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Bob's Columns and "Franken Sense" Archives

October 30, 2014

OCTOBER SURPRISE REVISITED

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 24, 2014
OCTOBER SURPRISE REVISITED
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Well, I seem to have had my own October surprise. Ever since I wrote that the concept was outdated, that there wasn’t any such thing anymore, I’ve seen evidence that we’re up to our necks in them.
Surprise No. 1 has to be Ebola. Obviously the deadly illness is not the concoction of some sick-minded political operative, like so many late campaign events are. It’s a deadly force of nature. What’s made it an election issue is the uneven response by medical authorities and the impression that the boss, President Barack Obama, has not been up to the job of whipping into shape an effective plan.
That perception is largely unfair, but the crack White House communications team once again has been overwhelmed by developments and has left the chief executive unprotected from charges that he’s not in command of things. They haven’t even been able to stay on top of the incendiary and somewhat irresponsible coverage on cable. The Republicans have taken full advantage, fanning the flames with simple-minded ideas aimed at a nation that’s been allowed to panic because no one on the administration’s side has been effectively controlling the message. So the GOP has been drawing campaign blood just days before the midterms with crude approaches, like suggesting a total ban on travel from the West African countries consumed by Ebola.
Never mind that it’s unworkable; the harsh heckling from the opposition seems to have intimidated the president somewhat, or that’s how it looks, and Americans don’t like to feel that their leaders can be successfully browbeaten.
In the Obama administration’s case, that line of attack hits the president where he’s vulnerable. He’s been worn down with a series of goof-ups. Where do we start? How about the rollout of Obamacare last year, which was an unmitigated disaster. The failure to recognize the capabilities of ISIL ranks right up there, or perhaps, more accurately, down there. Stir in ingredients like the Veterans Affairs scandal, the klutzy performance of the Secret Service, etc., and it’s easy to understand why Americans get a little skeptical about their government and start having doubts about the guy at the top.
It helps explain why so many Democratic candidates in this midterm election are running for office and doing everything they can to distance themselves from Barack Obama, while the Republicans do everything but surgically attach them at the hip. The president has gone along, and stayed in the background as his fellow party members deny that he exists. But even there, the man who always had a way with words is now tripping over his mouth. He’s appears to have taken lessons from Vice President Joe Biden

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October 27, 2014

EBOLA FOOLISHNESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 21, 2014
EBOLA FOOLISHNESS
BY BOB FRANKEN
(THIS COLUMN IS A WEEK OLD PER MY AGREEMENT WITH THE SYNDICATOR)

Here’s a concept: Let’s come up with an idea that would make things worse even if it worked, which it wouldn’t. That would describe the proposal to prevent all people coming from the three West African nations devastated by Ebola -- Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia -- from entering the United States. The U.S., it seems, is also ravaged by a growing disproportionate hysteria about Ebola, and most of all by cynical politicians, largely conservatives, who are exploiting the alarm for a chance to score some points against the Democratic president in the days leading up to the election. They’re trying to capitalize on an impression that he is dithering as this killer illness threatens public safety here in the homeland. Now they’ve even been joined by some craven Dems, like North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, who is in a close race and has reversed her position that a travel ban would be a bad idea, folding under the pressure of her voters seeking a simple solution to their fears.
As I said, it won’t work. Someone who really wants to get to the U.S. easily can exploit porous borders and huge accountability gaps in our travel system. Not only that, but efforts to stop Ebola at its source -- which is West Africa -- would be stymied because the aid workers sent to the region from this country wouldn’t be allowed to return. Do we make an exception for them, even if they’ve been exposed, as some have suggested? Then what would be the point?


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October 23, 2014

SHOULD WE EVEN BOTHER TO VOTE?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 17, 2014
SHOULD WE EVEN BOTHER TO VOTE?
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is the time of year when we hear all the drumbeating to get out the vote. Unfortunately, for too many Americans, the question is, "What for?" After all, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that two-thirds of those questioned believe the country is going in the wrong direction. Favorable ratings for the Democratic Party are at a 30-year low of 39 percent, and Republicans are even lower, 33 percent. That same survey, by the way, puts Barack Obama's approval rating at 40 percent, which is also a new low for him.
This is the midterm election, though, which is not about Obama. Among other things, it's about deciding who will make up the next Congress, and whether Republicans, who now control the House, also will take over the Senate.
Except that to a large degree, this IS about Obama. The GOPs are running against him and his dismal approval numbers. Nearly all the Dems are running away from him. The most glaring example is the Senate race in Kentucky, where the Democratic candidate, Alison Grimes, isn't even willing to say whether she voted for Mr. Obama in his presidential races. He's that unpopular in the state.
In the process, though, Mrs. Grimes has embarrassed herself to the point that the party's money people are pulling out their ad dollars. Obviously, they've concluded that Kentuckians will choose Mitch McConnell for his sixth term. Not only that, but if the Republicans take over the Senate, which looks likely, McConnell almost certainly will become majority leader, the guy who runs the show.
Here's the thing: McConnell is really unpopular in the state. The polls show that he, too, rates just above pond scum. But the D's ran such a bad campaign (or came up with such a weak candidate -- or both) that residents of the state are left with little option but to hold their noses when they vote for one or the other.

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October 22, 2014

PERKY EARLY EARLY ON MSNBC I'M NOT

Just remember as you watch me dispense my Thursday pre-dawn wisdom on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed.

October 20, 2014

CHURCH AND STATE: STILL SEPARATE?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 14, 2014
CHURCH AND STATE: STILL SEPARATE?
BY BOB FRANKEN
I have always agreed that the two subjects that should be avoided in polite conversation are religion and politics. Well, since I’m forever talking politics, one can easily figure out what I think about polite conversation -- obviously not much.
But if there is any doubt, let’s discuss religion today. We can start with this question: Who are you going to believe, Antonin Scalia or Thomas Jefferson? Justice Scalia recently made a speech at Colorado Christian University in which he declared that there is nothing in the Constitution stating that “the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion.”
It’s interesting that someone who is described as an “Originalist” would apply his own reasoning to the First Amendment, which specifically prohibits “an establishment of religion.” The author, Thomas Jefferson, made it clear what he meant. In an 1802 letter, he wrote that he intended a “wall of separation between church and state.”
The problem with Scalia is that his point of view is not just idle opinion; his legal opinions can be part of the final word on this country’s laws. It’s a good thing, for instance, that the Supremes decided not to take on gay marriage, because at least one-ninth of the deciders, probably more, would base their vote on their religious views trumping equal treatment under the law.

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October 16, 2014

THE DISTANT OBAMA

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 10, 2014
THE DISTANT OBAMA
BY BOB FRANKEN
Given his low standing in the polls and the growing list of friends and foes alike who say he is too aloof and lacks the fire needed for leadership, do not be at all surprised if we suddenly see Barack Obama throw a temper tantrum in some very public place.
There was a time when being described as “No Drama Obama” was a plus for him, as he very carefully cultivated an image of being the coolest guy on the planet. He won two presidential elections, in part because he was perceived as being above it all, not covered in the muck that defines politics. He was the Democrats’ rock-star candidate and drew huge crowds wherever the campaign trail took him.
Now the campaign trail is the last place you’ll find him. Those same Democrats are no longer running with him, but from him. That’s because Obama’s approval ratings are in the dumpster. Of course, every president will tell you that he’s not ruled by the polls, or at least his peeps will, and every one of them is being untruthful. They care a lot, including this one, who is sensitive to the point that if the latest surveys show a particular criticism, you can bank on his trying to demonstrate that it just ain’t so. That’s why I think it’s just a matter of time before we will witness Mr. Obama letting loose on camera with an old-fashioned hissy fit. What a photo op that will be, maybe when he’s getting together with Joe Biden.

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October 15, 2014

MSNBC's SLOW START TO THE DAY

Catch me at my usual 5:15 AM Eastern time slot on a Thursday on MSNBC. Watch because it's even too early for the negative political ads.

October 13, 2014

NO OCTOBER SURPRISE PARTY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 7, 2014
NO OCTOBER SURPRISE PARTY
BY BOB FRANKEN
For the election geeks who are waiting for this year’s campaign October surprise, give it up. Another tradition bites the dust. For those who don’t eat, sleep and breathe politics, first of all, congratulations -- and in case you need it, an explanation: The October surprise was the predictable startling development or scandal, timed by one side or the other to explode into public view in the last days before the election. It would dominate the headlines and be all that the voters would be thinking of as they headed to the polls. My friend John Feehery, former press guy for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, knows about such things because he’s a student of politics, heaven help him. He writes in The Christian Science Monitor that both LBJ and Richard Nixon used the last-minute gambit to good effect. Since then, it has become a regular part of the last-minute routine.
Unfortunately, the October surprise may have become obsolete. Surprises just can’t wait anymore. They startle us every day of the year, certainly every month. The ISIL surprise hit about June, give or take. That’s when our intelligence operatives were suddenly amazed that a huge force, thousands of well-equipped and -financed brutal Sunni fanatics, had somehow assembled without raising meaningful alarms and were marauding whomever they wanted in Iraq and Syria, basically uncontested by Iraq government troops, who mostly turned tail and run. Surrrpriiise! Of course, the fecklessness of our allies in Iraq had somehow escaped their attention too.
That was just after Vladimir Putin astonished our befuddled national-security folks with his invasion of Crimea. Oh, the hand-wringing that has caused.


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October 12, 2014

Wisconsin Public Radio

I'm spending a Monday afternoon with one of my favorites, doing Kathleen Dunn's Wisconsin Public Radio show from 1 till 2 PM, Central, 2:00-3 Eastern.

October 9, 2014

SECRETS ABOUT THE SECRET SERVICE AND OTHERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 3, 2014
SECRETS ABOUT THE SECRET SERVICE AND THE OTHERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
So much for another elite mystique. Through the decades, the Secret Service has carefully cultivated its image as a force of superhumans providing an impenetrable wall around the president and others it is chartered to protect and make short work of all those who are a threat. Well, that wall suddenly is showing a lot of cracks, in spite of the best efforts of those at the top to try to hide them.
It’s not just that a disturbed guy was able to scale the fence and get onto the White House grounds; that happens all too frequently. And it’s not just that he (carrying a knife, by the way) was able to sprint right past befuddled protectors on the North Lawn, or even that he burst through a ridiculously unlocked front door, overpowered the lone guard and ran all the way to the East Room in the back. That’s past the steps that lead up to the Obama family living quarters (the president wasn’t there at the time). As mind boggling as that all was, it wasn’t the entire problem.
Perhaps worst of all was the way that Secret Service management ordered deceptive public statements trying to minimize what happened. Were it not for the reporting of The Washington Post, we wouldn’t have known the full extent of this praetorian collapse. Effectively, the leadership was being dishonest, in the same way it was in downplaying its botched response to an assailant with a sniper rifle who fired several times at a part of the executive mansion reserved for the first family’s use. In that case, it took agents four days to determine that shots were even fired -- thanks not to any of them, but to a housekeeper who spotted bullet holes.

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October 8, 2014

MSNBC'S KING OF DARKNESS

There is no baseball or football the night before, so there's no reason you can't tune me in on a Thursday dawning, at MSNBC, 5:15 Eastern. Unless you just don't feel like it.

October 3, 2014

FUN AND GAMES IN NEW YORK ON MSNBC

It's a huge sports weekend: Playoff baseball, tons of football and on Sunday morning at 10 Eastern, me sparring in New York with substitute host Dorian Warren and the others on MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry program.

October 1, 2014

AN MSNBC POTPOURRI

I'm on MSNBC this Wednesday afternoon at 2:30-ish with Joy Reid, as well as the usual Thursday dawn torture at 5:15. Both times Eastern.

September 29, 2014

A BAD NFL HABIT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 23, 2014
A BAD NFL HABIT
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s become quite the thing for celebrities, or even semi-celebs, to let us in on the dark secrets of their lives. Whether it’s coming out as gay, confessing past drug use, revealing they’ve battled severe anxiety, you name it, it’s become trendy to reveal something or other that’s deeply personal. A big one currently is that he or she was abused. Frankly, my response usually is a big “Thank you for sharing,” by which I mean, “Who cares?” You’d never see me sharing my private shame.
Until now. I can’t go on any longer without bearing my soul. You ready for it? I’m an addict. There it is. No, it’s not a drug thing. I’m not a user, never have been — I don’t even drink. This is far more insidious. I watch NFL games ... can’t shake the habit. Even though the National Football League has proven to be a disgusting institution that, in spite of its sanctimony, puts profits over what’s right, I have not been able to boycott the games. Even though the Washington franchise identifies itself with a hateful slur, there I am every Sunday, or Monday night, or Thursday night, or even Saturday sometimes, watching each and every play, ignoring all the injuries.
I should be boycotting the games, but I can’t. I did give up my season tickets a few years ago and refuse to pay the exorbitant ticket prices to watch live at the stadium, but I can’t tear myself away from the TV with all its instant replays, graphics, slow-mo and bizarre camera shots accompanying the inane chatter of the play-by-play announcers, sideline reporters and sometimes helpful color commentators, the ones who survived the violent collisions without head injuries.
I watch even though the league executives denied that head injuries were a serious problem, suppressing information to the contrary, and grudgingly admitting they were ravaging players and former players only after bad PR about shocking studies. Forced to acknowledge the scourge, the NFL’s own actuaries have submitted a court document that shows one in three former players can expect cognitive difficulties. And now, the league is suddenly trumpeting its concerns about brain trauma.

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September 25, 2014

OUR HEROES' BROKEN PROMISES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 19, 2014
OUR HEROES’ BROKEN PROMISES
BY BOB FRANKEN
We haven’t had a really juicy sex scandal in Washington for a while. You know the kind: Camera crews chase someone powerful (and maybe his or her paramour) like paparazzi, and the elite express disdain for all the attention the riffraff pay to each respective sleazy disclosure, all the while they’re sneaking a peek at every tidbit. Let’s just admit it; they’re kind of fun ... unless, of course, you’re the ones who have been exposed (pardon the expression).
This stuff is not just titillating, though. It also serves a useful purpose. I like to say that it all proves that our leaders are just like the rest of us -- they take their pants off just like you and me. It’s important that we keep that in mind, particularly during an election cycle (when is it not an election cycle?) when a bunch of ambitious candidates have their PR machines running full speed churning out propaganda aimed at convincing us that their client really is a cut above mere mortals and has a unique superhuman ability to solve all the problems that afflict our country, the ones that have defied solution for many administrations. In fact, many of them have gotten worse.
Maybe that’s why we get enjoyment from watching some of these pumped-up avatars occasionally get cut down to size. It might explain our fascination over the fall of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, or the latest Sarah Palin escapades.
Remember, Palin was a governor herself for a while and then became a vice-presidential nominee. She’s back in the news, right where she usually loves to be, although perhaps not this time. Apparently, she and the fam were part of a drunken brawl back home in Alaska. Fistfights, profanity, the whole nine yards. But she’s hardly alone when it comes to oafish behavior. She’s not even the only one who was on the ticket to be a heartbeat away from the presidency who proved to be an embarrassing dud. “Tawdry” is a gentle word to describe the story of John Edwards, who fathered a child while having an affair with his campaign videographer, while his wife was dying of breast cancer. He was a serious candidate to be president, symbolizing a fresh approach to politics. Now he symbolizes little more than stale sleaze.

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September 24, 2014

DAWNING ON MSNBC

In case you're wondering what to do at 5:15 in the morning on a Thursday, and I know you will be, try watching me on MSNBC. Then wonder why you couldn't find something else.

September 22, 2014

A LESSON FROM THE VIOLENCE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 16, 2014
A LESSON FROM THE VIOLENCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’ve always had this Pollyannaish theory that a highly publicized rash of bad behavior can create such a groundswell of disgust that we are compelled as a society to face issues that should have been addressed long before. Certainly the despicable behavior of many Southerners in the 1950s and ’60s was so outrageous that we were forced to confront racial prejudice. Obviously we still have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way since then. That’s when television came of age, night after night showing the ugliness of Jim Crow and the racists who viciously resisted any change.
Similarly, the bizarre nomination hearings for aspiring Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas put an unavoidable spotlight on sexual harassment, and that led to significant improvements in the workplace. Again, as we’re constantly reminded, this is still a dicey problem, but at least the office sleazebag has to worry about being dragged up to HR.
So it is with domestic abuse. After trying as hard as it could to avoid the brutality displayed by too many of its football players off-field, the NFL is (appropriately) being dragged kicking and screaming into facing up to the sad issue of violence against women and children. Finally, after eons of battering that was simply accepted, the incredibly clumsy way the Ray Rice case was handled has caused us to face the horror of this scourge at last.

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September 17, 2014

MSNBC DAWN PATROL RIDES AGAIN

I'm back on MSNBC at the usual bleary slot of Thursday at 5:15 AM. After I'm done, you'll still be in the dark.

September 15, 2014

THE UNNECESSARY TRIP FROM STATEHOUSE TO BIG HOUSE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 9, 2014
THE UNNECESSARY TRIP FROM STATEHOUSE TO BIG HOUSE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Faithful readers (both of you) possibly will remember back to what I wrote just a few weeks ago. Well, maybe not, but it was a snarky take on the ongoing corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his first lady while he was in office, wife Maureen. Instead of taking the easy way out and copping a plea, the two went to trial. To convince a jury they were guilty of no crime in taking $177,000 in goodies from one businessman in exchange for favorable treatment, they put on the most bizarre defense: Their marriage was too broken for them to participate in any scheme together. Day after day, we were treated to gory details of their terrible relationship and how the missus was a “nutbag.” It was a laugh a minute.
Only now it’s no longer funny; it’s pathetic. It didn’t work. Both were found guilty of most of the charges. They could spend years in jail. We’ll find out how many when they’re sentenced in January. Of course, there will be appeals, but what’s really sad is that none of this was necessary.
Not only could they have taken a deal from prosecutors, which would have resulted in minimal or no jail time (and just for him) while avoiding all the humiliating disclosure of their matrimonial wreckage, but they also could have taken care of their financial problems the old-fashioned way -- by simply waiting till the end of his term and going through that revolving door to riches and a cushy, high-paying job with one of the companies whose cause the governor championed while still in office.

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September 3, 2014

LABOR DAY PAINS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 29, 2014
LABOR DAY PAINS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Did you know that the federal Labor Day holiday was established by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 to celebrate American workers? As you might imagine, it was championed by the unions. Second question: Do you care? Given that organized labor has shrunk from 30 percent of the workforce in 1958 to about 11 percent now, and that even the unions, which represent 35 percent of public-sector employees, are being successfully challenged by conservatives, perhaps it should be a day for them to mourn instead of celebrate. That erosion would help explain why incomes of America’s richest people in 2012 rose nearly 20 percent and everyone else saw just a 1 percent increase. So much for the American expectation of upward mobility.
In truth, most of us don’t ponder any of that. It’s an extra day off to mark the unofficial end of summer with picnics, beach time or, yes, shopping, at stores whose salespeople usually are underpaid.
It’s also designated the beginning of the campaign silly season, which might seem a tad dopey given how, these days, the campaign never really seems to end. But now we begin the two-month-plus sprint to the midterms, where we get to decide, among other things, whether the Republicans will take over the entire Congress and make President Barack Obama’s remaining term even more torturous for him. It might get so bad that he’ll just retreat to the nearest golf course as the debris from the domestic and geopolitical earthquakes crash all around the White House.
As I said, the election cycle is nonstop. As vital as the congressional races are, to say nothing of all the statewide contests, they are widely regarded as only the preliminaries (except by the congressional and state candidates). Most of the chatter is about the impact the 2014 results will have on the 2016 big megillah. That’s when Hillary runs against some Republican and works very hard to convince everyone that even though she’s the Democrat, she’s no Barack Obama. What will help immensely is that she will have little trouble also differentiating herself from a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul or whoever survives the mud wrestle of the Tea Party, uh, Republican Party primaries.

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September 1, 2014

VIRGINIA COURTHOUSE MELODRAMA

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 26, 2014
VIRGINIA COURTHOUSE MELODRAMA
BY BOB FRANKEN
Is it any wonder that with all the grindingly oppressive news these days, matters that are tragic and vital, the first item I seek out when I pick up the paper is about the relatively frivolous disintegration of a high-level marriage. At least that’s the soap opera defense being peddled by the attorneys at the corruption trial for the loving couple -- or unloving, if you believe how they’re being presented to the jury by their own lawyers. They’re attempting to sow doubt about charges that former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen accepted financial help from a businessman, or fast-talking hustler if you prefer, who was lavishing money and expensive favors on them in exchange for state help in promoting his questionable medical product.
In case you don’t pay attention to trash news, here’s what you’ve been missing: Bob and Maureen are accused of doing official favors for Jonnie Williams, who was promoting his supplement created from tobacco. Williams was making large loans to the McDonnells, financing a shopping spree for the missus, helping pay for the lavish wedding of the McDonnells’ daughter, acquiring a Rolex watch for the governor, as well as funding vacations. He even arranged for a Ferrari for use on one of those outings.
That’s where the collapsed marriage comes in. Defense attorneys are trying to make the case that the two were at each other’s throat, that things had deteriorated to the point that they were incapable of agreeing on anything, including a conspiracy to accept bribes from Mr. Williams. Oh, and by the way, Maureen had a “crush” on Jonnie.
She’s presented as a screaming shrew, abusive to everyone, including her staff members, who routinely called her a “nutbag.” Again, remember, this is the defense’s version ... aggressively laid out by the hubby. So aggressively that there are those who grumble that the guy one witness described as a goody two-shoes “Boy Scout” was more than willing to take his wife of 38 years and “throw her under the bus.” There’s no word on what their five children think about that, but that sound you hear is chortling from those of us who enjoy watching someone get comeuppance for bullying defenseless subordinates.

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August 28, 2014

THE RULES OF THE RULE OF LAW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 22, 2014
THE RULES OF THE RULE OF LAW
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s face it: We have a law-enforcement problem in this country. Far too often, the people who are supposed to protect us from the bad guys ARE the bad guys. Thanks to the widespread use of video devices, or perhaps because of them, we have witnessed a rash of violent encounters: one of New York City’s finest on July 17 used a banned chokehold on Eric Garner, whose main crime seemed to be that he was arguing that the cops were hassling him.
Earlier in the same month, a California Highway Patrol officer was taped repeatedly punching a homeless woman he had thrown to the ground after she was spotted by him walking on a roadway.
And of course, we have the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Law-enforcement forces, seemingly on a rampage at times, have been charged with overreacting to a few troublemakers while grossly mismanaging the protests of the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, who was black, by white Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson. In the aftermath, their efforts to contain the spreading violence, which they arguably share the blame for inciting with their heavy-handed tactics, have included arrests of journalists covering the mess.
What is most tragic about these incidents is that they seem to have become routine. We are constantly being exposed to images or reports of abuse by those who are supposed to protect us -- all of us -- without regard to race or economic status. Statistics show, however, that a wildly disproportionate share of arrests, traffic stops and searches are conducted against minorities. That is totally unacceptable in a country that promises equal justice.

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August 27, 2014

PREDAWN FOOLISHNESS ON MSNBC

What more appropriate way to prepare on a Thursday for the sunny Labor Day beach weekend ahead than my dark political analysis? Really dark, at 5:15 AM Eastern.

August 25, 2014

POLICING THE POLICE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 19, 2014
POLICING THE POLICE
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is a true story (as opposed to my usual falsehoods): A few years back, when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund would hold meetings of the planet’s finance ministers or other economic leaders, there would be angry demonstrations that sometimes turned violent. The different police agencies, local and federal, would plan well ahead and set up a heavily armed security presence.
It was tailor made for TV, of course, because we all knew what great video we’d get, and I’d usually end up going live from the middle of things, from some approved camera position nearby. In newsbiz, it’s a common experience, but it still can prove treacherous for those of us covering the melee.
At one of them, contrary to their public denials, the security forces fired tear gas at the advancing demonstrators, and we got video. One of the cops decided that he didn’t like the fact that we were taping, and first demanded we stop and then got pushy about it when we didn’t. He was on shaky ground; luckily, a supervisor intervened, and that was the end of it.
Actually, not quite the end of it. A few minutes later, that same policeman came over and asked when it would be on TV. When I told him I was about to go live, he asked whether he and his uniformed buddies could stand off to the side and see it. Some of them quickly called their families, and then they stood just out of the shot to watch the video on our monitor while I did my report.
That kind of rough encounter is common for journalists, although the happy ending is not always the way things work out. I’m among those who believe that most cops and other first responders are heroes who do a brutal and thankless job. But there are too many who are anything but. They can be bullies. They viscerally hate reporters for showing them doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing. They know that when they prevent us from doing our jobs, sometimes by forceful means and arrest, they may have to back off later, but they have prevented coverage that will inform citizens about what’s happening in a newsworthy situation. That way, they won’t be held accountable.

