer like FAQs. So here is my Michael Cohen FAQ finder:

Whom do you believe: Michael Cohen, or Donald Trump and the Republican members of Congress who spoke out for the president at that televised hearing?

None of them. When Cohen claims that he’s seeking “redemption” for his decade of lying for Trump, he’s really saying that he’s still seeking still more sentence reduction by cooperating with investigators and spilling his guts wherever it works to his advantage.
He’s miraculously transformed from the most offensive defender of his client (Trump) to a virtuous protector of our nation. As for the GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee who nearly foamed at the mouth as they made those very points, they were singularly motivated by their efforts to curry favor with The Donald. In other words, they know who controls their party, and they know that they must kiss the ring of their Don.
Still, some of them, in the midst of their tirades, did manage to ask good questions; like Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.: “Are you really sorry for what you did, or you just got caught?” The answer to that one seems to be that Cohen is “really sorry” he “got caught.” He’s trying to make the most of it by biting the hand that fed him, then try to survive prison and -- if he maintains his sanity after looking over his shoulders for some Trump supporter paid to do him harm -- work any sort of deal after he’s served his sentence. Maybe a book will be in the cards, perhaps even a movie. To demonstrate that he has no shame whatsoever, Cohen might even consider becoming a pundit. It doesn’t get lower than that.

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February 26, 2019

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SKEPTICISM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 26, 2019

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SKEPTICISM
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Let's be fair to Donald Trump. No, seriously. That's not a joke. When it comes time to judge the presidential candidates, we should remember what they say about geese and ganders, and apply the same standards to all members of this growing gaggle.
In other bords, both males and females of this species should get equal treatment. That's where the fairness to the biggest goose of all comes in. A presidential campaign by anyone should be a brutal trial by fire.
We hear nonstop from those who want Trump out of the White House that anything goes, even to the point of judging his opponents less harshly. This favord treatment particularly seems to apply to those of the female persuasion. Already we are hearing complaints that women candidates are being required to cope with personal questions that the men are not. Their romantic relationships in the past is one (Kamala Harris); how abusive they have been to their subordinates is another (Amy Klobuchar). "Double standard," their supporters bellow. "Guys are not held to the same criteria."
The truth is though that Donald Trump has been. In fact, he has built up his brand by bragging about his sexual adventures, most of them anyway. That's not counting the stripper who showed up late in the game, nor that Playboy model. The demands he puts on his staff is the stuff of dark legend, to say nothing of the way he's stiffed those with whom he's done business. His life is an open book titled "The Art of Self-Aggrandizement" or something like that. No one can claim that he's being judged more harshly because he's a man. It's a toxic but gender-neutral story, hanging out there for all to compare. What it means to the others is that there really isn't a question that's too impertinent to ask.

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February 23, 2019

KISSING GOODBYE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 22, 2019

KISSING GOODBYE

Anybody who’s watched the cheesiest Mafia movie knows that when the Don plants the “kiss of death” on someone, that someone is not long for this world. In the newest version of the even more cheesy drama of politics, the Donald’s kiss of death probably would mean the same thing if he and his administration didn’t so resemble “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Not that he hasn’t tried.
Recently, it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whom Donald Trump tried to kill with kindness. In one tweet, he gushed, “I give her a great deal of credit for what she’s done and what she’s accomplished.” Those “kind” words didn’t stop her from gently stomping all over him during their battle over wall funding, nor did it prevent her from mocking him at his State of the Union speech, with her faux respectful applause gesture, which was really the mannerly version of an extended middle finger.
Now he’s trying to butter up Bernie Sanders, who has just announced that he’ll be running for president again, joining the herd of other Democrats already in the barnyard, with plenty more clamoring to join them/ President Trump wasted no time offering this faint praise of Sanders to reporters in the Oval Office: “Personally I think he missed his time. But I like Bernie because he’s -- he is one person that, you know, he sort of would agree on trade.” Of course he called him “Crazy Bernie,” in a tweet, reviving his 2016 nickname.

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February 20, 2019

PRESIDENTS' DAY HUSTLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 19, 2019

PRESIDENTS' DAY HUSTLE
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One can only assume that you used the annual Presidents Day to reflect on the current one, Number 45. No? How about if I say that like so many patriotic holidays, it has devolved into a mere commercial enterprise of contrived sales events or promotions. In that realm, President Donald Trump is No. 1, the huckster-in-chief.
Before he went off to recharge his batteries at Mar-a-Lago, aka Botoxlandia, he left behind a message for all in Washington, those whose job it is to try to figure out his latest incoherent comments. The rants in question came at another of his bizarre news conferences (a gross redundancy). These are always opportunities for him to drop his verbal nuggets of fool's gold, allowing him to stir the pot and leave everybody who hears his free association to question his sanity, honesty or at least his impulse control.

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February 16, 2019

BS WORDS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2019

BS WORDS

It's already begun. With the first serious discussion of "Medicare-for-all," meaning government-financed health care, and with the introduction of the so-called Green New Deal, those on the right, and even those who get away with describing themselves as "moderates" (as opposed, I suppose, to "IMmoderates"), are flinging around the S-word like it's the ultimate pejorative.
Oh F-word it, let's be clear: They're braying about -- gasp -- "SOCIALISM." To borrow from the "The Music Man," it starts with an "S" and that rhymes with "mess." So, what is this scourge? (That also starts with an "S." See how it all falls together?) My online dictionary defines "socialism" as, "A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole."
In the U.S. of A., socialism is routinely conflated by demagogues with the C-word, "communism," or the M-word, "Marxism." They are used as nouns or turned into adjectives like "commie plot" or "commie perverts" (sometimes pronounced "preverts"). So a departure from economic Darwinism is tarred as the road to ruin. Less government, in this rendering, is always better. It's the American way.

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February 12, 2019

SMARMY VS. SMART


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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 12, 2019

SMARMY VS. SMART
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When it comes to stories, most of us prefer trashy over technical. Tacky trumps substance. Or these days, attack-y Trump deflects substance. That certainly could explain the decidedly non-substantive high interest in Jeff Bezos, one of President Tweet's favorite targets.
True, there are thousands of favorite targets on Trump's list, which seems to grow every time he sits on the edge of his bed with his smartphone, during the idle hours his jesters call "executive time." Someone leaked his internal schedule, which shows President Donald Trump has a ton of "executive time," but for once, the story about his intellectual rigor mortis has been shoved aside by our Jeff Bezos titillation.
Normally, Bezos does not generate sordid fascination. The founder of Amazon, he is the richest man in the world, and he does own The Washington Post, as any reader can tell you after being treated to that disclaimer in parentheses every time the Post does a story about him or his various diverse business interests. He's also famously publicity-shy. These days, though, Washpo has been riddled with parentheses as the paper joins media everywhere in chronicling the Bezos Scandal Chronicles.
They contain some typical elements of moral turpitude in the cyber age: sex, divorce and explicit text messages that somehow got into the hands of a sleazy tabloid that has adapted to modern times by frequently obtaining what was supposed to be intimate communications. Those transmissions between Jeff Bezos and his paramour included very private pictures, including private-part selfies. Secretly fooling around has been with us since the beginning of time. That is, until technology made secrecy obsolete. Of all people, Jeff Bezos, who is one of the inventors of online everything, has decided to fight back. He hired a famous security guy to investigate how the National Enquirer got hold of his lurid stuff, and who peddled it.
Then, and this gets really wild, the normally reclusive Bezos wrote a blog where he intimated that the scandal might have some political motivations and that furthermore, the Enquirer was trying to blackmail him into not pursuing that angle. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out," wrote Bezos.

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February 9, 2019

THE HYPOCRATS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 8, 2019

THE HYPOCRATS

Today, let’s consider the Hypocrats. Those are the Democrats who sanctimoniously declare, every chance they get, that they stand for racial justice and women’s rights — in fact, they are the champions of all the oppressed. Obviously that’s not always the case. It would be comforting to know that they are a new party, but, of course, they are not. In recent memory, they are the ones who opportunistically rallied around President Bill Clinton, and viciously ripped into intern Monica Lewinsky and the others who dared to accuse their guy of being a dangerous perv.
They are more than matched by the GOP, which, of course, means “Grand Old Phonies” when it comes to piety of convenience. Their embrace of Donald Trump’s transparently fraudulent cultural conservatism is Exhibit A, but another is the Republican Majority Leader in the Virginia Senate, Thomas Norment, who now acknowledges that he was an editor of a 1968 college yearbook tht was riddled with racist slurs.
Still, let’s focus on the Hypocrats. Actually, we’re being forced to by so many of their goings-on in Virginia, which fancies itself the “birthplace of America” In fact, the commonwealth (it is called a “commonwealth,” as opposed to just a humdrum “state”) is marking its 400th anniversary, including of the arrival of the first slaves. The remnants of that evil period in the nation’s history still afflict us today. Look no further than the leaders of the commonwealth of Virginia Hypocratic Party, those preachers of progressive policies forced, because they had no choice, to admit their ugly pasts.
Thanks to Ralph Northam, we’ve had the opportunity to learn that when you apply shoe polish to your face to appear in blackface, it is really, really hard to remove. As we all know, Virginia Gov. Northam is in a heap of trouble after right-wing oppo research people discovered a picture on his 1984 medical school yearbook page showing a guy in blackface, standing next to a man covered in KKK robe and hood.
As we all know, Northam has not handled this at all well. When the picture was first revealed, he apologized profusely, then the next day denied it was him while admitting that he had put on blackface for a Michael Jackson moonwalking contest. That attempt at damage control inflicted even more harm, with friends and foes alike demanding that he resign.
Among them was Mark Herring, the Democratic attorney general of the state — oh, excuse me, commonwealth. Herring is another darling of the left, except that he’s a red-faced Herring at the moment, embarrassed to confess that he too had his blackface moment to appear at a costume party to play the part of a rap performer. He claims to have used makeup. Was he being mindful of Northam’s warning that “You cannot get shoe polish off”? It is obvious that they can’t get their two faces off, that these self-declared progressives have ventured into deeply insensitive racism and have threatened their careers decades later.

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February 5, 2019

IGNORING THE HYPE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 5, 2019

IGNORING THE HYPE

Well, I did it. I boycotted the Super Bowl, which was not a major sacrifice, because the game, by all accounts, was a huge bore.
I decided not to watch in protest of the NFL owners blackballing Colin Kaepernick, refusing to hire him because he had the audacity to dissent. The democracy we claim to be certainly allows someone to refuse to stand for the national anthem, but just because a demagogue president decided to exploit the jingoism and racism of his base, the rich guys who control the teams have marched in lockstep and shut out Kaepernick. That is totally un-American, which explains why this football fan avoided the live broadcast. I am one less minuscule number for the ratings, one less penny added to the wealth of the same oligarchs who rule sports and everything else.
Speaking of the demagogue president, and speaking of predictable farce, I also have every intention of tuning out tonight's State of the Union address. Under the best of circumstances, SOTU (which is what we inside-the-Beltway hipsters call it) is contrived grandiosity, where the participants pretend that they like each other even though they spend their every moment trying to do each other in. And this would hardly qualify as the best of circumstances.

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February 2, 2019

ANNOUNCING NOTHING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 1, 2019

ANNOUNCING NOTHING
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I know that the suspense has been unbearable, but I'm finally ready to make my announcement: I am not running for president.
I realize that by doing so, I have aligned myself with 328,113,170 or so other Americans who also have decided not to run for president. We have much in common, including our shared contempt for nearly all of those, on all sides, who practice the dark arts of politics, most of whom are running for president.
In case you were wondering why I found it necessary to announce that I'm forgoing an election campaign, it's because of Eric Garcetti. Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti held a news conference to declare he also would not be a candidate. Was it necessary to publicly proclaim that?
Perhaps it's because every other Democratic politician, in office or not, is "considering" a run. You know, they're at least "mulling it over with family members," to say nothing of the several who have already taken the dive. When it comes time to stage Democrat primary debates, the news network unit managers will have to scout the nation's stadiums for venues to hold all the players.

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January 29, 2019

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 29, 2019

COLLATERAL DAMAGE
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There's an expression we hear or see all too frequently, one that is particularly odious: "collateral damage." Some military types, or civilian leaders who are pursuing their own ambitions, use that phrase to sterilize the death and maiming of innocents as battle operations rage nearby.
In a less violent way, that same kind of offensive mentality permeates the rationalizations of too many political leaders, that is if they even bother to think about the human consequences of their rhetoric or schemes to manipulate voters or to generate special-interest campaign contributions. The millions of people who become uninsured and die because they can't afford health care, become incidental, as do the refugees from fear who suffer because of brutal immigration machinations concocted by demagogues to satisfy the worst xenophobic instincts of Americans -- they also are "collateral damage."
So, too, were the million-plus federal government workers and contractors whose financial lifeblood had been cut off to the point it was necessary to go begging for food and other basic essentials, all because a mindless president was chasing his own rants about impossibly walling off the United States' southern border.
Every once in awhile, the warfare practitioners sometimes are forced to have at least a twinge of conscience about the carnage from their destructive handiwork. In the case of Donald Trump and so many of his associates, obviously their introspection mechanism either has been surgically removed or has experienced the atrophy that comes with decades of underutilization.
It's not just Trump, whose "I love them," "I respect them," I really, really, do protestations set the bar for insincerity; he is more than matched by those who flit around him. Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is one of several in the administration who have refused to shed themselves of conflict-of-interest entanglements or have bathed in inappropriate perks. Ross just couldn't "quite understand" why so many destitute government workers were forced to rely on food charity. They could just take out loans, he insisted. Kevin Hassett, Trump's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, argued the workers were "better off" because they were really taking a "paid vacation" -- they would be compensated, after all, once the shutdown unshuts. Those are just a couple of examples of Trumpsters spewing the garbage of entitlement because their minds are addled by their wealth and privilege.

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January 26, 2019

NEWS BRIEFINGS SHUT DOWN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 25, 2019

NEWS BRIEFINGS SHUT DOWN
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This will be considered sacrilege by my journalistic colleagues, but I've always considered news conferences largely to be a waste of time. They're better than nothing, as a way to flesh out a story with a quote (or sound bite, in TV parlance), but they certainly are not a great format for reporters to uncover new information by asking skeptical questions about whatever rubbish someone is peddling, particularly if the star of the show is not embarrassed about transparently lying.
Consider the format of a White House briefing, which is really just a news conference. Usually, it will be Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has no shame, deflecting obvious questions about whatever outrage has most recently been foisted on us by her boss, the president. She is fully prepared with strategies to fend off any efforts to shed light on the story du jour. The standard rules are that the inquiring correspondent waits to be called on and then lets fly with the zinger query. Then Sarah, or someone, reacts with either a distortion or a withering personal condemnation of the subhuman who dared to ask anything so impertinent.

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January 23, 2019

A DIFFERENT BREXIT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 22, 2019

A DIFFERENT BREXIT
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Maybe British Prime Minister Theresa May needs to change her country's Brexit focus. Instead of severing ties with the European Union, maybe she should address the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States, and disunite them. It would be a Brexit from that so-called "special relationship" with the U.S.
Never mind that a majority of the Brits voting chose to leave the E.U. As predicted, it has proven uncommonly difficult, to the point that there is some talk of holding another referendum. The pro-Europe forces might have an easier time if they combined their proposal with a pledge to also disengage with their former American colonies. Since Donald Trump has become president, the overall approval of the USA in jolly old England is about 50-50. That's in spite of the fact that we speak the same language. Sort of.
True, the Brits are going through major turmoil, but then so are we over Trump's insistence on building a wall spanning our southern borders. No walls in the U.K., unless you count the white cliffs of Dover.

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January 19, 2019

THE SICK JOKE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 18, 2019

THE SICK JOKE
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Transportation Security Administration agents are doing their part as the partial government shutdown drags on -- at least some of them are. Forced to work without pay, some are expressing their disgust by calling out sick in ever-increasing numbers. That's causing the wait times to get to your plane even longer. So it may seem counterintuitive, but if you know one of them personally, feel free to show your support with a warm "Thank you for not serving."
At least they're taking action with their inaction. It's far too easy to sustain this absurd political gamesmanship simply by declaring that certain federal workers are "essential" and forcing them to stay on the job without pay. That way, critical services, like law enforcement, are continued. As for the hundreds of thousands of unpaid feds who can't keep up with their bills, obviously this president -- whose stubbornness is causing their plight -- has moved them down on his list of priorities. Walled them off, so to speak. He's definitely not feeling their pain, no matter how much he claims to "relate."
The dillema is that there's not enough pain, certainly not for Trump. If someone with political clout squeals a little -- say, the food industry, which can't, uh, stomach the idea that people are avoiding their farm products -- he waves his executive-order wand and brings back inspectors. Speaking of farmers, who generally are part of Trump's rural base, Department of Agriculture employees were ordered to return to process vital loans and subsidies, along with IRS workers to deal with tax refunds. You can count on Donald Trump: Just be the squeaky wheel, and the Trump administration will simply make another exception and order a batch of federal workers back on the clock. Mostly unpaid, of course.

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January 15, 2019

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S SAD SONG

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 15, 2019

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S SAD SONG
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In 1932, as the Great Depression took hold and once-proud Americans were reduced to begging, Bing Crosby recorded a song called "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" It became a hit, even though Republicans tried to force radio stations not to play it because it was "anti-capitalist." And indeed it was.
"They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
... Buddy, can you spare a dime?"
Today, the Republicans are at it again, or at least one Republican is. As the country goes through a different kind of depression over the presidency of Donald Trump, 800,000 federal government workers are being told that they have little choice but to revert to modern-day panhandling, perhaps relying on modern social media to keep them and their families from economic collapse. Trump has dug in his heels over his perverted fantasy of a border wall. It's a "crisis" at the southern border he insists, with disingenuous support coming from his sycophants, who are so desperate to stay in his good graces that they're willing to sell their souls to keep their positions, assuming they even have souls.
Those federal employees whose jobs right now are worthless because they're unfortunate enough to work in agencies that didn't have funding appropriated are either being forced to stay at home or, in the case of those who have the bad luck of being designated "essential," to work without pay. There are a few lawsuits rattling around; there always are. In essence, they claim that such work without pay is mandated slavery.
President Trump has insisted that he can "relate" to their plight, even though he owns a private jet and claims to be a billionaire. Even so, some of the staff members who were designated "essential" tried to curry his favor by emailing memos to all hands containing strategies to survive. The Office of Personnel Management even offered sample letters that their unfortunates can send to those they owe -- landlords, for instance -- offering "to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments."

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January 12, 2019

BLUNDERBUSS PULPIT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 11, 2019

BLUNDERBUSS PULPIT

OK, America, here is the word of the month: "blunderbuss." No, it is not a mass-transit vehicle whose driver has taken the wrong route. You'd think most everyone in this Second Amendment-obsessed nation would know that a blunderbuss is a gun, an old-timey one.
It long preceded the automatic weapons that wreak the kind of mindless mass destruction that has become part of our national routine. It had a flared barrel. Think of it as a mini bell-bottomed single-round shotgun. It was very inaccurate, but in its day, it caused a lot of damage. Could that describe a certain blundering and blustery chief executive?
Actually, that's not the only word of the month. For President Blunderbluster and his obsequious gang that couldn't shoot straight, their word is "crisis," as in "national security crisis" or "humanitarian crisis" or even "crisis of the soul," for crisis' sake. Oh, and let's not forget the phony crisis ... make that "fake crisis," as Donald Blunderbluster tries to weasel out of the fine mess he's created.
All his ready-aim-fire approach has accomplished is a partial government shutdown over his insistence that the Democrats agree to spend $5.7 billion for a border wall. He needs to keep the blood boiling in his xenophobic base, but his scattershot attempts at intimidation certainly have not strong-armed the Democrats one bit. In fact, he's weak-armed them, and they remain united and adamant that they will not fold this time. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him again that there would be no wall money, he flounced out of the room, saying "bye-bye."

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January 8, 2019

WE NEED "JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY"

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 8, 2019

WE NEED "JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY"
---
Do you remember the movie "Johnny Dangerously"? It stars Michael Keaton in the title role. It was released in 1984, but it's still rattling around for streaming. For that matter, everything is available for streaming, even Stormy Daniels' epics. If that's your thing, enjoy -- no judging here. But "Johnny Dangerously," which is certainly in a different category, is a favorite of mine. A really juvenile comedy, which is far and away my preferred genre.
One running joke in this spoof is the use of profanity by a particular character, Roman Moroni. Actually, what really makes people yuck it up is Moroni's ALMOST profanity -- the Italian gangster's dialogue is riddled with terms like "cork soakers" and "fargin' iceholes." Trust me, it's funny if you see the movie.
I'm not in the habit of doing film reviews; instead, I deal with the stranger-than-fiction world of politics. The latest preview of coming attractions involves congressional beginner Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from the Detroit area, who got caught up in all the enthusiasm of her new House of Representatives gig by telling a crowd that was definitely anti-Trump: "We're going to impeach the motherf*****."

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January 5, 2019

NON-TRUCE-NON TRUTH

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 4, 2019

NON TRUCE-NON TRUTH
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Wouldn't it be astounding if we read the morning news one day and the headline was "Everything President Trump Said Yesterday Was Entirely True"? Put that one in the "not likely" category.
Donald Trump has made lying an art form (a crude art form, certainly), to the point where we can't be sure that his name actually is Donald Trump. He's that untrustworthy. According to The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler, Trump (or whoever he is) averaged 15 falsehoods a DAY in 2018!
There should be a competition among politicians, obviously sponsored by Burger King, for the single biggest whopper of the year. Or perhaps the sheer volume would dictate a monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly contest. It doesn't matter, because the winner would be the Trumpster. The prize would fit right into his diet: all the Whoppers he could eat.
In this era, where everything is true because social media says it is, and everything on mainstream media is "fake news," we should recognize this national champion. Let us not forget that he'd be competing with other lying politicians (pardon the redundancy), so he'd be running on a fast track. Even though it was slippery, he'd race far ahead of the "alternative fact" pack.