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August 21, 2014

TEEING OFF WITH AND ON THE PRESIDENT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 15, 2014
TEEING OFF WITH AND ON THE PRESIDENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, which in this day of high tech and low retention means anything that happened more than five minutes ago. Still let’s hearken waaaay back to 2008 and that primary campaign ad for Hillary Clinton, the one that started, “It’s 3:00 in the morning at the White House” and then went on to ask who would answer when the phone rings and some crisis comes a-callin’.
The idea was that Hillary had the necessary experience to deal with the matter, while neophyte Barack Obama did not.
We all know how well that worked for her. Fast-forward six years, and President Obama now has had plenty of experience with sleep deprivation from taking those calls. (Have you noticed how gray his hair has gotten?) Hillary got the consolation prize: He named her his first secretary of state.
So here we are, facing 2016. Once again, she’s running for president, or at least dabbling in it. He’s maxed out, can’t run anymore. It’s August, he’s flown the coop, and when the phone rings at the White House at 3:00 a.m., no one’s home ...
He’s playing golf in Martha’s Vineyard; he and the fam are hobnobbing with the elite in a spot that has become a symbol of privileged leisure. In the process, he’s given Republicans still another opportunity to bludgeon him, which is one of their specialties. Actually, comparing a vacationing president to Nero fiddling while the world burns is a bipartisan cheap shot, one of the few endeavors that are bipartisan.
Still, the Obamas make it so easy. Say what you will, frolicking with the rich and famous in an exclusive venue is lousy optics, which is the political consultants’ way of saying it looks cheesy. No matter how many times the White House validly points out that POTUS is having a “working vacation,” fully in touch using all his sophisticated, albeit portable communication devices, he’s still teeing off while Iraq is teetering, under attack by ISIL fanatics, while Ukraine is fighting off Vlad Putin, while Gaza’s deadly hostility continues. Here at home, Ferguson, Missouri, erupts while many Americans are fighting off the debt collectors. True, the chief executive interrupts his golf games to address each crisis, but still ...

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August 20, 2014

RISE AND WHINE ON MSNBC

It's time for our usual Thursday 5:15 AM Eastern small intimate gathering on MSNBC. Small and intimate because it is awfully damned early.

August 18, 2014

TANGLED FRIENDSHIP


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 12, 2014
TANGLED FRIENDSHIP
BY BOB FRANKEN
We’ve all heard the cliché: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It is supposed to explain why nations that normally are bitter foes sometimes will work with each other and even join forces when they face a common hated adversary. Iran and the United States,for instance, might use back channels to cooperate on efforts to stop the intensely violent Sunni Muslim force that is rolling over Iraq to carve out a Sunni country.
The ISIS shorthand — or ISIL, if you prefer — are names that actually have rational historic meaning to go along with their insane religious motivation. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or the Levant) refers to efforts to establish this gruesome theocracy in a large portion of the Mideast that extends from southern Turkey through Iraq and Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Jordan and, oh yeah, Israel. Remember that many borders were arbitrarily created after World War II, an effort that, among other things, created the state OF Israel. ISIS (or ISIL) wants to rule over an area that does away with all that and impose a rule of law that dates back millennia.
Iran, which is Shiite Muslim, has an obvious determination to stop that from happening, as does the U.S. So now we have a shared interest. But we also share that interest with the Assad government in Syria,whose brutal use of military force, killing thousands and thousands of innocent citizens to put down an armed military rebellion, has generated international condemnation. It’s dominated by battle hardened troops that have now split off to conduct their Levant campaign, using, by the way, sophisticated weapons that they’ve merely taken from the arsenals provided by countries like America, who wanted to topple Bashar Assad. Assad wastes no opportunity to say the equivalent of “I told you so.”

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August 13, 2014

THE JET LAG DAZE ON MSNBC

Just now got back from out west, so watch my usual Thursday dawn gig at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC to see if I at least get up on time.

August 11, 2014

HIGH TECH, LOW STANDARDS

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CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 5, 2014
HIGH TECH, LOW STANDARDS
BY BOB FRANKEN
So much has happened so quickly that it’s high time to reflect on the technological marvels that change our lives at blinding speed. Of course, the blur of progress leaves little time to actually reflect, but let’s not take for granted how what was once science fiction suddenly has become commonplace.
Does anybody even ponder how profound it is that the Internet made it so easy to create a Sarah Palin channel -- where those who are willing to pay the price can watch all-Sarah-all-the-time? Setting aside your preference for NO-Sarah-all-the-time, it still is amazing how easy it is to set up a television outlet for her rants, or for anybody who can draw an audience. Is that progress or what?

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August 7, 2014

RHYME NO REASON

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 1, 2014
RHYME NO REASON
BY BOB FRANKEN
EDITOR’S NOTE: GRAFS 1-5, 7-11 AND THE FINAL 5 GRAFS ARE IN ITALICS
Now the extremists have a lesson to teach,
To their Satan, Obama, whom they want to impeach.
But some in their party -- the ones who are saner,
Like Gingrich and Rove and notably Boehner,
Say that tactically this is a gross overreach.

Or how about this?

Instead of folding or running away,
White House folks taunt them into making their play,
Their base has been quiet, their voters quite lazy,
Impeachment could rile them, make them turn out like crazy,
So, they’re telling the wingnuts, “go ahead make our day.”

Silly, yes, but nowhere near as silly as the idiotic clamor from the leading intellectual lights of the far right, the Sarah Palins and Allan Wests of this world who say that the time has come to end Barack Obama’s presidency, without waiting for a replacement to be chosen in the orderly way. Their shrill rallying cry has caused a clamor. Unfortunately for them, most of the ruckus has come not from the conservative spectrum, but from those on the left, who can’t seem to talk about it enough.
And why not? We have a midterm election coming up, and most of us in the biz believe the GOP is going to walk all over the D’s. In large part, that’s because this year, “D” stands for “Dispirited.” There is a real lack of enthusiasm on the left, no fervor to match the anti-Obama intensity on the right.

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August 6, 2014

A LOUSY START

It'll either be me at Thursday dawn on MSNBC intruding into your semi consciousness at 5:15 Eastern...or a bad dream. Maybe both.

August 4, 2014

LIFETIME JUDICIAL POLITICIANS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2014
LIFETIME JUDICIAL POLITICIANS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Those who run our court system and claim that it can dispense justice in an impartial way hate even the slightest suggestion that politics might influence their decisions. A few years back, after a federal district court decision with major political implications, I mentioned in a story that the judge had been nominated to the bench by a Republican president. Later that day, I got an email from him directly, complaining that my reporting left an impression that his ruling had been influenced by his ideology. Actually, I had taken great pains to mention only that fact, leaving it to the audience to decide whether it was relevant.
Normally a judge wouldn’t think of communicating his displeasure directly. Sometimes a minion would do it, or he or she would complain to associates or simply seethe in private. At the time, I responded that I’d be happy to offer him television time to respond. Frankly, I was being unfair, because those on the federal bench can get in a heap of trouble if they go on TV or make any extrajudicial comment in media. So, in truth, I was telling his honor that while I always welcome viewer comments, he should bug off.
Besides, as the lawyers would say, the prima facie evidence suggests that our judges are indeed heavily influenced by their political philosophies, and that many of their decisions are distorted by them. We certainly don’t have to look very hard. The Supreme Court is openly divided into conservative and liberal blocs, with one guy, Anthony Kennedy, out there as the supposed swing vote. Granted, some of the justices can express their predispositions in unpredictable ways, but they are obviously guided by their right or left leanings. Chief Justice John Roberts’ claim during his confirmation hearing that they’re ideally an “umpire,” has become a laugh line, except maybe to the real ones in baseball.
And it’s not only the Supremes. We’ve just been exposed to the sad spectacle of two different federal appeals courts making diametrically opposed rulings on whether insurance subsidies for Obamacare are legal in the 36 states that were forced to rely on federal exchanges to enroll customers for health insurance. If not, it could gut the Affordable Care Act.

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July 31, 2014

SHAKY AMERICAN PRINCIPLES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014
SHAKY AMERICAN PRINCIPLES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Yes, I know. How many times have we been told “We are a nation of immigrants”? The welcome, after all, is right there in the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
And in fact, millions of people have sought refuge and thrived here, including my parents. But the tradition gets obliterated in all the angry debate about those who try to breach our borders ... even the children we see today, trying to escape the “tempest” in their own countries. Arguably, the welcome for “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has its limits — practical ones and, frankly, bigoted ones.
To some degree, the grand promise has been lip service for a long time. Once the colonists and succeeding generations had settled in and expanded, they started being downright hostile to those who decided to come along later. Italians, Irish, Germans and Asians all have had to run the gantlet of vicious prejudice once they arrived. Boatloads of Jews were simply turned away by anti-Semitism as they tried to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. Now it’s many Muslims who experience religious hatred. Back in the day, the Quakers were ostracized.
Of course, Africans were welcomed ... as they were unloaded from their slave ships. All in all, it’s easy to understand the vicious reaction to those who pursue a life today in the United States. It’s nothing new.
And it’s not unique. We are finding it harder and harder to live up to our stated ideals. “Equal Justice Under Law,” the words chiseled over the entrance of the Supreme Court, are mocked in courthouses throughout the country. We take it as a given that those who can afford it get a much easier ride through our justice system than those of lesser means. Even as the laws are created, the wealthy special interests hire expensive lobbyists to make sure they’re not bound by the same rules as those who have no paid-for voice. And it’s getting worse. As for the enforcement of the laws, the stories of police using excessive force, particularly against the poor and those who have the audacity to protest the status quo, are routine. “Due process” for far too many is just a platitude.

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July 30, 2014

A VOICE IN THE DARKNESS, A SIGHT FOR CLOSED EYES

Another Thursday on the MSNBC dawn patrol at 5:15-ish Eastern. Think of it as an alternative to the Sarah Palin Channel.

A VOICE IN THE DARKNESS, A SIGHT FOR CLOSED EYES

Another Thursday on the MSNBC dawn patrol at 5:15-ish Eastern. Think of it as an alternative to the Sarah Palin Channel.

July 28, 2014

FILL IN THE BLANKS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014
FILL IN THE BLANKS
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s a journalist’s worst nightmare: We discover that nobody cares about our stories because they’re predictable and boring. That certainly seems to be the case for those of us here in Washington, but it’s true throughout our industry. We keep on regurgitating the same stuff and spend a lot of energy doing it. Face it: It’s the same bit, different day.
It’s time to save time, to say nothing of big money. So, as a public service, let’s concoct reports where all you have to do is fill in the blanks. For example:
“Medical researchers at (institution) have discovered in (animal) a (protein, enzyme, stem cell) that causes (disease). If confirmed in a larger study, the scientists will apply for authorization to conduct human trials that could lead to a better understanding of (disease) and possible new protocols. They emphasize that any advances in treatment will take five to 10 years to develop.”
How many times have we seen minor variations of that one?
Or in the business section: “(Airline) announced today that it will now be charging a $25 fee for passengers’ (essential travel item). Other carriers quickly stated that they would follow suit. One executive was overheard saying, ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’”
And this one has become routine: “(Federal agency) has agreed to a settlement with (bank), which will pay $(number) billion in fines for fraudulent mortgage practices during the period leading up to the 2008 financial collapse. Under the terms of the deal, (bank) does not admit wrongdoing. A (bank) spokesman issued a statement saying that it only decided to go along ‘to avoid any further distraction from time-consuming litigation.’”
Wherever you look, you can find examples, from the lifestyle sections and fluffy celebrity magazines, where (contrived reality star) was spotted holding (body part) with (rapper), or on the sports pages, where (jock) tells reporters: “My individual performance doesn’t count. What’s important is that the team (won/lost).”

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July 25, 2014

I'M SIRIUS AND XM TOO

If you've got nothing better to do on a summer Saturday, tune in to my co-host exercise on No Labels Radio. 10AM, SiriusXM ch 124. What could be better than laughing at me?

July 24, 2014

LESSONS FROM HARDING 'S LUST LETTERS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014
LESSONS FROM HARDING’S LUST LETTERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’m not one to celebrate the good old days, because in so many ways they were the bad old days. Nor do I begrudge the explosion of technology that shapes our lives in this century. We live in an era that benefits from a remarkably shrinking planet and remarkably expanding knowledge.
Still, it’s doubtful we will ever again leave for future generations the expressions of beauty and love that the great writers and thinkers bequeathed us in more leisurely times. And I’m not talking about that long ago. We have only to go back slightly more than a hundred years to retrieve those luscious letters that soon-to-be-President Warren G. Harding wrote to his next-door neighbor, Carrie Fulton Phillips. He went on to become arguably the worst president in U.S. history, but the boy could write a gloriously smutty letter.
Mrs. Phillips lived on his street back in Ohio, and to put it mildly, he loved his neighbor. Warren was head over heels. Never mind that each was married to someone else and never mind that she was very pro-German -- if his letters to her were any indication, he was obsessed with her.
Much of his stuff was too explicit for a family newspaper, even in these times. George Carlin would have had a field day. But let’s edit some of the good stuff, and you can fill in the blanks: Sept. 15, 1913: “Honestly, I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing (blanks)”. Nearly three years before, he wrote: “I love you more than all the world and have no hope of reward on earth or hereafter, so precious as that in your dear arms, in your thrilling lips, in your matchless (blanks), in your incomparable embrace.”
It didn’t seem that Harding was a leg man. But he sure did have a way with words. He carried on like that for 10 years, 106 letters, which stopped shortly before he became president in 1921. He died in office after just two years, suffering an apparent heart attack. Is it any wonder?

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July 23, 2014

STARTING OFF THE DAY WRONG

Another Thursday and time for my pre-dawn inspirational on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. After which you'll say "The hell with it" and call in sick.

July 21, 2014

OPEN GOVERNMENT CHARADE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014
OPEN-GOVERNMENT CHARADE
BY BOB FRANKEN
How is it that in and around politics, we manage to trivialize nearly every crisis and at the same time, turn what’s trivial into a crisis? The debate over the flood of child immigrants to U.S. borders is typical: Here we have a wrenching human dilemma with awful choices about removing children who have fled their brutally dangerous countries, often sent by their desperate parents.
It’s a highly complex matter, as so many are. But it is mostly reduced to pettiness by political hustlers, with shameful cooperation from those of us in media. The debate was taken over by arguments over whether President Barack Obama should make a trip down to the facilities where the kids are being taken, for what would amount to a photo op -- “theater,” as the president called it.
To his credit, he refused to go, in spite of the cheap shots heaped on him by nervous candidates from both parties, and their consultants, always at the ready to fire off a sound bite or tweet. And that wasn’t the only fiery question that obscured the real tragedy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, trying really really hard to promote another run for the White House, made a big show of pandering to his party’s hard-liners by announcing he would not be seen shaking Mr. Obama’s hand when POTUS visited his state. That was not the kind of photo op Perry wanted to go viral.
In case you care, Perry was seen shaking Obama’s hand, and Obama didn’t head to the border, which is certainly a good thing, because it would have been a massive disruption at exactly the worst spot for any added craziness. So, by the dismal ways we usually tabulate scores, it was Obama 2, Perry 0. Absurd, isn’t it?

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July 17, 2014

DIRTY TALK

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CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014
DIRTY TALK
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sex. There, I’ve said it. And yes, I want to talk about it. Trust me, though, this is not your standard titillation. Instead, it’s about the motives of those who wish to impose their restrictions on the rest of us. And, yes, that’s what so much of the debate is about these days. No matter how the issue is framed, a lot of the argument is between those who wish to make their own choices about what they do, when and with whom, and those who cling to the view that sex is supposed to be conducted only between husbands and wives of opposite genders for the purpose of having children.
That latter point of view clearly influenced the fuddy-duddy Supreme Court justices who decided that Hobby Lobby could impose on its employees its views on reproduction. It certainly excites the fever-pitch frenzy among those who oppose gay marriage and frankly anything other than the rigid straight model. (I’ve always gotten a kick out of the word “straight.” Are those who aren’t he-and-she “crooked”? Actually, the word “gay” also is puzzling: Are heteros unhappy?)
It’s amazing how many of those who would oppress make the same argument: Their faith forbids gay sex or even sex outside of marriage, as it did the rights of minorities or women. To legally require that those individuals receive the Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws” offends their religious rights. Of course, they don’t just seek exemptions from the 14th Amendment, they’re running afoul of the first one, too, which forbids the imposition of any religion on the rest of us.
So when President Barack Obama ponders an executive order requiring federal contractors to not discriminate against lesbians, gays and others who embrace an alternative lifestyle, a coalition of faith-based organizations writes a letter asking that their ancillary organizations who do business with the feds be granted a waiver so “an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” In other words, their missionary position on who among us qualify to be “those in need” excludes those who adhere to their literally straight and narrow morality.

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July 16, 2014

DAWNING ON MSNBC

Another early early Thursday for us on MSNBC at 5:15 AM, Eastern, talking politics. Call it the a Morning Digest, or more accurately the Morning Disgust.

July 14, 2014

WASHINGTON HOT DOGS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 8, 2014
WASHINGTON HOT DOGS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Forget about the World Cup or World Series or even the Super Bowl. The No. 1 competitive sport is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest at Coney Island, New York. The legendary Joey Chestnut won for the eighth straight time, downing 61 in the allotted 10 minutes. While that’s not his personal best of 69, it’s still pretty impressive, if one would call speed gorging impressive. By the way, feed racing has its own Title IX. Miki Sudo inhaled 34, finishing ahead of three-time chomp champ Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Call that an upset. Call the whole thing an upset.
This competition has been a July Fourth tradition for 98 years, and it’s time we give it the attention it deserves. After all, gross overconsumption by a few is a growing American tradition. But remember the management motto: “If it ain’t broke, break it.” The first thing we need to do is change the venue. I know, I know, there are the traditionalists who will insist that Coney Island provides the perfect tacky backdrop. But if you want tacky, then it’s time to move the entire spectacle to Washington.
Why not the White House South Lawn? With just a few tweaks, it certainly would be appropriate. To please the first lady, obviously the hot dogs would have to go. But that’s not a big deal. Carrots will make a wonderful replacement. And there could be a kiddie competition, with -- you guessed it -- baby carrots. That is, unless the food conglomerates have their way and the youngsters get to cram in morsels laden with salt, sugar, fat and other addictive ingredients. True to its normal operating procedures, the Obama administration is keeping details secret and will indict any leakers. The event will be shot only by White House cameras.
Nathan’s is probably going to bail, since it’s not as unhealthy as they’d like, and that would eliminate many of the usual corporate sponsors, like McDonald’s, Coke and Pepsi. And I’m guessing that Hobby Lobby won’t be called upon to help make the decorations. Even if they were ordered to participate, the Supreme Court said they wouldn’t have to.
Speaking of soft drinks, Michael Bloomberg can emcee, now that he’s out of work. I would have recommended John Boehner, but he might get lost in the carrots.

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July 11, 2014

BOMBAST AND BOBLAST ON SIRIUSXM

I'm co-hosting Saturday morning "No Labels Radio" again at 10 Eastern on SiriusXM Ch 124. Listen and come up with your own labels for me. That should be cathartic.

July 10, 2014

A NEW INDEPENDENCE DAY NEEDED

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014
A NEW INDEPENDENCE DAY NEEDED
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s be honest. While July Fourth is supposed to be a huge celebration of our nation, this one is a little more complicated. Half of those polled by Pew believe that the best years of the United States of America are behind us. Gallup reports the number of Americans “satisfied” with their freedoms is declining, and eight in 10 think that government is inherently corrupt. Flag-waving belief in “American Exceptionalism” is corroding.
Clearly, the years of political buffoonery and the never ending disclosures of government fecklessness, combined with private-sector cheating, have taken a toll -- a serious toll. The sad results are on display in the many metrics that show us slipping. From education to health care to hunger to distribution of wealth, we’re down in the pack. No amount of jingoistic platitudes can cover that up.
On any given day, we see reports of agencies frittering away hundreds of millions -- or billions -- in taxpayer dollars, bungling their missions in the most obnoxious way. It has come to the point that when a study details how the Department of Veterans Affairs has betrayed the veterans who have given so much defending the American dream, we simply shake our heads. The sense of futility is the same when still another bank is slapped on the wrist for contributing to the economic collapse by breaking what flimsy rules exist.
We take as a given that the big-money interests control a system that is supposed to protect against their excesses. And when a challenge confronts them, whether it’s the Occupy movement on the left or the tea party on the right, the fat cats chip in to defeat the troublemakers.

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July 9, 2014

GROGGY ON MSNBC

Another Thursday dawn on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern where Franken plays the politics and the politics lose.

July 7, 2014

HILLARY: YES OR NO?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 1, 2014
HILLARY: YES OR NO?
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’m sure you, too, have been caught up in breathless speculation over whether Hillary Clinton will do the deed and actually run for president. That’s all we’re talking about here in D.C., and of course, Washington is so typical of Anytown, USA.
A lot of people are rooting for her to run again -- certainly a lot of Democrats. And a lot of Republicans. Yes, Republicans. The GOP operatives are licking their chops after watching her performance during her “Hard Choices” book tour. Let’s put this as delicately as possible: She’s stepped in it a few times.
Her comment during one of her countless TV interviews that she and her husband left the White House “dead broke,” while certainly true, opened up a toxic torrent from the GOP about how she and hubby Bill managed to immediately overcome their own deficit and make millions of dollars the old-fashioned way, with sheer hard work and perseverance making speeches. It might not have occurred to her that some Americans can’t relate to getting paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for one lecture. Add to that the news that daughter Chelsea was picking up $600,000 a year for an occasional appearance on NBC news, and those on the right were only too glad to pounce. She was making it so easy for them.
And pounce they have. They have made it clear that they have every intention of clubbing her not just about Benghazi and her performance as secretary of state, but on her real or imagined personal vulnerabilities, particularly the impression she leaves that she has a robust sense of entitlement.
To her enemies, that would explain her tone deafness when it comes to discussing the recently accumulated family wealth. But, beyond that, she can sometimes make it very easy to form an impression she believes she was put on this earth with a mandate to save lesser humans. They point to that noninclusive tendency as the reason that she failed with health care when her husband, the president, appointed her to reform the system.

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July 3, 2014

INDEPENDENCE DAY INDEPENDENT ATTITUDE ON MSNBC

Watch me start out a July 4th Friday morning on MSNBC during the 7:00 Eastern hour and discover once again why I'm not known for platitudes

THE GUIDING LIGHT FADES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2014
THE GUIDING LIGHT FADES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Following this administration’s Egypt line of thinking, there would have been little reason to oppose the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime. True, he is a blood-lust dictator, but Assad certainly could help when it comes to containing al-Qaida. But oppose we did, though not to the degree America’s hard-liners wanted.
How strange it is, then, that the U.S. is kowtowing to the brutal dictators in control of Egypt. Now that General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has gotten “elected” as head of state after a brutal suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood and even with the convictions of three Al-Jazeera reporters whose crime was that they were simply doing their jobs, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo, effectively kissing Sisi’s ring. Kerry made a few pro forma whimpers about human rights and press freedom, as did the White House, but his main mission was to put relations between the countries back on an even keel.
There are compelling arguments for doing that: cooperation in the war on terror for one, Suez Canal access and certainly protection of Israel. There always are justifications, and the Americans were never enamored of the Muslim Brotherhood. Besides, let’s face it, the Obama administration certainly does not put press freedom at the top of its priority list. So, despite an outcry from international media organizations, there was little meaningful pressure on the general to do anything but refuse to interfere with the decision by the judges to send the Al-Jazeera reporters to long terms in prison.
Never mind that his courts have meted out death sentences against Brotherhood supporters as if the judges were from Texas, and never mind that in the case of the journalists, there was no evidence that they had spread lies and fomented violence: The guys had simply said stuff the generals didn’t like. End of story. End of freedom. And by normalizing relations with Egypt’s government, the U.S. government is complicit.
It is possible, of course, that Kerry and his counterparts came up with some secret agreements that will end up with the reporters’ release, but there’s also principle involved, and it requires American officials to speak loudly: Those who deny fundamental freedoms should not get any support from the United States, certainly not tons of financial aid.