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January 1, 2019

TRUMP BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE

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BOB FRANKEN
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TRUMP BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE

As we hopefully shout “Happy New Year!” let’s hand it to President Donald Trump. There he was, the commander in chief, closing out the old year by bravely showing up in a war zone in spite of the bone spurs in his feet. Yes, the haters are dubious about those spurs, but whether real or the figment of a paid-off podiatrist’s imagination, they did keep him away from anywhere near combat until now, when he and his retinue stealthily traveled to Iraq over the holidays. Since Mar-a-Lago had been declared off limits because of the bad government shutdown optics, he, Melania and his court jesters had to go somewhere. So they tried to sneak into Iraq, enduring unfamiliar conditions like a darkened plane cabin because of normal battlefield light discipline. Any sort of discipline is a hardship for this POTUS, so he couldn’t help but brag to his troops about what he had just endured: “[I]f you would have seen what we had to go through with the darkened plane with all windows closed with no lights on whatsoever, anywhere. Pitch-black. I’ve never seen it — I’ve been on many airplanes. All types and shapes and sizes. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“War is hell.” It really is.

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December 29, 2018

AND THE WINNER IS...

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 28, 2018

AND THE WINNER IS...
---
I am happy to report that television news hangs on, even in this fragmented world of social media, where opinions spew at hyperspeed, unencumbered by facts. We still tune in as the anchors present the day's events, whether they are Ned and Annette Network or Larry and Lorraine Local. So keeping track of sound bites is still valid.
For those too young to comprehend, a "sound bite" is the verbal form of a tweet. But they are ever-shrinking. The marketing consultants who have such a strong and insidious influence on broadcast journalism have decided that viewers have a nano attention span, and have ordered that their client stations -- managed largely by people who couldn't care less about responsible reporting -- shorten the length of the sound bites. In my long and checkered career in newsbiz, I've witnessed sound chunks being shrunk to sound bites. Now they are sound spurts. Before I seem too sanctimonious about all that, I was a willing participant in sound-spurt reporting, knowing as I do the value of a paycheck.
Some sound spurts are better than others. In fact, some are championship caliber, so bizarre that they stand out in the babble of reporting. For a while, I pondered a competition for the best one of the week. Obviously, in the age of Donald Trump, that has shriveled to the best of the day or even the hour. This is easier than someone might think, because all one has to do is focus on what he says. When it comes to outlandish comments, he is in a crass by himself. For those of us who chronicle his drumbeat of outrage, he is the gift who keeps on giving.

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December 25, 2018

THE EXCHANGE RATE


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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 25, 2018

THE EXCHANGE RATE
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The holiday week leading up to New Year's has special meaning. The day after holy Christmas, we celebrate the wholly mercenary observance of Exchange Day.
It's not an official holiday in the United States, but it should be, like Boxing Day is in British Commonwealth countries and other outposts of civilization. You remember the British Commonwealth, don't you? That was the worldwide collection of countries under the influence of England, before the demise of the U.K. -- a downward slide that is comparable to what the U.S. is undergoing now.
That was long before Brexit, where the demagogues successfully played on the latent hatreds of the Brits in order to commit financial suicide by trying to pull away from the rest of Europe. Again, it's uncannily similar to Americexit, a term I just made up, to describe how our current leadership is trying to lead us to oblivion by removing us from the rest of the planet.
As usual, I've digressed. This is about returning unwanted merchandise. President Donald Trump is dumping a whole year's worth. Actually, sometimes he's the dumper, but often he's the dumpee. No matter that Trump decided to terminate him early, Gen. Jim Mattis -- who had gone on to be President Trump's secretary of defense and was considered by nearly everyone to occupy the ever-shrinking corner of reason in the Trump solar system -- got tired of his expert advice being trashed, and either the sudden decision to pull out of Syria or the pullout planned for Afghanistan was enough to push him over the "Take This Job and Shove It" edge. We know what motivated him because he made it clear in his resignation letter:

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December 23, 2018

SEASONS HALLUCINATIONS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, DEC. 23, 2018

SEASONS HALLUCINATIONS

T’is the time around Xmas but we’re into a rut now
The Trumpster has caused a new government shutdown
While he stayed at the White House and enjoyed every perk
Many hundred thousand feds were forced out of work

Melanie was just restless, tossed and turned in her bed
Even counting the trees downstairs, the ones she dyed
red.
Donald Trump was still up, he just couldn’t sleep
Too many distortions that he needed to tweet
So he too was squirming as he sat on his mattress
His brain was just churning: how to insult James Mattis
Had a moment of sadness, his eyes turned even tearier
After Jim’s resignation over bailing on Syria
He just couldn’t relax, allow his insults to turn duller,
Many people to trash plus his shots at Bob Mueller.
No visions of sugar plums danced in his head
Just Cohen and Flynn feeding into his dread
And ways that he might use his power to pardon,
Before he’s an inmate, controlled by a warden.
So lost in a reverie over a presidential indictment
The clatter on the lawn startled him, his heart racing, he was frightened.
“Mueller’s coming to get me, good lord, what a mess!”
He fleetingly thought he’d be under arrest.
His mind started racing with all the confusion,
In panic he was shouting “There is no collusion!”
Then he composed himself, took a breath and a pause
It was not the cops after all, just that perv Santa Claus.

He is usually jolly, but this year he was storming
About how the North Pole was melting, drowning in global warming.
Had no presents at all, he was sarcastically droll,
All he brought for The Donald were some bags full of coal.
He carried an attitude, he’d never been meaner
As he reached in a pocket to hand Trump a subpoena.
Involving Stormy, and Karen, and Trump’s aphrodisiacal fun
Indictments where his name is “Individual One”

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December 18, 2018

LAME DUCK MUCKING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 18, 2018
LAME DUCK MUCKING

OK, I get it. After an election, when the incumbent is about to be transformed into the former, we need a transition period. All in all, it’s a good idea. It allows for a smooth changeover. Yada, yada, yada. But like all bright ideas, this one is invariably tarnished, because humans are involved. (How’s that for Yuletide cheer?)
As we all know, the time between outgoing and incoming is called the “lame duck” period. But do you know why? Do you care why? Boredom alert: In American politics, it dates back to the 19th century, when somebody or other referred to “lame ducks or broken-down politicians.” Maybe that’s a bit harsh, or maybe not, considering what so many leave behind before they have flown the coop. (Ducks can have coops too. I looked it up.)
Consider the current flock of them. Actually, it’s flocks. In Wisconsin and Michigan, the Democrats who were victorious in winning the governor’s races and other statewide elections are crying “fowl” because of the outgoing Republicans' tactics to change the rules of engagement, as they have in other states.
The way it’s supposed to work is that the voters choose between not only candidates but policies. Another long-familiar expression is they can elect to “throw the rascals out.” The new rascals get to implement their approaches, changing those of the old ones because, and prepare to suffer through still another cliche, “to the victor goes the spoils.” But these GOP lame ducks in Wisconsin and Michigan are spoiling things. They are using partisan sleight of hand to feather their nests along with their rich patrons, and otherwise taking some important ruling powers away from those who will replace them.
It’s not just a state problem. In Washington, we have a Congress with Republicans ruling both roosts until next month. The lame ducks, and there are a lot of them, are trying to pull a fast one and jam through a budget and other priorities of the gaggle up at the other end of the street.
It’s not a pretty sight, nor is there much hope that it will improve when the Democrats take over one of these animal houses, the House of Representatives. If anything, the barnyard squalling will get louder.

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December 15, 2018

THE SLAM SHAM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 14, 2018

THE SLAM SHAM
---
I'm not ready to say that President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders are in cahoots. I don't know that. I can't conclusively prove that, ahead of the live televised dissing match, they agreed to, -- what was the word Nancy Pelosi used? -- "tinkle" on each other. Nevertheless, they all should be tinkled pink with how they ended up looking to their respective bases.
It had all the authenticity of a World Wrestling Entertainment match. Let us not forget that the former WWE CEO is now in Trump's administration; Linda McMahon heads the Small Business Administration. Let us also not forget that Donald Trump used to occasionally appear in some WWE buffoonery. Who knew it would be part of his POTUS preparation?
Again, it's too much to believe that the Donald Trump/Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer tag team were operating off a script. First of all, they're not that clever. Still, they could pretend that they were there in the ring (actually, an oval -- the Oval Office) and be resolute a foot or two away from the so-called Resolute desk, where this president usually sits with his arms crossed like a kid refusing to eat something. Gee, what a surprise that news cameras were there as the gladiators abandoned their usual polite fake moves, and were decidedly impolite.

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December 11, 2018

THE CARLSON-CRONKITE DISS-CONNECTION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 11, 2018

THE CARLSON-CRONKITE DISS-CONNECTION
---
Tucker Carlson is no Walter Cronkite. That is not to disparage Tucker. Truth be known, he's a longtime friend of mine, even though we disagree on pretty much everything, which is not uncommon in our business.
For starters, he laughs at my immature jokes, so what's not to like about him, except for his harsh -- and in my view, grossly misguided -- opinions about the issues of the day? But why would I even bring up a comparison with Cronkite? Glad you asked. Here's why:
Back in February 1968 (good grief, that was more than 50 years ago!), in the days when CBS, NBC and to a lesser degree ABC -- just three networks -- had a monopoly on all of U.S. television news' world and national coverage, Cronkite sat at the top of the heap. He was known during that era as the "Most Trusted Man in America," or "Uncle Walter"...regarded as a straight-shooting anchorman in a time of intense turmoil roiling the United States.
The Vietnam War, among other primal issues, significantly and violently split this country. History has shown that was for good reason; deceit at the highest levels had turned the region into a deadly lie, with more than 58,000 U.S. military deaths and millions more killed overall on both sides. Walter Cronkite decided to venture out from his studio and report on the ground, just as he had as a young reporter pup in World War II. He was appalled at what he (and his cameras) saw, particularly appalled at the fraudulent drumbeats of optimism from military and civilian leaders at the top echelons. Cronkite came back to America to report on the dreary reality and closed his program with a blunt contradiction of those who predicted ultimate victory:
"[I]t seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate ... [I]t is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
In other words, let's pack it up as a lost cause and bring our troops home.
First and foremost, it was a crushing repudiation of President Lyndon Johnson, who symbolized the war effort. And here is the point (finally): Johnson told aides, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

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December 8, 2018

SWAMP LAWS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 7, 2018

SWAMP LAWS

What’s interestiIng about Washington is how the first rule for its leaders has always been to make sure they don’t have to follow many rules. Members of Congress have their “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution, which ends up meaning that no matter how they slander someone during their official proceedings, they won’t be held legally accountable. Presidents can’t be criminally prosecuted while in office without first being impeached and removed. What would normally be called “bribes” are “campaign contributions” in this world. The normal standards don’t apply here as long as the powers that be stick in their privileged positions.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of commandments that must not be violated, at any cost. First and foremost is “Thou shalt not get caught.” That one is obvious: Perps can get away with anything unless it’s found out. There’s also the law that applies to everyone — the Law of Gravity: What (or actually, who) goes up always comes down. What’s unique about Washington is that some fall faster than others.
For example, Donald Trump has flown above behavior that would normally cause anyone else to crash and burn. But now there are indications that the accumulated weight of his conduct might begin to drag even him down. Yes, we have heard that one before, but this time even this demagogic Houdini might not be able to escape. There are glimmers of activity from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation suggesting that Mueller is compiling a bill of goods against Mr. Trump, who will now have to pay the full price.

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December 4, 2018

THE FAKE POTPOURRI

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 4, 2018

THE FAKE POTPOURRI
---
The word "potpourri" has a few definitions, but for a columnist it means writing about a bunch of unrelated stuff because he's too lazy to come up with an overarching theme. Instead, he'll take a superficial look at several developments. I have long experience doing that because of my career in TV news, where the marching orders were to "Get out there and scratch the surface!"
What better frivolous way to begin this potpourri than with that fist bump, or whatever it was, at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin? They have a lot in common, those two. First, they're both from murderers' row. Second, they each have a huge amount of influence over Donald Trump.
While their hand slaps are not up to end-zone-celebration quality, the leaders are doing quite well at playing the American president, even though Trump is pretending his nose is currently out of joint with Putin. He insists it's all about Russia's belligerent behavior against Ukraine, including the shipboard capture of several sailors and boats ramming, but many suspect that it might have more to do not with collisions but with collusion.
Back home, as the Trumpster is painfully aware, special counsel Robert Mueller seems to be tightening the vise on Trump's, uh, whatevers. The Mueller investigation is obviously well on its way to unraveling what appear to be boldfaced lies from Trump and his henchpeople about his motivations for allowing Vlad to have his way with him. The last thing the American president needs right now is a photo op of his way being had by the Russian president. Instead, they had to suffice with one or two furtive conversations, none of the typical one-on-ones, at least within earshot. They had to resort to whispering sweet nothings to each other without the world hearing them.

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December 1, 2018

THE CLICHE TABLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 30, 2018

THE CLICHE TABLE
---
There should be a Cliche Hall of Fame to honor the trite phrases and overused metaphors that have stood the test of time. There certainly would be a political wing, complete with a statue that has running water coming from somewhere, depicting a hack streaming hackneyed expressions nonstop. It would need to be located in Washington, with our constant gush of banalities.
The best cliches are all-purpose, like something or other not being "off the table." Anyone can use it and everyone here does. President Donald Trump spouts it frequently. In fact, he told The New York Post that a pardon for Paul Manafort is ... wait for it ... "not off the table." Could that be a signal to Manafort -- who faces a ton of time behind bars and who just might have the goods on alleged Trump campaign collusion with the Russians -- that he doesn't have to sweat whatever that big bad witch hunter Robert Mueller does to him? Could "not off the table" also be a trial balloon, a way of softening up America for a pardon when it comes? Is "trial balloon" another cliche?

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November 27, 2018

DISCRIMINATION FOR THE AGES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 27, 2018

DISCRIMINATION FOR THE AGES
---
Forgive my self-indulgence, but at the very start I need to point out that while I may not be young, I am immature. The immature part is familiar to anyone who knows me. But what's important here is that I'm old. So I freely admit that what I'm writing here comes with a bias:
The Democrats are guilty of gross age discrimination and, might I add, hypocrisy. It is, after all, the same party that sanctimoniously pretends to oppose all "isms," but obviously that doesn't include ageism.
I'm specifically talking about the ones who would fancy themselves "young Turks," but they're more like young twerps -- at least some of them are. Inexperienced in the ways of Washington, they are among the House Democrats deciding to show their ingratitude to Nancy Pelosi, who, in fact, is truly adept at navigating the "swamp" maze. Not only that, but she probably had lots to do with them winning their elections. In response, a few of them want to drop her like a stone.
"We need new ideas," they argue. You mean progressive ideas, children? These are the ideas that Nancy Pelosi has been championing for decades. But experience doesn't seem to matter. So sayeth the kids who want to take over and run things. It's as true in politics as it is in my craft and many others, which explains my bias: The youngsters, not far along in the school of life, are put in charge of people they consider obsolete. Experience is unimportant to them, except that it really does matter, certainly in the D.C. labyrinth, where those who have navigated it for a while get to know all the twists and turns. You don't necessarily need to be a young know-it-all. Look no further than Donald Trump, a really hoary one. (I love the word "hoary," which gets back to the "immature" thing.) He's senior, but inept! Which explains why he hasn't been able to pull off many of his orders or whims. That plus the fact that his orders are illegally hateful or ridiculous, or because he constantly lies or because he doesn't understand the Constitution or doesn't care.

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November 24, 2018

THE TRUMP PARADOX

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 23, 2018

THE TRUMP PARADOX
---
You probably never thought of this because it's so dopey, but that's never stopped me. So let's take a moment to ponder that the first two letters of the word "president" are "PR." Dopey, but important, particularly with this president, who is the master of PR. Donald Trump has a talent for self-promotion that's taken his facade to the highest level. He is a genius when it comes to seizing the center of attention, and particularly brilliant at manipulating the people around him -- friend and foe alike.
Definitely in the foe department is Nancy Pelosi. She's the long experienced and crafty leader of the House Democrats. She's totally capable of flummoxing Republicans, so they've wasted no opportunity to turnher into their major villain. That has rubbed off on some of the House Democrats, mainly the more ambitious young Turks who have roared into the majority, due in great measure to the shrewd campaign engineered by, wait for it, Nancy Pelosi.
She would expect, in any other environment, to be a natural choice to rise again to Speaker of the House, where she served effectively the last time her party was in charge. "Ingrate," however, is synonymous with "politician," and some of the newbies are showing quite an aptitude for that. The result is she's involved in an intense battle to drown the sharks in her own school circling around her in the murky waters of the Washington swamp.

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November 20, 2018

THANKSGIVING ALTERNATIVE FACTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 20, 2018

THANKSGIVING ALTERNATIVE FACTS
---
Not all that much is known about the first Thanksgiving Day, so we can only speculate about what really happened. What we do know is that the feast probably wasn't eaten in November, but was most likely a party to celebrate the fall harvest, which would mean it probably took place in late September and lasted about three days.
Then, as now, we can surmise that late September was the start of the retailer's Yuletide marketing season, and we can assume that the three days included the actual Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Then there was Black Friday, so named because retailers count on the shopping rush on that day to see their ledger sheets for the year go into the black. So the colonists traipsed on down to the Walmart Plymouth Rock to get the great doorbuster deals. Saturday, of course, was Cyber Saturday. Or was it Monday? The exact day is lost in history. That plus the fact that Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet.

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November 17, 2018

THE DOG EAT DOG WORLD

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 16, 2018

THE DOG EAT DOG WORLD

I'm always amazed that the Washington types I consider to be such jerks are completely different when I run into them at a dog park. They're actually pleasant to be around. Our canine kids certainly are a good influence.
I find it interesting that President Donald Trump and his family don't have any puppies, not even the ones that most politicians trot out for warm and fuzzy photo ops or campaign ads. But not Trump, maybe because he doesn't do warm and fuzzy. Or perhaps it's because he's a major-league germaphobe and is worried about rabies. Come to think of it, though, given some of the personalities in his administration, that's probably not it.

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November 13, 2018

TO KNOW HIM IS NOT TO KNOW HIM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 13, 2018

TO KNOW HIM IS NOT TO KNOW HIM
---
"I don't know Matt Whitaker." That was President Donald Trump, unmistakably signaling that Matthew Whitaker won't be acting attorney general much longer.
Never mind that just about a month ago, during one of his regular love fests on "Fox and Friends," Trump was singing a different tune: "I can tell you Matt Whitaker's a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker." Now, all you haters out there might think that POTUS was just once again being a lying sack of spit. But those of us in the know understand that it was simply a mistake; he was talking about two different Matt Whitakers. That still begs the question: Why would he appoint someone he says he doesn't know to be acting attorney general, the chief law enforcement official in the U. S. of A., with thousands upon thousands of attorneys and federal agents under his command?
And why didn't his vetters pick up on Whitaker's long record of comments about the American legal system that make one wonder how he ever passed the bar, or even high-school civics? His public statements about jurisprudence range from ignorant to Neanderthal. Why didn't his constant derogatory comments about the Robert Mueller investigation -- questioning whether it should even exist -- raise a red flag with someone in the administration?

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November 10, 2018

DITCH THE HARD PASSES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 9, 2018

DITCH THE HARD PASSES
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I've said this before, but my colleagues in media have either disagreed or simply ignored me. After Jim Acosta's confrontation with the president at a White House press conference and the subsequent retaliation, it's time for me to renew my call for all reporters who hold so-called hard passes to turn them in and abandon their post at the White House en masse.
Yes, it would be a gesture of defiance (guess which gesture) raised to a president and administration that uses reporters as props. There is nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the props. Besides, the nation's current chief executive demonstrates time and again his utter disregard for the entire Constitution.
Consider the tone of his post election news conference, after the frayed Democrats were able to weave a takeover of the House of Representatives. That's a big deal. If there was a group in Washington called "The Spinners," Donald Trump would be the lead singer. (Yes, I know there's a Motown ensemble with the same name. Among their hits was "The Rubber Band Man." Trump's would have recorded "Robber Baron Man.") He has somehow managed to twist the midterm results around into a "tremendous success," because Republicans had expanded control of the Senate. The Senate wasn't really in play, but whatever.

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November 6, 2018

MOVE BACKWARD-FALL FLAT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 6, 2018

MOVE BACKWARD-FALL FLAT
---
Mornings are somewhat brighter, but it's still the days of mourning. The switch from daylight saving to standard time is an admission that we can't escape the predictable gloom of winter, with its icy weather. It might become less predictable once global warming fully wreaks its destruction -- you know, the disaster that President Donald Trump and the corporate energy interests expediently choose to deny.
On the other hand, the political season is nonstop, and the climate in that world inexorably deteriorates too. While we've wrapped up the midterms and the creators of those incessant TV ads and robo calls, along with the social media trolls, all will go into hibernation, do not think for a moment that the campaign is behind us. On Nov. 7, we seamlessly move from the midterms to the presidential race. Actually, there's nothing seamless about the unseemly Donald Trump, who presumably will be up for a second four years. That "presumably" is based on the hypothesis that Trump will be around for seconds, that the Robert Mueller probe or any of the other investigations and lawsuits that swirl around him will not have revealed something so egregious that even he can't survive in office. Or that he will not issue an executive fiat doing away with the elections.

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November 3, 2018

NOVEMBER SURPRISE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 2, 2018

NOVEMBER SURPRISE
---
In the final moments before the midterm elections (thank heaven), even though he's not officially on any ballots, President Donald Trump is right where he constantly wants to be, which is to say hogging the center of attention.
Say whatever you want about the economy, pre-existing conditions, all that substantive folderol -- it's Trump, Trump, Trump, just like it always is. He's even more out there than usual, spreading his poison at wall-to-wall rallies. They are announced as campaign events in support of various Republican candidates, but that's a ruse. In fact, to use a redundancy for emphasis, it's a fake ruse.
It's obviously all about him and what he's contriving as he uses the powers he holds as campaign playthings. He's been hosting a nonstop October surprise party.
But there's still time for some November surprises, perhaps ways that he can expand on his efforts to incite his passionate base to turn out on Election Day.

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October 30, 2018

THE VIOLENT PRESIDENCY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 30, 2018

THE VIOLENT PRESIDENCY
---
Republicans have always justified their preferential treatment of the super-wealthy by trotting out the bogus “trickle-down theory.” They argue that as the rich get richer, they will spend more on jobs, etc., and the financial benefits will “trickle down” the economic scale. It’s a total con, of course. A sham. The most prosperous among us simply hoard their newfound bread, except for the crumbs that they toss to their political lackeys, mainly in the GOP, so they can keep getting their tax breaks and the like.
But now we are witnessing a trickle down that’s for real. The man who has taken over the Republicans spews ignorance, hatred and violence every time he opens his mouth or pecks on a smartphone. His malice indeed trickles down -- actually, more like a gushing -- as Americans for and against him act on and react to the poison of Donald Trump.
It explains the horrifying slaughter at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday -- the Shabbat, when Jews would be packed in as they came to worship. Robert Bowers, who allegedly mowed them down, was an outspoken and virulent anti-Semite. It would be overstating it to pin that label on Donald Trump. However, he certainly has pandered to those who are emboldened to crawl out of their dark hiding places and proudly display their fanatic hatred of Jews and everyone else who’s not a heterosexual white Christian. Trump inspires them with his unceasing dog whistles. One specific example was his insistence that the extremist marchers who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 included many “good people.” That apparently would mean those chanting “Jews will not replace us” might be “good people.”
By the way, Bowers had made it clear in his social media rants that he was not a Trump supporter. Not so for Cesar Sayoc, the passionate Trumphead arrested for sending out crude pipe bombs to just about any liberal who had ever crossed his idol.

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October 27, 2018

CHANGING LOCATIONS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 26, 2018

CHANGING LOCATIONS
---
From his days as a real estate huckster, Donald Trump was fully aware that selling point No. 1 was always "location, location, location." Now that he's a political huckster (pardon the redundancy), the rule is the same. As he tries to whip his base of bigots into a frenzy so they will turn out in overwhelming numbers, Trump has no doubts whatsoever about exactly what he has to do and where to go with his demagoguery. Again, it's simply "location, location, location."
No matter where he's speaking and how far away he's holding rallies, no matter how far north, the location is the south of the border, Trump's story is that sinister forces have formed their caravan to escape their miserable lives in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and are headed through Mexico to overrun the U.S. borders. There are "Middle Easterner" terrorists in the midst, Trump thunders, with no evidence whatsoever. They are a threat to rape, and pillage and take our children, he charges. Oh wait, it's his people who snatch children.
And, he's come up with a new definition of "truth." He revealed it when fake news reporters asked him for proof of his dire warnings:""There's no proof of anything," he responded, "but they could very well be." Rest assured, he insisted, I have very good information." Take that, skeptics. The one remaining question is whether Trump's construct replaces Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" or supplemensts it.

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October 23, 2018

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 23, 2018

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES
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It’s not that our leaders lie -- that’s how most of them got to be leaders in the first place. What’s galling is that they don’t even make much of an effort to gloss over their falsehoods. Even as they routinely tell their made-up stories with a straight face, they know that nobody believes them, and they don’t care, really.
As the man once said, all the world’s a stage, and the worst of the prevaricators (I love that word!) are scattered all over the planet. In fact, the worst of the worst combine their duplicity with brutality in order to maintain power. Right now, the world stage features a tragic drama set in ... well, it’s actually set in three locations: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul; and Washington, D.C. It opens in Istanbul, where the leading man -- Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post -- is killed and allegedly mutilated in the Saudi Consulate. That sets off a worldwide outrage, more than the Saudi perps could have imagined.

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October 20, 2018

THE TAWDRY SAUDI DC SWAMP

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 19, 2018

THE TAWDRY SAUDI DC SWAMP

Imagine that: It’s getting so it’s difficult to get away with being slime in the Washington “swamp” these days — or at the very least, much tougher to paper it over with a fake-believe veneer of money from the most noxious sources. For generations, we have allowed so many of our most prominent operators to perfume over the stench of their ill-gained prosperity as they have represented the interests here of some of the planet’s most rotten individuals and their brutal tyrannies.
Finally, the facade is being torn down, and those who have gotten away so long with getting rich from human misery are being exposed. The results are painful for them. Thanks to the independent counsel foraging in the Trumpster, for instance, all the Donald Trump campaign operatives’ cynical wheeling and dealing on behalf of the Russians and their sympathizers has finally gotten them in trouble. Not only does Paul Manafort face jail time, along with his associates, but a reckoning is coming to other firms who chose to ignore the foul odor of his murderous clients to work with him, for whatever blood money he would share with them.
Now we have the Saudis and the likelihood that they have clumsily gone too far with their barbarity. They made the single most fatal mistake when they allegedly decided to rub out the wrong dissident whose barbs were hitting too close to their tyrant’s ego. In this case, the troublemaker was a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Not only that, but he expressed his disagreements as a contributor to The Washington Post. The Post, as a paper of record, has an inordinately huge impact. The normal hit job couldn’t be painted over like it usually could be.

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October 16, 2018

WINNING AT GUTTERBALL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 16, 2018

WINNING AT GUTTERBALL

It’s Major League Baseball playoff season, as well as the run-up to the elections. Oh, the games people play.
Way back when, in the early 20th century sometime, New York Giants manager John “Mugsy” McGraw was the first to utter an important life lesson for those who play either form of “Hardball” (thank you, Chris Matthews). “Nice guys,” he growled, “finish last.” Leo Durocher liked it so much, he plagiarized it decades later.
But it’s wisdom the Democrats are only now allowing to penetrate their cluelessness. “Really?” they whimper in amazement. “It’s not enough to be righteous?” Not when it’s self-righteous, which is what so many Americans perceive them to be, along with sanctimonious. Nor is it enough when the other team is governed by a mindset of “whatever it takes to win,” fair or foul.
Back in John McGraw’s day, the crosstown Yankees with Babe Ruth dominated “America’s Pastime.” These days, in our other pastime, the Republicans succeed by being ruthless. They don’t really stand for the interests of the great bulk of Americans, opting instead to represent the wealthy few, who long ago realized, as Will Rogers declared, that we have “The best Congress that money can buy.” Actually, Mr. Rogers was only in the neighborhood. It’s really the best government money can buy. And even that is not true, because, in many cases, it’s really a pretty feckless one, which suits the GOP just fine. It keeps their rich patrons happy because they don’t want to be effectively regulated as they pursue their money-grubbing ways.

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October 13, 2018

THE MOB JOB

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 12, 2018

THE MOB JOB
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If Bob Dylan had been a reactionary, his song “The Times They Are a-Changin’” would instead have been called “The Times They Cannot Change and to the Extent They Do, We Must Unchange Them Because We Need to Make America Great Again.”
Chances are, it wouldn’t have been such a big hit, but it certainly would capture how the Trumpsters consider “progress” to be a dirty word. In fact, they use the same tactics that their segregationist ancestors employed to maintain their system of black oppression during their glory days of Jim Crow. The segs reacted loudly to the “mob” of “outside agitators” who came from throughout the country to challenge their systems of white discrimination.
What’s fascinating is how Trump supporters use the same phrases to defend against the crowds that protest and demand change. In modern times, Mitch McConnell and the other descendants constantly proclaim their outrage over, you guessed it, the “mobs” who roamed the Capitol halls, chanting and being otherwise “unruly.” Never mind that these were “mobs” of soccer moms protesting sexual assault, they were just “not able to intimidate the Senate”, no matter how fierce.
Then and now, society’s regressives desperately try to preserve the old-fashioned traditions of legal domination by whites, particularly white males. African-Americans, or whatever else they were called, were expected to “know their place,” which was at the back of the line -- literally at the back of the bus. Women, too, are expected to submit to their role as playthings or breeding stock. They should simply accept any “boys will be boys” invasion of their body. How dare they demand change, and how dare they get uppity about it?

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October 9, 2018

THE COUNTRY'S ROAD RUTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 9 2018

THE COUNTRY'S ROAD RUTS
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“Country roads, take me home,
To the place I belong,
West Virginia, mountain mama,
Take me home, country roads.”

If John Denver were to write that song these days, its lyric might become “Trump Country Roads.” After all, Donald Trump won the state by a margin of more than 42 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
And West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s “mountain mama” didn’t raise no fool. Sen. Manchin is fighting for his political life, doing whatever he can to make sure his voters don’t take him home from Washington, D.C., and replace him with a member of Trump’s party.
It’s one of those tacky little games they play in Congress and, for that matter, in legislative bodies everywhere: When facing a really tough issue, particularly during a campaign, a member will tell his party leaders: “I’ll be with you if you absolutely need me, but if you don’t, then I’ll avoid making the unpopular decision and go with the politically expedient one. No sense endangering my re-election chances for nothing.”
Manchin waited to commit until after it was clear Brett Kavanaugh would have the senator majority votes necessary to be confirmed. Therefore he didn’t have to make that dangerous choice between antagonizing his party or antagonizing a huge chunk of West Virginia’s fanatic pro-Trump majority. By the way, recent polling shows Joe Manchin leading his GOP opponent by about 9 points, and he probably didn’t harm himself by supporting Kavanaugh.
Heidi Heitkamp is another story. She’s a Senate Democrat running to save her skin in North Dakota, which Trump won by whomping Hillary Clinton by a more than 32 percentage point margin. Unlike Manchin, Heitkamp is badly trailing in her race, by about 12 percentage points. Also, unlike Manchin, Heitkamp decided to vote her conscience, and she declared ahead of time that she would oppose Kavanaugh. That could doom her chances, but she did it.
Hers also was a wasted effort, because Republican leader Mitch McConnell was able to make Judge Brett Kavanaugh into Justice Kavanaugh, finally pulling off the ultraconservative takeover of the Supreme Court that should last for decades. The hard-right-wing Supremes outnumber the hard-left 5-4, although on the right there is a bloc within a bloc -- two justices, Clarence Thomas and now Brett Kavanaugh, who have been charged with sexual improprieties.

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October 6, 2018

KAVANAUGH STEALS THE SPOTLIGHT FROM MUELLER--FOR NOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 5, 2018

KAVANAUGH STEALS THE SPOTLIGHT FROM MUELLER--FOR NOW
---
Let’s test our memories: How many recall Robert Mueller? I’ll give you a hint: Second only to President Trump, he has dominated the news since his appointment to lead the investigation into how much Trump and his campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin’s Russians to make the 2016 U.S. election swerve Trump’s way. That, however, was before Brett Kavanaugh came along.
Kavanaugh’s quest to sail smoothly through Senate confirmation, so he can then navigate the Supreme Court far to the right, suddenly had run aground. Accusations against him of youthful sexual assault, followed by his angry storm of denials, threatened to drown him. It was a whale of a drama that captured our undivided attention. Our ability to comprehend can assimilate only one maelstrom at a time, so we were fixated on whether he would sink or stay above water in a Senate that is also sailing the treacherous seas of the midterm elections to decide which party will take the helm.
Those who have missed Bob Mueller probably will have to wait till after the election, but he will come chugging back over the horizon soon enough ... actually, all too soon for Trump and his legal team. Still pending for the Mueller investigation are questions about whether The Donald and The Vladimir conspired to shape the 2016 outcome, or whether their designees handled the dirty work. Was there obstruction of justice by him or subordinates to conceal the plotting? Will the president, who correctly views the probe as an existential threat, be emboldened enough by his rage or fear to actually fire Bob Mueller, or perhaps Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who has enabled Mueller, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself? Will he fire Sessions, which could have a domino effect that could neutralize Mueller? Would he get away with such maneuvers or would there be a mutiny?

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October 2, 2018

OPENING MANY DOORS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 2, 2018

OPENING MANY DOORS
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Neil Gorsuch is rooting for Brett Kavanaugh. It’s not just because they are both hard-right-wing zealots; it also has to do with Gorsuch currently being the most junior justice on the Supreme Court, and until another one takes over his entry level, he is the one who has to do cafeteria duty. He also speaks last during their frequent private deliberative conferences and must answer the door when someone knocks during those sessions, because no staff is present, not even law clerks. We don’t know what would happen to him if he snapped at one of the Supremes: “Get it yourself! Can’t you see I’m busy?!”
“It’s like a form of hazing”, the treatment of the high court’s low man on the seniority totem pole, according to Elena Kagan, describing her eight years as the low woman on that pole, until Gorsuch came along last year. Now, just a year and a half later, he might no longer be a pledge, replaced by another rookie ... sooner or later.
Will it be Kavanaugh, after his outlandish display of nonjudicial temperament? His attempts to bully senators who dared to question him about charges he had participated in sexual assault when he was young seem to have a reverse effect. After that remarkable day when an earnest Christine Blasey Ford calmly laid out in public her accusation that at a party, Kavanaugh had groped her and tried to rip off her clothing before she escaped, his vitriolic denials ended up giving credence to her accusations.
It certainly convinced a few Republican senators the next day to jump off the confirm-Kavanaugh steamroller and allow the FBI to more fully investigate the allegations. The senators were led through the twists and turns by Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who insisted that they needed to do “due diligence” before they voted.
President Donald Trump, who seemed startled by the Flake news, could only agree to order the FBI to conduct the expanded background check. This was one time that he didn’t want to pick an ugly fight. And yes, it is ugly, but then what hasn’t been of late?

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September 29, 2018

SHE SAID-HE SCREAMED

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 28, 2018

SHE SAID-HE SCREAMED
---
So now we know what Donald Trump will do for a living when he leaves office, whenever that is. He will be busy: In addition to continuing his television career by doing commercials for products that you can get by calling a 1-800 number, he’ll also be touring as a stand-up comedian.
Obviously he’s got a knack for it. Look no further than the reviews of his latest comic performance from us horrified pundits who are obviously not known for our sense of humor. We were missing the point, as usual, at the success Trump had when he brought the house down at the United Nations nightclub in New York. Actually, it was the General Assembly, and it was a really tough crowd but the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the Trump routine when he claimed that under his leadership, the country was enjoying unprecedented success. Trump played it like he had been taken aback: “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”
By the next day, he had put together another shtick, as he is prone to do. At his news conference, which could be described as absurd from beginning to end, he insisted: “They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me. We had fun.”
No, Mr. President, they clearly were laughing at you. Sadly, they also were chortling at a United States of America that, for so long, has been regarded by some of them as sanctimonious. For many, the U.S. is becoming a nonstop slapstick comedy act.
For yucks, look no further than the Senate’s contorted efforts to do its solemn duty to approve a justice to the nation’s highest court. Christine Blasey Ford suddenly popped up with a last-minute blockade in Brett Kavanaugh’s smooth road to the SCOTUS bench. Blasey-Ford’s charge is that, 30-plus years ago when they were privileged prep-schoolers in Bethesda, Maryland, a Washington suburb, Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
In this #MeToo era, the majority Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were finally cornered into covening a new hearing. The problem for the GOP members is that even now, they are all male. They were so frightened that they’d appear insensitive, they outsourced all their questions to a woman, noted sex-offense prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. She was unable to crack Ford’s story, but she did make clear, by implication, that the Republican Party is run by fuddy-duddy men at a time when the woman vote may be decisive in the midterm elections for control of both houses of Congress.

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September 25, 2018

THE BALLOT BALLGAME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 25, 2018

THE BALLOT BALLGAME
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It happens several times a game: I’ll announce to the world, “The entire season rests on this pitch (shot/play/whatever).” My friends long ago learned simply to ignore my sarcasm, which makes it difficult when I’m being serious. Such as when I announce, “The fate of the nation might rest on the upcoming election.”
For real. Even though Donald Trump is not on the ballot, the midterms will determine if Congress can take a role in restraining his worst impulses. Just about all of his impulses fall into that category, so it should be obvious to those horrified by his presidency that they must install an effective opposition, which is to say a Democratic majority not only in the House of Representatives, but also in the Senate. That can happen only if all those millions of people who claim to be part of a so-called resistance show up at the polling places in massive numbers, turnout that will overwhelm those in Trump’s so-called base who will be there, inspired by his message of hate and ignorance, and his constant stream of outright lies.
That is a big “if.” It’s always a challenge to Democratic Party leadership to get those on the left to find common ground with those in the middle, particularly when that leadership is nonexistent. Turnout for midterm elections is low anyway, but it will be high for those who are passionately pro-gun and anti-immigrant, meaning the pro-Trump millions. A large portion of the anti-Trump crowd is really just insipid about most everything, except maybe their anti-Donald feelings.

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September 22, 2018

"HE SAID-SHE SAID" FUTILITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, 2018

‘HE SAID-SHE SAID" FUTILITY
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Even in their agony, all of those who despise anyone or anything having to do with Donald Trump at least can take some comfort in the ridicule that accompanies his every buffoonish action and the preposterously polluted stream of consciousness that spills out of the very impaired frontal lobe of his brain.
He was at it again -- not on Twitter, where he usually vents his spleen, but in an interview with Hill.TV. He was escalating his relentless attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the audacity to recuse himself and leave the president (meaning him) exposed to a Robert Mueller investigation to determine whether he cooperated with Vladimir Putin’s Russian government with its insidious influence over the election. “I don’t have an attorney general,” he complained. “It’s very sad.”

And then there's the New York Times story that strongly suggests he doesn't have a Deputy Attorney General either. The Times reported that Rosenstein was seriously shopping around the idea that he could surreptitiously record conversations
with the President to accumulate proof that he should be removed for incapacity under the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein vigorously denies the story, but it begs the age old question whether Mr. Trump's is paranoid, if in fact, so many people are out to get him.
At the same time the president goes to the other extreme: He seems to believe that his Cabinet members are there to blindly serve him and not the people of the United States. That is particularly outrageous when it come to the attorney general,or his deputy who are the nation’s top law enforcement officers. Nothing in the their job description states that they must have Trump’s back. But this chief executive believes, like any Mafia chieftain, that loyalty is the No. 1 qualification for his subordinates.

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September 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

The human aguish and cataclysmic damage of devastating storms like Florence, Harvey and Maria are natural disasters that mercifully divert the news emphasis, just for awhile, from the unnatural disaster that is the American political system. I don’t wish to be flippant about tragic and costly storms, particularly since Florence is currently dumping such misery, so I’ll spare you the glib analogies, other than to describe an American society that is being overwhelmed by floods of distrust.
The destruction is not just the result of one man -- that is, the demagogic, grossly incapable Donald Trump. Instead, it’s an accumulation over the decades of amoral self-enrichment by those in power. It has obliterated any sense of community, the belief that we are all in this together. No longer do we trust our institutions or the people in charge of them. That’s fertile ground for someone like Trump, whose election to the highest position in the United States was in large part due to millions of people being so angry at being defrauded that they were willing to take a chance on someone who’s obviously unfit, just to spite the system that, in their minds, had betrayed them.
He has lived down to our worst expectations. He is all toxic rhetoric. You’d think those opposing him would have learned a lesson from how he took advantage of their hubristic paralysis. And some of them have. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson: Some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party, those who don’t even bother to hide their ambition to assume the Oval Office throne, are dimming. They’ve clearly decided to play the same game as he does, or as many others have put it, to “out-Trump Trump.” He’s had much success with his hateful con, so why not come up with their own flim-flams?
Granted, Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” remark was naive, at best. Still, with apologies to Michelle, be prepared to mud wrestle in the pigpen. However, “When they get sleazy, don’t be cheesy.”

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September 15, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus,
When he said the world was round.
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother,
When they said that man could fly ...”

Who knew back in 1937, when the Gershwins wrote their song, that 81 years later someone would be singing the same tune? I’ve often suggested that one of the solutions to the federal deficit would be to sell naming rights to government properties. Buildings like the Pentagon could become the Boeing Building. Names of other sites would go to the highest bidder, just like their agencies do.
My dozens of readers have laughed, -- well, most of them really rolled their eyes-- but let’s not quibble. In any case, did you take the idea seriously? Nooooooo. How do you feel about your joshing now that NASA is considering this very idea?
Administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked his advisory council to consider selling ... wait for it ... naming rights. He would slap corporate logos on various launchers, booster rockets and all manner of spacecraft that would soar to the heavens looking like NASCAR racers. Imagine the possibilities: Nike could buy several of them and not only place the famous swoosh on the sides, but maybe also a giant picture of Colin Kaepernick. President Donald Trump would go, uh, ballistic. He’d prefer putting Kaepernick inside one of them, without a spacesuit.