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July 2, 2014

SUMMER DAWNDRUMS ON MSNBC

In the early Thursday morning of MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern, on the day before we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, watch me demonstrate that there's at least one man who was not created equal.

June 27, 2014

THE TIES THAT UNBIND

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014
THE TIES THAT UNBIND
BY BOB FRANKEN
That recent Pew Research Center poll is pretty jarring. We are so politically polarized in this country that nearly one in three “consistently conservative” Americans would be upset if one of his or her children wed a Democrat. For the “consistently liberal” respondents, it was nearly one in four for the opposite wedding.
Imagine the new remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” How many would be protesting they weren’t really closed-minded, saying, “Some of my best friends are (right wingers/left wingers), but would you want your daughter to marry one?”
And here’s a tough question for those on the right: Would you be against your kid tying the knot with a Democrat more than if he or she married a Republican of the same sex?
Pew documents that large segments of our population have become so rigid in their beliefs that they prefer being exclusively with their own ideological kind.
By the way, 49 percent of all Americans say they’d be distressed if the new in-law was an atheist. Maybe that’s because a church ceremony probably would be out of the question.
Sadly, the idea that we’re all in this together is dissolving. Usually, we’re not; the very political process that’s supposed to bind us together is driving us apart. We’ve drifted from the “one nation, indivisible” promise to a country that is very divided. Our flag is one of the few places where red and blue get together.

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THE RADIOHEADS

Plan to call in and vent as I co-host the 10Am Saturday No Labels Radio show on SiriusXM ch 124. It's where we get the face time we deserve.

June 25, 2014

LAZY HAZY MSNBC

Another summer Thursday early morning for me at 5:15 on MSNBC. If the weather is too hot for you, chances are my commentary will leave you cold.

June 23, 2014

WORDS BACKWORDS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2014
WORDS BACKWORDS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Growing up in the South, I always marveled at how adept everyone was at well-mannered hatefulness. If someone made a stupid comment, the response would never be “What an idiot you are!” Instead it was “Well, ain’t that nice?” or “Why, bless your heart.” When it came to social-grace duplicity, we were the champions.
Or so I thought.
That was before I came to Washington. It takes a little getting used to, but for the most part, you must accept that people mean the opposite of what they say. If most say “Nice to see you,” they are actually looking over your shoulder at someone more important. The really good ones somehow manage to make eye contact with you while looking past you at the same instant. It’s pretty amazing, really.
And anyone who has watched the Senate is well-aware that the members refer to their most despised enemies as “My Friend.” That extends far beyond the Capitol. If anyone calls you his or her “friend,” watch your back. Even though Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” don’t even count on the puppies.
There’s nothing new about this, and it’s not unique to D.C. We all have our moments of not meaning what we say. The normal greeting is “How are you doing?” The automatic answer is “Fine, thank you.” But let’s face it: We usually couldn’t care less about how someone is doing, and we certainly don’t want to hear when he is not fine. The last thing we want is “Actually terrible. My wife has left me for a younger man, my business is bankrupt, and the bank just foreclosed on my house.”
What do you say? If you grew up in the South, perhaps you’d respond with an “ain’t that nice” or “bless your heart,” in which case you’d mean, “I’m sorry, did you say something?” Or you’d escape as fast as you could.
“Thank you for asking” is another one, a deflecting response to the insincere “How you doing?” greeting. “Thank you for asking” translates to “None of your business.”
And then there’s flattery. The more someone sings your praises to your face, the more he changes his tune behind your back. Perhaps Michael Kinsley is correct, though, with his observation that insincere flattery is really sincere, because the person lavishing compliments thinks you’re worthwhile enough to insincerely flatter. That one requires a little attention.

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June 22, 2014

BADGERING THE BADGERS

I'm spending a Monday afternoon hour on Wisconsin Public Radio with the legendary Kathleen Dunn. 2:00 Eastern, 1:00 Central or anytime online. I'll try not to tarnish her reputation.

June 20, 2014

I'M SIRIUS (XM TOO)

If you've got nothing better to do on a Saturday morning, tune me in on Sirius-XM radio channel 124, co-hosting the No Labels show. What could possible be better? (How's that for a straight line?)

June 19, 2014

THE MEANING TEST

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2014
THE MEANING TEST
BY BOB FRANKEN
Back in the day, when I was a TV reporter, I had this fantasy live shot where the anchor would toss it to me with “And now, here is Bob Franken with a report on what it all means. Bob, what does it all mean?”
“Nothing, Scott. It means absolutely nothing.”
Which brings us to the surprise loss by Eric Cantor. Ever since the House majority leader got knocked off by obscure tea-party-backed (pardon the redundancy) college professor David Brat, the political sharks and their symbiotic pundits have been in a frenzy. If we were to take all the hyperventilating to heart, the Cantor upset is the end of civilization as we now know it.
Well, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson: “Don’t have a cow, man!” This will be considered outright heresy inside the Beltway, but Eric Cantor’s upset will NOT end civilization as we know it. A hundred years from now, no one will remember that the House majority leader got taken out in his party’s primary. In fact, it’ll be less than a hundred hours before we contrive some new crisis.
Stuff happens. Eight-hundred-pound gorillas get felled by guerrillas every once in a while, and frankly, the House majority leader really is more like a 400-pound gorilla. So, we need to get a grip. Those commentators who are filling the news black hole by declaring that Cantor’s defeat means that immigration reform doesn’t have a chance this year need a reminder that immigration reform never really had a chance this year. The gridlock will stay the same.
Those Republican leaders who were suggesting it was possible were either pretending in an effort to win over some gullible Hispanic voters or they were on some sort of drug. If they thought they could soften the hard-line bias of their base, they were obviously popping Deludes. Eric Cantor was one of those trying to straddle the middle.

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THE MEANING TEST

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2014
THE MEANING TEST
BY BOB FRANKEN
Back in the day, when I was a TV reporter, I had this fantasy live shot where the anchor would toss it to me with “And now, here is Bob Franken with a report on what it all means. Bob, what does it all mean?”
“Nothing, Scott. It means absolutely nothing.”
Which brings us to the surprise loss by Eric Cantor. Ever since the House majority leader got knocked off by obscure tea-party-backed (pardon the redundancy) college professor David Brat, the political sharks and their symbiotic pundits have been in a frenzy. If we were to take all the hyperventilating to heart, the Cantor upset is the end of civilization as we now know it.
Well, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson: “Don’t have a cow, man!” This will be considered outright heresy inside the Beltway, but Eric Cantor’s upset will NOT end civilization as we know it. A hundred years from now, no one will remember that the House majority leader got taken out in his party’s primary. In fact, it’ll be less than a hundred hours before we contrive some new crisis.
Stuff happens. Eight-hundred-pound gorillas get felled by guerrillas every once in a while, and frankly, the House majority leader really is more like a 400-pound gorilla. So, we need to get a grip. Those commentators who are filling the news black hole by declaring that Cantor’s defeat means that immigration reform doesn’t have a chance this year need a reminder that immigration reform never really had a chance this year. The gridlock will stay the same.
Those Republican leaders who were suggesting it was possible were either pretending in an effort to win over some gullible Hispanic voters or they were on some sort of drug. If they thought they could soften the hard-line bias of their base, they were obviously popping Deludes. Eric Cantor was one of those trying to straddle the middle.

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June 18, 2014

IN THE DARK AT MSNBC

Thursday is very close to the day of the year with the most sun. Join me at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC to watch me not see the light.

June 16, 2014

COMPETENCE COMEUPPANCE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2014
COMPETENCE COMEUPPANCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
The Barack Obama presidency is in fundamental trouble. According to a new Fox News poll, more Americans than not question his ability to be effective in his job. This time it’s not Fox anti-Obama hysteria. The result tracks what other surveys are finding.
According to this one, not only does a majority consider the Obama administration less capable than Bill Clinton’s, but a 48 percent to 42 percent plurality finds it less competent than George W. Bush’s. Furthermore, 55 percent say the current leadership has made the nation weaker, versus 35 percent who feel the country is now stronger. Given the ridicule heaped on W.’s reign, the results are devastating for Obama.
Not that the perceptions are so difficult to understand. We’ve been treated to a regular drip-drip-drip of administration embarrassments, or really, mistreated. Where to start? The Obamacare debut is as good a place as any. Talk about fecklessness. And now we have the Veteran’s Administration scandal.
Republicans swarm all over these messes like insects on honey, but the president and his people make the gorging even sweeter with their own inept public relations.

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COMPETENCE COMEUPPANCE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2014
COMPETENCE COMEUPPANCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
The Barack Obama presidency is in fundamental trouble. According to a new Fox News poll, more Americans than not question his ability to be effective in his job. This time it’s not Fox anti-Obama hysteria. The result tracks what other surveys are finding.
According to this one, not only does a majority consider the Obama administration less capable than Bill Clinton’s, but a 48 percent to 42 percent plurality finds it less competent than George W. Bush’s. Furthermore, 55 percent say the current leadership has made the nation weaker, versus 35 percent who feel the country is now stronger. Given the ridicule heaped on W.’s reign, the results are devastating for Obama.
Not that the perceptions are so difficult to understand. We’ve been treated to a regular drip-drip-drip of administration embarrassments, or really, mistreated. Where to start? The Obamacare debut is as good a place as any. Talk about fecklessness. And now we have the Veteran’s Administration scandal.
Republicans swarm all over these messes like insects on honey, but the president and his people make the gorging even sweeter with their own inept public relations.

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June 12, 2014

MATE EXPECTATIONS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2014
MATE EXPECTATIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
There’s an axiom in journalism to the effect that if you’ve antagonized everybody involved in a story, then you’ve probably done a good job reporting. That’s overly broad, of course, since sometimes it’s because you did a really bad job, or that the subject is one of those where no matter what you say is it’s wrong.
This is one of those where the question might be put this way: If a man who hates women is a misogynist, is a woman who hates men a mistersogynist? Why not? Let’s face it, we are at each other’s throats. Mars and Venus always are colliding, and now in our supposedly modern times, the impact is worse -- on many occasions, violent.

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June 11, 2014

ME IN THE DARK ON MSNBC

As always, my 5:15 Eastern time commentary on an MSNBC Thursday will help you shake off the dawn cobwebs...and discover more cobwebs.

June 9, 2014

FIGHTING THE FAT OF THE LAND

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 2014
FIGHTING THE FAT OF THE LAND
BY BOB FRANKEN
We just fester with prejudice. As deep-seated as racial and sexual biases are, at least we’re dealing with them, and most of us understand that they’re wrong. But when it comes to our intolerance of weight, we don’t give a second thought. Our body bigotry is so ingrained that we consider it completely acceptable to make fun of fat people and to consider those who are overweight to be lesser people. What’s really ridiculous is that the contempt is aimed at an awful lot of us.
A brand-new study tallies the rate of obesity in the United States at nearly a third of the population, over 87 million Americans. Not only do all of us suffer terrible hits to our self-esteem (yes, I’ve struggled with weight my entire life, which is why I have such strong feelings about the issue), but there are the physical dangers of that excess poundage: diabetes, heart problems, cancer, the list goes on. Obesity itself is a disease, often brought on by an addiction not just to food but, more insidiously, to the toxic concoctions the processors prepare and constantly advertise. Their products are loaded with salt, sugar, fat and other ingredients that are designed to hook us, with little attention paid to the public health consequences.
Any attempts to intervene are crushed by the conglomerates that make massive profits by pushing their narcotic morsels on us. They particularly target our children. Woe be to the political figure who tries to intervene. Just ask Michelle Obama.
One would think that the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign and its stated goal of helping our young people get fit would not be all that controversial. Of course, anything with the Obama name attached to it will be controversial; the Republicans and the wealthy selfish interests will see to that. But if we lived in a logical world, an ideal place to begin with good nutrition would be the school cafeteria. What would make more sense than replacing unhealthy fare with healthy? No deep-fried stuff, no empty calories. Instead, offer up tasty, nutritious choices.
But the manufacturers and purveyors of the bad stuff don’t like that. So they’ve enlisted their GOP buddies in Congress to take “Let’s Move” and stop it dead in its tracks.

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June 6, 2014

RADIOHEAD

I'll be cohosting the Saturday No Labels program on SiriusXM channel 124. 10AM Eastern. And now let's pause so everyone can point out I have a great face for radio.

June 5, 2014

THAT'S VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 30, 2014
THAT’S VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
As an aspiring journalist, I have always been leery of those who blame the media for anything and everything. Because of what I do, I’ve focused on news coverage and have always had particular scorn for the public figures who attack us as a way to deflect blame for their bad behavior.
But there are many other media. (By the way, the word “media” is plural, the singular is “medium.” Hearing someone say “the media IS” causes me to shudder. Which means I shudder a lot. It also means I’m a petulant grammar snob, but I digress.)
The serious point here is that the killing rampage by that seriously disturbed 22-year-old punk Elliot Rodger has tragically emphasized societal problems that are least partially the media’s fault. In this case, however, my focus is not on news but on entertainment media and the way that for generations they have trivialized the searingly painful consequences of violence up to and including the dehumanization of death itself. In the 1992 Western “Unforgiven,” Clint Eastwood’s character Will Munny reflects: “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
But that’s a rare moment of cinema introspection. For the most part, shoot-’em-ups have made “killing a man” (or lots of them) a routine part of the plot, with no attention paid to the consequences. It’s just gunplay, which, if you think about it, is a very telling word that dismisses the grim consequences of what the screen is transmitting to an impressionable young audience.

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June 4, 2014

SLOSHING THROUGH THE DAWN ON MSNBC

The Thursday early morning forecast calls for heavy rain. So at 5:15 AM Eastern if you see me on MSNBC and think I'm all wet, you'll be right.

June 2, 2014

THE REAL AMERICAN HUSTLE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014
THE REAL AMERICAN HUSTLE
BY BOB FRANKEN
We’ve all seen the pharmaceutical ads on TV -- you know, the ones that typically offer relief from something like, say, itchy elbows. Once you get past the narrative and the video, which shows the deep shame that anyone feels when scratching his elbow and introduces the blessed relief of some medication named Arm-Bend-numb or whatever, we get the long disclaimer: “Do not use Arm-bend-numb within 16 hours of eating. Arm-bend-numb can cause feeling of deep depression, a variety of cancers and problems with your immune system that can result in death.”
I don’t know about you, but by the time that’s through, I’ve decided to take my chances with the itchy elbow. The drug companies probably hate the disclosures that cut into their profits, but we get to decide whether relief is worth it.
Right now, we get some sort of disclosure from the airlines, who are required to tell us the full cost of flying from here to there, listing not only their base price, which allows you to stuff yourself into one of the plane’s fetal-position seats, along with the mandatory taxes and fees. Luggage and just about everything else are extra. Currently, the airlines need to inform us about all that when we are looking for the best fares.
They’re not happy about it, so in true American corporate fashion they’ve influence-peddled members of Congress to try to introduce legislation allowing airlines to advertise only the base price, and add the other charges once you’ve gone several steps into the booking process. The deceit even extends to the title of the bill. It’s the Transparent Airlines Act of 2014.

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THE REAL AMERICAN HUSTLE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014
THE REAL AMERICAN HUSTLE
BY BOB FRANKEN
We’ve all seen the pharmaceutical ads on TV -- you know, the ones that typically offer relief from something like, say, itchy elbows. Once you get past the narrative and the video, which shows the deep shame that anyone feels when scratching his elbow and introduces the blessed relief of some medication named Arm-Bend-numb or whatever, we get the long disclaimer: “Do not use Arm-bend-numb within 16 hours of eating. Arm-bend-numb can cause feeling of deep depression, a variety of cancers and problems with your immune system that can result in death.”
I don’t know about you, but by the time that’s through, I’ve decided to take my chances with the itchy elbow. The drug companies probably hate the disclosures that cut into their profits, but we get to decide whether relief is worth it.
Right now, we get some sort of disclosure from the airlines, who are required to tell us the full cost of flying from here to there, listing not only their base price, which allows you to stuff yourself into one of the plane’s fetal-position seats, along with the mandatory taxes and fees. Luggage and just about everything else are extra. Currently, the airlines need to inform us about all that when we are looking for the best fares.
They’re not happy about it, so in true American corporate fashion they’ve influence-peddled members of Congress to try to introduce legislation allowing airlines to advertise only the base price, and add the other charges once you’ve gone several steps into the booking process. The deceit even extends to the title of the bill. It’s the Transparent Airlines Act of 2014.

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May 29, 2014

GENDER BRUTALITY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2014
GENDER BRUTALITY
BY BOB FRANKEN
I confess: I’m a man. So it’s not easy for me to get my mind around the shabby firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson. For starters, I have to give her credit for not accepting some sort of bribe to just fade out of sight with the usual memos where her bosses “wish her well” (as you might know, I think that’s another way of saying, “May she burn in hell”).
The Abramson firing was a study in clumsiness, so much so that it lays bare all the questions about sexism in the workplace, particularly at the executive level. Is there a double standard for female and male bosses? Sure there is. Women are still weighed down by the traditional demands to be passive and rely on gentle persuasion. Us men, at the same time, are celebrated when we are demanding and hard-charging.
So, was Abramson’s toughness a rude shock? Probably so. Unfairly so. I’ve worked in the news business a long time, where the two main characteristics of the best reporters are a strong suspicion of authority and neurotic insecurity. In other words, we are nearly impossible to manage. Jill Abramson wasn’t daunted by that. She was widely described as the intimidator, not the intimidatee.
Was that fatal in the back-stabbing world of fragile egos at The New York Times? It probably didn’t win over some of the guys who would have preferred being stroked by a more collaborative female leader.

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May 28, 2014

FRANKEN AT DAWN

Another Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC, another chance for me to provide you a rude awakening.

May 26, 2014

SAM SHAM?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014
SAM SHAM?
BY BOB FRANKEN
Have I been taken in? Was Michael Sam’s kiss with his boyfriend after finally being drafted by the St. Louis Rams nothing more than shtick, just a way to promote the marketing of the first openly gay player who had just become part of the NFL? Faithful readers will know that I was among those who cheered the kiss and took malicious delight in how it caused the homophobes out there to get the vapors.
But that was before I learned that he had signed a deal to cooperate in a documentary. With Oprah Winfrey, for crying out loud! Was the kiss just PR? Did he really not mean it at the Scouting Combine, when he told reporters, “I wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
For those who are not fans, the Combine is a super-hyped, glorified audition. For the record, Sam did poorly, and according to some didn’t even bother training to be in peak physical shape beforehand. Still, the Rams selected him, albeit way down in the seventh round of the draft. Quite a few analysts said he has shortcomings, but he did have a brilliant college career at Missouri.
So far, so good, but when someone is chosen that late, history shows that there is a real good chance he won’t make it at this next level. It means that no matter how hard the team focuses on purely football considerations, there will be tons of people who abhor the oppression of gays who will loudly charge that if he is cut, it was because of bigotry.
The Rams were willing to take that chance. And so was Oprah Winfrey. Sam’s agents and Oprah’s network had already sealed their reality-show deal. And frankly, I don’t know what to think.
On the one hand, this is history, and anytime we can have access to the important events of our times, that’s a plus. But we’re talking TV here and the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN. This is not the usual nuts-and-twigs fare, and I personally have little confidence that the story will be told in an unvarnished way, unsullied by production considerations and pressure to make it good television.

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May 24, 2014

HOLIDAY WEEKEND ON MSNBC

Surely you'll want to break off from the sun and surf to watch me on MSNBC say heaven knows what on a Sunday afternoon about 3:30 Eastern. Right? Now be nice...

May 22, 2014

THE GRADUATE SPEAKERS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2014
THE GRADUATE SPEAKERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Call me “Doctor.” It’s true: I have an honorary degree, conferred after I gave a commencement address at a small college I won’t identify to spare them disrepute. I was the choice after a meth maker became unavailable because he was in prison (I’ll admit it, that’s a slight exaggeration). But I became a “Doctor of Humane Letters,” which means, I suppose, that I can write to someone: “Dear ___: I feel your pain. Compassionately, Dr. Bob.”
I will point out proudly that not one student objected to my appearance beforehand. That’s probably because none of them had any idea who I was, but it does set me apart from a few heavyweights these days. Former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pulled out at Rutgers after a Rutgers Ruckus by some students, objecting to her role in getting the nation into Iraq and Afghanistan. And International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde withdrew from graduation day at Smith College after a petition was circulated on campus objecting to the IMF cooperation with autocrats and financial empires: “Although we do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments as a strong female leader in the world, we also do not want to be represented by someone whose work directly contributes to many of the systems that we are taught to fight against.”
What has followed is a ton of handwringing about how snot-nosed kids are stifling the free expression of certified worthies. Actually, I think the snot-nosed kids are onto something. Quite frankly, without disparaging Rice or Lagarde, far too many of our leaders have achieved their status by hook and crook, with an emphasis on the latter. Furthermore, why even have a commencement address in the first place?
Why turn a happy occasion into such a boring ego trip? What do you usually get at these things, other than somebody telling the graduates that it’s their world? (This is also true: I gave another commencement address in which I told everyone that, no, it was not, and to expect themselves to compromise their idealism. I wasn’t invited to return.)
If there really is a desire to expose the graduates to a diversity of ideas, then maybe the school could invite Donald Sterling. And yes, that’s just my cheesy way to segue into his latest outrages.

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May 21, 2014

ANOTHER DARK START ON MSNBC

Did you know that Mr. Rogers debuted on PBS on May 22,1967? On May 22nd 2014 on MSNBC, let Mr. Robert tell you why it's not such a beautiful day in my neighborhood. 5:15 AM Eastern

May 17, 2014

GETTING SERIOUS ON MSNBC

You know I'm somewhat flattered that I'm included on a panel this afternoon on MSNBC that will be talking about Hillary Clinton, what happened with Jill Abramson at the New York Times, in other words, our acceptance of females as leaders and bosses. This is such a primal issue. The host is Craig Melvin, who is as thoughtful as they come and I'm on the panel with two very dynamic women. I've been thinking about this a lot, as many of us have, in the wake of Abramson's ouster, and I hope my introspection allows me to contribute to the conversation. I doubt that I'll be as flippant as usual, because it's such an important matter and also, because I'm not ready to commit professional suicide. It's between 3:30 and 4:00 PM.

May 16, 2014

A DOUBLE SARCASTIC SATURDAY

I'll be discussing what it all means twice on Saturday; co-hosting on SiriusXM Radio, Channel 124, 10-11 AM Eastern, then 3:30P on MSNBC. Preview: what it all means is absolutely nothing.

May 15, 2014

THE FORFEITS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2014
THE FORFEITS
BY BOB FRANKEN
The Democrats are doing what they do best. Once again, they’re handing issues to the Republicans. It’s their specialty. Of course, there’s Obamacare. By now, the constant efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act should have become an embarrassment to the GOP. True, the Affordable Care Act lately has had a string of successes, the most recent one being an announcement from insurance companies that the vast majority of the higher-than-expected number of signer-uppers have paid their first month’s premium.
That, as Vice President Joe Biden kinda said, is a big freakin’ deal. However, no matter how many BFDs they get, it will take a long time for the Democrats to overcome the mortifying startup, which was the result of ridiculously bad management. It haunts them to this day, and more importantly, will haunt them till Election Day.
But the Obama peeps are always looking for targets of opportunity to wildly miss. We had reached the point where consistent hammering over the tragic events in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, were being perceived as cynical attempts by the Republicans to exploit the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others who were murdered by terrorists while traveling with minimal protection to U.S. facilities and, obviously they want to stick it to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she prepares for her coronation as Democratic presidential nominee.
Furthermore, GOP efforts to characterize the public response by the president and his top national-security officials as a cover-up had been discredited by the exaggerations and outright lies of the main inquisitor Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

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May 14, 2014

PRE DAWN EYE OPENER ON MSNBC

Your first thought if you watch and hear me tomorrow, or any Thursday on MSNBC at 5:15 AM Eastern: "Did he really say that?!"

May 7, 2014

A BAD START ON MSNBC

Be ready for Thursday's world by letting me get you up on the wrong side of the bed. 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC .

May 5, 2014

ON THE ONE HAND, ON THE OTHER HAND

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2014
ON THE ONE HAND, ON THE OTHER HAND
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s time for the word of the day, people. Today’s choice is “ambivalence.” For those who might think it describes an emergency vehicle that takes you to the hospital, it is actually defined as uncertainty, not having strong feelings for either side of an issue. A synonym would be “wishy-washy.” Probably, it should be a word for every day.
Pardon the cynicism, but there are few good concepts that can’t be turned bad. Let’s take the Internet. I like to say that what’s good about it is that it’s available to everybody. What’s bad is that it’s available to everybody.
We can all agree, for another example, that the standard model of modern medicine in this country provides wonderful, even miraculous health care. Still there are many worthwhile choices beyond the incestuous doctor/nurse/surgery/pill-for-everything approach, where providers, in their specialty silos, prescribe drugs and/or operations as the cure for whatever ails you. At the same time, there are different, effective disciplines, like acupuncture, that oftentimes can work as well or even better.
Unfortunately, valid though it can be, alternative medicine is constantly twisted into quackery, and those looking for relief beyond restrictive traditional care are easy prey for charlatans. In the same way, there is no shortage of questionable practices, even outright corruption, where some doctors and certainly pharmaceutical companies take advantage of their unique places in our society and make a fortune doing it. So it’s another two-way street.

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May 2, 2014

MY MOCKERY ON MSNBC

I'll be reflecting on White House Correspondent weekend culminating when the debutantes and beaus go to the ball. Tomorrow (Saturday) on MSNBC during the 2:00 PM Eastern hour.

May 1, 2014

VOTE-WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014
VOTE -- WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE?
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s a platitude we hear about politics all the time: Negative campaigns should be avoided. I don’t know how to break this to everybody, but at this point in our history, it’s nearly all negative. Let’s face it, we rarely vote for candidates. Normally, we cast our ballot against them.
No wonder. As often as not, it’s a choice between bad and worse -- or worst, if there’s a third party involved. Of course, this year it’s really about choices ... 468 of them: 435 in the House of Representatives, 33 in the Senate. But it’s also a singular decision that Americans will make about President Barack Obama. He’s not up for election this year, but he could be down if Republicans take control of the Senate along with the strong likelihood that they’ll at least maintain their House majority. Then, we can pretty much kiss the Obama presidency goodbye. Any of his selections for the high offices in his administration that require “advise and consent” will disappear into the partisan black hole. The same goes for any legislation he might initiate. He’ll be left with the power of the veto, and maybe not even that if enough frightened Democrats can be recruited for an override.
There’s an unpleasant debate ongoing about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s the most ardent liberal on a Supreme Court that has already been taken over by conser
vatives. She’s also had her share of serious health problems. So there’s a clamor on the left for her to resign. Why? So Democratic President Obama can nominate a progressive to replace her. And let’s not even bother with the claim that the justices’ rulings rise above politics. That’s demonstrable poppycock, which is a word I use because children might be reading this. The problem is that if the GOP has taken the Senate, you can forget about any jurist nominated by the White House. By the way, Ginsburg says she ain’t going anywhere, but if any Supreme leaves, a replacement just won’t be picked between now and 2017.

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April 30, 2014

DARK ABSURDITY ON MSNBC

Start your Thursday ridiculously early with me and start the early Thursday ridiculously. MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern.

April 28, 2014

HEALTH CARE POLITICS--NOT SO FAST

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014
HEALTH-CARE POLITICS -- NOT SO FAST
BY BOB FRANKEN
Just to be clear, I may have been wrong. Of course, that’s nothing new for a political commentator, although usually we don’t have to admit we were mistaken. In fact, I may get in trouble with my governing professional body for even suggesting that I might have blown it. Happily, we don’t have one -- but perhaps it would be a good idea, something like the Organization of Pundits-Engaged in Debating Silliness (OP-EDS).
Right now, you probably are asking yourself, “What in heaven’s name is he talking about?” Good question. And I’ll tell you: I’m talking about health care. I have been among the herd-followers who have argued that Obamacare might do in the Democrats’ chances in this year’s elections for control of the Senate, with Republicans wasting no chance whatsoever to tarnish their opponents with the Affordable Care Act. Now, however, I’m beginning to waver (another privilege that goes with this job). There are some indications that the GOP and its mega-rich supporters may be overplaying their one-card hand.
No, this vacillation is not prompted by the news that the administration’s Affordable Care Act participation projections have been exceeded, with 8 million sign-ups tallied so far, including a respectable chunk of those high-value low-age enrollees. Nor is it influenced at all by President Barack Obama’s declaration that, “This thing might be working.” What is he going to say: That this thing, which by the way is his signature achievement, is doomed?
Thank you for sharing, Mr. President, but your opinion is not affecting mine. Instead, there are some glimmers out there that might shed some new light on appropriate strategies for this year’s campaigning.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that one-third of the online respondents say they favor the Democrats’ approach to health care, versus 18 percent who prefer the Republicans’. That’s an increase for the White House and a down figure for the GOP. Of course, 40 percent of those participating had no earthly idea which party had which plan, which is a bummer, but it shows a slight upward trend for the Dems. In February, Obamacare approval was at 25 percent. If that momentum continues, it could mean that people are starting to get weary of the Republicans’ incessant hammering on the subject.
In the House, they’ve passed more than 50 bills that would repeal or sabotage health-care reform, and maybe it’s time to cool their jets. Couple that with the barrage of TV ads already flooding us from well-financed conservative groups trashing Democrats for having anything to do with Obamacare, and maybe, just maybe, a growing number of voters are wondering whether the GOP will stop long enough to reveal a credible alternative. Don’t hold your breath.

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April 24, 2014

MORE THAN YOUR AVERAGE PULITZER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014
MORE THAN YOUR AVERAGE PULITZER
BY BOB FRANKEN
Frankly, these days I’m embarrassed by my craft, but every once in a while, I consider it a real privilege to be associated with journalism. This is one of those times. The Pulitzer Prize, which is awarded by those in news to those in news, recognized this year a team that exemplified the highest ideals of what we do. Or are supposed to do.
By now you’ve guessed that I’m referring to the Pulitzer bestowed on The Washington Post and The Guardian for extensive reporting done about Edward Snowden’s leaks that revealed massive surveillance of just about everybody on Earth. It even swept in many of the planet’s leaders.
Predictably, those in and around the American national-security apparatus are apoplectic. They had even lied about the extent of their cyberspying, so they were understandably furious that they had been caught. New York Republican Congressman Peter King often has been one of their faithful apologists on Capitol Hill. He called the media who have written and broadcast the stories “accomplices.” As soon as the latest honors were announced, King fired off a tweet: “Awarding the Pulitzer to Snowden enablers is a disgrace.”
Snowden himself is a fugitive, hiding out in Russia. He faces probable charges that could land him in prison for life if he returned to the United States, at the very same time he’s in the running for a Nobel Prize. In London, The Guardian’s offices were raided by authorities, and the intimidation aimed at news organizations here to try to stifle publication has been intense. And fortunately, unsuccessful.
Don’t we claim to be a democracy that is chosen by an “informed electorate”? Don’t we need to know when the intelligence system secretly monitors so many aspects of our lives?
Our top spies insist that it’s all necessary. They cite many cases in which only through use of their sweeps have they prevented acts of violent terrorism against the U.S. When pushed for details, they refuse, saying they can’t reveal names or tactics. Unfortunately for them, many of their accounts have come to light and are now exposed as gross exaggerations or outright fiction.

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April 23, 2014

UNCONSCIOUS ON MSNBC

Another Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC stumbling through the dawn, finding the dark at the end of the tunnel.

UNCONSCIOUS ON MSNBC

Another Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC stumbling through the dawn, finding the dark at the end of the tunnel.

April 21, 2014

ALL IN THE FAMILIES

All in the Families
From King Features Syndicate
By Bob Franken

Those of us who rely on political drama, real or contrived, to justify our professional existence are drooling over the possibility that the next presidential balloting will be a dynasty election. Obviously we have a huge amount of foolishness and outright nastiness to get past between now and then, but what a story it would be if the party nominees are Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, Queen Hil vs Prince Jeb. Imagine the plot lines: Tudors, Windsors and the Beverly Hillbillies.

Instead of a Democratic Convention, that party could have a coronation, assuming Hillary decides she’s ready to take the plunge and deal with the life’s worth of baggage the Republicans are sure to pile on to her. But from two years out, it looks like the nomination is hers if she wants it.

Jeb is a different story. Before he can even try to be Bush the Third, he’ll have to fend off the nasties in his own party. He’s already gotten a taste of how brutal they can be by daring to express an unhateful view of illegal immigrants: “Yes, they broke the law,” he said, “but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”

If that seemed innocuous to you, that’s because you’re not in one of those groups that wants to seal the border, or you’re not one of the other GOP wannabes, like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who want to pander to them. Typical is the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. Shortly after Bush committed his heresy, ALIPAC President William Gheen fired off a statement: “You could say that prostitutes do what they do out of an act of love for their children and families, or that bank robbers are engaging in an act of love because they’re stealing the money not just for themselves but maybe for some of their family members. No one has ever said anything as ridiculous as this before.”

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April 18, 2014

MY EASTER WEEKEND PARADE

Saturday I co-host the "No Labels Radio'" Jon Huntsman show on SiriusXM 124 at 10 AM Eastern. On Sunday it's MSNBC's "Brain Trust" at 3:00 PM. A hippety hoppin' weekend!

MY EASTER WEEKEND PARADE

Saturday I co-host the "No Labels Radio'" Jon Huntsman show on SiriusXM 124 at 10 AM Eastern. On Sunday it's MSNBC's "Brain Trust" at 3:00 PM. A hippety hoppin' weekend!

April 17, 2014

THE DEPTHS OF HYPOCRICY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014
THE DEPTHS OF HYPOCRISY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Doctors have their Hippocratic tradition. Meanwhile, I’d like to suggest that those in and around politics consider taking a Hypocritic oath. They don’t, of course, but if there was one, it would begin like this: “First, don’t get caught” doing whatever it is about which you are holier-than-thou.
A recent Quinnipiac poll bears this out. While getting nailed as an officeholder for a bribery scandal or adultery is awful enough, “Voters have less tolerance ... for hypocrisy,” says Quinnipiac. If the crusader who got elected as a government-reform type is shown to have his hands in the till, he probably can start looking for other employment opportunities. As for the one who presents himself as a stalwart protector of morality and who is then found with his pants down, usually he’s a goner -- not always, but he’s certainly in deep doo-doo.
It’s too early to tell whether Louisiana Republican Congressman Vance McAllister can survive after a local newspaper got hold of video that showed him playing serious kissy-face with a staffer in his district office. What makes this so huge is that McAllister loudly advertised himself as the defender of “family values,” as seen through the eyes of his fellow social conservatives. He’s apologized to everyone, including his wife and kids. What else could he do? Oh yeah, he fired the staffer. Party leaders in his state immediately demanded McAllister pack it in, even though in Louisiana, it sometimes seems like this sort of thing is a requirement for public office. Laissez les bon temps rouler and all that stuff.
Hypocrisy about letting the good times roll is not the only sin. Many corporations whose executives have fought against Obamacare have been plenty willing to accept subsidies in the Affordable Care Act to insure their early retirees. That would include Koch Industries, headed by (you’ve got it) the notorious Koch brothers, who are spending millions upon millions of dollars trying to elect candidates who will repeal (again, you’ve got it) the Affordable Care Act and do their bidding whenever and however they want.

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April 16, 2014

NEITHER BRIGHT EYED NOR BUSHY TAILED ON MSNBC

Another regular Thursday dawn shot for me on MSNBC at 5:15, Eastern. Same doo-do, different day-day.

April 14, 2014

AMERICAN SHOOTING RANGE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014
AMERICAN SHOOTING RANGE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Here’s advice for any of those who might want to use the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting to make the case for more restrictions on guns: Don’t bother. After all, the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School -- where 26 people, including 20 children, were mowed down by a mentally ill man -- resulted in no meaningful action by lawmakers, so why would three more victims on a military base make any difference to politicians who are terrified of the National Rifle Association and its accomplices.
Never mind the repugnant absurdity that those who were shot dead or wounded by someone who was being treated for psychological problems had served in combat zones and finally made it “safely” home. Even the bitter realization that this occurred on a military facility won’t matter to our craven officeholders, nor will the fact that it’s happened before on this base, near the same arms shop where both assailants bought their weapons of mass destruction.
Yes, there will be handwringing. It’s already going on. Again. And it’s certainly justified. But the people who could make a difference are paralyzed by their fear of the NRA, which can whip millions of gun owners into a frenzy whenever it wants.

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April 12, 2014

SUNDAY ON MSNBC

By Sunday at 3:00 PM Eastern it's time to go inside and watch me on MSNBC's "Brain Trust". Enough with the flowers.

April 10, 2014

SHELDON'S BUY AMERICA PROGRAM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2014
SHELDON’S ‘BUY AMERICA’ PROGRAM
BY BOB FRANKEN
Is this a great country or what? Where else could a Chris Christie believe that once he grows up, he can be president of the United States? There he was in Las Vegas -- or, as New Jersey people like to call it, “The Other Atlantic City” -- joining fellow prospective Republican presidential candidates Bush, Walker and Kasich in a group pander before billionaire Sheldon Adelman. But pity Christie. In midgrovel, he tripped.
The well-known Adelman, who accumulated his fortune from a worldwide network of casinos, has many passions. He’s dead set against online gambling, which is easy to understand, considering his pleasure-and-loss empire is a brick-and-mortar one. He’s also a fierce supporter of Israel; in fact, the various GOP wannabes were officially there to make appearances before the Republican Jewish Federation. But they really were there because of Adelson’s other hobby: Sheldon Adelson is part of that very small group of obscenely wealthy people who try to purchase governments, in particular the American one. Last time around, he spent nearly a hundred mil in a failed attempt to buy the White House for the GOP.
He is willing to try again, and that’s why many of the party’s luminaries were there for “Sheldon’s Primary.” In exchange for a private ring-kissing session, they each made a public speech trying to outdo one another with their expressions of undying support for Israel. But when it was Christie’s turn, he plain and simply stepped in it.
He was describing his strong impressions during the visit he and his family made a couple of years ago: “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”
If there had been loud alarms in the room, they would have started clanging. Referring to the West Bank and other tightly controlled areas where Palestinians live as “occupied territory” is a definite no-no to Jewish true believers.
Up until that point, he was on a roll, wowing his audience with anti-Obama rhetoric like “We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure whether we’ll be with them, and our enemies are unsure of whether we’ll be against them.” Poor Christie. He was trying so hard to put “Bridgegate” behind him and build a bridge to Sheldon Adelson’s coffers, and he blew it. All he could do is ask for another private bowing-and-scraping meeting to apologize.

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April 7, 2014

THE SLUR AGENDA

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2014
THE SLUR AGENDA
BY BOB FRANKEN
Much is being made of the various cable news networks’ coverage saturation of one story or another and the reasons for their television tunnel vision. We have MSNBC, with its fetish about Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” problems (liberal agenda); Fox is crazed about anything, real or imagined, that might embarrass Barack Obama (conservative agenda); and, of course, CNN is obsessed with the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines 370 (ratings agenda).
Truth be told, I am not one to talk. In my checkered career, I’ve been a principal reporter in chronicling every minute move connected to the various Clinton scandals, based on flimsy evidence or no evidence, the Gary Condit affair and assorted other flimsy shreds of dirty linen (getting-on-the-air agenda).
In fact, one could argue that I’m in a similar fixate with the name of Washington’s NFL team, a racist term that owner Dan Snyder refuses to change. I just wrote about Snyder’s latest move to publicly announce that he’s sent a few thousand coats and some sneakers to America’s reservations to show his newfound concern for Native Americans’ desperate circumstances and show solidarity with those he feels he honors with the hateful R-word.
What causes me to bring up the subject still again is the man he has chosen to head the foundation he created to do his good works. Gary Edwards is a former deputy assistant director of the Secret Service and, more importantly as far as Dan Snyder is concerned, a Cherokee Indian.

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April 2, 2014

MSNBC IN THE DARK

I'm at dawn's early dark tomorrow at 5:15 AM Eastern, tip toeing around Obamacare between the administration relief and continuing GOP grief.

March 31, 2014

FATAL FATALISM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014
FATAL FATALISM
BY BOB FRANKEN
Just who is it we can confidently believe, and about what? Sadly, the smart answers these days are “very few” and “not much.” No, this is not about religion and its practitioners, but about our more down-to-earth institutions, the ones that are supposed to organize our civilization. They can do that only if they are inherently credible, but our society has been poisoned by an understandable cynicism about them. Worst of all, that disillusionment is reinforced constantly, to the point that we sullenly accept, without surprise, a daily tortuous drip-drip-drip of examples where our organizations fail us or cheat us.
Where do we begin? Almost hidden in all the news and non-news about the vanished Malaysian airliner were the disclosures that General Motors, for more than a decade, buried knowledge about faulty ignition switches in some of its vehicles. GM now admits that a dozen people died as a result, although outside experts place the number much higher. Most of us are automatically inclined to assume the company is seriously low-balling.
And while we’re at it, what about the ball-dropping on the part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is supposed to intercede but didn’t.
And before we leave the auto industry, let’s make sure we heap scorn on Toyota, a corporation that has now settled with the Justice Department and agreed to pay a $1.3 billion civil penalty for falsifying information about its accelerator pedals that got stuck and sent some terrified car passengers hurtling to their deaths. That’s a lot of money, but it’s a civil penalty, not a criminal one, which has even harsher consequences for a corporation, and would have even more painful ones for those top executives who could be proven responsible for intentional actions or inactions that killed. The crime of manslaughter comes to mind. And fraud. But that’s for lawyers to decide. And let’s not even get started about our legal system. That’s too obvious.

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FATAL FATALISM

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014
FATAL FATALISM
BY BOB FRANKEN
Just who is it we can confidently believe, and about what? Sadly, the smart answers these days are “very few” and “not much.” No, this is not about religion and its practitioners, but about our more down-to-earth institutions, the ones that are supposed to organize our civilization. They can do that only if they are inherently credible, but our society has been poisoned by an understandable cynicism about them. Worst of all, that disillusionment is reinforced constantly, to the point that we sullenly accept, without surprise, a daily tortuous drip-drip-drip of examples where our organizations fail us or cheat us.
Where do we begin? Almost hidden in all the news and non-news about the vanished Malaysian airliner were the disclosures that General Motors, for more than a decade, buried knowledge about faulty ignition switches in some of its vehicles. GM now admits that a dozen people died as a result, although outside experts place the number much higher. Most of us are automatically inclined to assume the company is seriously low-balling.
And while we’re at it, what about the ball-dropping on the part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is supposed to intercede but didn’t.
And before we leave the auto industry, let’s make sure we heap scorn on Toyota, a corporation that has now settled with the Justice Department and agreed to pay a $1.3 billion civil penalty for falsifying information about its accelerator pedals that got stuck and sent some terrified car passengers hurtling to their deaths. That’s a lot of money, but it’s a civil penalty, not a criminal one, which has even harsher consequences for a corporation, and would have even more painful ones for those top executives who could be proven responsible for intentional actions or inactions that killed. The crime of manslaughter comes to mind. And fraud. But that’s for lawyers to decide. And let’s not even get started about our legal system. That’s too obvious.

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March 24, 2014

SCAMMING OVERTIME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014
SCAMMING OVERTIME
BY BOB FRANKEN
If it wasn’t before, it’s certainly clear now why the nation’s super-rich oligarchs work relentlessly to sabotage the Obama presidency. Take the new POTUS order to expand overtime pay and thwart a system that effectively cheats employees out of what they’ve earned. It’s just one example of how he and his administration are a threat to the few who have burrowed into our legal framework to get away with their shameless tactics to hoard the other people’s money.
Their overtime scam is particularly sleazy. What they have been allowed to do by lawmakers and regulators is declare low-level workers to be supervisors if they oversee fellow employees as just a minute part of their job, while they actually spend nearly all their time performing the same tasks. By designating them salaried, the corporate masters are able to get around the long-standing requirement that working more than 40 hours a week results in time-and-a-half compensation. Right now, the Bush-era pay dividing line is $455 per week. This president has directed his Labor Department to increase that to an as-yet-undetermined amount, saying “We’re going to update those overtime rules to restore that basic principle that if you have to work more, you should be able to earn more.”
That would seem to be fairly straightforward, but not in today’s setup. The 1 percenters have their hand puppets, mainly Republicans. And these are talking puppets. When their buttons are pressed, they react to any economic initiatives from the White House by reciting that they’re “job killing.” Never mind that they offer little proof or that the various proposals are simple fairness -- they are “job killing.” In fact, there is ample evidence that spreading the wealth just a teeny bit would enhance growth, but it’s ignored.
We witness the same dance of distortion when it comes to the Obama campaign to increase the minimum wage beyond its subpittance level. What would that be? You guessed it: “job killing.” By that reasoning, the best way to save jobs is to pay the employees nothing. But let’s not go down that road.

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March 20, 2014

SERIOUS PRATFALLS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2014
SERIOUS PRATFALLS
BY BOB FRANKEN
It happens all too often: I’m on TV, cracking wise about something that’s happening in the wild and wacky world of Washington, and the anchor just doesn’t get it. The sarcasm goes right over his or her head. It can mean one of three things: I’m not funny, the person has had a humor-gland removal, or all of the above. One program moderator -- who shall remain nameless, because I need the work -- said to me on the air, “I never know whether you’re making a joke or not.” In fact, usually, it’s both. This can be a grimly absurd place.
Maybe there are too many people in power who fear they’ll be exposed as foolish. Perhaps that would explain the serious debate that has erupted over President Barack Obama’s appearance with Zach Galifianakis on the farcical Internet program “Between2Ferns.” For the benefit those among us who are not truly hip, the show is a parody of interviews as they appear on public-access television. Galifianakis is the out-there slovenly host who deadpans ridiculous and embarrassing questions of his star guests. This time, the star was Barack Obama. The White House decided it would be a good, albeit risky, venue to promote health-care sign-ups to the young-skewing audience.
It was phenomenal. Galifianakis was his usual mocking self, and Mr. Obama was a total match. He was hilarious; they both were. Plus, it clearly reached the 20- and 30-somethings.
But then the fun stopped. Out rushed the politicians and commentators to sniff about how this kind of thing demeans the presidency. Well, people, I don’t know how to break it to you, but it’s kind of difficult to demean any part of our political system these days. The participants have already turned it into slapstick.
Look no further than those in our national-security apparatus, particularly the ones in charge of the nation’s spying. I think it’s safe to call them the Gang That Couldn’t Spook Straight. One can only hope they’re embarrassed as all their Maxwell Smart stealthy adventures spill into public view.

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March 19, 2014

SPRINGING FROM MSNBC

It's not just any Thursday. It's the Spring Equinox,equal parts day and night. At 5:15 AM, Eastern, on MSNBC, I'll be on the dark side. As usual.

March 17, 2014

MCCONNELL SHOTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2014
MCCONNELL SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’m sorry, people, but I just can’t ignore the sight of Mitch McConnell walking onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference hoisting a musket. Pardon the pun, but it may be the political shot of the year, although it’s early. If you haven’t seen it, put “McConnell with rifle” into your search engine, although “Dweeb with long gun” probably will do the trick. Let’s face it: Mitch McConnell is not the Mr. Macho type. He comes across as more ... how shall I put it? ... uh, studious.
So the picture of him armed but probably not dangerous is just a little incongruous, which is appropriate because he’s in Congress. More to the point, he wants to stay in Congress, and maybe switch from Senate minority leader to majority leader. Before that can happen, however, the first thing he has to do is defeat the tea-party opponent in his GOP primary back home in Kentucky -- Matt Bevin, who charges that McConnell has betrayed the conservative cause by working out deals with (gasp!) Democrats.
So there he was, prancing locked and loaded before the right-wing CPAC audience near Washington, and also preening for the gun lovers back home, to show that he is one of them. Maybe it will work, but it may be another of those photos that bring on a shower of ridicule, like the one of Michael Dukakis in the tank helmet. (For those not past puberty, Dukakis was the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate. On Sept. 13 of that year, a picture of him was snapped on a military base wearing a tank commander’s helmet. Let’s put this gently: Dukakis, obviously of Greek descent, was called “Zorba the Clerk.” Many believe that photo of him with a helmet sitting high on his head sunk his campaign.)
As for McConnell, his opponents have jumped all over his stunt. The Democratic candidate for his seat, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes, tweeted that “It’s not the way to carry a gun.” But Mitch is focusing more right now on his primary race, so once he handed off his musket, he fired some potshots at President Barack Obama, like, “My friends, never before has it been so hard for the rich to become poor or for the poor to become rich. That’s what is un-American! I can’t stand it, and you can’t stand it, and if we win the majority in November, I will work every day to change it.”