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September 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH
---
We’ve all heard the description about the stages of deception, attributed separately to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Similarly, I think there are three kinds of politicians: liars, damned liars and contemptible liars. And Donald Trump.
Yes, I know that’s four categories; I lied.
Somewhere between two and three, I’d put Supreme Court nominees who claim that our courts are not hopelessly entangled with politics. He’s hardly unique, but the latest offender is Brett Kavanaugh, involved in the brawl called “advise and consent” (another fraud) while it was going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee preliminary bout. He offered nonstop phony platitudes like: “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
That would be similar to John Roberts’ description of his approach to making rulings when he described himself as “an umpire” and managed to slip-slide through the Senate and be confirmed as chief justice.
So I was particularly intrigued by the weekend op-ed in The Washington Post by Jim Evans, who argued that umpires “have never been robots who simply call balls and strikes. Judges and analysts who describe an umpire’s job in those terms are oversimplifying.” It probably should be noted that Evans was a major league baseball umpire for 28 years. Unlike the New York Times, the Post even identified him.
Getting back on point, and not to get too tangled in legalese, it’s phony-baloney. Both Roberts and Kavanaugh are partisans, as is every member of the Supremes. They are nominated by presidents who are Democrats or Republicans and who expect them to be reliably conservative or liberal. The days of surprises, like Earl Warren or David Souter, are long gone. Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by the Trumpster because he will be expected to rule in ways pleasing to Donald Trump. All the justices are mostly predictable.
Clearly President Trump selected Kavanaugh because of his track record on executive power. He’s given strong indications that POTUS should be walled off from investigations like the Bob Mueller one because he’s just so darned busy. Never mind that Kavanaugh played a major official role in checking into every transgression of President Bill Clinton, including his sexual ones. And never mind that Trump finds all the time he needs for inane and hateful tweets, but he’s too busy for trifles like criminal and civil investigations.

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September 8, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

This is one of those “good news, bad news” situations. First, the good news: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has communicated his continuing trust in President Donald Trump to make good on their deal, whatever it is. POTUS reciprocated by going to Twitter to thank Kim for his “unwavering faith.”
Now the bad news: Faith in Trump is wavering big-time in his own administration. If we can’t trust Bob Woodward, who wrote in his new book that Trump’s top aides go to huge lengths to block his craziest decisions, then perhaps we can believe Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, described by The New York Times only as “a senior official in the Trump administration.” With his or her identity shielded, this secret person -- presumably a higher-up somewhere in Trumpland -- has described in a Times op-ed a scary state of chaos, constantly created by the man who is the chief executive, that his top aides try to alleviate by all manner of chicanery, or as the anonymous one put it, “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
Pretty scary, right? But it gets worse:
“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which could start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.” I don’t know what’s more frightening: that they actually considered going that route, or that they decided not to. The guy’s clearly certifiable.
That cloak and dagger opus came right on the heels of excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book released by The Washington Post, where he works, that describes the freak show that is the Trump White House. It’s called “Fear,” and the details certainly are fearsome. They also are strikingly similar to the covert commentary that followed by one day the publication of the Bob Woodward excerpts (let us not forget that the Post and Times are serious competitors).

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September 5, 2018

WHINING COUNTRY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 4, 2018

WHINE COUNTRY

For those who practice resentment politics, like Donald Trump, a day without whining is like a day without sunshine.
Never mind that it’s like a day without spray tan, and never mind that Trump doesn’t practice resentment politics, he’s mastered it. He displays his crass act constantly, even on a day that world and national leaders were involved in the extended burial of John McCain. A fuming President Trump, sulking on a golf course because he wasn’t invited, couldn’t take a break, couldn’t even bury the hatchet for an instant.
By the way, I’ve figured out why Trump owns so many golf courses. It’s the only way he’d be accepted for membership. Not that joining a country club is such a big deal. All you have to do is have a ton of money and, until recently, be white. But I digress ...
There he was stroking, putting, cheating and doing all that stuff that golfers do, multitasking the entire time. He was also driving his usual barrage of tweets down the unfairway, appropriately addressing his customary wedge issues. It’s just par for the course, his link (OK, enough with the stupid golf jokes) with his millions of supporters, demonstrating, as he incessantly does, that he shares their bitterness. He’s pulled that off so well that his adoring followers think he’s one of them, even though he personifies the grossly rich guy who lives in opulent splendor while many of them are frightened by their precarious financial situations and their struggle to keep a roof over their heads. He accomplishes his feat by touching their primal fears that they’re being left behind in a scary world full of predators, particularly those of color. Plus, he bamboozles them with his interminable lies and half-truths.

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September 1, 2018

GOOD GRIEF-BAD GRIEF

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 31, 2018

GOOD GRIEF-BAD GRIEF

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The oldies are the goodies, particularly when they outlast their expiration deadline, which these days is perhaps about an hour ago. Arguably these are even worse times than the mid-19th century, when Charles Dickens wrote his “Tale of Two Cities.”
In the 21st century, we have effectively divided into two countries, separated by impenetrable fortifications. President Donald Trump heads up the hordes on the right. Those on the left are led by, well, actually they’re not really led by anyone. That’s a big part of their problem: All they really do is focus their utter contempt on Donald Trump. He’s constantly making that easy for them.
With the latest legal setbacks for Trump and his cartel, the Trump enemies cling to the hope that he’ll somehow be run out of office. However, their mood darkens the moment they review their track record. Trump is, after all, president of the United States, a concept they couldn’t even fathom until he had pulled it off, leaving them in the dust of despair.
“How could this happen?” they wailed. And they still do, each and every time he tap-dances around the stinky mess he makes.
How could it happen? Let us count the ways: For starters, there was the elitist candidate, Hilary Clinton, whose qualifications were so superior to Trump’s that it shouldn’t have been a contest for her, except she appeared to place herself so much higher -- I believe “high and mighty” is the phrase -- that she really couldn’t relate to the rabble below, the ones she called “deplorables.”
But she was just the chief of the pompous posse. Most of that crew couldn’t possibly get their hands dirty dealing with the “great unwashed.” (For those who care, that disparaging term for common folks was used by columnist H.L. Mencken in the 1920s. Actually, he stole it from 19th-century British novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. For those who do not care, please disregard this message.)

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August 28, 2018

JOHN MCCAIN ONE MORE TIME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2018

JOHN MCCAIN ONE MORE TIME
---
Others who were fortunate enough to experience John McCain, as I was, have offered their tributes to him, many more eloquently than I ever could. Still, I feel honor bound to try, because, throughout his life, McCain was all about honor.
He was not a perfect man. As a reporter, I occasionally tangled with him, and he could display a nasty temper when crossed. But he also was very funny, quick with a devastatingly sarcastic quip. Although complex, he was simply the perfect example of a public servant who believed in public service. In other words, he was part of a dying breed, as his passing reminds us.
He leaves behind a country he loved with a passion, but one that has been tattered by those who have taken the politics he practiced and turned it into, well, why don’t we just let John McCain’s own words from his memoir describe the current president: “The appearance of toughness or a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values. Flattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.” If anything, that would be a John McCain understatement about a man he despised for repudiating everything to which he had devoted his life.
The feeling was mutual. While the world and our nation’s leaders struggled to find the words to pay a proper tribute, Trump’s initial response was a perfunctory tweet: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” That’s it. Even his quivering staff urged him to say something more appropriately presidential, but this president would never be described as “appropriate.”

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August 25, 2018

THE DANGERS OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 24, 2018

THE DANGERS OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA
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It probably feels to President Donald Trump like the noose is starting to tighten. That’s not ake noose. Although metaphorical, it’s also very real. That had become apparent with one of those TV news “split screen” days, when major story developments break at the same time.
The screens were frantically fragmenting after Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen became felons at around 4:00 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday -- Manafort with his guilty verdict near Washington and Cohen’s copped plea in New York. Wherever you looked on the cable news telly, you’d see the split screen, the two of them and Donald Trump in the middle. If you used your imagination, you could watch the walls of the Trump box slowly closing in on him. It was not hard to imagine that he was being squeezed by various investigations, the ones that he squeals are “witch hunts” run by “thugs” like Robert Mueller.
The “witch hunt” seems to have scored two direct hits in the Trump coven, a “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” combination if there ever was one. And let’s face it, his political opponents, whether they say so or not, would dearly love for this to be the beginning of the end of this mob and its don named Donald. However, the leaders of this organized crime syndicate, which some adversaries consider the administration to be, are notoriously difficult to hold accountable. Trump the politician, like Trump the businessman, has always been exceedingly slippery.
He has survived so many seemingly fatal blows, and even thrived. As a candidate, his objectionable conduct and the disgusting nastiness of his running commentary would have done in normal politicians. But for a variety of reasons, every repulsive act seemed to further attract millions of Americans, and continues to. He had grown wildly rich in the past, in spite of his making one mistake after another, one egregious ethical lapse after another, which is amazing because his field has almost no code of ethics. Still, his operations were notable for violating the flimsy honor among thieves.

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August 21, 2018

THE PARADE HIT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 20, 2018

THE PARADE HIT
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President Donald Trump was bitterly disappointed that he was forced to cancel his ego trip down Washington, D.C., streets. The parade of U.S. military units was to be his biggest display yet of people marching in lockstep, bigger even than any gathering of Republicans. He really wanted to stand on a reviewing stand as the troops and hardware did their thing below -- just like they do for Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin and the others he wants to emulate -- but the disclosed cost of $92 million for this Defense Department dog and pony show is indefensible. So, of course, he did what all spoiled children do when they don’t get their way: He threw a tantrum -- a Twitter tantrum.
“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it,” he pecked on his dumbphone. “When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!”
The D.C. mayor jumped all over this with a tweet of her own: “Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington D.C., the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad)”

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August 18, 2018

OUR SELF PROTECTION PROTESTATION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 17, 2018

OUR SELF PROTECTION PROTESTATION
---
I’m about to antagonize a bunch of my cohorts, particularly those who took part in Thursday’s organized cluster fuss.
Did you see them? They were hard to miss. On Thursday, more than 350 newspapers, columnists and bloggers -- and a bunch of TV types, for bad measure -- wrote and spoke about their strenuous objections to President Donald Trump’s constant verbal assaults on those who cover him, or as he prefers to call them, the “fake news” people.
Did you see what I had to say in response to his abusive harassment? If you answered “no,” that’s the correct response. I did not join this coordinated group whimper. Frankly, I believe all those who did blundered.
First of all, we shouldn’t be participating in a coordinated anything with each other. All that does is play into Trump’s hands when he charges that most of us are part of the “deep state” establishment joining to take him down. In fact, his response on Twitter was predictable: We are all an organized “opposition party” and, get this, “in collusion,” which turns the accusations against him and the Russians inside out. Do we really want to give him such an opening?
And do we really want to add fuel to his plan to inflame his base when he shouts or tweets his Stalinesque accusation that we are “enemies of the people” who could even “cause war”? It could be dismissed as mindless ranting, but it’s actually calculated to inoculate him from anything but flattering coverage. We really should see this heckling designed to intimidate us for what it is: pathetic and juvenile taunting. The more anyone takes notice, the more the schoolyard tormenter keeps at it. So, we play right into his hands.

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August 14, 2018

THE SLEAZE SQUEEZE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 14, 2018
---
( From your wretched writer:

Our story’s perverse
It keeps getting worse
So why not, time to time
Try to soften with rhyme
To describe our political curse)

THE SLEAZE QUEEZE


Robert Mueller continues his reeling
Donald Trump never ceases his squealing
Or whatever it is you do when you tweet
Walls relentlessly closing
While “fake news” keeps exposing
Stuff that might get him impeached.

And he’s angrily moanin’
For Manafort and Mike Cohen
Shouting stuff that’s not nice
It’s all a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”
Or worse a “political stunt”
Meanwhile Bob Mueller just tightens the vise.

And let’s not forget Stormy
All the other charges he’s smarmy
They, too, add to the squeeze
Lawsuits that charge defamation
Have also made their donation
To the image of Trump as a sleaze.

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August 7, 2018

WITH APOLOGIES TO SEUSS' GRINCH

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 7, 2018

WITH APOLOGIES TO SEUSS' GRINCH
---
(A note from your writer: So much of what happens these days in the political realm is utter nonsense. Why not tell it in verse? At least there will be rhyme with no reason.)

Every Who in Whomerica likes freedom a lot,
But the Trump who lives here in Washington, Does Not!
The Trump hates democracy, to the point of malfeasance.
Now please don’t ask why, we all know the reasons.
It could be his head isn’t screwed on just right,
It could be, perhaps, that his pants are too tight.
But I think the most likely reason may be
That he has a brain that’s the size of a pea.
Whatever the reason, his pants or his brain,
He manages to be a perennial pain.
He’s teamed up with his Russian friend Putin,
Although he insists that there was no collusion.
He fires angry tweets at many questioning Whos;
He lets fly with charges that they’re spreading “fake news.”
If he could he’d attack them, perhaps with an ax
Instead of relying on “alternative facts.”
He rages and rages to all he may face,
And riles up the yay-Whos who make up his base.

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August 4, 2018

ISO A TWITTER ATTACK

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BOB FRANKEN
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ISO A TWITTER ATTACK
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What I’m about to write is entirely self-centered, but hey, after a long career in TV news, I feel it's really all about me so I'm entitled. Not as entitled as most wealthy or otherwise “elite” people consider themselves to be, but ... let's move on: I will admit it: I have been humbled -- by Donald Trump.
Try as I might, week after week, column after column of “fake news” expressing unrelenting contempt for Trump, he has not once, not EVER, insulted me on Twitter. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, none of his thousands of vacuous tweets have recognized that I exist. No derogatory nicknames, no crushing descriptions of my intellect, honesty, virility, physical appearance or age; none of that. It is as if he overlooks the fact that I’m alive (like, say, Frederick Douglass) or that I had been even born here (unlike Barack Obama).
I feel like, to borrow a quote from one of his cyber tantrums, “Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse [sic] Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and ‘Public Enemy Number One’ ...” It’s true, he was pretending to show support for his accomplice Paul Manafort, but Manafort has nothing on me. At least he’s not being shunned by his old comrade. And before you point out that, unlike Manafort, I am not fighting charges that could mean I would be effectively in prison for the rest of my life, I ask you: What kind of life is it if one is shunned by Trump? I’m so anonymous that I need an ID card to grocery shop. I have been walled off, and I’m not even an immigrant. This is cruel and unusual punishment. As a reminder, Mr. President, that’s prohibited in the Constitution -- you know, the one you pledged to “preserve, protect and defend”? Of course, your oath also specified that you’d do that to the “best of my ability,” which is a huge loophole; your obvious lack of constitutional comprehension impairs your “ability.”

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July 31, 2018

MEDIA ACTION PLAN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2018

MEDIA ACTION PLAN
---
Enough is enough. The time has come for the media to reclaim our role and aggressively cover the Trump administration without fear. We must disregard the constant bullying by him and his accessories after the “alternative facts;” aka flunkies, aka stooges. You expected subtlety? The time for that is long gone.
The new stooge on the block is Bill Shine, forced out as a top dog at Fox News after lawsuits charged him with enabling all of Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual outrages. That would immediately endear him to Donald Trump, and sure enough, now he’s the new White House Communications Director, where he’s taken his obvious talent for managing up by becoming the Don’s latest enforcer. Until Shine, the president’s desire to browbeat those who cover the White House was softened by cooler heads. But now that Shine is on the case, the crackdown has intensified.
The latest victim is CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins. After POTUS raged at Collins’ routinely impertinent questions at a photo-op, Shine banned her from covering an open press event later in the day. That followed his chewing her out in his office. Apparently, Collins handled the meeting in a classy way, which means she’s way more mature than I am (it’s difficult not to be). Suffice it to say, if Shine had done the same with me, it would have been a short meeting.

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July 28, 2018

ALL CAPPING IT ALL OFF

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018

ALL CAPPING IT ALL OFFf
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Whoa! Is Donald Trump a wild man or what? His Twitter rampages frighten friend and foe alike -- unfortunately friends more than foes.
But this time Trump’s target is an enemy, Iran, where the leaders must be quaking in their slippers, their mullahs mulling the sheer ferocity of the cyberbroadside that Trump flung their way. The American chief executive was having a tantrum over his Iranian counterpart’s speech in which President Hassan Rouhani threatened the “mother of all wars,” proving among other things that the speechwriters in Tehran also are not above a little plagiarism.
Nevertheless, it set off Trump, which is no big deal -- the slightest slight sends him into a cybertizzy. Certainly a bellicose comment from anyone, anywhere would ring his bell. And it did. POTUS may have small hands, but he has flying fingers, so it wasn’t long before they typed: “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Notice it’s all caps? Of course you did; we all did. Take that, ayatollahs. They probably were sent scurrying over that one, screaming “Wowee zowee!” in Farsi, maybe even “WOWEE ZOWEE!”
Still, before we conclude that our guy has depleted his arsenal by going all caps, he’s only getting revved up. Drawing on his inner John Paul Jones, he might be thinking, “I’ve not yet begun to tweet!” (By the way, can someone on his staff make sure he knows that John Paul Jones was an American Navy commander in the Revolutionary War and is probably dead?) He hasn’t even given Rouhani a nickname yet, like “Little Rocket Man,” which Kim Jong Un would have considered demeaning if he had ever heard the music of Elton John. Nevertheless, Kim went insult-to-insult with the Trumpster, tstating, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
Some may call that vitriol, but for those two, it was foreplay. It wasn’t long before they were having a rendezvous in Singapore, where Trump handed Kim much of what he wanted in exchange for empty promises from North Korea.

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July 24, 2018

ATTACK OF THE WIRMS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2018

ATTACK OF THE WIRMS
---
Parasitic worms -- there are many of them -- are among the worst health scourges on Earth. The same could be said about the species that frequently infest the world of American celebrity. They’re called WIRMS, but in this case, the opportunistic organisms latch on to the parasites, particularly those in the political realm. WIRMS is shorthand for “What I Really Meant to Say,” and we’ve had an outbreak of WIRMS recently in Washington.
It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that these particular lice were brought back from Helsinki, where our president -- or make that ALLEGEDLY our president -- was contaminated by his handler, the Russian president. The early-onset symptoms manifested themselves immediately -- in this case, it was his addled responses to the nagging-headache question about Russian cybertheft of the U.S. election that propelled the Moscowian candidate, Donald Trump, into the White House. With an apparently menacing Vladimir Putin standing right next to him, Trump managed to really step in it: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
We all witnessed what happened next: The spit hit the fan. Once everyone got over the shock, they responded with an outrage that was really out there. Cries of “treason” and “disgraceful” filled the air, the accusations that the U.S. chief executive had declared that he believed the former USSR KGB operative over all the American intelligence agencies. The fever kept rising, and by the next day, full-blown WIRMS had set in.
POTUS, his very own self, abandoned his usual efforts at self-medication and read off a prescription form concocted by his staff. He misspoke, Trump sniffled to reporters. He meant to say “wouldn’t,” not “would.”

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July 22, 2018

WHIP THE PRESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018

WHIP THE PRESS
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Did you notice something different after President Donald Trump so fouled himself -- and certainly, the United States -- when he appeared alongside Vladimir Putin? The reaction to his humiliating performance was so intense that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who always immediately does contortions to defend her boss, had nothing to say for quite a while. This time, it was that egregious. Either that or she was weary of deflecting all the criticism of Trump doing Putin’s work, trashing all our allies in Europe.
To be fair, however, this is not the first White House to dive into the dirty pool of protecting POTUS from the press; they all do it. Every presidency I’ve ever reported on tries to intimidate those who cover it. When I was doing wall-to-wall live shots for CNN on the bizarre Senate hearings of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, it was of intense interest to the Bush White House (I privately called them all “Bush Leaguers”). When I said something on air that the top-level administration figures didn’t like, even though it was accurate, they’d try to frighten my bosses and attempt to browbeat them into ordering a softer tone from me. It was plain-old harassment.
Same with the Clintonistas. I was the “outside the gate” correspondent, covering all the Clinton scandals, not a part of our day-to-day White House group. However, when I did a report they didn’t like, the president’s press enforcers would complain to our White House crew, who would call the bureau chief in a tizzy, and he would nervously contact me to get my take. It happened so often that when we’d complete our conversation he’d say, “In other words, I can tell them you had a two-word response.”

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July 14, 2018

THE LAWBIZ COUNTRY CLUB

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE LAWBIZ COUNTRY CLUB
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Is it possible that only Ivy League law schools produce attorneys who have what it takes to climb to the top of this country’s jurisprudence heap? This heap’s pinnacle, of course, is the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently, we have evolved into a nation where the SCOTUS ivory tower is exclusively the Ivy tower. Even President Donald Trump. the rabble rouser in chief, is said to have factored in Brett Kavanaugh’s Yale pedigree when he chose him for another new haven. Assuming the Senate complies, he will cluster with the Supremes: five Harvard, three other Yalies and one (Ginsburg) who attended Harvard Law before switching to Columbia. Kavanaugh would replace Anthony Kennedy, who is a Harvard alum, so Yale would pick up an elite seat. Isn’t diversity great?
But are those universities so inherently superior, particularly when you consider the fact that Trump graduated from one (Penn), and George W. Bush got his degree from Yale? Maybe sometimes it just doesn’t take. But is it that or is it that that some of the others are underrated or that the Ivies are overrated,
Even if you set aside Stanford, which many describe as just a West Coast Ivy, with Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist as alums, what about the University of Michigan or Virginia, not to mention Georgetown? They are among many with sterling programs. And let’s not overlook Ohio State, Arizona State and Deep State (I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention). Those programs graduate scads of brilliant lawyers. But they’re still not regarded as the super-elites. Maybe that’s Ivy League self-serving PR. Maybe the critics are correct when they charge that the most important courses at any of them include Hubris, Entitlement and, most important of all, Networking. Look no further than the Supremes.

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July 10, 2018

ACRONYM CREATION TACTICS (ACT)

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BOB FRANKEN
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ACRONYM CREATION TACTICS (ACT)

For those who thought “acronym” was a city in Ohio, it is not. According to my handy dandy online dictionary, an acronym is “a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words and pronounced as a separate word, as Wac from Women’s Army Corps, OPEC from Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or loran from long-range navigation.”
Or MAGA, as in Make America Great Again, the Donald Trump campaign slogan splattered across red baseball hats worn by millions of Americans, mostly white, mostly intolerant, who have bought into the Trumpster’s garbage that America should return to the glory days where their rigid biases oppressed everyone else. Actually, the Trump cabal is already hard at work on his re-election effort, and that means a new slogan for 2020, something that captures the regressive spirit of his first term and, more importantly, fits on a red baseball hat.
In case you were wondering, the caps are red because that’s what Vladimir Putin’s wants. That’s totally false, of course, entirely made-up, fake news. Putin couldn’t care less about such paraphernalia or such minute details. He’s more of a big-picture guy when it comes to controlling the 2020 election, just like he was in 2016. But Vlad will have an opportunity to get a full report from Donald. The two of them are on a collusion course to hold their summit next week in Helsinki.

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July 7, 2018

THE SUPREME WORD MASQUERADES

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE SUPREME WORD MASQUERADES

It’s a common experience. Our minds get stuck on something or other. But this one is kind of weird: I’ve been bugged of late by all our language lies, concerned by all those common expressions that come up in conversations everywhere and are either pointless fillers or really reflect an opposite meaning. This is what happens to me when there’s little else to discuss. And we are in a relative lull right now. President Donald Trump is between obscene outrages. Or is it that his tweet storms have lost their facility to disgust us? Even his destruction of world trade fails to cause the widespread panic it should.

Has it happened? Have we finally turned numb to the hateful crass acts of Trump and his barbarians? Has their boorishness left us bored? I mean, what’s been in the news of late? The hot dog eating contests, that’s what. One could argue that our political developments these days are normally as gross as hot dog eating contests, but usually they, uh, have more meat on them. But let’s face it, people: We’ve been in a summer hiatus — post-child snatching, pre-Supreme Court nominee.

As the Trumpster announces his choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, we will once again hear and read the kind of vacuous rhetoric — no, let’s call it what it is, dishonesty — that we haven’t witnessed since, well, the last Supreme Court battle in the United States Senate. We can start with POTUS, who promises, “I think you’ll be very impressed.” What? He’s going to select someone he doesn’t think will be impressive?

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July 3, 2018

FREEDOM'S DOWNWARD SLIDE

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BY BOB FRANKEN

FREEDOM'S DOWNWARD SLIDE

Well, here we are again. It’s been 242 years since our founders took a huge personal chance and signed the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the purfuit of Happiness ...” Yada, yada, yada ...
Yes, I am being flip about a document that was flawed from the git-go. In our root-for-the-home-team jingoism, we tend to gloss over the fact that the signers were slaveholders and that it was only white men and not women who had all the “unalienable rights.” In modern times, that would be described as “Make America Great Again.”
Even so, a few years later some pretty smart guys put together an operating manual that described the rights and restraints of a democracy that looked pretty good on paper. However, their careful balance between government power and limitation is inherently fragile, always vulnerable to the abuse of demagogues and other opportunists.

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June 30, 2018

DOUBLE SPEAK-DOUBLE CROSS

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BOB FRANKEN
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DOUBLESPEAK-DOUBLE CROSS
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Don’t you just love doublespeak, which “deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts or reverses the meaning of words,” according to the dictionary? Actually, by that definition, “love” is doublespeak, because what I really mean is that we should hate it. But let’s not dance on the head of that pin. Instead, let’s focus on the distorted language of grievance that allows society’s oppressors to wallow absurdly in their contrived victimhood.
One of my favorites is a phrase used against anybody who dares oppose the nation’s plutocrats, these obese cats who routinely use a small part of their ill-gotten gains to buy candidates -- oh, I’m sorry, I mean “make campaign contributions to elect officials who will return the favors by twisting the laws to protect the prosperous from prosecution for thievery.” What happens when anybody utters even a mild criticism? They all shriek “CLASS WARFARE” at the top of their lungs. That distortion is effective in a nation that prides itself on its alleged economic opportunity, even though just a cursory look will reveal that is actually just a myth; what we really have is gross financial inequality, with most of the country’s abundance held in the vaults of those at the tippy-top of the heap. In reality, they wage class warfare against everyone else.

That’s right up there with “playing the race card,” the favorite of those who play the race card constantly, holding on to that grand American tradition of white bigotry against people of color. That doesn’t stop white bigots from feeling set upon by every effort, no matter how puny, to counter the nation’s built-in prejudice. Affirmative action becomes “reverse discrimination,” even though it has had limited success in correcting the severe disparities that still exist.


But don’t worry, white supremacists, help is on the way: Anthony Kennedy, who spent 30 years as a Supreme Court associate justice, is retiring. Kennedy has been an independent-minded conservative who had reluctantly supported such concepts as affirmative action and gay rights. Without a doubt, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace him will be someone far to the right. Really far to the right. So, the majority of the Supremes will be not conservative but reactionary. Goodbye, civil rights; goodbye, sexual freedom. Will the president make his choice before he meets with Vladimir Putin in mid-July, or will he want to run it past Vlad -- to collude, so to speak? Is that too harsh? Am I being uncivil?

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June 26, 2018

A NATION'S AMNESIA

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BOB FRANKEN
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A NATION'S AMNESIA
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There are not any of pretentious reviews of the Red Hen restaurant, but a local critic calls it "the best in town", which may not be saying a lot since the "town" is Lexington, Virginia, population 7000-ish,deep in the Shenandoah Valley. According to the map it's about 190 miles from DC and it's definitely on everybopdy's map now as the place that tossed out Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Actually, Trump supporters aren't even bothering to make sure that they get the correct Red Hen when they hurl their invective. Do you know how many Red Hens there are?. Apparently, anyone will do, as once again we confront how uncivilized we've become. It's the simply the current plat du jour on the growing menu of rancid feud selections. It's impossible to keep track.
For instance, here's a pop quiz: What is the name of North Korea’s capital city? If you said “Pyongyang,” you probably have an above-average recall. I didn’t want to make it too easy. The name Kim Jong Un still should ring a bell, but if the details of his much-ballyhooed meeting with President Donald Trump have faded, don’t worry. That was sooooo two weeks ago, and we Americans have the memory span of a gnat.
Since that historic Trump-Kim negotiation to defuse the ticking nuclear time bomb, we have moved on. All the glaring images from Singapore (the location of their get-together, in case you’ve forgotten) have faded to almost nothingness. The bluster that preceded the event and the lies and exaggerations from Trump afterward have evaporated into the political void. All the experts on Kim who were dusted off to saturate the news channels have been stored away again. Onward and downward we go.
We've moved on to another blow-up, as the United States of America performed its best imitation of North Korea, snatching children away from the parents who brought them along as they dared to breach our borders. It all straddled the line between abuse and crimes against humanity. But then, it’s becoming routine for us as we witness on outrage after another. The constant cruelty, buffoonery and outright lying of this administration and its leader, the Trumpster, become symptoms of a chronic national sickness.

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June 23, 2018

THE THOUSAND PER CENTERS

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THE THOUSAND PER CENTERS
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Let’s traipse down memory lane, shall we, and hearken back to 1972. It was after the Democratic convention, and presidential nominee George McGovern had chosen Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his vice president on the ticket. Then it hit the fan. News reports spread like wildfire: Eagleton’s past involved some serious mental health difficulties.
McGovern insisted that he’d stand by his running mate, declaring himself “1,000 percent behind Tom Eagleton, and I have no intention of dropping him from the ticket.” Less than a week later, he dropped Eagleton from the ticket. Forevermore, in the treacherous world of politics, the lesson had been cast in Washington quicksand: If someone says he is behind you “a thousand percent,” you’re probably toast.
Fast-forward to Donald Trump in 2018 (or is that really fast-backwarding?). President Trump was meeting with his GOP congressional toadies and, in effect, nudging them to pass some sort of immigration legislation. At one point in his rambling, he made a promise to have their backs, insisting he would be “1,000 percent” behind them. House Republicans dived for cover. There were two immigration bills: a compromise put together by party moderates and one from the immoderates. First, they killed the harsher one. Then they delayed the gentler version so it could die a slower death. Who could blame them?

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June 19, 2018

A NAFTA WORLD CUP?

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BOB FRANKEN
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A NAFTA WORLD CUP?
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I’m totally puzzled: How could the United States, Canada and Mexico have successfully convinced FIFA, the international soccer organization, to award the 2026 World Cup competition to North America, the first time in history that the hosts will be three different countries? Granted, using “organization” and “FIFA” in the same sentence is a bit of a stretch, but it is soccer’s governing body -- the Federation Internationale de Football Association, in case you care.
But Mexico, Canada and the United States in a joint venue for a NAFTA World Cup? If President Donald Trump goes along as he has so far, the U.S. could be at war with one or both nations by 2026, or at least have built walls on both borders. Or maybe a wall of prohibitive tariffs once he blows NAFTA to smithereens. Will there be special dispensation for Mexican fans who want to watch a match in the U.S? What will prevent them from slipping off and taking up illegal residence in the United States?
I’m sure that has occurred to the hard-liners in the White House, along with the other anti-immigrant bigots. I’m just as certain that they’ve already come up with a solution: Perhaps they already are making plans to seize the children of any soccer fan and hold them hostage, as the U.S. is doing now by wrenching kids away from parents who dare to cross into the U.S. no matter what their motive. Maybe, while the kids are held prisoner, they can be scouted for their athletic prowess. Those who have championship potential -- and perhaps even their parents -- can be granted visas, although that may strike the anti-immigrant zealots as going too far. The treatment of these children is the administration’s latest way to discourage illegal immigration. If it doesn’t do the job, will the administration then take harsher methods, perhaps waterboarding them or using North Korea’s way to discourage anyone who dares cross their border? If anyone has forgotten, they shoot them.

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June 17, 2018

THE ART OF THE HUSTLE

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE ART OF THE HUSTLE
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This is not the first time I’ve quoted the ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s book, but I often have been curious about what exactly he was trying to convey with “The Art of the Deal.” Well, maybe not “often.” But, a couple of times I’ve wondered what the catchy and grandiose title meant in the best-seller (which is itself a puzzler). It contains nothing more than rudimentary, self-evident advice on negotiations. To wit: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.” Talk about Captain Obvious.
Yet now you have Donald Trump violating even that fundamental rule of bargaining. It didn’t appear in his text, but what Trump apparently has meant all along was that “The Art of the Deal” is pretending to make a deal because he is so desperate to look like he made one.
In Singapore, Kim Jong Un didn’t give up anything, unless we include the fact that he showed up, shook hands and smiled a lot with President Trump. But wait, that was a win for Kim, because his status in the world as a dangerous punk was hugely elevated by the fact that he met as an equal with a sitting president of the United States. Not only did Trump show up, shake hands and smile a lot with Kim, POTUS validated the ruthless dictator and his vicious state that imprisons and murders anyone who deviates from being an obedient automaton -- more than 100,000, by most credible estimates, are held in cruel gulags, where they are starved, beaten or raped.
Human rights is not the president’s thing, as we’ve discovered, and by his own account, the subject barely came up in their talks. Afterward he gushed to the Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things and that’s why he’s doing this.”
Greta did her job: “But he’s starved them. He’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?”
Trump: “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it. But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago, because that’s really when this whole thing started.”
As for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is the issue that brought them to this dance, it was all Trump quid and no pro quo from Kim. True, they did sign a joint declaration where Kim Jong Un made the same vague promises to denuclearize his nation that have been made and broken numerous times. In return, he got from Trump a pledge to end the joint military exercises with South Korea that the North has always called a “provocation.” In fact, don’t you know that the president parroted Chairman Kim’s propaganda and called them “provocative.” He then promised to end them, which, by the way, surprised the daylights out of the South Koreans as well as the Pentagon.

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June 5, 2018

PAID VACATION

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PAID VACATION
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Does Kim Jong Un tweet? Is there an @realKimJongUn on Twitter? Well, actually, there is, but it’s not @realKimJongUn for real; it’s satire. If Kim actually did have a handle, he’d probably have at least 25.5 million people who’d hang on his every word. Or be hanged. That’s the population of North Korea, and it certainly would be mandatory, were it not for the fact that most of his people don’t have electricity.
By comparison, President Donald Trump’s personal account has 52 million-plus followers, to say nothing of the millions more who read his variety of other anti-social media posts.
Not that Kim’s people are luddites; they have put together one of the world’s most aggressive hacking operations. But no Twitter. As least as far as we know.
That might explain why Kim ordered that a letter be hand-delivered to the White House the other day, although no one revealed what its contents were, nor why it was so large. When Trump raised it for photographers, it looked like he was holding an envelope with a fake newspaper inside. He jokingly tried to sell it to reporters, saying: “How much? How much? How much?” At least I think it was a joke.
Perhaps it contained a list of demands from Pyongyang -- not what it would take for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal, but what Kim’s delegation will require for travel arrangements. Not only what but, apparently, who’s going to pay for the hotel, the planes, the food, the night clubbing and everything else that the large North Korea entourage might need.

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June 2, 2018

ROSEANNE, SAMANTHA AND KIM

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ROSEANNE, SAMANTHA AND KIM

By now, you’re probably tired of hearing about Roseanne Barr and her racist tweet that was so ugly that she graduated from Deplorable to Despicable, and ABC dropped her like a stone. It was another case where the usual bottom-line-feeding corporate executives were forced to display a flash of conscience. Or they calculated that her show, which has made the network millions of dollars, would now make them nothing but trouble if they didn’t get rid of her in a big hurry. So, Roseanne Barr is now in the dumpster.
What’s interesting is the Trumpster’s reaction. Even Donald Trump seemed to heed the advice of a grown-up; either that or he was taking his meds. Whatever the reason, he didn’t directly defend Roseanne or her sense of humor, even though he previously has bragged about her big success and big ratings -- mainly because she’s such a rarity in show business, a Donald Trump admirer.
That doesn’t mean that the Chief Resenter Of The United States (CROTUS) didn’t toss out a tweet just to keep his bitter-about-social-progress base happy, or as happy as anyone can be who has so many grievances. Instead of standing up for his bigoted soul mate Roseanne, he defaulted to his victim role and tossed a little nastiness at Bob Iger. Iger is the CEO of Disney, which owns ABC, as well as much of the world. What about the “double standard,” he complained, in not firing any number of ABC personalities who have made remarks that offended Donald Trump or his supporters, some of them really tacky?
But he is going bonkers, crying “double standard” about Samantha Bee, who is definitely not a Trump supporter. That certainly was clear with what Samantha called Ivanka Trump during her TV monologue. Frankly, it’s a term I wouldn’t use in polite company. I wouldn’t even use it in impolite company. Since she did, the executives at TBS, her network, have been agonizing over whether to fire Bee or not to fire Bee.

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May 26, 2018

NFL AND DPRK

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NFL and DPRK
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Why are the NFL and North Korea similar? You guessed it: Neither will tolerate not standing for their national anthems. I assume Kim Jong Un won't accept it because he eliminates any dissenters. While the pro football owners aren't quite as bloodthirsty, they obviously are profit-thirsty and accordingly have voted that they, too, will punish players' protests, in particular any refusal to rise for "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In the NFL, those who take a knee for the national anthem instead will risk a fine. In the DPRK, anyone who doesn't robotically comply with Kim's every demand is executed, or at the very least imprisoned. So the enforced patriotism of pro football isn't nearly as thuggish, particularly since the athletes can simply hide in the locker room while Francis Scott Key's laborious song is performed. As long as they don't offend anyone with their demonstrations against the nation's racism and cops killing black Americans, they can take a knee or whatever it is they do in the locker room. Just not visibly. Ratings are way more important than free expression.
The comparison, some will argue, is unfair. We are nowhere near as regimented as the citizens of North Korea. But, it's a matter of degree. Autocracy breeds dictatorship, and we certainly are heading in the wrong direction.
Millions of people worry that the elected leader of the United States is taking us that way. By constantly railing against the institutions that stand between him and absolute rule, Donald Trump is pushing us all down a slippery slope. The media, the courts and the other protectors built into the Constitution are obstacles to whatever whim he's having. His Twitter protestations would be amusing, except that they're taken seriously by his millions of followers.
Still, as much as he enjoys ravaging just about everyone in his tweets, he does not take kindly when the invective is incoming.

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May 22, 2018

ROYAL COUPLE-ODD COUPLE

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ROYAL COUPLE-ODD COUPLE
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Usually, the only place to hear cultured British accents is anytime on PBS, but on the eve of the royal wedding, British experts were flooding the other domestic networks, making the U.S. news personalities sound like American riffraff (pardon the redundancy).
We probably needed them to gush about all the intricacies of the Meghan Markle-Prince Harry coupling. They certainly had their stiff upper lips full explaining all the pageantry, accumulated over centuries of tradition. Even the Meghan Markle father drama was restrained, with Prince Charles taking up the slack. So we were treated to a jolly good show set in the splendor of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. It was even more elegant than Mar-a-Lago.
Perhaps Donald Trump was watching from somewhere and thinking tacky thoughts (another redundancy) about whether he could build a golf course on the property or turn it into a hotel. Or it could be that he was pondering the event’s mammoth ratings -- TVs all over the planet were tuned in with entire households watching, often at ungodly hours. He would be clearly puzzled by how anything so tasteful and civilized could be so appealing, since he has absolutely no experience with that.
Trump’s best chance at ratings will the Singapore Fling with Kim Jong Un, the summit with North Korea next month, which is infinitely more important than any royal wedding, even this one. At least it has the potential to be, if the two leaders don’t blow it. But ratingswise, it won’t get nearly so many eyes. First of all, consider the players: The royal wedding had the dashing Prince Harry starring with beautiful and elegant Meghan Markle. The summit has Kim the Rocket Man and Donnie the Dotard. Compare the supporting cast: in Windsor, Prince William, for instance; Singapore will have John Bolton.

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May 19, 2018

THE ART OF THE GEOLAE

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THE ART OF THE GEOLAE

President Donald Trump makes such a big deal of his advanced negotiating skills, but the tactics he shares in his book “The Art of the Deal” are really so rudimentary that they are just clichés:
“The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”
Is that profound or what? Such advice was exceedingly obvious long before Donald Trump had his ghostwriter churn out his “Art” best-seller (don’t ask me why it was a best-seller), before he had even stiffed his first vendor or evicted his first tenant. And North Korean leaders, from the first Kim to the present one, had already made push-pull bargaining into an art form. Not only have they always operated on the belief that agreements are made to be broken, but they were masters of cognitive dissonance. Just when hopes have been raised now that they’ll sit down and talk, just when they have engaged in some sweet-talking beforehand, suddenly they turn nasty and threaten to bail out. It’s vintage Kim. Sometimes they actually do cancel. In fact, one could easily believe that they could have written a much more authoritative book, perhaps calling it “The Art of the Geolae.” (If my cybertranslator is correct, that means “deal” in Korean. If not, I hope it’s not something really smutty. )
That explains the Trumpster and the Kimster sliding back and forth between making nice and trash talking. Even before they went through the complicated choreography to set up their first date, they were busy snarling, calling each other juvenile names like “Little Rocket Man” and “Dotard.” Kim was testing more and more powerful nuclear weapons, while Trump was threatening to blow North Korea to smithereens. The entire world trembled at the prospect of human annihilation, but Donny and Kimmy were really just engaging in foreplay, the result of which is a promised extraordinary face-to-face meeting between the two in Singapore next month.
on people ... if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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May 15, 2018

SLEAZE NEVER CHANGES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018

SLEAZE NEVER CHANGES
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A couple of generations ago, there was a popular story about a well-connected Washington figure who encountered a corporate type who was having trouble with government regulatory officials.
“Oh,” said the insider. “I can help you with that.” Sure enough, quickly the bad situation went away. The delighted executive insisted that he be charged for the favor, and very soon thereafter, received a bill for $10,000 (remember, this was way back when).
The businessman was taken aback: “That’s outrageous,” he complained. “I need you to itemize the fees.” It wasn’t long before he received another voucher:
“Phone call: 10 cents.
Knowing who to call: $9,999.90.”

Other than inflation, the swamp never changes. Those who lucked out by attaching themselves to Donald Trump have proven, now that he’s in power, that they’re just the latest gang that couldn’t drain straight. How else to explain the hundreds of thousands -- make that millions -- of dollars that major companies, already employing tons of lobbyists, tossed at the likes of Corey Lewandowski and particularly at Michael Cohen? Neither of them has any policy chops whatsoever. What they had, or what the oligarchs like AT&T and the pharmaceutical behemoth Novartis perceived them to have, was relationships with and understanding of the Manhattan Hillbillies who packed up and took over D.C.
Lewandowski latched on to the Trump whale early on. Never mind that he had been tossed aside in one of The Donald’s nonstop purges. He knew the players like few did, and now it was time for a payoff. So he set up shop, and the money came rolling in from influence peddlers who needed to comprehend those they wanted to influence.
Michael Cohen was another whose entire claim to fame was that he was The Donald’s “fixer,” the one who cleaned up the mess after the Trumpster indulged one of his appetites. Suddenly he, too, was taking on new clients and raking in the bucks as a “consultant,” which is just another word for “fixer,” feeding on the same marsh scum that Trump had promised to eliminate.