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March 13, 2014

SLEEPING THROUGH THE CAMPAIGN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014
SLEEPING THROUGH THE CAMPAIGN
BY BOB FRANKEN
President Barack Obama seemed to be seeing some wall handwriting at a recent fundraiser, worrying out loud about how Republicans might take over the Senate. He was bemoaning the way the same inspired Democrats who turned out to elect him stay at home, unmotivated during midterms, or as he put it, “We get a little sleepy.”
He has good reason to worry, and not just because the GOP would control both houses of Congress (assuming you want to call John Boehner’s speakership “control”). In particular, he and his team in the White House will pay a huge price if Republicans take over the Senate.
All that has saved the country from their worst instincts is Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid running roughshod over Mitch McConnell and his Republican minority, shredding traditional rules of cooperation in the process. What if McConnell (or his successor, if he’s upset in Kentucky) has the votes to turn the screws on the minority Democrats, in a “turnabout is foul play” scenario? Well, you can kiss any administration initiatives in the last two years of the Barack Obama presidency goodbye.
Not only will Mr. Obama have little say about his agenda except to use his veto pen to block theirs, but his nominations will fall into an “advise and consent” black hole.
That will include judicial choices, which, truth be told, are a chief executive’s most lasting legacies. Federal judges at all levels are there for life, unless they really mess up. But they won’t have any life when their names are submitted to a GOP Senate.

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SLEEPING THROUGH THE CAMPAIGN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014
SLEEPING THROUGH THE CAMPAIGN
BY BOB FRANKEN
President Barack Obama seemed to be seeing some wall handwriting at a recent fundraiser, worrying out loud about how Republicans might take over the Senate. He was bemoaning the way the same inspired Democrats who turned out to elect him stay at home, unmotivated during midterms, or as he put it, “We get a little sleepy.”
He has good reason to worry, and not just because the GOP would control both houses of Congress (assuming you want to call John Boehner’s speakership “control”). In particular, he and his team in the White House will pay a huge price if Republicans take over the Senate.
All that has saved the country from their worst instincts is Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid running roughshod over Mitch McConnell and his Republican minority, shredding traditional rules of cooperation in the process. What if McConnell (or his successor, if he’s upset in Kentucky) has the votes to turn the screws on the minority Democrats, in a “turnabout is foul play” scenario? Well, you can kiss any administration initiatives in the last two years of the Barack Obama presidency goodbye.
Not only will Mr. Obama have little say about his agenda except to use his veto pen to block theirs, but his nominations will fall into an “advise and consent” black hole.
That will include judicial choices, which, truth be told, are a chief executive’s most lasting legacies. Federal judges at all levels are there for life, unless they really mess up. But they won’t have any life when their names are submitted to a GOP Senate.

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March 12, 2014

MSNBC DARKNESS

On MSNBC, I'll be doing my usual early early Thursday morning tilting at windmills. At 5:15 AM, Eastern, I'm a veritable Dawn Quixote.

March 10, 2014

COSTLY GAMES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014
COSTLY GAMES
BY BOB FRANKEN
One of the worst parts of a sudden global crisis like the one that has erupted over Ukraine is that we have no idea what’s really going on. The diplomats and intelligence people of our national-security apparatus, along with our political leaders, are playing their Cold War games mostly in secret. The bigger problem is that we can’t be sure that even they have any idea what’s going on.
What’s does it mean when President Barack Obama warns Soviet -- uh, excuse me, I mean Russian -- President Vladimir Putin that “there will be costs” if he sends the military into Ukraine? Is there something ominous about that diplospeak? Apparently not, since Putin responded by sending troops into Ukraine. More importantly, when Vlad makes his moves, what can the United States really do but grumble or bluster and hope against hope some miscalculation by someone doesn’t make the situation worse?
Short of a shooting war with Russia, what can the U.S. and E.U. really do to punish an invasion? Boycott the upcoming economic summit in Sochi? Big deal. End trade talks? Another slap in the wrist with a wet noodle.
Has Putin calculated correctly that after Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States and the Europeans are depleted, really unable to muster a forceful response as he pursues his expansionist dreams to avenge the fall of the Soviet Union? Already many Republicans are dumping all over Obama, scoring whatever points they can, screaming for some kind of demonstration that the U.S. of A. is still able to bend the rest of the planet to its will.
The blame is misplaced, given that it was their Bush administration that drained the military with its poorly thought-out adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The harsh reality is that America is not quite as super a superpower as we once were. Certainly, Putin knows that and has forced Obama to play with a weak hand.

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March 5, 2014

DAWN AT MSNBC STILL AGAIN

I'm on MSNBC the last Thursday before we switch to Daylight time. Doesn't matter. At 5:15 AM, Eastern, I'll be in the dark either way. Join me anyway.

March 3, 2014

SUBHUMAN RHETORIC

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 25, 2014
SUBHUMAN RHETORIC
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s be honest. Can we agree that some apologies should be flat-out rejected? Certainly the halfhearted ones. That brings us to that mean guitar player and really nasty right-wing extremist Ted Nugent. His latest foray into hate speech is his characterization of President Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.” And before anyone says he was taken out of context, here, in an interview with guns.com, was the context: “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.” That doesn’t change a thing, does it? It’s vile.
Those are some of the exact words the Nazis used to describe Jews, and they are similar to those routinely employed by North Korea to describe someone out of favor. They were so over the top that they even gave pause to some Texas illuminaries like Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbott, although it took some prodding before they decided that their boy Ted Nugent maybe had gone too far.
Even Nugent, who regularly foams at the mouth, was persuaded that he needed to hold back on his verbal excrement, just a little. But let’s judge how much he meant it when, after his buddies started bailing on him, he told a Dallas talk-radio host that he regretted using “the streetfighter terminology of ‘subhuman mongrel’” instead of just calling the president a “violator of his oath to the Constitution” or “the liar that he is.” Let’s give a cheer. Civil discourse has carried the day, or what passes for it. It wasn’t too long ago, 2009 to be exact, that South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama’s State of the Union speech to holler “You lie!” So this is becoming a habit ... that’s getting worse. It’s worth noting that Wilson has been re-elected twice since he covered himself with that glory, so the people in his district certainly have a respect for his way with words and his grasp of nuance.

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February 27, 2014

MINIMUM ASPIRATIONS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 21, 2014
MINIMUM ASPIRATIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Like anyone, my life is governed by certain principles. Among them is the steadfast belief that one should always aim low to have any chance at all of avoiding failure. It’s an article of faith, or actually, an article of a lack of faith. Whatever, it would follow then that even in this age of obscene financial inequality, those few who hold power and riches would be anxious to throw a crumb to those at the bottom. Never mind any sense of altruism, which is obsolete these days, but a tiny act of generosity might keep the rabble from getting restless.
So one would think that the idea of raising the minimum wage would be embraced across the economic-political board. Well, one would be wrong. Republicans, acting in their capacity as puppets for the wealthy, are dead set against the Democrats’ politically motivated agitation to raise the floor amount from its starvation-level $7.25 an hour to $10.10. And now the opponents are latching on to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that projects such an increase probably would mean the overall loss of a half-million jobs, which CBO admits was a guess, since the real reduction could be “very slight” to as many as a million. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell jumped right in: “Today’s CBO report shows that raising the minimum wage could destroy as many as one million jobs, a devastating blow to the very people who need help most.” Of course, McConnell is running scared in his primary back home, so he’s seizing every opportunity he can find to sound like a hard-liner, but he and the rest of the Haves gang choose to ignore the other part of the report, that forecasts as many as 24 million workers getting higher wages, lifting 900,000 of them out of official poverty.
Besides, the job losses would come about because employers would let people go rather than pay them above the current shameful amount. Quite frankly, they don’t deserve to be in business if they can’t see their way clear to give their workers more than such a pittance. Even the most struggling entrepreneur should avoid exploitation, and that’s what paying today’s minimum wage is -- exploitation.

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February 26, 2014

TRYING TO BE COHERENT ON MSNBC

I'll be discussing politics, in my usual Thursday dawn spot, 5:15 AM, Eastern on MSNBC. What's good about that is most of you are too dazed to know if I make any sense whatsoever.

February 24, 2014

OF CLOSETS AND LOCKERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 18, 2014
OF CLOSETS AND LOCKERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Do you know what’s really sad each time someone public declares that he or she is coming out of the closet? What’s so wrong is that we still have closets. Thus it was with the big announcement by University of Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam that he is gay.
Stories erupted everywhere in the mainstream media and certainly the not-so-mainstream Internet outlets. Even President Barack Obama weighed in with his backing. Justifiably so. And regrettably so. After all, Sam had become the first active player to give up his “secret” (actually, it was no secret to his teammates, who knew and enthusiastically embraced him as a member of the locker room). He also was getting ready to be selected in the NFL draft. That brings us to why we even have a closet.
Interspersed with the many enlightened statements of support from professional athletes and others involved in sports, including one notable Dallas sportscaster, were the guys who expressed their disapproval, both the open bigots and those who were anonymously predicting that Sam’s value would fall in the upcoming draft as he tried to go pro, or as they like to say, “participate at the next level.” They worried that he would “disrupt a locker room.”
Next level? Disrupt a locker room? What a delicious coincidence that a new report just came out that detailed the grotesque sexist, homophobic, cruel bullying in the Miami Dolphins locker room that caused 300-plus-pound lineman Jonathan Martin to flee the team. He’s not gay, by the way.
Obviously, an argument can be made that not all jocks are the brightest bulbs. But, they’re not the only ones who cling to ignorance. Once again, another federal judge has had to make a ruling that simply ratifies what should be a given, that in the United States, we have a right to “equal protection under the law.” In the latest case, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen acted to strike down a prohibition against gay marriage, this time in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so,” she wrote. “However tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”

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POLITICAL BADGERING IN WISCONSIN

I'll be on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn show this Monday, discussing "All Things Political" for a full hour, starting at 2 PM Centeral, 3, Eastern. If you're not in Wisconsin you can listen on the web or your mobile device.

February 21, 2014

SATURDAY MSNBC BRAIN TRUST

When I'm on the Saturday MSNBC "Brain Trust at 3:30 PM , Eastern, the panel will be a liberal, a conservative and me, who doesn't like anyone.

GARRICK UTLEY HAS DIED OF CANCER

Garrick Utley is a major loss. He and I were genuine friends who just didn't see each other often enough. Besides being a professional hero, ( I produced for him a couple times when I was a pup at NBC) he was possibly the most brilliant person I know. Whenever we would get together, we could just give up on our schedule, because he would always inspire amazing conversation. We spent some of that time together as competitors in places like a deserted mosquito infested island waiting for an invasion of Haiti that never happened, and as CNN colleagues. Wherever it was, there would be that sparking conversation, thanks to him. I'm not inclined to look up to anyone, but I did I did in more ways than one, which is a joke because "Stretch", was mighty tall.

February 20, 2014

THE LOSING GAME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 14, 2014
THE LOSING GAME
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’ve described politics as the dark side of government, but, as usual, things have gotten worse: To a large extent anymore, politics is just about all there is to government, certainly on the national level. The sad election choice for Americans has degenerated into “Pick Your Poison.” Republicans largely offer a field of bizarre extremist candidates who not only should be laughed off the stage but shouldn’t have been in the theater in the first place. They are enabled by Democrats, who are so inept that they waste every opportunity to advance their progressive agenda.
Their standard-bearer for now is Barack Obama, of course, but he and his peeps are blowing their chance to shape the country in their image. The most glaring example is Obamacare. My old friend Ron Fournier, who proves that “respected journalist” is not necessarily an oxymoron, cites in the National Journal how, “It’s getting difficult and slinking toward impossible to defend the Affordable Care Act.” His frustration boils over at the latest decision to delay another employer mandate till after the midterm election, which Fournier describes as further proof that “The White House has politicized its signature policy.”
Setting aside the criticism that the law itself was twisted by special-interest lobbyists and a ruthless GOP opposition into a Rube Goldberg substitute for genuine reform, it still offers some improvement for millions of people who had been shut out of their right simply to be well. The administration’s carelessness between passage and reality has undermined its credibility. It’s worsened even now by a White House that lurches, blinded by shortsightedness.
Even with the latest report that more people are signing on, the mixed messages give powerful ammunition to those whose passion it is to destroy the current presidency by demonizing Obama and flogging him with his signature program. He makes it easy by symbolically wearing a “Kick Me” sign.
He’s allowed Sen. Ted Cruz and others of his ilk to thrive. Frankly, Cruz should have been shoved to the side, considering how last year he was out front demanding repeal of health care as the price to avoid a government shutdown and national financial default. When that blew up in his face, the Democrats had him on the run for only a very short time. Immediately, the grotesque collapse of the healthcare.gov website, followed by disclosures of outright misrepresentations by the president and the frightened veering like this latest delay, allowed Cruz and his running buddies to regain traction in a big hurry.

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February 19, 2014

TAP DANCING ON MSNBC AT DAWn

Another Thursday for me on MSNBC at 5:15 AM, Eastern. It's part of the non-Olympic coverage, unless they make dumb commentary an Olympic sport.

February 17, 2014

PROFANE FOREIGN RELATIONS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 11, 2014
PROFANE FOREIGN RELATIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Call it “gall” or “brass” or “chutzpah,” whichever you prefer, but the State Department has an abundance. At State, there’s quite a bit of embarrassment over a surreptitious recording that’s gone public of a telephone call between Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary for European Affairs, and the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine. They were discussing possible intervention in a crisis there, where Russia was successfully muscling its former satellite away from the European Union. During that four-minute chat, Nuland was moved to use some truly undiplomatic language: “F--k the EU,” she blurted. After all, this was supposed to be a confidential chat. Turns out it wasn’t.
But it’s not the spicy language that’s the real issue. As a State Department spokeswoman for quite some time, Nuland certainly had a venue for expletives. However, it’s usually avoided in public diplospeak, so it was a tad embarrassing when someone, apparently the Russians, released a copy of the conversation via a Twitter link. That’s not so brassy, either.
What takes the prize is the administrations indignant reaction. At State, spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated the obvious when she accused the Moscow government of recording the call. Psaki said the video was “a new low in Russian tradecraft,” which refers to the spy trade. That takes gall.
This from a United States government that has been exposed by Edward Snowden, outed for its massive surveillance of everyone on the planet, including heads of friendly countries, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel is still bent about that, so imagine her reaction to the dismissive expletive about the EU she so dearly embraces.
Suffice it to say, the chancellor was not amused. In fact, she was f--kin’ furious. (By the way, I understand if some parents, who don’t want their kids to see words with hyphens in them, will hastily shield their eyes.)

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February 13, 2014

THE STUPID BOWLS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 7, 2014
THE STUPID BOWLS
BY BOB FRANKEN
It was touted as Bill O’Reilly’s interview of President Barack Obama, but it was more like O’Reilly having a conversation with himself, as the president struggled to get a word in edgewise. It’s become part of the garish rites of the Super Bowl, at least when Fox comes up in the rotation.
Some might wonder why Mr. Obama is willing to even appear on a network he agrees is “unfair” to him. But why not? It gives both him and O’Reilly the chance to sing to their choirs. He also offers a contrast to the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who keeps threatening to boycott news organizations that displease him. First it was CNN, which folded and withdrew plans to present a Hillary Clinton biopic down the road after Priebus promised to shut out the network. Now it’s MSNBC he insisted he’d freeze out unless there was an apology for an authorized Twitter note about how “the rightwing” would go bonkers over a Cheerios ad that featured a mixed-race family. The apology was forthcoming -- and rightfully so, because the tweet was too broad -- but at some point Priebus needs to be told that he doesn’t determine coverage and if he tries, he won’t have to worry about turning down requests to go on. There won’t be any.
What’s that? The Super Bowl is about football? Sometimes it’s hard to remember. That might be a good thing, considering what a stinker this year’s game was.
That’s really OK, since there was so much equally important shtick that filled the time since the two-week spectacle began. Remember how it started with the rant by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. He managed to immediately flush out all the bigots. They were there to the end, finally spewing their hatred over the Coca-Cola ad that featured “America the Beautiful” performed in a variety of languages, by a multicultural cast, including a gay family. The haters made sure we couldn’t forget America has some ugliness under our spacious skies.

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February 12, 2014

CHILLIN' ON MSNBC

There will be a Thursday morning winter storm to plow through, but I'll get to MSNBC at 5:15, Eastern, for my usual snow job.

February 10, 2014

PREHISTORIC MODERN THINKING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 4, 2014
PREHISTORIC MODERN THINKING
BY BOB FRANKEN
Why would anyone think it was a big deal when scientists announced a few days ago they had determined that humans carry genes of Neanderthals? Was there really any question? The evidence is everywhere. It’s certainly obvious when we observe the hunter-gatherer predators who run roughshod over each other in the political world.
It would be a mistake to stereotype Neanderthals as grunting lunklumps. In fact, some of them appear quite suave. Mike Huckabee, for example, was outfitted in knuckle-drag recently when, before a Republican audience, he derided women who needed “Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system.” Let’s give credit to these primitive beings. They are equal opportunity. Females are well-represented. For example, just about anything Michele Bachmann says hearkens to a time far back in our evolution, which she doesn’t want even taught in our schools. Obviously she would not be someone Gov. Huckabee would accuse of having libido or reproductive-system problems. But many have raised questions about issues she has using her brain and mouth at once.
Still, let’s face it: Most of today’s cave men are, uh, men. You know that famous “Ascent of Man” picture, which depicts the rise from ape to human, the one you’ll never see in a Creationism class? Well, Congressman Michael Grimm was here to remind us that the flow can move in both directions. He was definitely leading the descent when he grunted to a TV reporter that if he persisted in asking a question Grimm didn’t like, he would toss him over the balcony. That’s not a complete transcript, but it’s a family newspaper. This is a guy who’s in the U.S. House of Representatives. Clearly, though, when someone told him he was a member of the club, Grimm thought that meant he should carry a club.
He’s from a part of the country where politics can get pretty primal, although there was nothing pretty about the traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, apparently ordered up by some of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s aides. It’s still an open question how much Christie really knew about all of it, but those involved plainly had an abundance of Neanderthal DNA.

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February 7, 2014

NOT A SOCHI DEAL BUT SUCH A DEAL

I'm part of the Saturday afternoon MSNBC "Brain Trust" debating over who's responsible for our political mess. 3:30 Eastern when we LET THE BLAME BEGIN.

February 6, 2014

THUG SHOTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 31, 2014
THUG SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s think about the “T word.” Some of us are, after Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman reflected on the reaction to his NFL post-game rant. Sherman made the valid observation that many of the Twitter bigots tossed around the epithet “thug” as a substitute for the ultimate racist slur that even they have learned to avoid. But let’s use the word the way it was intended. The thesaurus lists synonyms like “ruffian” and “bully,” you get the drift, but let’s add one more: Rep. Michael Grimm, Republican congressman from New York.
His conduct on State of the Union night was boilerplate thuggery. How else would we describe Grimm responding to a question he didn’t like by threatening the TV reporter with, “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony”? In case he didn’t make himself clear, he added: “You’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.” Unfortunately for him, the camera was still hot. So it was stupid thuggery.
He apologized, only after an uproar, but I’ve thought about how I would have reacted. Actually, I didn’t have to think long, because anybody who has spent as much time as I have in TV newsbiz has run into that kind of situation. What I hopefully would have done in Congressman Grimm’s case is to have walked over to the balcony nearby. Then I would have asked the question again. It’s the only way to deal with that kind of pathetic intimidation.

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February 5, 2014

ME AND MSNBC'S WINTER GAMES

It's Olympics Thursday,. I start out the day on MSNBC at 5:15 AM, Eastern, 2:15 PM, in Sochi. And it's downhill from there.

February 3, 2014

JOE,SARAH,GLENN,RICHARD AND BARACK,OF COURSE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 28, 2014
JOE, SARAH, GLENN, RICHARD AND BARACK, OF COURSE
BY BOB FRANKEN
From 1937 to 1949, while Joe Louis reigned as boxing’s heavyweight champion, he was known as the “Brown Bomber.” Many whites, taken with his outward humility and trying to show they weren’t intolerant, described him as a “credit to his race.” It was polite bigotry. As we’ve passed the annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and with it the annual introspection about civil-rights progression in America, it’s obvious we’ve come a long way — after all, we have elected a black president. But we still have some distance to travel.
As a white, I cringe when I hear from certain people who are clearly a debit to my race. Whatever possessed Sarah Palin, for instance, on MLKs birthday to go on Twitter and, after quoting from the “I Have a Dream” speech, to implore President Barack Obama: “Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.”
What brought that on? It only could be Ms. Palin obviously playing the race card herself, and maintaining her following among those who live in fear and hatred. As far as we’ve come, the racial divide still exists.

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January 30, 2014

IRRESPONSIBILITY ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 24, 2014
IRRESPONSIBILITY ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE
BY BOB FRANKEN
In this age of vicious political fighting, it may seem a bit counterintuitive, but sometimes bipartisanship can go too far. We witnessed a bit of that on the Sunday talk shows when the chairs of the two congressional intelligence committees, Mike Rogers, the Republican who heads House Intelligence, and Democrat Diane Feinstein, who runs the show at Senate Intel, displayed a little bipartisan McCarthyism. Yes, that’s harsh, but isn’t that what we call public smears based purely on innuendo?
Rogers showed up on “Meet the Press” and while discussing National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, he declared, “I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow.” He went on to say, “I believe there’s questions to be answered there. I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.” He provided no evidence; in fact, there are many indications to the contrary.
Then came Feinstein, who was asked by host David Gregory whether she felt Snowden had acted with the help of the Russians, to which she replied, “He may well have.” Again, she provided no proof or justification, just, as with Rogers, the words of two members of the nation’s intelligence establishment who are outraged that Snowden upset the domestic-surveillance apple cart and now is forced to live as a fugitive, temporarily sheltered by Russia from punishment in the U.S. that could mean life imprisonment.
Snowden wasted no time firing back. In a New Yorker magazine interview he dismissed the accusations, such as they were, as “false,” insisting that he had “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”
Obviously those who are not Ed Snowden fans will find his denial unconvincing, predictable. They consider Snowden a traitor or at least believe what he did was wrong and deserves punishment. But others consider him a hero. The charges of Russian chicanery seem to be empty demagoguery. Surely, our nation’s leaders, when they speak, should have higher standards than pure conjecture. If, as Rogers and Feinstein seem to suggest, they have concrete indications that Putin and his KGB successor, the FSB, had facilitated the disclosures, then we need to know about them. And the defense that making them public jeopardizes national security is not credible. Surely, there is some information that might be useful when we’re conducting this debate that wouldn’t compromise the safety of the homeland.

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January 29, 2014

AN MSNBC CRY IN THE DARK

It's time for my usual Thursday dawn shot on MSNBC. And at 5:15, Eastern, I perform not only weekly, but weakly.

January 27, 2014

PAULS AND PAULICY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 21, 2014
PAULS AND PAULICY
BY BOB FRANKEN
He may have gone to Harvard Law School and all that, but President Barack Obama’s grasp of lessons learned from history leaves a little bit to be desired. He was certainly off-base when he tried to justify the massive National Security Agency surveillance by citing the Revolutionary War’s Sons of Liberty and Paul Revere: “At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots.”
It’s not often I quote Sen. Rand Paul, but he had a terrific response on CNN: “Paul Revere was warning us that the British were coming, not that the Americans were coming.” Great sound bite, but Paul (Rand) went on to point out that the Fourth Amendment was included in the Constitution because the British rulers had this nasty habit of forcing their way into colonists’ home to rifle through belongings, without needing a warrant. It sounds like today’s national-security letters permitted by the so-called Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand material from Americans without a warrant. They also forbid the recipient from telling anyone. The president said nothing in his speech about reforming that.
In fact, his address offered very little except lip service when it comes to reining in an intelligence establishment that has been shown to use today’s mind-boggling technology to scoop up every shred of our privacy. We wouldn’t have known about any of it had it not been for Edward Snowden, who had the audacity to expose all these intrusions. In the process, Snowden has had to flee a country where a furious national-security establishment is waiting to severely punish him for blowing the whistle. Mr. Obama had little to say about him, other than to repeat the mantra that he revealed “methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.”