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May 8, 2018

TURNOUT IS FAIR GAME

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BOB FRANKEN
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TURNOUT IS FAIR GAME
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It’s not something he does very often, but this time President Donald Trump was telling the truth when, in his rambles before the gun nuts -- aka the National Rifle Association Convention in Dallas -- he pointed out that the upcoming midterms will be determined by voter turnout.
Turnout is always the be-all and end-all when it comes to any election, but it’s particularly vital in this one. The Democrats will get the chance to demonstrate whether they can abandon their usual backbiting and lethargy, and instead channel all the anti-Trump horror into crowds at polling places.
Donald Trump is not even on the 2018 ballot. It’s a race to control Congress, but he recognizes that if Dems take over the GOP-majority Senate or House, or even just the House, his presidency is in deep doo-doo. The opposition will be empowered to constantly harass him and even impeach him if the stars align. The Trumpster by sheer force of his nasty demagoguery has done everything he can to line those stars up so he must now whip up even more intense hate among the millions in his base so they’ll turn up at the ballot box and vote their fears and prejudices. That’s why he was preaching to his NRA choir that “We’ve got to do great in ’18.”
He is well-aware that he needs to create more passion on the right, even for those in the party who are less than enthusiastic about him. They are even less enthusiastic about the Democrats, who are doing everything they can to overcome the divisions that invariably define them.
Already, the D’s are bickering over whether they’ll stick with Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House if they take over. The R’s demonize her nonstop, so many candidates in her party are running away from Pelosi as hard as they’re running for their congressional seat. But they also have to run from their party’s notorious ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If they can’t channel their anti-Trump frenzy into voter turnout, then in the words of Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, “If we’re still in the minority, all of us have got to go.” There are those who believe that if the Democratic organization cannot turn the anti-Trump resistance into a “wave” of voters, then perhaps the time really has come to look for a replacement for the Democratic Party.
I

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May 6, 2018

SEWAGE LEAKS


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BOB FRANKEN
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SEWAGE LEAKS

My long experience as a reporter has left me with a professional belief system. Actually, it’s more like a disbelief system, developed after decades of dealing with corporate types, public-relations people and, obviously, politicians. Put Donald Trump in all three categories.
One of my articles of faith, or lack thereof, concerns leaks and those who profess outrage about them. Simply put — and I warn you, this is profound: He who freaks the most, leaks the most.
The same someone who complains vehemently about information from sources who are not identified is quite possibly responsible for getting someone to whisper in some journalist’s ear. Who tweets a lot about leaks? President Trump. Who has built his entire career on strategic leaks? Bingo! The Trumpster. He’s a master at having it both ways: playing that sleazy game of providing self-serving details using the rules of background information, where the newsman cannot reveal his source, then turning right around and condemning said source.
So it is with The New York Times story about the hardball questions special counsel Robert Mueller might ask the president in an interrogation. Trump has been pretending that he’d love to sit down and face off with prosecutors on the team looking into alleged collusion with the Russian government’s meddling during the American election, and all things that grow out of that investigation. Many of these questions — and no one disputes the list that apparently was put together by the president’s legal team — have to do with possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump and those who answer to him.
Sure enough, what followed the story was a Trump tweet, which read in part: “So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media.” Who would do such a thing, you ask? Look no further than the White House. “Why would he do that?”, you ask. The answer coukd well be that public exposure of those questions might further the president’s constant narrative that the Mueller probe is overreaching, that it’s nothing more than “a witch hunt.” He’s simply the victim of a plot by media and the “deep state” to do him in.
There’s another operating theory I’ve developed over the decades of sad experience covering so many politicians: “When they deny, they lie.” Donald Trump is a star player on this field of schemes. And he has plenty of teammates. Like Rudy Giuliani, who just joined the Trump legal squad and who demonstrates once again that he’s no slouch in the cheesy tactic of undoing a lie for a partner in crime (make that “alleged crime”).

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May 1, 2018

BUYING DEMOCRACY

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BOB FRANKEN
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BUYING DEMOCRACY
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Let’s face it, the United States of America’s government is not a democracy like the textbook propaganda claims. No matter the intent of the founders, we have evolved into a pay-to-play oligarchy, where money rules.
I have to say, I appreciate it when someone is so honest about his or her own dishonesty. Rarely, however, is someone so candid as Mick Mulvaney. He now heads the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget, and even more damagingly, has been appointed by the president, on an interim basis, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB was formed out of the rubble of the economic debacle in 2008 to, as the name suggests, protect the consumer, particularly against the excesses and outright thievery of the financial industry. Over consistent Republican objections, the agency issued regulations that would offer some federal protections against these behemoths whose executives ran the monetary system into the ground with their greed.
Until Trump. Donald Trump came into office demonizing regulation, and he certainly has lived up to his campaign rhetoric by gutting the rules that were set out to create a greed shield. Mulvaney is a willing executioner. He had already established a harsh record as a South Carolina GOP congressman, a tea party favorite for his limited-government extremism -- except when it came to protecting the rich, particularly those who threw crumbs of their ill-gotten gains at politicians like him.
Now in his new role, there he was, speaking to a group of bankers (what else?) when he took his amazing detour into remarkable candor: Speaking of his days as a congressman, he said that, when it came to scheduling meetings: “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” No “might” about it, actually. Like just about every politician in the United States of America who wishes to get elected and re-elected, a huge amount of time is spent fundraising -- which is to say groveling for campaign contributions, which is another way to describe legalized bribes. What it gets the contributor is access to the contributee.

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April 28, 2018

STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2018

STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE
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Unlike so many others who ridicule Melania Trump as the president’s first bauble, or words to that effect, I have avoided commenting on her -- until now. I just cannot restrain myself anymore.
That hat, Mrs. Trump, the one you wore when posing with French President Emmanuel Macron and wife, Brigitte: It was really too much. I know, I know: The two of you were engaged in a nonstop competition to be the most chic, and obviously I mean you, Melania, and Brigitte, certainly not Donald and Emmanuel. Emmanuel would easily win that one simply by not being Donald Trump. But your hat was, how should I say it, over the top. I swear it looked like a big white stingray without the whip tail. If there were a big gust of wind, it would have turned into a glider. At least your designer didn’t emboss it with “Make America Great Again.”
Every once in a while, we in Washington display our country-come-to-town class, or lack thereof. It’s kind of like the Clampetts come to D.C. Apparently, this is the season, as evidenced by this year’s annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where reporters and pundits put on their formal finest and mingle with invited guests. The invitees include those they are supposed to cover in an adversarial way, plus a sprinkling of showbiz types and athletes. All of them congeal to demonstrate why the nation’s capital is called “Hollywood East -- With Ugly Actors.”

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April 22, 2018

HANNITY'S UNNECESSARY DISCLOSURE EXPOSURE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018

HANNITY'S UNNECESSARY EXPOSURE DISCLOSURE
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I hate going against the grain. (Actually, I love going against the grain.) I hate the condemnation I get when I do (actually, I love that, too) -- particularly when it comes from colleagues who are stumbling all over themselves to criticize broadcaster Sean Hannity for not disclosing his lawyer-client relationship with Donald Trump’s consigliere, Michael Cohen.
I genuinely do hate defending Hannity. I’m among the multitudes who think he’s the worst of the many Fox News shills for Trump. Generally speaking, if Sean is for something, I’m opposed. As usual, I strongly disagreed with his virulent attacks on the feds for raiding Cohen’s properties, even before it was revealed that Hannity had his own dealings with Cohen. He decided not to disclose that association during his tirades, and when it was made known, the media lemmings piled on in full schadenfreude. “How could he?” they bleated; fie on Sean Hannity for not admitting that he and Cohen were a business item!
OK, fellow proud purveyors of fake news. This time, I believe your fake sanctimony is showing. How many of us go to various social events with newsmakers? How many are represented in contract negotiations by the people whose job it is to do that? These same lawyers, agents, etc., get involved in politics or have other clients whom we cover. To be ultra careful, if I’m calling someone I know personally, I’ll declare first thing whether it is social or business. But it would get unwieldy if I stopped to do a disclaimer each time I was reporting, particularly when the honor-among-Washington-thieves creed has it that friendship is set aside when coverage begins. That’s why Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Sean Hannity operates out of dog-eat-dog New York, but the same rule applies. Many of those who are now stomping Hannity should remember that.
Besides, how open must we be? Should play-by-play announcers who are total “homers” publicly admit that, in many cases, they serve at the pleasure of their team owners? Should newscasters point out that they’re doing a puff piece on an actor or actress because his or her show appears on their networks?

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April 17, 2018

MISSIONS ONGOING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2018

MISSIONS ONGOING
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“Um ... I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words.” That was a weekend comment from former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. And Ari knows from “Missions Accomplished.” In May of 2003, President Bush stood under a banner with those very words to celebrate a victorious “shock and awe” military operation in Iraq. His choreographed-for-TV victory lap on the deck of an aircraft carrier was tragically premature, as evidenced by thousands upon thousands of American dead and wounded. And that’s before counting the massive toll in Iraq’s civilians who were killed.
Donald Trump, as is so often the case, is oblivious to the lessons of history -- lessons of almost anything, actually. Still, he and the grown-ups around him were able to launch their slap-on-the-wrist missile shower response to Bashar Assad’s latest evil gas attack on his own people. They pulled it off without immediate embarrassment. That was enough for POTUS to crow via Twitter about “A perfectly executed strike ... Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
Syria is even more complex than Iraq, and The Donald even less able to deal with complexity than W was. Still, that may qualify as his least ridiculous tweet of the week, a week where federal investigators seem to be tightening the vise while his antagonist, James Comey, started publicizing his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.”
While typical Jim Comey sanctimony, the book doesn’t disappoint, certainly if you’re not a fan of Trump. Comey takes several digs as he recounts his various meetings with President Trump. For instance, he likens him to a mafia don (or Donald, I suppose). Just about everybody’s favorite tirade tweets were the ones where the president of the United States repeatedly labeled Comey a “slimeball.”
But Comey-The-Insulter wasn’t even the most troublesome of his slimeballs They would have to be the federal investigators who raided the home, office, hotel room and a safety deposit box of Trump’s longtime attorney/fixer/enforcer Michael Cohen. The prosecutors were seeking anything and everything to do with years of Cohen’s wheelings and dealings not only on behalf of Donald Trump, but also on behalf of Michael Cohen;, and. oh yeah, Donald Trump Fox shill Sean Hannity. Cohen is the one who admits putting together the hush-money packages designed to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. For Hannity--who knows?
We can see how well that worked with Stormy and Karen: They are shouting from the PR rooftops their allegations they had sexual affairs with Trump. Daniels, the porn star, says hers was a one-nighter; McDougal, the Playboy Bunny, says hers lasted several months. With Hannity Hannity, who knows? Trump, the president and, might I add, husband, denies the Daniels-McDougal accusations.

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April 14, 2018

RYAN ESCAPES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2018

RYAN ESCAPES
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In Washington politics, rarely does anybody fully mean what he or she says. But few who know Paul Ryan doubt that he’s sincere when he explains that he’s abandoning his all-consuming job as House speaker to spend much more time with his wife, Janna, and their three kids. Believe it when he says he’s not running for re-election to Congress because he’s longing to be more than a “Saturday dad.” So, he’ll be going home to Janesville, Wisconsin, as a private citizen next year. However, another reality in Washington is that there usually is more to the story.
The speaker is immensely powerful on paper, being second in line for presidential succession and all that stuff, in addition to leading the House of Representatives. But riding herd on this gaggle of House Republicans is an exercise in frustration. True, they hold a majority in both chambers of Congress, but that’s illusory. In truth, the GOP is badly split between conservatives, extremists and wackos. Trying to please them all is impossible. They run roughshod over each other as often as they do the hapless Democrats. All too often, the roughshod-ee is Paul Ryan -- even though long cultivated a reputation as an honest broker, albeit an ambitious one who manages to have it both ways; a harsh but reasonable-appearing right-winger. He has been destined for stardom since he ventured onto the political stage. But now he wants to step off for a while, or at least have it appear that he is.

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April 10, 2018

PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2018

PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS
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Besides what Stormy Daniels says she did with Donald Trump and what Scott Pruitt actually did to the taxpayers, the two have something in common: Both are quickly becoming old news. They’ve had their 15 minutes of fame (in Stormy’s case, it was actually “60 Minutes”), but soon will fade into the “forgotten sleaze” abyss, to be met with “that’s soooo last week” indifference.
That is Daniels’ (as far as I’m concerned, her porn name is her real name) greatest fear and Pruitt’s fondest hope. Whatever the outcome of her legal case, she’s had a career boost. She is a hot item on the stripper circuit again, but the naked truth is that the lucrative pole ride inevitably soon will be over.
Scott Pruitt is hoping to ride out his scandals, waiting for the next buffoonery to distract those of us who get our jollies bouncing from one crisis to the next. Already his boss, the president, is giving him some space, going on weekend Twitter to declare that “Scott is doing a great job.” Donald Trump is betting on his embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator to deflect the barrage of bad publicity as simply more tackiness from the Trump gang. In Pruitt’s case, as we all know, he was caught flying first class during official travel when economy is the rule, and living in lobbyist-owned accommodations at cut-rate prices. Short of another outrageous disclosure, look for him to stay put so that he can gut the environment another day.

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April 7, 2018

THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY
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In spite of all the controversy about Scott Pruitt’s cushy D.C. condo, it’s entirely appropriate that he was getting a sweetheart deal on a place to sleep. After all, for his entire political career, he’s been in bed with the special business interests who resist any and all government efforts to protect against their ravaging of the environment.
In Oklahoma, as a state senator, then attorney general, and now as President Trump Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Pruitt has been a stalwart opponent of any regulation that would get in the way of the energy companies that have been his patrons. They and their extremist advocates have rewarded his efforts on their behalf handsomely.
Now that he has brought their bought-and-paid-for agenda to Washington, he has turned the EPA into the “Environmental Punishment Agency.” He has been dismantling clean-planet rules left and right, and dogmatically ignoring climate change science as he represents big business in pushing POTUS' anti-regulation agenda.
He’s also been living large. Or trying to. His ridiculously cheap living arrangement at a lobbyist-owned apartment within spitting distance of the Capitol has been exposed by media reports, so he has violated scoundrel rule No. 1 -- which, of course, is “don’t get caught.” He was charged $50 dollars a night, far, far below market rate but even with all the industry largesse, he’s gotten greedy. And clumsy.


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March 31, 2018

THE "IS" DILEMMA

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE "IS" DILEMMA
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“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” I hope someday those immortal words will be etched in stone somewhere, perhaps on the pedestal of a statue memorializing President William Jefferson Clinton.
For those who don’t recall the events 20 years back or who weren’t born, they were spoken Aug. 17, 1998, when President Clinton went before a grand jury.
The all-consuming story of the day, it involved his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It was quite the sleazy scandal, as we reporters chronicled the smutty investigation into what went down in the White House between the chief executive and the star-struck kid. President Clinton finally was facing a grand jury after months of our breathless broadcasting about every tawdry detail. I was among those who had to come up with a way of describing what was on Monica’s blue dress. Our choice was “genetic material,” which turned out to be Bill Clinton’s genetic material.
In any case, when the president was forced to appear before the grand jury -- under oath, of course -- he was confronted with his previous denials about the whatever-it-was with Lewinsky, and history was left with the “is-is” response. From the transcript:
“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the -- if he -- if ‘is’ means ‘is and never has been,’ that is not -- that is one thing. If it means ‘there is none,’ that was a completely true statement. ... Now, if someone had asked me on that day, ‘are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky,’ that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said ‘no.’ And it would have been completely true.”
The reason to traipse again down memory muck is to see how little things change. When it comes to “is-isms,” the Trumpsters of today are borrowing from the Clintonistas’ playbook of yesterday.

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March 27, 2018

GOOD FEELINGS OR EFFECTIVE ACTION?

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BOB FRANKEN
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GOOD FEELINGS OR EFFECTIVE ACTION?
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There are arguments over the number of those who participated in the March for Our Lives, as there always are disputes over crowd size at these mass demonstrations. Suffice it to say, a bunch of people took part. In Washington, the spat is over just how many hundred thousands flooded the nation’s capital, to say nothing of those who turned out in hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States and around the world.
The organizers -- rank amateur teenagers who rose up from Parkland, Florida, after the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School -- did an amazing job. They ignited an outrage-fueled wildfire that spread to students at thousands of schools countrywide. They also commandeered the extertise of the logistic professionals, financed by sympathetic adults. The result was an immense turnout and a well-choreographed and telegenic outpouring of angry frustration at a political system that is unresponsive and unable to cure our nation’s illnesses, like the blight of deadly weaponry, that has so infected America.
In no way is this a criticism of the kids who were motivated to put this together. It is skepticism over whether this immense show of force will turn out to be enough to overcome the entrenched special interests who will do whatever it takes to protect their prosperity. One of the most perversely successful is the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. Like a threatened monster, the NRA brutally lashes out whenever threatened. The organization didn’t disappoint this time, derisively calling the enormous rallies a “March for Their Lies,” heaping scorn on the Stoneman Douglas leaders who’ve become celebrities, charging that if their classmates had not died, “no one would know your names.”

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March 24, 2018

HIGH TECHNOLOGY-LOW HUMANITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2018

HIGH TECHNOLOGY-LOW HUMANITY
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The problem with high tech is not the technology -- it’s the humans. How’s that for a pearl of wisdom? No matter how brilliant or useful, we will muck things up. So it is with Facebook, which has created a remarkable global village in which personal news can be instantly shared with the world, along with all the fake news.
No matter how laudable the concept, it will be tarnished. Another pearl. That’s particularly true in the world of such cybermechanisms that have a profound cultural impact. The problem is that the genius creators often are dunderheads when it comes to figuring out social complexities. They and their revolutionary inventions are easy prey for the hustlers, who inevitably will figure out ways to corrupt them.
If that seems a tad cynical, let’s do ponder Facebook and the other innovations of the Internet Age. To a large extent, they harness algorithms to entice billions of people across the planet to surrender their personal information, often without realizing it, so that they can communicate with others everywhere who have made the same Faustian bargain. Among the devils are the merchants who take all this data and scrape off everything of value, much like strip mining. The toxic byproduct is a loss of privacy, to be exploited for profit by the likes of Cambridge Analytica. For those who have trouble keeping up with all the daily outrages, that is the corporate group with ties to the Trump organization. It broke the few rules of the high-tech frontier by allegedly feasting on data in ways that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg now grudgingly acknowledges were inappropriate. For all his success, Zuckerberg is not very swift when it comes to taking accountability for the debacles that constantly erupt under his watch. He certainly is not adept in dealing with the politicians constantly looking for targets of faux outrage, particularly vulnerable individuals and most particularly, those who don’t realize that they’re vulnerable. Like Zuckerberg.

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March 17, 2018

TRUMP, CLINTON, HAWKING

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BOB FRANKEN
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TRUMP, CLINTON, HAWKING
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The death of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking brings to mind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. How weird is that? But bear with me. Hawking credibly speculated about a parallel universe on the other side of a black hole. What if, in that alternative existence, Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election? How, in that black hole that is U.S. politics, would she be doing as president?
In a word, badly. In another word, lousy. She wouldn’t be the disgrace that Donald Trump is -- there’s no way anyone can match his bigotry, hateful appeals to our worst instincts or his simple-minded impetuousness. In fact, “Hillary” and “impetuous” would make up a classic oxymoron. While President Trump is moronically careless, Hillary is methodically calculating, or at least appears that way, which is even worse.
As a result, she squanders her advantages, like her formidable brainpower, because she’s missing the lobe that processes empathy impulses -- the real ones, not the artificial contrivances concocted by her sycophantic consultants. By now, she even would have frittered away much of her hugely historic significance as the nation’s first woman chief executive. To the extent that it is a blessing in this patriarchal and misogynistic society, it would have dissipated, overridden by the personal flaws that have come to define Hillary Clinton. Her careful dissembling would be easy prey for Republicans, always ready to pounce. Her perceived sense of superiority and that of the people who flit around her soon would antagonize just about all us unworthies.
Unlike so many who have grown weary in this real world of Hillary coming up with excuses for how she possibly could have lost to a dangerous buffoon like Donald Trump, I encourage her to continue speaking out. She provides an object lesson for those trying to grasp what a candidate should not be. Her recent appearance in India is a case in point.

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March 13, 2018

TRUMP'S BEAUTIFUL PARADE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2018

TRUMP'S BEAUTIFUL PARADE
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It looks like no amount of ridicule is going to dissuade President Donald Trump from holding his parade on Veterans Day. At least he’s decided to not include tanks. Someone let him know that they’re heavy, and genius that he is, POTUS was able to figure out that they’d wreck D.C. streets. As someone who drives on them all the time, I am fully aware that D.C. streets don’t need tanks -- they’re pre-wrecked, which will be readily apparent if they ever really do drain the Washington swamp.
For now, it’s full speed ahead in the planning. The latest Pentagon memorandum specifies the usual spit-and-polish marching armed forces units. We’ll have jets screaming overhead. There are always jets screaming overhead. On the ground there will be wheeled weapons of war rumbling along ones that are lighter than tanks. Are nuclear missiles lighter than tanks? In addition, we’ll have groups of veterans sauntering along which makes sense, since it is for Veterans Day. Filling out the ranks will be newly created battalions of teachers, sashaying by with the newly issued weapons they’re now authorized to carry. As they pass the reviewing stand, they’ll fire off a 21-gun salute. Special care will be taken to make sure that they don’t point their weapons at each other.
Looking down from on high will be the president, his very ownself.
d from programs for the needy. However many millions of dollars is a small price to pay for a presidential ego trip.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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March 10, 2018

SIMPLE STORMY SEX

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

SIMPLE STORMYBSEX
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Thursday, March 8, 2018: Mark down that on your calendar. It was a day for news of huge significance: Tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, and a startling announcement about negotiations between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Ho-hum.
We’d much rather discuss sex.
Happily, the Washington swamp is teeming with wanton wildlife. Even though the people in D.C. are legends in their own minds, they take off their pants the same way you and I do. That’s what I said: Take off their pants. Let’s face it -- many, if not most, of the leaders in a position to determine how we live and love and all that important stuff are really just a bunch of horndogs. They jeopardize their elevated status for risky sexual adventures at the drop of a trouser.
There are exceptions. Barack Obama’s presidency was publicly free of the personal escapades that have defined so many politicians’ lives.
Presidents Bill Clinton and now Trump are a whole other story. Where would we be without the almost-daily dalliance report on someone in power? And those are just the ones who get caught. Bill Clinton’s “bimbo eruptions,” as a longtime Clintonista put it, were the stuff of legend. Now we have Donald Trump, who is doing everything he can to keep up the tradition. Even the most august media have at least one Stormy Daniels story a day, to say nothing about the titillating accounts of so many (other than his wives) who claim to have yielded to his charms (namely money) or insist that they were assaulted by him.
Trump denies it, all of it, which sets him apart from so many others who had no choice but to admit their inappropriate behavior or outright adultery. I always found that word comical, because there is nothing adult about "adultery". But the mind wanders.