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January 23, 2014

CHRISTIE'S FUTURE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 17, 2014
CHRISTIE’S FUTURE
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s the burning question in Washington; you hear it in the grocery store, at the dog park, throughout this town: What effect will “Bridgegate” have on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential aspirations? Setting aside the fact that such intense interest in the trivial makes D.C. a ridiculous place to live, the answer is: “Who knows?”
We don’t have a full picture of how deeply Christie was personally involved or how aware he was of the malicious mischief his top aides were perpetrating. That’s key, of course. If no one puts him closer to the heavy-handed traffic-jam revenge, chances are this will be long forgotten in the many months before he decides whether to wade into the swamp of a national campaign. We don’t usually remember what sleazy outrage occurred just a couple of days ago, much less the past year. Without some way to keep the flames of controversy burning, news turns stale in a flash.
That’s one of the basic tenets of crisis management in politics: Devise a strategy to make a story boring. It is what made Christie’s nearly two-hour news conference so slick. By the merciful end, when he had said the same thing over and over, people nationwide were getting drowsy. At the very same time that he was appearing to face the scandal head on, he was succeeding in turning yammering into yawning. From here on out, anything short of a startling new disclosure can be shrugged off by his representatives as sooooooo yesterday.
But that’s not all that’s in play here. One of the default pushback tactics is to trash the media. It’s not that Christie said a word about the news coverage, but his partisans did. Immediately we were deluged with complaints about how we never gave the same kind of attention to President Barack Obama’s scandals, like IRS or Benghazi. Never mind that we went bonkers over both -- maybe excessively, as we witnessed with the “60 Minutes” misreporting on Benghazi. Even if we hadn’t, this is a false equivalence here. There has been no evidence that President Obama was in the loop in either of those foul-ups, but it is reasonable to wonder if Gov. Christie did play a role in the apparent vendetta against an uncooperative mayor.

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January 22, 2014

COLD AND DARK ON MSNBC

I'm venturing out into a frigid Thursday dawn to be on MSNBC at. 5:15 AM, Eastern . I 'd love it if I wasn't talking to myself. Too much to hope?

January 20, 2014

STUPID POLITICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 10, 2014
STUPID POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
To my knowledge, this memo has not been sent, but it should:
From: Top Republican Officials
To: Party 2014 Candidates
People:
Don’t do or say anything stupid. That is all.
And from the same guys, a note to the GOP members of the House and Senate seeking re-election: A “do-nothing Congress” is a good thing.
Or as one of them, Rep. Charlie Dent, told The New York Times: “It’s pretty clear to me in the House, we don’t want to make ourselves the issue.”
Unless they make themselves the issue by going crazy doing something like forcing the nation into humiliating default when the government’s borrowing authority runs out by March, or taking other extremist tea-party-fueled positions or uttering Neanderthal comments on social issues that give the Democrats new ammunition, the R’s have a good chance of taking control of both sides of the Capitol and turning the White House into a bunker.
Yes, this is an election year. All that happens on the Hill is nothing more than background music for a midterm congressional/pre-presidential campaign that will dominate everyone’s agenda from now till November.

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January 17, 2014

Brain Trust Issues on MSNBC

If you've got nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, you can
A) watch me on MSNBC's "Brain Trust" at 3:30, Eastern,
and
B) Get a life.

January 16, 2014

BRIDGEGATE AND SPYGATE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 10, 2014
BRIDGEGATE AND SPYGATE
BY BOB FRANKEN
There is a phrase we in newsbiz are told to avoid like the plague: “Only time will tell.” It’s too much of a cliché for those of us who live and die with clichés. So cringe along with me as we consider the political future of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Can he be a credible presidential candidate after “Bridgegate” (still another cliché)? You guessed it: Only time will tell.
Seriously, there so many unanswered questions after that news conference in which he tried to convince the world that he was not the reincarnation of Richard Nixon. Where Nixon insisted “I am not a crook,” Christie declared, “I am not a bully.” In both cases, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. And in both cases, there clearly was an enemies list. So we’re left with the what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it question. If Christie’s claim holds up and he had no knowledge that his top aides made the decision on their own to cause traffic chaos as payback to a mayor of another party who had dared to not endorse him for re-election, then maybe this will be all but forgotten by the time 2016 rolls around.
That’s a huge “if,” since just about anyone with subpoena power in New Jersey will be investigating, to say nothing of us predatory reporters. But assume for the moment that we don’t find the smoking gun (another cliché from the Nixon days) and we’re not all disgusted by the possibility that the governor has fostered an atmosphere in his administration where toxic vindictiveness is encouraged -- which he denies -- maybe this will blow over. Of course, it’s also possible that some of the top aides will emerge from where they were thrown under the bus, to offer a competing version, so, well, you know.

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January 15, 2014

ANOTHER THURSDAY AWAKENING

You have to get up anyway, so why not be jarred awake by me on a Thursday morning at. 5:15 AM, Eastern on MSNBC.

January 13, 2014

LEGALIZED MIND NUMBING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 7, 2014
LEGALIZED MIND NUMBING
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s face it, I am one boring person and, as you’ll soon discover, a bit preachy sometimes. I don’t drink, and I’ve only tried weed twice in my entire life. The only reaction I had was to get thirsty. And I certainly don’t need pot to get the munchies. Right now, you are probably asking yourself, “Why bother even telling you this?” Here’s why: A lot of commentators who are musing about the spectacle of Colorado’s decriminalization of recreational marijuana find it necessary to begin their reflection by fondly reminiscing about their own mellow times getting stoned. Apparently they think it bestows credibility on them, as they ponder the long lines in Denver to buy newly legalized pot. It’s now allowed in the state, but it’s still against federal law, and that’s why a debate has lit up anew. Shouldn’t the prohibitions be lifted everywhere in the country, so sales and use can be regulated by local officials and the feds in a joint effort (sorry, I had to say that)?
Shouldn’t it be treated like alcohol? The answer is, of course it should be. The restrictions against a drug that is clearly less harmful are clearly absurd, particularly when studies show that brutal penalties against violators are enforced much more harshly in America’s poor and minority communities. Alcohol is an addictive drug that is demonstrably more destructive to individual health and to society as a whole, it’s regulated and limited, but it’s sold to anyone who meets the age requirement. We should be able to lead our private lives as we want, as long as there’s no danger to society. Of course there is plenty of danger, but we should be evenhanded. After all, what’s good for the booze should be good for the ganja.

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January 9, 2014

WHO CARES?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 3, 2014
WHO CARES?
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s not often I initiate a discussion about something that doesn’t matter to me, but that’s what I want to do. It involves someone disclosing that he or she is gay and my instant response of ... so what? Other than being sad that the person has struggled to keep this a secret, it makes no difference whatsoever to me. It never has, even in the dark ages of my life, and certainly doesn’t now.
What brings this on, of course, is the latest instance of a celebrity timidly declaring to the world that she is a lesbian. Robin Roberts, a star of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” who has spent most of the past year struggling with and triumphing over two life-threatening illnesses, took to Facebook to express her thanks for all the support she’s received: “I am grateful for my entire family, my longtime girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.”
That was it, the no-big-deal disclosure. But the media went bonkers. The story appeared everywhere, and even brought a reaction from first lady Michelle Obama on Twitter: “You continue to make us all proud.” She even signed the tweet “mo,” which is her way of signaling she actually wrote it herself and not some staff member. Although Roberts epitomizes courage and she’s a tremendous talent, it is puzzling that anyone cares about her sexual preference. Actually, there is a very good reason.
The world is still crawling with intolerant meddlers who care very much. They harbor hatred in their hearts. As the “Duck Dynasty” uproar demonstrates, they still live in their dark world of fear. Sadly, they can generate a huge amount of support with the vile sort of homophobic pronouncement we got from “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson.
So those who cling to such hateful views must be taken on. It’s a shame that it’s still necessary, but those who are our role models, like Robin, are needed to counter the bigots.

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January 8, 2014

MY COLD DARKNESS ON MSNBC

Another Thursday pre-dawn for me on MSNBC at 5:15, Eastern. If there was ever a reason for you to wake up and watch on a cold cold morning, this isn't it. Do it anyway.

January 6, 2014

IT'S BOYCOTT TIME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 31, 2013
IT’S BOYCOTT TIME
BY BOB FRANKEN
Forgive me for repeating what so many people already know, which is that the civil-rights movement in this country really gained traction after Dec. 1, 1955. That was the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Ala., bus and was arrested. She rightfully occupies a revered place in history, but it’s what happened next that forced the unraveling of cruel Jim Crow segregation and started the nation down a long road to equality that we still are traveling.
The next day, the city’s blacks, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., organized a boycott of city buses. It didn’t take long before a lack of riders caused serious economic damage to Montgomery’s transit system, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The point is that progress may be rooted in principle, but it’s achieved by tightening the financial vise. Which brings us to modern times. Actually, in many ways, we’re still living in the dark ages, often held back by craven officials buckling under the demands of malignantly selfish big-money interests. The powerful aren’t about to give up any privilege until they’re hit right in their hearts, which is to say, their wallets. It’s as true today as it was just more than 58 years ago: There’s no better way to force progress than a boycott.
There are so many opportunities: For those in an uproar over the way A&E has handled “Duck Dynasty,” it’s as easy as can be: Don’t watch the network, and maybe avoid buying from the show’s sponsors. There is a huge amount of handwringing about how the infamous Koch brothers use their fortune to stymie regulation, fair taxation and labor rights. Simplicity itself : Koch Industries owns Georgia Pacific, which makes a ton of consumer products, including Brawny paper towels and Northern tissue. Need I say more?
Furthermore, who really needs to eat at Chick-fil-A? Or Cracker Barrel? The list goes on and on. And it’s a tactic that those on the other side can use. Many are upset over the various positions espoused by Warren Buffett. What does he own? What doesn’t he own? Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries range from GEICO Insurance, which is so easy to reject that even a caveman can do it, to Dairy Queen to Fruit of the Loom.

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January 2, 2014

FUTURE SCHLOCK

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 27, 2013
FUTURE SCHLOCK
BY BOB FRANKEN
For those of us who cover the various issues that swirl around politics, it’s always a celebration — we get presents every day. With their never-ending outlandishness, they are the gifts that keep on giving. We careen from one crisis to another, peppered with egregious scandal and/or ridiculous comment. The controversies usually overlap, leaving those of us who happily chronicle them with an embarrassment of embarrassments.
That brings us, in late December, to the ritual of the year-ender. We see these reflections everywhere, those pieces we all weave together on the major developments that dominated the news in the previous 12 months. Of course, some of the stories will slop over into 2014, but they qualify because they lurched to the foreground in 2013. Some are truly bizarre, like the focus right now on “Duck Dynasty” because of the truly hateful comments from the lead character on that TV show. The program is actually kind of funny, but it doesn’t compare with that comedy of errors that was the launch of Obamacare. What more needs to be said? Actually, we’ll see, as the Affordable Care Act really takes hold in January, or continues to slip badly. The best (or worst) is yet to come.
Which is my point. Any fool can create a year-ender. It’s more challenging to do the year-beginninger. What lies ahead — and, for that matter, what lies lie ahead? For instance, the government shutdown threat seems to be behind us for now, what with the mealy-mouthed budget compromise, which is supposed to take shutdown off the table. But that doesn’t mean that our attention-starved leaders aren’t planning other ways to tiptoe up to the point of no return.
No sooner had they finished their self-congratulations for avoiding an immediate disaster than everyone left town while leaving more than a million long-term unemployed in the lurch because Republicans opposed extending benefits and refused to budge. Democrats are planning to make this the first political battle of the year and score points as champions of the desperate. But there’s an even bigger crisis lurking: Each side is playing chicken as we once again face default of the national debt. According to government officials, the United States maxes out on borrowing ability in February. Without new permission from Congress to raise the amount, the nation would finally step over the edge and welch on its loans, seriously diminishing our proud country. It used to be a prospect that was unthinkable, but the outcome is in the hands of the unthinking.

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December 31, 2013

LEANING FORWARD

I'm on MSNBC during Wednesday's noon hour talking New Year's resolutions and old year's retributions

December 30, 2013

A HARD DUCK STORY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 24, 2013
A HARD-DUCK STORY
BY BOB FRANKEN
There’s a possibility that just a few people are discussing, and it’s that the “Duck Dynasty” family and maybe A&E network have just pulled off a public-relations coup.
Granted, my evidence is strictly anecdotal, based on the personal experience of ... well ... me. I had never watched the show before now, but the moment father duck Phil Robertson made his comments to GQ about gays and blacks that are so ridiculous they could only be meant as farce, I made it a point to watch.
Folks, it is very funny. Obviously it’s a parody, one that mocks rednecks. What makes it clever is the way it doesn’t really insult anyone, even those who fancy themselves part of that subculture. Well, at least it didn’t, until Robertson burst through the O (for Offensive) Zone with his responses to questions about gays. Try this on for size as he’s describing his view of what the Bible says about sin: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” There’s more, but it gets pretty graphic, so as the cliché goes, we won’t “go there.”
Just to make sure he had pushed a few more buttons, Robertson weighed in on how the Jim Crow times weren’t so bad, that the blacks he saw were “singing and happy.” For good measure, he added in a few offensive remarks about the Japanese.
Seriously: He can’t be serious. It’s just a slick promotion.

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December 27, 2013

LAST SATURDAY OF THE YEAR ON MSNBC

How better to spend the last Saturday afternoon of 2013 than with me on MSNBC at 3:30, Eastern? Let me count the ways...but watch anyway.

December 26, 2013

HO HO HO

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 19, 2013
THE SPITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
BY BOB FRANKEN
’Tis the time around Christmas and all through the night,
I’m still struggling with the HealthCare.gov website.
But the season is lovely with its gifts and its luster,
Even better this year with no filibuster.

The members are nestled all snug in their districts,
On a very brief break from political cheap tricks.
They’ve just settled in, turned away from their labors;
No speeches, no meetings, not even fundraisers.
But on the TV, there arises a clatter
(I forgot I’ve left on the cable-news chatter).
There’s one of the shouters being nasty to someone,
So as fast as I can, I’ll turn off the volume.

Outside there is movement -- oh goody, what fun!
Quick as a flash, I pull out my gun.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But this guy in a red suit and sporting a beard.

It’s Santa, of course, with GPS and a smartphone,
Bringing gifts on a sled, and not on a drone.
They all have been made by the worker elves that he’s
Left at the North Pole to rest up and shoot selfies.

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December 25, 2013

THE DAY AFTER HOLIDAZE ON MSNBC

OK it'll be time to get past the Yuletide glow and join me in the dark world of politics on MSNBC. Really dark, at 5:15 AM Eastern.

December 23, 2013

FUNDRAISING FUN AND GAMES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 17, 2013
FUNDRAISING FUN AND GAMES
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s the special-interest organizations’ dirty little secret: When it comes to fundraising, losing is winning. When their agenda prevails, when their side succeeds, supporters get complacent, less willing to contribute when the groups’ leaders sound the alarm, because there’s less of an alarm to sound.
It’s an entirely different matter if the other side gains power. Then the defeated associations can go bonkers, warning of pending doom that can be prevented only if the faithful reach deep in their pockets to save civilization as they see it.
So when the ultraconservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America screamed bloody murder about the piddly budget deal negotiated between Republicans and the hated Democrats, even House Speaker John Boehner took a shot at them.
“They are not fighting for conservative policy,” he sputtered in a closed meeting of GOP House members. “They are fighting to expand their lists, raise more money and grow their organizations, and they are using you to do it. It’s ridiculous.” Never mind that Boehner has tolerated years of abuse from the extremists before he finally had enough; his scathing comments were, uh, right on the money.
What’s funny is that this hardscrabble squabble is about almost nothing. The only reason that the negotiators were able to work out a bargain is because it only nibbled around the edges of the edges. Its main claim to fame is that it purports to take the threat of a government shutdown off the crisis table till after next year’s congressional elections. That’s probably a plus for the GOP, because it seems to remove one of the ways that Republicans can seriously embarrass themselves as they face the voters. They also won out because they were able to fend off an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. On the right, cutting off a lifeline to the desperate seems to be considered a victory.
But hey, it shows that compromise is still possible in Washington, as long as no one gives any ground. The fact that our leaders were bragging about that raises an interesting scenario:
The prevailing opinion has been that this was the year for anything to be accomplished, because it sure wasn’t going to happen in 2014, which is, after all, when members must campaign if they want to return to office. They would be too busy pandering to give any ground, particularly when it comes to controversial issues. Confrontation is the name of the game.

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December 20, 2013

The Spjte Before Christmas

I'll be on MSNBC's "Brain Trust" Saturday afternoon, during the 3:00 Eastern hour, spreading the Fooltide spirit.

December 19, 2013

THE LIST SWERVE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 13, 2013
THE LIST SWERVE
BY BOB FRANKEN
This probably will not win me any friends, but I have never cared even a little about Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year. Even worse, I consider many of the lists that pop up all the time to be more trouble than they’re worth. The Best Movies always leaves off some great films and includes some real dogs. Same with the Best Rock and Roll Hits of All Time, or whatever. Lists can be a pain. So you can imagine how I feel about Time’s list of the 10 finalists for Person of the Year.
Before the announcement that Pope Francis was the winner, people the world over were holding their breath, barely able to wait to find out who’d be No. 1 -- the Pope, Edward Snowden (who was runner-up) or Miley Cyrus. A tough choice if there ever was one.
To be fair, some lists are useful. Evidence that the annual rankings of colleges have some merit is the fact that they drive academics bonkers -- same with hospitals and their administrators. It’s not all bad.
In fact, maybe we should consider a few of our own. So, without further ado, let’s start by accepting nominations for 2013’s Most Admired Politician in the United States.
Anyone? Who wants to go first?
Oh, c’mon, folks. Surely someone must have a favorite. Why not? Look no further than the inane brouhaha over President Barack Obama’s handshake with Cuba’s Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial or the ridiculous commentary over the admittedly foolish “selfie” featuring Obama and the leaders of Britain and Denmark. Stir in real embarrassments like the government shutdown and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, add the things that haven’t gotten done, such as tightened gun control and immigration reform, and it’s easy to understand why politicians apparently aren’t anyone’s personal taste right now. Still another poll has quantified that low regard: Associated Press/GfK’s newest one tallies 86 percent disapproval of Congress and 58 percent for our president. Let’s bag the Admired Politicians list.

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December 18, 2013

MY DARKNESS AT DAWN

Don't think you can get away with sleeping in on a very early Thursday while I'm on MSNBC. The NSA will be watching and taking names. 5:15 AM, Eastern.

December 16, 2013

AMERICAN APARTHEID

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 10, 2013
AMERICAN APARTHEID
BY BOB FRANKEN
Based on all the commentary and recollections since his death, apparently I am one of the few people on Earth who never personally met Nelson Mandela. I could only admire from afar his superhuman magnanimity and willingness to bond with those who so brutalized him.
But since I do the occasional guest shot on MSNBC, I obviously have met Al Sharpton and Chris Matthews, with whom I have very sporadic contact. Although we don’t agree on everything, I emphatically embrace the thoughts that Sharpton expressed, seconded by Matthews, that the GOP politicians in the United States “don’t care if the country suffers.” The Republicans, being the hand puppets of those who prosper from the growing gap between the have-nots and the have-nearly-everythings, foster a type of economic apartheid in our country. As a result, their principles fall short of those in South Africa who finally were willing to surrender power to the moral force of Nelson Mandela and abandon their country’s vicious system of apartheid.

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December 13, 2013

MSNBC AND ME SUNDAY

Watch MSNBC Sunday during the 3:00 PM Eastern hour as I answer the eternal question "What could go wrong?"

December 12, 2013

THE OVERBLOWN DRONE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 6, 2013
THE OVERBLOWN DRONE
BY BOB FRANKEN
It sure didn’t take long for “60 Minutes” to move past a big problem. Just when the venerable TV newsmagazine was still cleaning up the fallout from its Benghazi reporting, the mess was swept aside by happy-talk publicity over drones.
It was not one of the show’s heavy exposés that was generating the coveted buzz; this was a light-as-a-feather wet kiss for amazon.com and its gazillionaire head honcho, Jeff Bezos. Amazingly, the puffery produced a little news. Bezos, who usually is secretive, revealed to Charlie Rose the prototypes of unmanned aircraft he’s trying to develop to quickly deliver products ordered online from his mega warehouses to the customers’ homes.
Wowee-zowee! This was huge! The Internet lit up like a holiday tree. Never mind that others, like pizza giant Domino’s, have been exploring their own ways to turn flying swords into profit shares. They, too, want to bring home from the wars the impersonal overhead killing machines and make a killing by adapting them to civilian use. UPS also is said to be studying them. So, this is nothing particularly noteworthy, except now Amazon -- the behemoth that is taking over the entire world -- is exploring them.
For everyone, it’s going to take awhile. The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to figure out how to make sure these squadrons of model airplanes don’t crash into each other, as well as trees and homes, or that they can be counted on to not drop their cargo, particularly food orders, on unsuspecting innocents below, causing lots of “splatteral” damage.
But let’s assume the FAA works all this out. The potential is enormous. Already, police departments are making plans. Imagine a robotic SWAT team overhead. Think about the surveillance potential. For that matter, these remote-control aircraft could become another tool for the National Security Agency and the other intelligence agencies to spy on Americans. For all we know, they’re already doing it. Could someone contact Edward Snowden?

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December 11, 2013

THURSDAY MSNBC COLD DARKNESS

As you're blowing frost on an early Thursday winter morning, I'll be blowing smoke on MSNBC. 5:15 Eastern.

December 9, 2013

POLLS APART

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 3, 2013
POLLS APART
BY BOB FRANKEN
Is it me, or are many of the polls, particularly in a nonelection year, totally predictable? When the tea partyers force a partial government shutdown, they get hammered with widespread disapproval. When Barack Obama’s be-all-end-all health-care program craters at startup, the president’s numbers plummet. Important? Yes. Obvious? Also yes, and easy to ignore for anyone but the most fanatic political junkie.
But let’s hear it for The Associated Press, the wire service that commissioned an AP-GfK survey that tells us something really significant: By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, we don’t trust one another. Seventy-eight percent say they’re leery of anyone they just meet. And not surprisingly, 81 percent have little faith in those in and around the government in Washington.
That’s a big deal. A democracy like ours can thrive only with collaboration. When power is in the hands of the people, most of us are expected to do our parts and rely on our fellow citizens. Otherwise, we would end up with a hostile society and a system that doesn’t function very well. Wait, that’s what we have now.
We seem to be mired in suspicion. Worst of all, it’s justified. Wherever we turn, we’re confronted by hustlers, whether in the private world or in the public sector.
It’s really toxic when the dishonesty combines with incompetence, particularly in the government institutions that we pay dearly to serve us.
This brings us, of course, to the Obamacare rollout. No matter whether you believe that the Affordable Care Act ultimately will be a good thing, the unconscionable carelessness that resulted in its calamitous website debut means that it will take a long time before many are willing to wholeheartedly embrace the possibility that it will even work.
Even with the new assurances that the “vast majority” of those trying to sign up will now succeed, the half-vast startup after having three years to plan it leaves us all highly skeptical.

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December 5, 2013

POLITICAL SHOPTALK

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 29, 2013
POLITICAL SHOPTALK
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is the time of year when we’re reminded what America is all about as we observe that most important day -- Black Friday. Actually, it has morphed into Black Thursday. We used to call it “Thanksgiving” until big retailers dragged employees away from their families and stuffing. Whatever -- it’s the thread that is sewn into our national fabric, as enduring as, say, the Senate filibuster.
Oh wait, that one has just been frazzled. Is nothing about our country sacred? Truth is, this is a tradition that long predates the U.S. of A. The first recorded filibusters were droned somewhere around 60 B.C. in the Roman Senate, by Cato the Younger. Cato the Elder was his grandfather, but we digress. The kid wanted to obstruct an initiative by Julius Caesar (I am not making this up). The Roman Senate rules some 2,076 years ago required that the body adjourn for the day at dusk. Sen. Cato would simply talk until it got dark. And the rest is history.
There was no nuclear option then -- no nuclear anything, for that matter. No electricity, either, which explains the darkness limit. There also were no cameras to play to, which is such a draw for our modern-day legislative warriors, like Paul the Younger and Cruz the Crass.
The members of the modern Senate, which may be an oxymoron, like to describe their upper chamber of Congress as “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” But there’s a huge difference between deliberation and paralysis, and that’s what the abuse of the unlimited debate standard has brought us.

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December 4, 2013

Another Groggy MSNBC Thursday

It's another Thursday for you to wake up extra early to watch me take a shot at the day's political issues. And miss. 5:15 AM, Eastern.