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March 6, 2018

TRUMP--THE TRANSLATION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018

TRUMP-THE TRANSLATION
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Let’s ponder “manslation,” the term that describes the irritating male habit of deciding it’s necessary to interpret to the group what a woman is “really” trying to say. An appropriate response would be “Who asked you?” Actually, there’s an even more appropriate response, but let’s not go there.
Interestingly, at the White House, it has become necessary to come up with a variation. You guessed it; we should call it “Trumpslation.” Oddly, many of the Trumplators are female. It gives new meaning to the expression “A woman’s work is never done.” The likes of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks spend a huge amount of their time deciphering and then publicly clarifying the latest loopy POTUS outburst, which is probably a redundancy. It’s full-time work. But wait, Hicks has decided that she’s had enough. She’s exiting stage right and returning to private life, while trying to scrub away the legal problems that seem to splatter on anyone who’s near Donald Trump.
She had even acquired the nickname “The Spinster,” which had nothing to do with her marital status. She was the expert in going through verbal gyrations to put a fictional gloss over whenever he said something outrageous, which was all the time. “She’ll be sorely missed” is anything but a platitude. She and the entire Donnie Decoder Squad have been working overtime as Wild Man has been tossing out a stream of thoughtless comments.
There was that bipartisan meeting at the White House, focused on gun control. Trump apparently decided that live television coverage of events like this would be a boffo idea, and he’s probably right. Well, he would be, if he hadn’t suddenly blurted out positions that, in effect, gave the Democrats much of what they wanted. Expanded background checks? No problem. Wanna talk about a ban on assault weapons? You betcha. He even mused out loud about allowing authorities on a whim to take weapons from those they feel are mentally ill, declaring, “Take the guns first; go through due process second.” Who’s afraid of the National Rifle Association anyway, he exclaimed.
Well, apparently he is, because the next night, he and Vice President Mike Pence had an unannounced meeting with NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox. Shortly thereafter, Cox went to Twitter to announce that Trump didn’t really mean it: “POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA.” An hour after that, the president offered his own tweet. “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” In other words, Cox told Trump to back off. And Trump did as he was told.
I

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March 3, 2018

WHITE HOUSE EXITUS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 2, 2018

THE WHITE HOUSE EXITUS
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There’s a lot of talk about the Trump presidency unraveling. Big mistake. Because that assumes it was ever raveled. Now, however, it is about to be Hopeless.
Yes, that’s a cheesy pun to note that Hope Hicks, who has been among the most trusted of Donald Trump’s aides since even before he became a candidate, is departing the pressure-cooker White House. Although still in her 20s, Trump leaned heavily on her as his only front-stabber in a sea of intrigue. She ended up as communications director, but she’s not the first one to bail or be bailed from that spot.
Remember Sean Spicer, who provided one of the primo embarrassments on the first full day? During his crazed, unkempt news conference, he browbeat reporters, demanding that they hew to POTUS’ fantasies about his inaugural crowd size. He showed a superhuman willingness to be both nasty at the same time he was being publicly ridiculed by his boss, the meanest demeanor of all. He took it for six full months. Then, along came Anthony Scaramucci, and Spicer left in a huff. “The Mooch” lasted all of 11 days before his bizarre behavior and profane rantings proved too much for even this administration. Now, it’s Hope Hicks -- so unlike Scaramucci that it’s hard to believe they are the same species -- who’s throwing in the towel.
One can’t help but notice that she makes her decision at the very moment special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at her as a possible key witness for his investigation into alleged campaign collusion with the Russians and all other things Donald Trump-related. She definitely related to Trump as a close confidante for three years. Mueller is showing particular interest in her admission before the House intelligence committee that on Trump’s behalf she told an occasional “white lie.” Investigators obviously want to know how occasional, how trivial and how Russia-related. (She says her “white lies” didn’t involve Russia.)

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February 27, 2018

SECOND GUESSING THE SECOND GUESSERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 27, 2018

SECOND GUESSING THE SECOND GUESSERS

Allow me to play devil’s advocate. It’s what I do as a journalist, plus I personally enjoy taking on orthodoxy, particularly when it involves a binge of second-guessing. That’s exactly what we are witnessing in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

I’m about to defend the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while not necessarily a fan of the FBI or, for that matter, of so many police agencies that can be overzealous in pursuit of what they perceive to be law and order. I promise that this is nothing like Donald Trump trying to discredit those investigating his possible sellout to the Russians. He demonizes anyone who dares to question him. In this case, this is someone, namely me, who believes that Americans citizens have a right to not be subjected to police heavy-handedness.

That said, I think the feds and all the other agencies that failed to intercede when presented with warnings about the alleged Stoneman Douglas assassin Nikolas Cruz are getting a bum rap. For starters, the FBI tip line must sift through a flood of calls and emails -- slightly more than a million and a half last year. But these warnings, you say, deserved special attention.

What might that special attention entail? At what point do agents put on a full-court press. At what point do they put under surveillance or take into custody someone who has been anonymously accused? When were social agencies, who had years of experience with Cruz, to decide that they may impose on his right to not be institutionalized? First of all, our politicians have made sure that we have a shortage of mental health facilities. In many ways, social workers, psychologists and educators are impotent; there is little they can do.

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February 24, 2018

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 23, 2018

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

The skeptics among us, and I’m one of them, will say that the White House “listening event” for those directly affected by mass killings was contrived by Donald Trump’s image-makers. Look no further than the note card he foolishly left out for cameras to see. It listed five reminders for him to show empathy. Since it’s obvious that Donald Trump has severe EDD, they probably were necessary, including No. 5, which was a suggestion that he say, at some point, “I hear you.”
For once, he followed the script. The upshot was the rare appearance of Trump displaying presidential leadership. Unfortunately, when it comes to guns, he’s leading us in the wrong direction. Of all the suggestions that flowed from those whose raw emotions came from the wrenching loss of children or friends, the suggestion he seemed to embrace the most was the one that would lead to more lethal hardware out there, not less. That means it’s the one that is most encouraged by the National Rifle Association and the other merchants of death.
The proposal would arm teachers and other adults in the schools with their own weapons. They’d somehow be trained to effectively stop an assailant by shooting him or her in the critical few minutes before first responders arrived. Or not. No mention of whether they’d be using pistols or assault rifles. The NRA opposes any limits on assault rifles, even though they are the choice of most mass murderers. Therefore, the trembling politicians refuse to prohibit them.

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February 21, 2018

GUNS AND RUSSIANS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 20, 2018

GUNS AND RUSSIANS
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Mark the date on your calendar: March 24. It’s a Saturday. It’ll be a test for the up-and-coming generation. For that matter, it will be a test for the United States of America and a system of government that gets many failing grades because it has corruption baked in.
Saturday, March 24, is the day that student organizers have announced a rally in Washington -- “March for our Lives.” Anything short of an enormous turnout will reinforce the craven politicians’ belief that they can wait out the outrage that accompanies each regularly occurring mass gun slaughter, such as the latest one in Florida, by uttering a few “thoughts and prayers” statements. That way, they avoid the wrath of the National Rifle Association and its accomplices, who combine intimidation with campaign contributions to those who cower before them.
Only crowds that are even bigger than those that attended President Donald Trump’s inauguration can begin to cure America’s sickness: our irrational attachment to weapons of mass destruction. Even such an outpouring might not be enough. This is a nation with up to 300 million privately owned weapons, many in the hands of millions of people who feel they must jealously guard them with their lives -- or more accurately, the lives of the victims of the latest massacre.
It also will be a test for a country where most of us have the attention span of a gnat. Our thinking, or lack thereof, is shaped these days by social media, where it’s easy to take full advantage of our inherent superficiality. A certain president uses Twitter to great effect.
Others prefer Facebook, like the Russian government. The latest indictment from Robert Mueller’s special counsel operation nails Vladimir Putin’s henchmen by detailing the highly organized ways they distorted the 2016 election. True, it did not allege that Trump or his campaign heavies knowingly participated in the Russian operation. That accusation of complicity, if there are such charges, would come in subsequent indictments. What Mueller’s grand jury did was to outline crimes allegedly committed by the Russians. Their next batch might very well specify co-conspirators, Americans who may be charged as willing participants.
Trump, as always, did some distorting of his own. For instance, he insisted that these indictments did not accuse his forces of collusion. That is sort of true, but premature. He chose to you ignore the probability that more indictments will be coming that hit closer to the home, maybe even his home, the White House.
What also is true is that he has not indicated in response that he’ll take on Moscow, even with this new damning bill of particulars. Could this be his continuing collusion?

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February 17, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 16, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER
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The “duck and cover” drills in our nation’s schools from the 1950s and ’60s, captured in the rudimentary videos of that generation, are now quaint images. They were supposed to help protect students and teachers from a nuclear attack, a futile exercise indeed. As the Cold War waned (if it really did), those regular civil defense run-throughs ran out.
They’ve been replaced in many schools by a different kind of drill: In modern times, the repetitious routine now include what to do in case of a fire, but, ominously, ways to respond to an attack from a mass murderer with deadly weapons. More often than not, the arsenal will include an AR-15-stylesemi-automatic rifle, which is legal. Instead of the Soviet Union or China, now the enemy is us.
In the United States of America, most anybody can obtain these armaments, which have no purpose other than to kill people. They are readily available even to those who are later described as “weird” or “troubled,” as the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was. Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from the huge but highly regarded Douglas High after repeated confrontations. He was a classic loner and such a troublemaker that he had been reported to the authorities, including the FBI, which was a waste of time, as it turns out.
Such details are somewhat different each time, but the outline is the same. Someone disturbed with a grievance decides to avenge it by slaughtering innocents. It’s all too familiar because it happens over and over again in the U.S.; each time it does, we recoil in horror, as we should, and the politicians react with “thoughts and prayers” statements, and then do nothing. That is because they cower before the fearsome enablers of human-caused catastrophes, the National Rifle Association.

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February 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID
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There are so many problems in making a charge of sexual misbehavior and even more starkly when it comes to accusations of domestic abuse. Not the least of this is when Person No. 1 (usually, but not always, a woman) points the finger at Person No. 2 (usually, but not always, a man). When the man denies the allegations, we often are left with uncertainty over which one to believe. That’s exactly what the administration faced with two key people on the president’s staff -- Rob Porter, the man who handled all the presidential paperwork and the most classified material, along with speechwriter David Sorensen. Both were accused by various ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse; both adamantly reject the charges. We are left with the classic “she said, he said” situation.
Unfortunately, it’s what their bosses, particularly chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn, did NOT say that is the problem here. Each should have said, “No way,” as in there’s no way the men should have such critical roles until they could dispose of these matters that are so severe that they were denied full-fledged security clearances, as they nevertheless dealt with state secrets. Both Kelly and McGahn were well-aware. The FBI, which conducts the investigations, made sure they knew. But, for whatever reason, they decided to bring these guys on even with these serious questions about their past.
They’d still be there, except media reports suddenly blew up in their faces. Porter and then Sorensen quickly resigned. There wasn’t even a whimper about “fake news.” There was, however, a discernible roar about the way Kelly, in particular, handled it. Even after the stories spread, he lauded Porter: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” The moment a picture was subsequently published showing one of the exes with a black eye, Kelly, the war-hero-turned-Trump-tough-guy, went into full CYA mode. First, he expressed “shock,” then he tried to revise history by saying he had acted immediately.

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February 11, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 9, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

You know, there is such negativity out there. All President Donald Trump did was order his Pentagon higher-ups to put together a massive parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the critics began their sniping. The Washington Post, which broke the story, reported that POTUS watched the Bastille Day parade in Paris last July and envisioned a huge military spectacle here, “bigly” even, one that would show off America’s military might on the next Veterans Day. Some ridiculed the idea that he presumably would be standing on a big reviewing stand as the parade passed by, with most of the attention focused on ... well ... him. He’d be above the fray. Except that he is the fray. But never mind that: He’s commander in chief, so the generals simply saluted smartly and said, “Yes, Sir!”
There has been no shortage of snarky comments since the Post article came out: Such displays of armed forces and their weaponry might be good for France, which, after all, is always trying to let the world know of its glory, past and present, real or imagined. The grumbling here is that the United States doesn’t need such an extravaganza, that it’s beneath the dignity of the planet’s majorest superpower. Besides, not counting France, that kind of thing is really more common in autocracies, big and small. Russia puts on a splendid one. And so does North Korea, which just did one to mark the start of the Winter Olympics. Philadelphia did another to mark the Eagles’ Super Bowl win, but that featured just a few busloads of players ... and huge crowds ... way bigger than showed up for the Trump inauguration. Just sayin’.
But that was then. This is now, and wouldn’t all that naysaying energy be put to better use trying to make it work? I mean really, isn’t it time to be positive? Never mind that Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11, five days after Election Day this year. Easy-beezy. Surely there’s an executive order for that, moving it to the Sunday before, just in case this really was a political stunt. Of course, the very thought of that would be soooooo cynical.

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February 6, 2018

FAKE NUNES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 6, 2018

FAKE NUNES
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I covered Capitol Hill during my CNN phase, which was quite a while ago, but to this day, I have friends who are veteran members of Congress and, more importantly, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. These are Washington “friends,” which is to say that when I’m reporting on them, they’re often adversaries. In return, they don’t give me any sort of favored treatment, particularly those on the two intelligence committees. Any conversation about the super-classified material they routinely see as they conduct their oversight of various national security operations is strictly off-limits. Since the committees were formed in the 1970s, their tradition has been proudly nonpartisan for obvious reasons, relative sanctuaries of harmony in the dissonant screech of politics.
Until now.
On the Senate side, that still seems to be the approach, but certainly not at House Intelligence, which is chaired by Republican Devin Nunes. As Donald Trump’s hand puppet, Nunes has thrown out any pretense of collaboration. He has repeatedly tried to muddy the waters of an investigation into Donald Trump’s murky relationship with the Russian government and into whether Vladimir Putin colluded with Trump and/or associates to influence the precious election for the president of the United States. That investigation is being conducted, of course, by special counsel Robert Mueller. Now Nunes, or his staff, has released a memo that attempts to selectively contrive a case that all the Russia probes are somehow tainted by partisanship. He did so over the strenuous objections of the FBI and Justice Department that it gives away secrets. It was released to much fanfare, but frankly, it divulged nothing of consequence, unless you count revealing the desperation that Trump and his cohorts (accomplices) might be feeling as Mueller starts tightening the vise.

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February 4, 2018

DINOSAURS AND CHEAP SHOTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 2, 2018
DINOSAURS AND CHEAP SHOTS
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At first glance, this should be a huuuuuuge story: Prehistoric animal tracks, a lot of them, were discovered near Washington. On further reflection, though, it’s not all that remarkable. In the 110 million years since they roamed the D.C. suburbs, the dinosaurs have moved just a few miles to the District of Columbia, where they trod every inch of the nation’s capital.
Yes, that’s a cheap shot, inspired by the State of the Union spectacle, where our country’s leaders try to hold onto glorious ancient traditions that never really were. President Donald Trump managed to not embarrass himself and the country. He went passive-aggressive as opposed to his usual nasty-aggressive. He did manage to sneak in several cheap shots himself, camouflaged by soaring platitudes about unity and national spirit. He referred to the so-called Dreamers -- the 700,000 or so people who were raised in the U.S. after they had been brought here as children by their illegal immigrant parents. There is a struggle to rescue them from deportation threatened by a Trump-created March deadline. Even he insists he’s sympathetic to their plight, but his contribution to the negotiations is an uncompromising bargaining position. In his speech, he took the “Dreamers” and rubbed their noses in his “America First” demagoguery: “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans -- to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.” Cheap shot alert!

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January 30, 2018

STATE OF THE (DISS)UNION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 30, 2018

STATE OF THE (DISS)UNION
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It’s not a Donald Trump thing for me. I have always believed that State of the Union speeches were dopey. It’s fair to say, though, that it’s particularly ludicrous with this guy as president.
We really should replace “State of the Union” with “Tweet of the Union.” That’s how TWICTUS (Twitterer in Chief of the United States) normally stretches his attention span to communicate to citizens his complete thoughts in superficial bursts. Why do we need 45 minutes to an hour of his nastiness? Ah, yes, you respond, but it’s a way to display our democracy in action. Actually, it’s hypocrisy in action. With the boisterous applause and the platitudes, like the scripted intro by the House speaker -- “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States” -- the entire show is totally phony. Whoever the president is, it’s a pompous regurgitation of his ideas, ones that have been splattered on us ad nauseam. The remarks really are delivered to the folks at home watching on television, using the delirious members of Congress as a studio audience and with the party in power looking similar to those who have been revved up for a game show, like “Let’s Make a Deal.”

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January 28, 2018

SAD ADVICE FROM THE POET

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 26, 2018

SAD ADVICE FROM THE POET

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”
We can thank Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer Carl Sandburg for that tidbit of wisdom. It’s standard operating procedure for trial lawyers and certainly for politicians, both of whom could be best described as “anti-poets.” It’s clearly a way of life for the most obscene practitioner of these dark arts. I refer, of course, to the table-pounder in chief Donald Trump, who has gone quite far with it. His accomplishments include winning the presidency and allegedly having sex with Stormy Daniels. (If you don’t know who Stormy Daniels is, check her out on your favorite search engine; you’ll be amazed. Disgusted and amazed.)
But I digress. Notice that I said “allegedly.” There is an even more jarring “allegedly,” this one being the alleged crime that Trump himself may have committed.
Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be vigorously exploring whether the president obstructed justice as Mueller ratchets up his investigation into whether Trump or figures in Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in the alleged (there’s that word again) theft of the U.S. election. He and his people have interrogated Attorney General Jeff Sessions and has questioned James Comey, who was FBI director until President Trump fired him. Most ominously, Mueller now is negotiating with the White House to set parameters for questioning POTUS himself. It’s fair to point out that obstruction of justice is extremely hard to pin down. What might not be so elusive is a charge of money laundering by Trump and his circle of family and associates. That brings us back to that Carl Sandburg quote.
The Donald Trump variation would be something like: “When the facts are against you, scream ‘fake news.’ If the law is against you, discredit the investigators. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the social media (or in his case, the anti-social media) and tweet like hell.”


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January 24, 2018

POINTING WHICH FINGER?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 23, 2018

POINTING WHICH FINGER?
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You are probably asking yourself, “What was that all about?” Just because the shutdown ended shortly after it began, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again in just a few weeks -- and it definitely doesn’t mean that our great leaders in Washington covered themselves in glory. Quite the opposite. They can’t even guarantee that they can handle their most rudimentary job, which is to keep the federal government functioning.
As for what it was about, it was nothing more than an exercise in finger-pointing, Republicans and Democrats trying to make sure the other side took the blame. Thanks to these clowns, the United States of America has been embarrassed yet again, and all they obviously care about is making sure that the public didn’t think it was their fault.
When all is said and done, the bulk of the debate was about who would be held responsible for this debacle. It wasn’t about the merits of the issues, but almost exclusively about how this mess could be exploited. Before they got down to business, what we witnessed was our top politicians all talking past the others, trying to push the poll numbers their way.
Here we had Donald Trump marking his one-year anniversary as president by presiding over a breakdown that he had a large hand in creating. From the moment he was sworn in, actually long before that, he set a tone that makes it far too difficult to find the compromises that are essential for a democracy to operate. His insistence on constant, hateful confrontation makes civility impossible. Barbarians are by definition not civil. He is aided and abetted by fellow Republicans who have abandoned any molecule of principle that they possessed. In the name of self-serving ambition, they indulge Trump’s worst instincts. Actually, he doesn’t have any good instincts, but they’re with him, even though they know better. Of course, they’ll drop him like a stone if he falters, but for the moment, since it’s in their interest to go along with his immorality, they’ve displayed their amorality.

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January 20, 2018

UNHAPPY ANNIVERSARY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 19, 2018

UNHAPPY ANNIVERSARY
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As we arrive at the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency, we cannot really say that it has been a manic-depressive year. That would suggest that there had been some highs to accompany the low points. Maybe depressive-depressive is more like it.
Whatever you call it, the United States of America is now occupied by an administration led by a man with severe emotional problems. A cognitive test that he took the other day, amid concerns that POTUS’s mind is deteriorating, was focusing on the wrong concern: It’s not dementia that’s worrisome, particularly given his erratic behavior. It’s not that his brain is rotting; it’s more like it’s been rotten the entire time. We are being led by a crazy man -- if not mentally impaired, then objectionable to the core.
Our chief executive is a stupid bigot. Are there any smart bigots? We didn’t need his “sh*thole” outburst -- or, if you prefer, “sh*thouse” -- to demonstrate his severe prejudice; he’s blatant about it. He has a history of it that he’s carried into his campaign and now into the White House. His declarations that he’s “the least racist” human we’ll ever encounter, or words to that effect, are contradicted by his actions, opinions and policies that would restore the Jim Crow era. That’s what he means when he bellows, “Make America great again!” His supporters, the millions of people in his precious “base,” are divided between the outspoken white supremacists and those more polite ones who are willing to accept Trump’s hate-filled policies. By implication, they, indeed, are “deplorable.”
On the other side, you have gradients of a “resistance” that has lost steam since it manifested itself on Day One of the Trump rule, promising to challenge his every toxic move and work toward driving him out of office.