December 2, 2013

POSITIVE DISSENT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 27, 2013
POSITIVE DISSENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Think of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the bad cop in the dealings with Iran. While the others on his side are making nice, he’s the one making nasty. He plays an important role: When the U.S. and its allies make a bargain with Iran, slightly easing sanctions in return for a temporary freeze on developing nuclear weapons for the Ayatollahs, Netanyahu’s snarling reaction paradoxically increases the chances of success. When he calls the agreement a “historic mistake,” he’s giving it credibility in the Persian Empire. That’s significant because the relatively moderate leadership there is always jousting with hardliners.
Of course, we have our own, including those who oppose all things Obama. So when the president, in a late-Saturday-night White House statement, says, “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back,” the Republicans immediately jumped at the chance to argue that the deal was no big deal. Old reliable hawk Lindsey Graham tweeted, “We really haven’t gained anything.” Some in the GOP ranks, like Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, even charged that this was a subterfuge by the White House to “distract” from the problems with health care.
When Congress returns, we can expect a renewed push to impose greater and harsher sanctions on Iran, even as this new pact lightens up on them a little. Again, if this is handled properly by our geniuses on Capitol Hill, this might actually help. Fancy that. If the final legislation imposes the tougher economic punishment but delays taking effect for the six months the arrangement covers, that may be pressure on Tehran to abide by the terms and pursue more progress.
One of the main obstacles is the intense hostilities between Iran and Israel, Iran and its bitter Mideast religious rival Saudi Arabia and, of course, Iran and its “Great Satan,” the United States.

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November 29, 2013

IN A NEW YORK STATE OF MINDLESS

I'm gonna be a part of it in old New York this weekend, coming to you on MSNBC from 30 Rock, Saturday at 3:30 PM, Eastern, Sunday between 8 and 10 AM.

November 27, 2013

THANKSGIVING DAWNS ON MSNBC

Instead of sleeping in, start your Turkey day appropriately with me at 5:15 AM Eastern and be one of our dozens of viewers.

NUCLEAR MATTERS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 22, 2013
NUCLEAR MATTERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s face it -- too much of the coverage we provide from Washington is “inside baseball,” easily ignored by those who live in the real world. Sometimes, though, this stuff matters. A case in point is the decision by Harry Reid and his Democratic gaggle to invoke the “nuclear option.” It’s called that because Reid and his partisan majority blew up the traditional filibuster. Utilizing a parliamentary maneuver, they were able to circumvent the usual two-thirds vote necessary to change the rules and used a simple majority to do away with the biggest delaying tactic that has helped define the “deliberative” United States Senate.
Republicans are having a cow. “You’ll regret this,” sputtered Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The solution to this problem is at the ballot box.” He was trying to make the obvious point that if the R’s take over, it’s the D’s who will have lost their power to stop a conservative agenda. Unwittingly, however, McConnell was offering a justification for doing away with a stalling tactic that he and his partisans were using to thwart the winner of the last election. The voters choose who will head the nation. Last time around, that was Barack Obama, meaning he gets to select the ones to fill openings on the federal bench, and also who will head the departments and agencies of his administration. Forgive the civics refresher, but while the Constitution’s advise-and-consent power provides the Senate an ability to block nominees, it is supposed to be used sparingly. The key word is “consent,” but at an unprecedented level, the Republicans were filibustering judicial and executive appointments put forth by President Obama. It came to a head when they blocked three of his choices to fill appeals-court openings. The Republicans were daring Reid to make the nuclear move -- in truth, they triple-dared him, so he did.

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November 25, 2013

OBAMACARE DO OR DIE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 19, 2013
OBAMACARE DO OR DIE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Those of us in newsbiz have all described the Affordable Care Act as Barack Obama’s “signature” accomplishment of his presidency. Actually, what it’s looked like so far is an indecipherable scribble, a dark splatter that might leave an indelible stain on his entire legacy.
It was a visibly wounded Obama who found it necessary to go into the White House Briefing Room, appear before reporters he holds in such disdain and apologize to the American people for a rollout that has been a humiliating personal embarrassment. The website paralysis has been gruesome, and the ridicule over his repeated promises that “If you like your policy you can keep it” has seriously eroded his credibility once millions of policyholders were informed they could not, in fact, keep their policies because of mandates in the newly instituted law.
And now in an effort to repair the damage, he had to swallow his pride and declare that companies may offer that substandard coverage. He may have made the damage worse. The insurance industry, along with its lackey state regulators, are complaining that the reversal won’t work -- that it’s too expensive or too late to tamper with this Rube Goldberg machine.

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My Public Radio Badgering

I'll be spending an hour with Kathleen Dunn on Wisonsin PublicRadio this Monday afternoon, milking politics for all it's worth. 1:00 Central, 2:00 Eastern.

November 22, 2013

MSNBC BRAIN TRUST

I'm part of the MSNBC Saturday afternoon, during the. 3:00 Eastern hour, on the Brain Trust panel. I love saying that.

November 21, 2013

SILLY SUCCESSFUL SARAH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 15, 2013
SILLY, SUCCESSFUL SARAH
BY BOB FRANKEN
Quite a few people have been fooled by some new stories about Sarah Palin. One report had her describing how Jesus celebrated Easter and then quoted her charging President Barack Obama with keeping a Muslim museum open during the government shutdown. Both are false, and so bizarre that no one should have believed them. They were humor, fiction. Unfortunately, as usual, the Sarah Palin lampoon was entirely plausible.
She’s back, roaming around the country to promote her latest book, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.” The impose-the-Christian-faith theme of her tome is obvious, but let’s save a discussion about that for another time.
Instead, let’s consider the staying power of someone whose real utterances resemble satire. In just the past few days, she’s let fly with some brand-new babble. Her publicity tour included the requisite stop on the “Today” show, where, of course, she trashed Obamacare -- a handy target these days for anyone on the far right, where she prowls. Then, Matt Lauer asked her repeatedly if she could articulate the tea-party position on health reform. Read it several times, because there will be a quiz:
“The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort-reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases. And those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left. It’s President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free-market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care!”
Here’s the question: What in heaven’s name does that mean? Can someone please make sense out of that reply, or is it simply incoherent?

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November 20, 2013

AN MSNBC EYE-OPENER

MSNBC with me on another Thursday at 5:15 AM, Eastern. To get your mind in gear! ( What else would you get in gear?)

November 18, 2013

BULLDOZING BULLIES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 12, 2013
BULLDOZING BULLIES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Every week, in the latter part of the year, you’ll find me in front of the TV, watching my local team, the Washington Slurs. I do so even though the NFL is looking more like an unprincipled corporation all the time. In addition to the racist affront of the D.C. squad’s R-word name, recently revealed conduct by the hierarchy of the league tars the sport I played as a young sprout and enjoy as a couch potato. But I’m having second thoughts.
The effort by top management to conceal, for decades, the grievous brain damage the violent game inflicts on its players is a disgrace. And now we have the case of Jonathan Martin, who has been driven to leave the Miami Dolphins because of bullying. Martin, of course, is hardly a delicate little flower. He’s a 6-feet 5-inch, 312-pound offensive tackle, a man nicknamed “Moose,” even though his size is pretty average in his violent world of sumo offensive linemen. Nevertheless, he was hazed to the breaking point, with nowhere to turn in a culture that encourages brutality off the field as well as on. Only now, by ripping himself away from the game, has he brought attention to its excessive cruelty. His alleged main tormentor, Richie Incognito, is now characterizing himself as Martin’s mentor. “This isn’t an issue about bullying,” he insists, “it speaks to the culture of our locker room.” To be honest, I’ve always wondered why hazing is ever suitable, but what Martin has brought to light goes far beyond that. In fact, it is routine cruelty excused as a way to “toughen up” someone who’s already rugged enough to take part in the daily battering of professional football.

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November 14, 2013

NO LESSON PLAN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 8, 2013
NO LESSON PLAN
BY BOB FRANKEN
Forgive the personal indulgence, but as my dozens of readers perhaps will recall, I just wrote about the lessons we might learn from this year’s election, particularly the race for governor in Virginia. Now that the results are in, it’s time to dwell on the lessons we should NOT learn.
We certainly cannot conclude that Democrats can take any great comfort from the fact that their guy, Terry McAuliffe, beat the Republican, Ken Cuccinelli. McAuliffe should have whomped Cuccinelli, one of those far-right hard-liners on social issues who need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the 16th century. You’d think his party would have learned that intolerance doesn’t cut it in the 21st century, but they just refuse to budge. Look at the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner insists that he won’t even allow a vote on legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination against gays and transgenders. His contrived excuse is that it would cause “frivolous litigation.” By that reasoning, we should do away with all bias laws, because any one of them can lead to lawsuits.
In spite of that thoroughly discredited rigidity, his opponent, McAuliffe almost didn’t win in Virginia. Cuccinelli was closing in on him. The Democrat almost blew it because his party couldn’t find anyone better to put forth. McAuliffe, who has a questionable business and political background, was perceived to be the sleazy but better alternative to the Neanderthal. To prevail in the 2016 sweepstakes, the Democratic party will have to do better than that. And it might want to look for plan B choices other than Hillary Clinton, who is the odds-on favorite if she decides to run. She carries a lot of baggage, starting with her last name.

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November 13, 2013

MSNBC AT ZERO-DARK-515

I'll be shedding dark on politics at 5:15 AM, Eastern again on MSNBC to help you on a Thursday get up on the wrong side of the bed.

November 11, 2013

OVER OUR HEADS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 5, 2013
OVER OUR HEADS
BY BOB FRANKEN
It is a sad commentary on humans (full disclosure: I am one) that we are too often guided by selfish interests to the exclusion of the general community. Putting it another way, No Man Isn’t an Island. In the political world, in particular, there are countless examples.
Where, oh where do we start? How about the proposition that any reform will be corrupted? Our present campaign-finance laws, for instance, are a patchwork of changes meant to clean up a system that amounted to bribery of our elected officials. Those same rules now have been twisted beyond recognition to the extent that the legalized graft has worsened.
Another one: Authority to protect will inevitably be abused. That’s hardly a new concept, since Lord Acton first uttered the phrase “All power tends to corrupt” back in 19th-century England (thank you very much, Wikipedia). It’s just gotten more routine since then. Give the National Security Agency the ability to conduct surveillance and a mandate to protect America from terrorist attack, and NSA technocrats will turn that into permission to intrude on nearly every private aspect of people all over the planet.
For that matter, the business world will use that same ability to monitor our shopping habits and even know where we are and when to encroach into our homes with telemarketing calls and bombard our computers with sales pitches. Like all their profit-enhancing tactics, they insist that they’re acting on behalf of the stockholders. A noble incentive, to be sure, until we remember that happy stockholders mean exorbitant salaries for the executives who push the ethical boundaries when they’re not crossing them.
It’s government, however, where the various institutions claim lofty guiding principles. The United States Senate prides itself on its role as the calming influence. Legend has it that George Washington told Thomas Jefferson that the Senate is the saucer into which we “pour legislation” to cool. Setting up obstacles that slow down various initiatives, such as passing bills and acting on presidential appointments, are designed to protect us from our worst impulses. One of the ploys members of the upper chamber have traditionally had at their disposal to cool the workings of the hotheads in the lower house is use of the filibuster. They can talk anything to death, unless the other side can stop them using a supermajority vote, currently 60 out of 100. It’s not a bad idea for a nation that prides itself for resisting the “tyranny of the majority.” But, as usual, the bad guys have used the filibuster and related stalling tactics to further their political agenda by stifling nearly everything that emanates from the Obama administration. They have become a tyranny of the minority. They block not only legislation that way, but Presidential nominees, distorting their constitutional "Advise and Consent" powers.

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November 8, 2013

SATURDAY GETTING BRAINED ON MSNBC

OK folks, Here's the chance to get the cheap shots out of your system: I'm on the Saturday afternoon "Brain Trust" segment on MSNBC. 3:30 Eastern.

SATURDAY GETTING BRAINED ON MSNBC

OK folks, Here's the chance to get the cheap shots out of your system: I'm on the Saturday afternoon "Brain Trust" segment on MSNBC. 3:30 Eastern.

November 7, 2013

ACCLAIM WITHOUT BLAME

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 1, 2013
ACCLAIM WITHOUT BLAME
BY BOB FRANKEN
Consider this a modern-day law of human nature: If you quietly work real hard and consistently perform very well, you can expect to be stuck in your job forever -- unless, of course, you get laid off. Keep your nose to the grindstone, and you’ll lose your nose. Your supervisor, meanwhile, can be counted on to take full credit for your accomplishments, but if something goes wrong, the boss will see that you get all the blame while claiming he knew absolutely nothing about what you were doing.
If that seems a bit cynical, then look at the headlines. I’m thinking of President Barack Obama, whose spokesman says the president did not know that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone conversations were being monitored by U.S. spooks, along with those of other leaders from our nation’s so-called close friends. He didn’t know! How could that be? Even assuming, for the moment, that he was not in the loop with details about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance effort, it boggles the mind that he wasn’t informed that those in his exclusive heads-of-state club were being wire-tapped.

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November 6, 2013

THURSDAY MSNBC ALARM CLOCK

Start your Thursday dark and early with me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern.

November 4, 2013

LESSONS IGNORED

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 29, 2013
LESSONS IGNORED
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sometimes I’m asked, “Where do you get the ideas for your column?” I get the impression that the real question is, “Are you taking all your meds?” But the answer is that some of them are not the result of a mental episode, but instead plagiarized from others. This one comes from Steve Kornacki or his producers on his “Up!” program on MSNBC. I was on a panel that was describing the off-year Virginia elections and the lessons in restraint that tea-party hard-liners might learn if, as the polls show, their guy gets whomped. Their Republican standard-bearer is Ken Cuccinelli, currently the state attorney general and a far-right conservative on economic and environmental issues as well as social ones.
It should have been a GOP cakewalk. The Democrat is Terry McAuliffe, who, to put it gently, has a reputation for being a bit smarmy. He’s very tight with the Clintons and has been a serious fundraiser for them in their various political pursuits -- and is expected to be again if Hillary actually makes another run at the presidency. Granted, ginning up campaign money frequently can be unsavory, but McAuliffe also has gotten quite rich with business deals that sometimes have raised ethical questions of their own.
The common refrain heard constantly in Virginia is the one from voters who say, “I can’t stand either of them.” In fact, one of the major newspapers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has written a remarkable editorial endorsi clip the winng no one, recommending “None of the Above.”

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October 31, 2013

COVERT HEALTH CARE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 25, 2013
COVERT HEALTH CARE
BY BOB FRANKEN
When he declared “No one is madder about the website than I am,” President Barack Obama delivered the line with his usual unemotional cool. But apparently he sent out some strong signals. The woman standing behind him,who was reduced to one of those awful Washington human props, started to faint. Maybe she picked up on his anger. His displeasure is certainly justified. The bureaucrats, the contractors and the geeks have managed to make an unholy mess of his legacy-defining health-care reform, just as it was beginning to get off the ground. The excuse that the all-important website was a massive undertaking doesn’t hold a lot of water when we remember that there have been three full years to get it up and running.
Having said that, the president and his mortified subordinates might be overreacting as they pull in extra help to do massive crash repairs. The fact is, he doesn’t need them. He has an in-house crew that can easily take on the enormous new system. I refer, of course, to the National Security Agency, which has shown amazing cyber-prowess. Face it, as gargantuan as the Obamacare website might be, it’s piddly when compared with a setup that manages to monitor the private communications and lives of nearly everybody on the planet. The people at the NSA have accomplished this with so little effort, they were unobtrusive, or they would have been were it not for Edward Snowden. Thanks to Mr. Snowden, we now know that these guys can add this to their portfolio without raising a sweat.

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October 30, 2013

IN THE DARK AT MSNBC

Of course you'll be watching me again do my Thursday MSNBC thing at 5:15 AM Eastern. Dawn is such a wonderful time to be awake. Isn't it?

October 28, 2013

A ROCKY FUTURE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 22, 2013
A ROCKY FUTURE
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is not a perfect analogy, but indulge me. By now, you’ve probably seen the cellphone video of the guys in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park who celebrated after shoving over a boulder that was part of an ancient rock formation. Their reasons are immaterial; with one push, they knocked out a part of a delicate natural structure that was 170 million years old. Then they celebrated.
You probably can guess where this is going. The despoilers in Congress and others in our political system are destroying the 226-year-old vision set forth by the designers of our Constitution. One of the framers was Benjamin Franklin, of course, who also helped draft that other precious document, our Declaration of Independence. At its signing, he famously declared, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Forgive the elementary-school history lesson, but that spirit of hanging together, sharing a national purpose, has been the underlying principle that has guided the grand concept that is the United States of America. It has been a standard that has inspired leaders like former House Speaker Tom Foley, who we honor after he just died.
Foley’s commitment to civility and collaboration with his adversaries was his trademark. It stood in sharp contrast to the win-at-all-costs model of those who immediately followed him, particularly the man who succeeded him as House speaker, Newt Gingrich. It was Gingrich who engineered the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 before finally negotiating with those he had demonized. I always called it “Crossfire Politics” after the program on CNN, my old employer, that emphasized shouted vitriol in place of reasoned debate. It’s bizarre that Newt is one of the hosts of the newly reincarnated “Crossfire,” but as we hear all the time, the more things change, the more they stay the same; the kind of compromise exemplified by Tom Foley and his GOP opponents in his time has become lethal to those who would even suggest such approaches today. That has done severe damage to the country. The hard-liners on the right are willing to take that risk, to push the U.S. over the brink into financial humiliation simply because they have not gotten their way on Obamacare after losing in the congressional and judicial channels outlined by our founders.

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October 25, 2013

"UP" IN NEW YORK

I'll be on the "Up with Steve Kornacki" show out of 30 Rock Sunday morning, 8:00 till 10:00 Eastern, in my usual downer role.

October 24, 2013

"BRINGING DISCREDIT"


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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 18, 2013
‘BRINGING DISCREDIT’
BY BOB FRANKEN
Among the most farcical rules around is a provision in the guidelines for what’s ethical and what’s not for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Setting aside the point that “congressional ethics” is an oxymoron, there's a prohibition against “bringing discredit” to either body. HOw absurd, considering it could be applied right now against tHe many who contrived the government shutdown/debt-ceiling crises.
Whoopee. They finally managed, just barely, to avert disaster, but not before polls measuring the approval rating of Congress had dropped like a stone. One could sY that qualified as "discredit" Actually, it's more like disgust. If one person could be singled out for blame, it would probably be the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Junior was warned over and over again by those in the GOP who weren’t foaming at the mouth that pushing to defund Obamacare was suicidal. Inflaming his fellow Bravehearts, who then bullied the Republican chicken-hearts, was a strategy for certain defeat. His insistence on continuing to sail his showboat full speed ahead was little more than an unprincipled effort to get name recognition with no regard for the danger to the entire
Not just to his party but thecredibility of the legislative branch. HIs deceptions and demagoguery embarrassed not just his own party but the entire country, reinforcing real doubts in the world about the stability of the United States. All because he wanted to get onto the president-wannabe fast track.

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October 23, 2013

AN MSNBC VOICE IN THE DARKNESS

I'm back in the Thursday dawn commentator biz trying desperately to be coherent on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Wish me luck with that.

October 21, 2013

ROBOTS OF DESTRUCTION

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 15, 2013
ROBOTS OF DESTRUCTION
BY BOB FRANKEN
Have you seen the reports about the newly created “Bionic Man,” actually a robot assembled with a variety of state-of-the-art artificial organs? They include mechanical kidneys and a heart, as well as ear and eye parts. Of course, there is no brain, which makes the story fascinating because they have re-created a member of the United States Congress (except, the machine has a heart).
The human cyborg’s name might be Rep. Gerry Mander, elected from a district newly created by a GOP state legislature to provide a safe haven for the party by lumping together a population that reflects far-right thinking. Voters choose the candidate who they believe will go to Washington and do whatever it takes to stand up against abortion and for guns (will someone please explain why those who call themselves “pro life” also are rabidly pro deadly weapons?). What really unites this electorate is their divisive loathing of Barack Obama. He’s just ... well ... different.
So the congressman doesn’t have to worry about the nationwide scorn heaped upon him because he refuses to budge on positions that threaten the country’s strength and standing in the world. All he has to concern himself with is the rigid hatred in his own Mander” precinct back home. In fact, the only thing he has to be nervous about is being perceived as a traitor to the cause if he succumbs to the pressure to be reasonable. If that happened, the tea party and other zealots would turn on him. What the hard-liners giveth, the hard-liners taketh away.
So Gerry is one of a gang of militants who are unmovable, unswayed by the evidence that their positions could be ruinous. Their priority is sticking it to President Obama and, of course, getting re-elected.

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October 18, 2013

Tom Foley

I covered Tom Foley , an honorable leader, run out of office by some who were not and we tumbled from productive to "Crossfire " politics .

October 17, 2013

THE LOSING GAME

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 11, 2013
THE LOSING GAME
BY BOB FRANKEN
Always on the lookout for a silver lining, let’s be thankful that in the past few days, as we witness our national leaders disgrace themselves, we aren’t hearing much about “American exceptionalism.” Russian President Vladimir Putin set off the latest tiff about it, and he’s got to be chortling right now, because our national government is looking exceptional, all right -- exceptionally ridiculous.
Of late, our political system is being compared to the Italian one, which famously lurches from crisis to crisis. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if critics there started complaining that they look too much like the Americans. In Washington, it’s like watching the Keystone Kops, except that it isn’t funny.
Actually, it’s dangerous. We’re held captive by our own democracy, one that was designed to accommodate widely divergent points of view. However, the companion piece is that our leaders would be motivated by minimal standards of reason and would have the intelligence to understand that this only works if there is compromise, a meeting of the minds. Tragically today, their minds are controlled by emotions and, frankly, ignorance or ambition that exceeds all bounds of decency.
All of these characteristics explain the absurd insistence from some of these malefactors that when it comes to raising the borrowing authority to avoid a humiliating national default, a default wouldn’t be all that bad. There’s even one congressman, Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who argues that the shock ultimately would “bring stability to the world markets.” Reality check: Not raising the debt ceiling would be an economic disaster and would humiliate our nation. Happily, the American people aren’t fooled by such nonsense, which accounts for a Wall Street Journal poll showing the approval rating of the entire Republican Party at a measly 24 percent; the tea party is scraping by with 10 percent. Of course, the Democrats’ number isn’t sparkling either; it’s at 43 percent. But John Boehner definitely could be forgiven for screaming “I told you so!” He and some others in his party who’d been around this track before had warned that the government shutdown would produce a backlash against the GOP. Instead, the militants listened to Ted Cruz and the other leaders of the Over Their Heads gang, and they were able to run roughshod over common sense.
Some of them still cling to the irrational belief that their destructiveness is constructive. Here’s the real deal: This “Slimdown,” as Fox News correctly calls it, as opposed to shutdown, is nevertheless harming a lot of people. We’ve all heard stories about the desperate cancer patients who are prevented from entering the last-resort experimental program at the National Institutes of Health and the very young children who suddenly are being denied access to federally provided nutrition. Boehner angrily protested that this “isn’t a damn game,” but of course it is exactly that, a cynical and destructive game causing real harm to real people.

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October 14, 2013

THE INSULT ASSAULT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 8, 2013
THE INSULT ASSAULT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Wowee-zowee! Breaking news! In the midst of all his crises -- like the government shutdown and an impending debt default that could humiliate the nation he leads -- President Barack Obama told an Associated Press interviewer that if he owned the Washington NFL team, he would “think about changing” its name.
As you can tell, I’m among those who won’t use the R-word to describe the franchise symbol anymore, since it’s a vicious pejorative, a deeply offensive way to describe Native Americans. Even though owner Dan Snyder recently insisted to USA Today, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps,” and even though polls show that a full two-thirds of the Washington R-words’ fans don’t want any change, it’s going to happen sooner or later. Even league Commissioner Roger Goodell has changed his tune and now says, “If one person’s offended, we have to listen.” So let’s talk about the single most appropriate new name: That, of course, would be the Washington Politicians. What a turnabout that would be, to switch from a term that offends an entire ethnic group to a slur against the team.

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October 11, 2013

FOOLISH FUTILITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 4, 2013
FOOLISH FUTILITY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s give the tea partyers the credit they deserve, because they have pulled off a near-miracle: They have unified the Democrats. It’s hard to remember the last time President Barack Obama and the herd of cats in his own party were marching in such lock step. But then, the extremists are, to be honest, way over their heads. Unfortunately, they control the Republican agenda, dragging their up-till-now wimpy leaders into their “defund Obamacare” fool’s errand. Even after the government shutdown and even with the threat of a catastrophic national default looming, they have goaded the enemy D’s into hanging together and hanging tough.
In fact, they’re rubbing the R’s’ noses in the mess they’ve created. It’s actually kind of entertaining, in a sad way, to watch as the right-wingers squirm by passing legislation in the House to provide money for whichever programs have gotten hardship publicity. That’s gone nowhere, which is where their whole crusade is heading. Even if they voted to restart the popular Pandacam at the National Zoo, they’d slam into a stone wall of resolve from the other side.
Obama finally is doing what he should have done a long time ago, refusing to deal with childish conniptions. The defund-Obamacare tantrum is not worth rewarding. Face it, hardliners, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not going away. You had your chance in Congress, but it passed there in 2010. You had another one before the Supreme Court in 2012, but a majority of the justices upheld it. It is the law of the land. Under the Constitution’s so-called Take Care clause, Article 3, Section 3, a president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Notice that was SHALL take care, not MAY. It’s not optional unless he believes it is unconstitutional, but the Supremes have already taken care of that question.
The actions of some lawmakers to undermine the law arguably means that they’re treacherously close to being lawbreakers. They certainly have broken faith with a country that, since the Civil War, has thrived because of its stability, where the most passionate arguments are resolved by concern for the nation’s well-being. That is visibly unraveling now. Too many politicians these days are propelled by irrational ignorance. Even worse are the ones whose motivation is calculated ambition, who want to move up by intentionally appealing to fear and poorly informed gullibility.

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October 8, 2013

WEDNESDAY INSTEAD ON MSNBC

Instead of my usual Thursday dawn struggle on MSNBC, it'll be Wednesday this week, at 5:15, Eastern. Same doo-doo, different day-day.

October 7, 2013

UNHEALTHY POLITICS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 1, 2013
UNHEALTHY POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
That was a nice touch. After President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for the first conversation between leaders of the two countries since 1979, he said goodbye in Farsi. Maybe he should call a tea-party leader and do the same thing in Crazy. After all, the far right is downright crazed about nailing this president and disgracing him by obliterating Obamacare. With their irrational actions and gibberish, it’s obvious that they’re detached from reality: While they might do serious damage to the country, they’re not going to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking effect. By law, it gets money to operate, no matter what.
Not that ACA is getting off to the smoothest of starts. Already we’re seeing embarrassing glitches and delays. It hasn’t helped that the Republicans have been possessed by spirits -- their mean-spirited single-mindedness in trying to defund, delay or otherwise sabotage health-care reform. They’ve tried to make Obama pay ever since he won the legislative battle back in 2010. Even John McCain says their latest attempt is “not rational.” Of course, the arch-conservatives really don’t like McCain very much. Most importantly, they refuse to even accept that Barack Obama is president.
The latest concoction, the defund-Obamacare campaign, has caused adrenaline to course through tea-party faithful, shooting them into a new frenzy, shaking them out of their lethargy. Who knew they were in a lethargy? They certainly aren’t now. They have a new hero fanning the flames in Ted Cruz. The very junior senator from Texas may spew out lots of nonsense, but when he does, he sure does talk purty as he rails against the Washington establishment.

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October 4, 2013

30 ROCKIN' WEEKEND

I'm in NYC spending a weekend on MSNBC. 10:00-12:00 Saturday morning, 3:30 in the afternoon and 8:00 to 10 Sunday morning. Plenty of opportunity to make a fool of myself.

October 3, 2013

THE CRUZ RUSE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 27, 2013
THE CRUZ RUSE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Washington has a new Cruz missile, a Ted Cruz missile, willing to obliterate anything that stands in the way of his No. 1 priority...Calling attention to himself. There is no Cruz control when it comes to his shameless self-promotion. Let's leave it to others to call him a jerk. And others are. HE doesn't stand out in that department.. Washington is crawling in jerks.
His problem is that he’s beginning to look foolish. There he was, the newbie senator from Texas, once again more than willing to cast himself as the leader of the regressives. Here’s his dilemma: He may have a lot of book learning (he went to Princeton and Harvard, after all), but when it comes time to maneuver the treacherous thicket of DC politics, the man is starting to look like he just fell off the turnip truck.
He spent all summer shooting at an easy target by whipping up right wing resistance to Obamacare. He had managed to stand out, even among the other members of his party who have also been doing everything to sabotage the new health system just as it goes into full effect. Ever since it passed Congress in 2010 -- and it did pass -- they have demonized this crowning success of their great Satan, Barack Obama. Thanks to the feckless communication efforts of the Obama forces, their enemies have succeeded in confusing a population about what ALL the changes will mean.
This is fertile ground, then, for Cruz and his merry band of opportunists. They have spent the past several months promoting their concocted grand scheme to bring government to a halt and even hold the nation’s credit capability hostage unless the White House agrees to a budget plan that defunds Obamacare, effectively shutting it down.
What we are now learning is that Cruz and his crew are in way over their heads -- though, apparently, he is over his bladder. He stood for more than 21 hours on the Senate floor yammering away about blocking a vote on the government-funding/health-care-defunding legislation sent over by the House of Representatives. (Question: What does it take to conduct a filibuster? Answer: Depends.) It was probably appropriate that Cruz filled part of the time reciting “Green Eggs and Ham.” The guy is truly a ham. But after all his squealing, he sat down, only to rise again and vote FOR the legislation he was trying to block.

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October 2, 2013

BACK IN THE DARK AT MSNBC

I'm back on a Thursday dawn on MSNBC AT 5:15, Eastern with comment about the shutdown which will make it obvious I'm non-essential.

September 30, 2013

STARVED OF DECENCY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 24, 2013
STARVED OF DECENCY
BY BOB FRANKEN
It contradicts the very concept of our nation: One in six Americans goes hungry some of the time — that’s one in six who is “food insecure,” the term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forty-nine million in this land of plenty don’t get enough to eat. It’s even more shameful for children: One in five is deprived of adequate meals. But even that is not the worst. That would be the hateful vote by Republicans in the House of Representatives to severely cut the federal program that allows millions to get the nutrition they need.
In their zeal to show scorn for the poor and any government program that might offer a helping hand, a majority of the GOP members in the House have voted to slash $4 billion a year from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, and otherwise known as food stamps. That’s 5 percent of a program that is literally a lifeline for those who are unable to meet the most basic of needs in our cruel economy.
Fortunately, the White House has promised a veto, even if this got through a Democrat-majority Senate, which it won’t. The chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, calls it “a monumental waste of time.” What it is is a monumental example of nastiness. For those in the House, this was just a symbolic vote, symbolic of heartlessness. It fails to measure up to the minimum standard of decency. Democrat Lloyd Doggett called it the “Let Them Starve” bill. President Barack Obama accuses them of “trying to mess with me.” There’s little question about that.

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September 26, 2013

VILE STYLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 20, 2013
VILE STYLE
BY BOB FRANKEN
When it comes to policy, President Barack Obama told ABC News that he is “less concerned about style points.” He’d better be way more concerned about his style unless he wants to see his presidency continue to point downward. Right now, his enemies are getting some traction promoting the view that Obama has become a dithering chief executive, floundering over major policies from health-care reform’s employer mandate to Syria. At the same time, he’s attacked by his opponents as dictatorial, and even his usual supporters call him heavy-handed when it comes to punishing leaks and approving massive electronic surveillance of Americans. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
What is becoming a self-fulfilling narrative is that fewer and fewer are scared of him.
Fellow Democrats in the Senate made it so clear that they’d defy his wishes to confirm Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve that Summers “withdrew” his name. The power to intimidate is an essential part of any top guy’s arsenal. But more and more, friend and foe alike are blithely willing to tell him “no.” He faced a humiliating rejection of his plan to punish Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its murderous chemical-weapons attacks. When he changed course and decided he’d seek congressional approval, a majority — Democrats as well as Republicans — was all set to tell him, to use a New York phrase, “fuhgedaboudit!” The obvious damage that would cause to the nation’s prestige and to him personally meant little to the rebellious ones. The fact that the Russians had to bail him out just added to the hit his reputation took. Vladimir Putin added insult to injury with a condescending New York Times op-ed.

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September 23, 2013

TOO FEW PRIORITIES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 17, 2013
TOO FEW PRIORITIES
BY BOB FRANKEN
He probably prefers not to be identified, but I frequently quote a wise old friend and longtime colleague who pointed out that media “could only overcover one story at a time.” That doesn’t count a natural disaster. The Navy Yard shooting, the destructive Colorado flooding and New Jersey boardwalk fires have gotten the attention they deserve, but for a while, we had been All Syria, All the Time.
Now, from a news point of view, that crisis has been put on hold as the superpowers subject the brutality of the Assad regime’s nerve-gas attacks to the tedium of diplomacy. It is temporarily removed from the fickle firestorm of U.S. politics. But political gamesmanship has no shortage of flash points, so it’s on to the next all-consuming topic where we can engage in collective hand-wringing. Obviously, the violence at the Navy Yard moves front and center, but we also face that old standby, the game of chicken over the budget. Time is running out, so we must return to the familiar turf of Congress, where chaos is the natural order. We’re just days away from trying to avoid a government shutdown. No funding before Oct. 1, and all but the most essential federal functions come to a grinding halt.
This is less a battle between Democrats and Republicans than GOP leaders struggling against their tea-party fundamentalists. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Harry Reid, ridicules them as “anarchists,” and while Reid’s rhetoric is often way over the top, he’s pretty close this time. There is a large element in the House GOP that loves gutting federal programs. Their favorite target is Obamacare, and they refuse to budge from a demand that the sweeping health reform be stopped its tracks by defunding it just as it’s about to go into full force. Unless the money plug is pulled, they insist, there will be no deal to keep the feds operating. And as for the impending calamity of a United States default on sovereign debt, we can forget about avoiding that unless they get to take their machetes to the budget. The White House says it won’t even bargain over raising borrowing authority, but unless somebody figures out some extraordinary accommodation, the nation’s “full faith and credit” will suffer a serious lack of faith in the financial world. So those of us with news ADD pretty much know where some of our focus must be for the next month or so.

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September 19, 2013

AN UNCOMMON COMMENTATOR

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 13, 2013
AN UNCOMMON COMMENTATOR
BY BOB FRANKEN
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together as we introduce Putin the Pundit! Perhaps he’s just dabbling, but there he was in The New York Times with his op-ed making his points, actually lecturing the United States about the value of diplomacy as opposed to America’s “relying solely on brute force.” Actually, the column was one big gloat, a nose-rubbing of President Barack Obama, whose pirouetting response to Syria’s nerve-gas attacks by Bashar al-Assad’s regime finally twirled him into “continuing the dialogue with Russia,” as Mr. Putin gleefully, uh, put it. I know we all join in thanking Vladimir for sharing.
Of course, we must look past his snarky condescending attitude and pay attention to what he actually wrote. Unlike most of us in the news biz, his words have meaning, incomplete though his musing might be. When, for instance, he sanctimoniously says, “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become common for the United States,” he conveniently leaves out his nation’s invasion of Afghanistan as well as the ongoing ruthless violence in Chechnya. He also could take a trip down memory lane to his KGB phase, when he was practicing the dark art of espionage for the Soviet Union, which ruled its republics with an iron hand.
Let’s give him credit, though, for tweaking Obama for using his televised White House speech to pander to the tired jingoism of “American Exceptionalism” in his televised White House speech. Being the world’s moral defender, he argued, is “what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.” Is it fair to wonder whether constant claims of being exceptional make others wonder if you genuinely are? True, the founding vision of our nation is remarkable, but modern reality intrudes. How “exceptional” is the United States when it comes to educational achievement or health-care metrics or the gap between the wealthy few and everyone else? We need to work hard to make sure our “shining city on a hill” keeps its luster. Anyway, as Putin points out, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.”

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September 18, 2013

MSNBC DAWNING ON ME

Don't you just love someone who's perky first thing in the morning? No? Then watch me on an MSNBC Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern.

September 16, 2013

SYRIA SECRECY (Week old column)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 10, 2013
SYRIA SECRECY
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s fair to say that those in our national-security apparatus have an S&M fetish. (No, no --not that S&M! Wash your mind out with soap.) Their fixation is with the “Sources and Methods” of their spying. They’re so secretive that they’re willing to sacrifice their credibility at the very same time that they’re asking everyone to trust them.
That’s a huge reason President Barack Obama, and all those who flout their security clearances, have been unable to sell the American people on taking military action to punish the murderous regime in Syria for the nerve-gas attacks. Each time Secretary of State John Kerry or the president trots out to declare that intelligence proves that the henchmen of Bashar al-Assad launched the sarin rockets and killed more than 1,000 men, women and children, we wait to see the proof. Nope, they reply. We can’t show you; we have to protect sources and methods.
That’s why they’ve gotten so crazed about the massive leaks from Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. They risk exposing the techniques and individuals that allow our spy vacuum cleaner to suck everything into the espionage black hole. Of course, they also shed a harsh light on the abuses they tried to keep cloaked-and-daggered in the darkness. From Syria’s brutal attacks on innocent civilians to America’s massive collection of every citizen’s private communication, to candid descriptions of world leaders and, oh yeah, eavesdropping on even the friendliest ones, all of those dubious practices have been laid out for everyone to see, much to the consternation and embarrassment of the keepers of the keys to the classified kingdom.
So people demand answers, and we get a token few. Then, if folks are still restless, maybe a few more. Someone at the top suddenly decides to put out the brush fire by releasing what had been a jealously guarded “Eyes Only” document or two. Just a couple, and they’re usually heavily redacted to protect those sources and methods. We don’t really learn a lot --but enough to wonder why they kept this stuff so closely held to begin with.

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September 13, 2013

Brain trusting on MSNBC

I still don't know why any panel I'm on would be called "Brain Trust", but there I'll be Sunday afternoon on MSNBC at. 3:30 Eastern.

September 12, 2013

ANOTHER HOBSON'S CHOICE (COLUMN FROM LAST WEEK)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 6, 2013
ANOTHER HOBSON’S CHOICE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Here’s a bit of useless information for you: The term “Hobson’s choice,” which we use to describe a pick of lousy alternatives, is named for Thomas Hobson, a livery operator in 16th-century Cambridge. When someone wanted to rent a horse from him, he could take only the next one up in the stable, no matter how unsatisfactory, or none at all. That’s the way business was done back in merry old England.
In today’s unstable world, things often are the same. Certainly, President Barack Obama, Congress and the country face a Hobson’s choice when it comes to Syria and how to respond to what was a monstrous nerve-gas attack apparently by the forces of Bashar al-Assad against his own men, women and children. Assuming he and his military leaders were in fact responsible, and the evidence seems clear, a determination must be made of how to punish such despicable and dangerous conduct, and even whether to punish.

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September 11, 2013

FILLING THE MSNBC DARKNESS

Syria, Health Care, Debt Ceiling, etc: It'll be hard to fill the Thursday dawn on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. But I'll try.

September 9, 2013

THE FALL OF THE FALL?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 3, 2013
THE FALL OF THE FALL?
BY BOB FRANKEN
I usually chortle at media hyperbole where we foam at the mouth and present each political controversy as seemingly vital to the well-being of the U.S. of A. Well, this time, the laugh’s on me, because I am convinced that the next few weeks could well determine if we are permanently weakened as a nation.
Now that President Hamlet has treated us to an indecision soliloquy over when to attack Syria, he decided he’d bring the House and Senate into the act. In spite of overwhelming evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had crossed the president’s “red line,” condemning hundreds to an agonized death, witnessed by millions around the word, the American leader has decided he shouldn’t order a punishing bombardment if no one has his back.
So after he had ordered the Navy ships in place, bristling with cruise missiles, he discovered that he had booked what amounted to a solo voyage. Even the Brits bailed on him. That’s when he executed his surprise turnaround and decided that he really should involve Congress before any attack so “the country will be stronger.”
In theory, that’s a good thing. Authorization from the legislative branch is true to the spirit of our democracy. However --and this is a huge “however” --a refusal by the members to give that authorization will inflict a serious wound not just on Barack Obama for the rest of his term, but also on the international credibility of the U.S. Our country’s status as a superpower will be undermined. It would be “catastrophic,” declared John McCain. Of course. He and his echo, Lindsay Graham, are the Senate’s superhawks, but it would be a mess. We are still paying the price for the deceptions that took us into the Iraq War and tarnished the U.S. reputation to the point that the British House of Commons voted to abandon the “special relationship” that has defined the alliance between the two countries. Imagine how much damage Congress could do if it rejected the commander in chief.

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September 6, 2013

A MSNBC WEEKEND AT HEADQUARTERS

I'll be spending an MSNBC New York weekend, 30 Rockin' on set at 3:30 PM Eastern Saturday and during Sunday morning's Mellissa Harris Perry show which starts at 10:00.

September 5, 2013

MILEY AND CHELSEA

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 30, 2013
MILEY AND CHELSEA
BY BOB FRANKEN
There is a story about a councilman in a Rust Belt city populated by those with Eastern European roots, who took to the floor decades ago to rage against ethnic jokes, decrying them as divisive. That’s hard to dispute. The problem is that he used examples, and each one would bring the house down. That would work him up even more, so he’d tell another one, to more peals of laughter.
It’s not all that different from TV news these days. How many times have we watched as one bent-out-of-shape commentator after another has gone bananas over Miley Cyrus’ raunchy gyrations at the MTV Video Music Awards? Their fury, real or contrived, is further inflamed by the fact that she used to be famous for playing Disney’s squeaky-clean Hannah Montana. Now with her jerky twerking, she was more like post-teen obscene. Of course, each time the pundit or other moral guardian would bring it up again, and again, he or she absolutely, positively had to play the tape. It’s been an orgy of sanctimonious titillation.
In this time of grave developments in the Mideast, and far-reaching debates over health care and the financial health of this country, valuable news time and space is wasted in the trivial and cheesy. As we wrestle with the fundamental issues of national security, domestic spying and classified information, the coverage swirls around whether the one responsible for massive leaks is a him or a her. Now that Pfc. Bradley Manning has been convicted and faces years in a military prison, his demand that he be called Chelsea and that she get hormone-replacement therapy while serving her sentence has largely observed the debate over government secrecy. As you can tell, I believe anyone can be called whatever she wants, so it’s Chelsea from now on. Of course, it’s not that simple for the people who run Leavenworth, but it’s a shame that questions about the fundamental nature of this democracy are being shoved aside by Chelsea vs. Bradley.

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September 4, 2013

A ROSH HASHANAH RUSH

To those of the Jewish persuasion: Start the New Year Thursday bright and early with me on MSNBC at 5:15 AM Eastern. To those otherwise disposed, do it anyway.

September 2, 2013

DINERS AND DREAMERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 27, 2013
DINERS AND DREAMERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
If I had my way, casual restaurants would be off-limits to politicians trailed by cameras. The hackneyed shot of a candidate or officeholder talking to someone just trying to have lunch is supposed to show how he or she may be high and mighty, but hasn’t forgotten the little people. The long-poled microphones with their fuzzy covers pick up the stilted conversation, strained because those at the table were taught not to talk with their mouths full, and what comes out of the interloper’s mouth is just empty platitude. We’d all be better off if they simply abandoned the shtick and left it to Guy Fieri. For those who don’t watch Food Network, Fieri drives around the country highlighting “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
I bring this up because there was President Barack Obama, at Bingham’s Family Restaurant, mixing and mingling with the common folk a few days ago for a good old-fashioned photo op. When Fieri performs it, we call it entertainment. But when it’s Obama or the thousands of other public officials, it’s just a cliché.
What’s anything but cliché is the 50th anniversary of the momentous March on Washington, which happened at a time in America when Barack Obama would have been barred from countless restaurants and other public accommodations. It’s good we can use the occasion not just for speeches but for some honest reflection on how far we’ve come and not come in realizing the grand vision so movingly described in Martin Luther King Jr.’s clarion “I Have a Dream” speech. The answer can be summed up in just a few words: We’ve made significant progress, as evidenced by the fact that we have a President Obama. But we are still bedeviled with a racism that substantial portions of our society just won’t give up.

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August 29, 2013

WASHINGTON'S DOG AND PHONY SHOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 23, 2013
WASHINGTON’S DOG AND PHONY SHOW
BY BOB FRANKEN
Did you know that Harry Truman is not the one who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”? Yes, we can put that right in the “who cares?” file, but whoever uttered those words certainly captured the amount of true personal loyalty one can expect from one’s human buddies in Washington. It also explains why the Obamas probably thought this was an opportune time to get another puppy, to accompany big brother Bo on his White House romping. Barack Obama certainly can use a few friends these days. The latest Gallup poll shows his approval rating at 45.6 percent, the worst this year.
Apologists are explaining that the numbers always go down in August, when everyone’s gone and Washington is a tomb, but it’s also true that his BFFs have been bailing on him for a number of reasons. On the left, they’re complaining that he hasn’t pushed their agenda hard enough when it comes to protecting the budget and their favored social programs from brutal cuts. Some are grousing that he might let the opportunity to pass real immigration reform fritter away and, of course, there are those in the civil-rights community who insist he should be doing more for his fellow black Americans. At the very same time, his enemies constantly protest that he’s doing too much and trying to cram big government down our throats, etc.
Meanwhile critics on both sides of the ideological spectrum are teeing off on him for heavy-handed national-security policies. There’s not only the bipartisan outcry over the Edward Snowden disclosures about big-brother-ish electronic snooping on all Americans, but also hell-raising about the Justice Department running roughshod over press freedoms in a single-minded war on leaks.

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August 28, 2013

ANOTHER THURSDAY IN THE DARK ON MSNBC

I'm doing my usual Thursday morning obscenely early gig on MSNBC. Think of me as a 5:15 alarm, startling you to replace your dreams with despair.

August 26, 2013

SCOPING THINGS IN

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 20, 2013
SCOPING THINGS IN
BY BOB FRANKEN
By now you’ve probably heard the sad news: NASA’s awesome Kepler space telescope is ending its mission. No longer will it be peeping into the far reaches of the universe trying to find other worlds and giving new meaning to the exclamation “Faaaaar out.” It has had a gyroscope failure, which means it can’t aim its lenses in the minutely precise way necessary to chart the cosmos. So the guys back at headquarters are soliciting ideas for ways to continue using Kepler.
First of all, thanks for asking, NASA. I know I speak for all Americans in saying that. Actually, they were seeking input from scientists and engineers, but surely they will welcome suggestions from those of us who are not experts, us Dumbos.
And sure enough, here’s one that is ridiculously obvious: Why not turn the whole thing over to the National Security Agency, spin it around and point the powerful lenses not at other planets, but at our own -- specifically at the United States, where it can spy on us. Consider it a supplement to the existing programs, detailed by Edward Snowden.
For that matter, it also can be rented to major league baseball as it goes where every other sport has already gone before with instant replay. What? You haven’t heard? MLB is proposing a huge expansion of its existing but very limited program to allow for video second-guessing the umpires. It won’t be used for balls and strikes, but for most other calls. Whatever, if you rely on a recording, you will need a camera. Kepler, taping overhead, would be the perfect fit. It’s a match made in the heavens.

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August 23, 2013

AN MSNBC KINDA SUNDAY AFTERNOON

I'm on MSNBC Sunday afternoon during the 3:00 hour, Eastern, talking political trash (pardon the redundancy).

August 22, 2013

THE CLAPPER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 16, 2013
THE CLAPPER
BY BOB FRANKEN
When it comes to the high-stakes commotion over massive electronic surveillance of Americans by their government’s spooks, President Barack Obama clearly has bought into the mind-set of the ones who run the country’s national-security apparatus. He may talk about “transparency,” but only because it’s politically necessary to do so. Edward Snowden’s leaks have shown just how far America’s spy agencies have secretly intruded into our privacy. When it comes to steps toward openness, he is clearly taking only grudging ones -- and he even trips over those. Usually, no one ever would accuse Obama of having a tin ear, but there he was, after promising to appoint an “independent group” of “outside experts” in the wake of the Snowden embarrassments “to consider how we can maintain the trust of the people.” Instead of maintaining trust, he ended up looking like he was trying to pull a fast one.
Just a few days later, the White House and Pentagon put out a statement saying that the “outside expert” who would set up this panel and report its findings was none other than National Intelligence Director James Clapper. You don’t get any more inside than Clapper. He’s the one who was caught making entirely false statements to Congress in response to a question from Senate Democrat Ron Wyden about whether the National Security Agency collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper responded, “no,” which is a bold-faced lie, plain and simple. After getting busted, he admitted that the answer was “erroneous,” the “least untruthful” one he could give.

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August 21, 2013

IN THE DARK ON MSNBC

I'm on MSNBC talking politics in my normal Thursday 5:15 AM slot. If you consider that normal. Or even sane.

August 19