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January 17, 2018

OBSCENE DISTORTIONS

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BY BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 16, 2018

OBSCENE DISTORTIONS
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Is it me, or has anyone else noticed that when someone is exposed for wrongdoing, the responses all seem similar? No matter whether someone is overheard saying something racist, credibly accused of sexual harassment or caught in some incredibly egregious act, if the person decides that it’s futile to dispute the charge, his (or her) apology looks like it came from the same mea culpa template.
Somewhere in each one, there will be words to the effect that he or she has had a lapse in judgement, is sorry that he or she caused harm or distress and, this is my favorite of all, “This is not the person I am.” It’s not just individuals who eat the very same humble pie, but corporations, too, when they’re caught in some awful act.
Let’s take a certain hospital in Baltimore, the University of Maryland Medical Center, which on a very cold night was taped “patient dumping.” A passer-by shot video of an incoherent woman being taken out by security guards, wearing only a flimsy convalescent gown, and abandoned at a bus stop. Had the guy not interceded, there’s every reason to believe that she would have frozen to death. Sure enough, when the facilities administrator realized that the inhumane treatment had been inescapably proven, he had no choice but to face a news conference. And what did he say? You guessed it: “We firmly believe what occurred Tuesday night does not reflect who we are.”
I’m left with the impression that when someone uses the “not who I am” phrase, that’s exactly who he or she is. All the person is trying to do is wriggle out of the mess. And that explains why everyone’s grovels all resemble each other. Many, if they can afford it, quickly go out and hire a crisis manager. That’s a glorified PR person who has contrived a specialty in Crisis Response Altering Perceptions. (I’ll let you figure out what the acronym is.) Their loads of Crisis Response Altering Perceptions all sound the same. For that they get big bucks.

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January 13, 2018

POTUS (PROFANITY OF THE UNITED STATES)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 12, 2018

POTUS (PROFANITY OF THE UNITED STATES)
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Warning to parents: You might consider this column unsuitable for your children. It is riddled with asterisks that provide flimsy cover for obscenities. We pretend that we are family friendly by using these asterisks. Never mind that our little darlings use the foulest language the moment they're out of your earshot -- and so do you the moment you're out of their earshot -- because we're hypocrites, this here will be shot full of the hated asterisks.
For this, you can thank our current president, Donald Trump. Once again, he has demonstrated that he's a crass racist by referring to El Salvador,Haiti and African nations as "s***hole countries." Let's not get distracted by any sanctimony about profanity and instead stick to what this illustrates about our fearless leader: The guy is a bigoted ***hole, who is such a dumbs**t that he doesn't realize he can't insult developing countries in public.
He made the "s***hole" comment during a meeting in the Oval Office with a group of senators who were there to discuss immigration. Why, he asked, couldn't more of those seeking a life in America come from nations like Norway--translate "white"-- instead of places that aren't so white and are therefore "s***holes"?
Once again, he was reinforcing the argument that he is a crazy bas***d whose ability to restrain himself is in the cra**er. The charge that he's mentally defective has gotten new energy, particularly after the publication of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" bestseller in which various high-level associates have questioned whether the bowels of Trump's brain are plugged up, at least the part that controls inhibitions.
El Trumpo denied saying what witnesses reported. He went on Twitter, as usual: "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used ..." meaning "sh**hole." Yeah, right. Remember that he's a da**ed liar, a pathological one.

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January 9, 2018

"FIRE AND FURY" FIRE AND FURY

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BY BOB FRANKEN

"FIRE AND FURY" FIRE AND FURY

Any producer will tell you that one key to a successful story — whether it’s in a book, on stage, in the movies or on TV — is having at least one sympathetic character. The “Fire and Fury” saga proves that rules are meant to be broken. The new release from Michael Wolff is a highly entertaining account of the Trump administration that is already a best-seller, even though all the leading characters are decidedly unsympathetic.
There’s Steve Bannon, the slovenly right-wing extremist who was Donald Trump’s brain for a while, but is now on his snit list. Trump has even slimed him with a nickname: “Sloppy Steve.” Of course there’s Trump himself, who was portrayed as being, in the words of one Cabinet-level member of his administration, “dumber than s--t.” Other top staff people used words like “dope,” “idiot,” “moron,” “a child” and all sorts of other colorful descriptions that came down to his being mentally defective.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget the author, Wolff, who personifies to many the stereotypical smarmy journalist who gets people to confide in him, but then breaks their trust by going public with their off-the-record comments. He’s also been long accused of making things up when necessary. Apparently, he didn’t make up all the comments from Steve Bannon, who was fired a few months back from the Trump White House and now is definitely in the Trump doghouse. In fact, the initial reaction to his quotes in the book brought a typically subtle reaction from the president: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” As I said, subtle as usual.

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January 7, 2018

TWEETY BIRD TRUMP

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BY BOB FRANKEN

TWEETY BIRD TRUMP
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Tweety Bird Trump is at it again. Actually, he never really stops. I’m referring, of course, to President Tweety Bird Trump. One has to show all the due respect, and that is all I can muster. So Tweety is pecking away as he starts off the new year with his Twitter bombast bomb blasts.
Most of his output is the routine ridiculous stuff: He suggests that another political opponent -- in this case, Huma Abedin, who has been attached at the hip to Hillary Clinton her entire adult life -- should be jailed for her sloppy handling of classified emails, at least in President Tweety Bird’s mind. He also takes credit for the significant aviation achievement that there were no commercial airline fatalities in 2017. Of course, he had little to do with it.
And then there’s his running trash-talk battle with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who would be a clown, except for the fact that he’s developing a nuclear arsenal that threatens world annihilation if not expertly finessed. Tweety obviously is not a finesse kinda guy. He ridicules the North Korean tyrant by calling him “Rocket Man.” They’re well-matched, and it’s not just their small, pudgy hands. They both have fragile egos that they try to cover with bluster. So when Kim makes a speech taunting the United States by saying, “The nuclear button is always on my desk,” Tweety Bird Trump can’t resist: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Besides the fact that Tweety is once again displaying that he’s always very insecure about size, he’s also playing with fire at the very moment Kim also was hinting he might be willing to lower the temperature

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January 3, 2018

THE 2018 GAMES

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE 2018 GAMES
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I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much footballed out. The season’s not over yet -- we have the college Division I championship to determine. After that, the other professional league, the NFL, will decide who’s No. 1 with its playoffs and the Super Bowl, of course.
The Super Bowl has become a grotesque salute to so much of what makes America what we are these days: extremely expensive excess that is only for the filthy rich; we witness a garish halftime show; we will be treated to intrigue this year about which players will ignore its contrived patriotism; and, certainly, the game itself, with injuries on seemingly every play. But most of all, the event fills the need for some venue to show those grossly expensive, clever commercials. It’s a financial orgy that only the U. S. of A. could present. I wouldn’t miss it.
Like so many in this country, I’m also mesmerized by our nonstop political unnecessary roughness. I am hooked by its bizarre characters and gross plot twists. It, too, has come to symbolize the worst of America, with greed and malice taking over a system that is supposed to serve the people but serves only a few of them -- the wealthy rulers who put in office the lackeys who will obediently protect their interests. But yes, I tune in religiously, along with everyone else.
And, there will be some thriller matchups to begin the new year. That’s because, appropriately, Congress has punted everything to January. On Jan. 19, funding for the government runs out, meaning if the two parties can’t come to some sort of big creative give-and-take, we’ll finally have that government shutdown that has been avoided so far through schemes that delay the inevitable, the only agreements that anyone has been able to reach.
That is going to require some deal on, among other contentious issues, the Dreamers. The Dreamers are the thousands of illegal immigrant children who, thanks to an order from President Donald Trump, will be forced to leave the nation where they were raised and deported to countries they haven’t seen since infancy. Everyone at least pays lip service to the idea that their plight should be solved, except that Trump insists the deal must include some funding for his wall. Put Democrats down in the “no way” column. Some face-saver will have to be contrived, or the government will shut down, the Dreamers will be deported or both.

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December 31, 2017

AWARDS BY THE BAGFUL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 29, 2017

AWARDS BY THE BAGFUL

I haven’t been able to pin down who first called Washington, D.C., “Hollywood East” and who added “but with ugly actors,” but certainly in 2017, Cecil B. De Trump Productions created a yearlong epic that was both melodrama and slapstick comedy.
What with all the entertainment awards that define this season, we’d be remiss if we didn’t have our own. Showbiz can have its Golden Globes, Emmys and Oscars, but Politicsbiz is the big one, with its trophy ... what should the trophy be? Oh wait: Actually, Robert Strong has taken care of that. Strong, who is a Los Angeles County psychologist, is known as “Robbie” to his friends. Those friends would certainly not include Steven Mnuchin. That’s Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who was the recipient of a gift package. It was filled with horse manure deposited in Mnuchin’s obscenely wealthy Bel Air neighborhood, where he lives with his new wife, actress Louise Linton. More about her later.
Robbie Strong felt compelled to recognize the contribution Mnuchin made in leading the effort to pass the tax legislation that should be called the Class Warfare Act. It scrapes what economic resources were left at the bottom and dumps them into the vaults at the top. So, Robbie delivered two packages to Beverly Hills and Bel Air. They were the boxes of horse manure. Apparently, the Bel Air manure delivery struck fertile ground. That turns out to be where the Mnuchins reside. Strong explained it was only fitting: “I feel like that’s what the GOP has done to the American people.”
I should hasten to add that in no way should I advocate delivering unwanted horse manure to a member of the United States government Cabinet, particularly when it causes the Secret Service to shut down the streets of Bel Air for hours as they sifted through the manure to make sure that was all it was. As you can tell, I deplore such conduct. Right?
However, Robbie, with his protest, did come up with the perfect trophy for our awards show, presented for the highest achievements in 2017: the HA Award. “HA” would stand for the source of Robbie Strong’s gift to society. (Use your imagination. Hint: The first word is “Horse’s.” Need even more guidance? President Donald Trump is the presenter.)

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December 28, 2017

THE YEAR OF THE DOG

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 26, 2017

The Year of the Dog
2018 is the Year of the Dog. That is, if you’re Asian and follow the Chinese zodiac. It rotates between the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. And as I mentioned, 2018 is a Dog year. That’s a good thing, particularly when us Westerners remember Harry Truman’s bromide: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” It might interest you to know that I was born under the sign of the Snake, which will not surprise those who know me.
But I was surprised to find out Donald Trump’s birthdate also had the Dog as its sign, considering my affection for puppies. Obviously, he was so mistreated that he turned dangerously ferocious. His Christmas Day astrology fortune, by the way, was, “The Year of the Earth Dog 2018 is a good time for lifestyle changes (time to quit smoking or change residence) and for the start of new business ventures.”
He doesn’t smoke, but while the Chinese are probably happy with his ineptitude in the face of their intimidation, millions of Americans might embrace the “change residence.”

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December 23, 2017

THE SPITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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BOB FRANKEN

FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 23 2017

BY BOB FRANKEN


(Note from your deservedly humble writer: The Centers for Disease Control, not usually a place you find controversy, has stirred some up by listing seven terms that shouldn’t appear in CDC budget documents.
They include “Transgender”,”Diversity”, “Vulnerable”, “Entitlement”, “Fetus”, “Evidence-based” and “Science- based”.
It’s time for my annual “Night Before Christmas” rip-off. So in the typical holiday spirit of defiance, I’ve decided to include them all.)

THE SPITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

It’s the time around Yuletide, and for many it’s wonderful

Except if you’re poor or otherwise vulnerable.

That’s not the case for the Trumps. They don’t have that far to go,

To be nestled in luxury at their own Mar-a-Lago.

It’s so obscenely expensive, the conclusion is evidence-based

The opulence there is certainly decadence-laced.

And that’s probably what some critics have meant,

About those who are members and their sense of entitlement.

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November 23, 2017

THE HUMAN TURKEYS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE HUMAN TURKEYS
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This Thanksgiving, better known as Black Friday Eve, we have revised the tradition a bit: We are serving and carving up the turkeys who are allegedly total pigs, those engaged in sexual assault or otherwise swinelike actions.
Many of them are finally being called out for their barnyard behavior. While male gobblers are commonly known as Toms, this breed of grabbers is variously called Harvey, Roy, Mark, Al, Charlie, Bill (the former POTUS: Poultry of the United States) and so many other names -- including, certainly Donald, the current POTUS. There’s nothing paltry about The Donald’s exploits in this regard. He’s even bragged about them. What’s unfortunate, though, is that everyone is being roasted to the same degree without anyone really taking into account the severity of the differing offenses.
Some of those whose names have surfaced for lesser sins have become, to continue with my tired animal metaphors, sacrificial lambs. They are mashed together with others accused of rape or assault. All of them, the delinquents and the degenerates, are then stuffed into the same bird and crammed into the same oven for their trespasses, no matter how grievous the violation. We will need to gain some perspective about not just the severity of the wrongdoing, but whether some of the accused are being caught up in a kind of sexual McCarthyism where we cannot sift out the honest charges from those that are dishonest or simply misunderstandings. As it is now, all us guy turkeys are stewing in our own juices, wracking our brains to remember when, if ever, we’ve crossed the line, which still is not clearly defined.

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November 19, 2017

OF SLEAZE AND GIFTS

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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 17, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

OF SLEAZE AND GIFTS
I’m actually disappointed. I thought that I had settled on this year’s seasonal gift to everyone. Yes, “seasonal” -- I’m one of those people who wishes everyone a “happy holiday.” This, as we know, infuriates Christian extremists.
Speaking of Roy Moore, he now seems to have moved on, but if all the credible accusations are true, for a while at least he was the perv-in-the-mall when the 30-something district attorney in Alabama was creeping out teeny-bopper girls in the shopping center by hitting on them. Come to think of it, large numbers of evangelicals exhibit admirable faith, tolerance and intellect, but just about any group has its charlatans, so Christian extremists and pervs are not necessarily mutually exclusive groups. But I have seriously digressed.
I was talking about how I had chosen a single present that I’d be giving to all those on my list. I had decided that everyone would receive a Keurig coffee maker from me. That was driven by my spirit of defiance (hey, you have your Yuletide spirit; I have mine) of the far-rightist thugs destroying their Keurigs after the company announced that it was pulling sponsorship ads from Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News.
Hannity, for those who don’t know or care, is the ultraconservative host of the most watched program on Fox, and many think -- including me, by the way -- that he’s actually a shill for President Donald Trump and anybody else from that part of the political spectrum. Naturally he landed the only interview with Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore after The Washington Post reported on accusations from teenage girls back in the day that Moore had sexually assaulted one of them and been otherwise inappropriate with the others. Hannity asked Moore what might be described as “gentle” questions. Others would describe it as Sean rolling over for a belly rub. It caused such an uproar that Keurig executives announced that they’d be yanking their commercial from his show. The alt-right loonies went bonkers. Social media exploded with videos of them burning their coffee makers or hitting them with sledgehammers. So naturally, that ended my annual uncertainty over what to get everyone. And, if anyone already had one, he or she could regift it to the alt-right somebody who was not alt-there and needed one to demolish.

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November 12, 2017

OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

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OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

Those familiar with the Broadway classic “The Music Man” doubtless enjoy one of the showstoppers that combines “Ya Got Trouble.” They’re performed by the character Professor Harold Hill. He’s really a flimflammer trying to sell band instruments to the rubes in a fictitious small town, River City, Iowa. He claims that they will rescue the local boys from a life of sin, billiard playing and overall trouble -- “with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for ‘pool.’”
What our politicians sell here in Potomac River City is a much bigger hustle than that. It’s ongoing. The “T” in this version could rhyme with “C” for “con artist,” or simply “Trump” -- same thing. It certainly could rhyme with “V,” for “Virginia,” “E” for “elections” or “ D” for the Democrats, who kicked the GOP’s “B,” and I don’t have to tell you what that stands for.
What was at the “PP,” for “polling places,” is that Trumpism might be in “trouble,” which starts, as we said, with “T” and rhymes with “DDD,” which stands for “deep doo-doo.” In Virginia it was also “G” for “Gillespie” -- Ed Gillespie, the establishment Republican who tossed his scruples into the pile of expedient hate in a transparent effort to appeal to the big “B”: bigotry. He slithered down Trump’s path by running ads that were blatantly anti-Hispanic. That also rhymed with “T” for “trouble” by rhyming with “D” for “disgraceful” and “C” for “cynical.” For good measure (bad measure actually) he added spots that emphasized his support for keeping Confederate statues up, in a state that considers the murderous right-wing extremist violence in Charlottesville a raw wound. And of course he tried to exploit antagonism toward athletes who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He lost, and deserved to. Then to rub a little salt in Gillespie’s wound, Trump tweeted from Asia that “Ed Gillespie worked hard, but did not embrace me or what I stand for.”

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October 31, 2017

A MANAFORT CAVE?

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A MANAFORT CAVE?

It’s a cliché in the legal world: A prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. That is, of course, because the standards for bringing charges are relatively low -- “probable cause” that a crime has been committed, as opposed to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” hurdle that comes before a defendant is convicted in a trial.
In addition, usually only the district attorney or the state attorney (or whatever they call the prosecutor) can offer evidence to the citizen grand jurors. Defense lawyers are almost never allowed to refute the allegations or to provide any explanation. Grand juries date back to British Common Law, which means they have existed for about 800 years. You now have more information about grand juries than you ever had any interest in knowing.
The point is, prosecutors have a ton of power, and special counsels are super-duper prosecutors (is my terminology too legalistic?). Robert Mueller is one of those, and now he’s made his first ham sandwiches. They are big ones: Paul Manafort, a former Donald Trump campaign manager, along with Manafort aide Rick Gates. Their 12-count indictment includes serious felony charges: money laundering, tax evasion, failure to register as a foreign agent and conspiracy against the United States while working on behalf of Ukrainians with close ties to Moscow. It’s heavy stuff (more legal terminology). By the way, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos also pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Yes, it’s a crime to lie to FBI agents, which only enhances the government’s power in criminal matters. At some point we can have a discussion about whether our belief that Americans are “innocent until proven guilty” is all that valid, but let’s not stray from the point of all this.
Ultimately, the guy who was not indicted today is a certain president of the United States. Mueller was appointed to determine whether there was criminal collusion with Vladimir Putin’s agents by Donald Trump or his campaign underlings to swing the election Trump’s way. Mueller’s mandate, as is the case with all independent counsels, extends to any crimes that are uncovered during the investigation. Hence these formal accusations against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. I’m sorry to lapse into more lawyerly language, but they could be in a heap of trouble.

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October 24, 2017

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK

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THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders is from Arkansas, and she frequently likes to spout regional sayings when she deflects tough questions about her boss. President Donald Trump is about as un-Arkansas as any person can be, but that doesn’t stop Sarah from employing the faux folksiness that she heard in her childhood to evade the truth about his latest outrage. She learned it from a distance, from the governor’s mansion, when her father was the state's chief executive, but she still has the affectation down pat.
So it was when she was defending factual inaccuracies in White House chief of staff John Kelly’s takedown of Rep. Frederica Wilson. The Democrat Wilson has become a “rock star,” to use her own words, ever since she harshly criticized President Trump’s botched consolation call to the wife of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. Sgt. Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger. Rep. Wilson, who was listening in, along with Johnson’s family members, described Trump as insensitive during the brief conversation. When Kelly decided to respond and defend his boss, he went after Rep. Wilson. In the process of slamming her, he accused Wilson of falsely claiming credit for arranging the federal funding needed to build a new Miami FBI field office during the building’s dedication in 2015. However, a videotape of her speech showed that she did no such thing. Faced with that evidence, Huckabee-Sanders tried to gloss over Kelly’s inaccuracy in Trumpian fashion: She went on the attack against Rep. Wilson and her history of wearing distinctive -- no, make that outlandish -- hats.
We don’t know whether Sarah needed to consult her book of quaint farmer put-downs, but she was ready with one, declaring that Wilson was “all hat and no cattle.” For those city folks who have no earthly idea what she was saying, it means Wilson is all show and no substance.

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October 10, 2017

OF STORMS AND MORONS

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BY BOB FRANKEN
OF STORMS AND MORONS
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “moron,” but we are the real morons -- certainly those in Washington, D.C., who allow Trump to so easily mess with our minds.
He’s at it again by calling in media types for a photo op at a White House dinner he was hosting for his seniormost generals and their spouses. It looked purely social, just a group picture for souvenirs. That is, until the Trumpster threw out this little bit of provocation: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
Whoa! What did he mean by “the storm”?
Good journalists that the White House pool reporters are, they asked that very question. Repeatedly. And repeatedly he refused to explain himself, brushing off requests for an explanation with a cagey “You’ll see.”
When the commander in chief starts talking about a “storm” in a room full of generals, “You’ll see” is just not going to cut it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson whose job it is to keep White House correspondents in the dark, was her usual helpful self, which is to say not helpful at all. Of course, that led to the obvious question: Was the chief executive simply messing with the press? “I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” she said, which means he definitely was messing with the press.
He’s been known to do that. In fact, it’s nonstop. He’s made “Fake news” his contemptuous go-to dismissal of any story that doesn’t praise him to the high heavens. He also runs a never-ending guerrilla campaign against the media. His latest Twitter onslaught to leave us ink-stained wretches all atwitter, to say nothing of the hair-sprayed wretches on TV, was his tweet “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up -- FAKE!”
Of course, that would be seriously unconstitutional. Presumably Trump is familiar with the Constitution, but it doesn’t matter. His base probably isn’t. Besides, Senate Intel is a bit preoccupied right now, investigating whether Trump and/or his campaign sold out the country’s election to Russian comrade Vladimir Putin.

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October 8, 2017

THE PLATITUDE AND DEFLECT STRATEGY

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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 6, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN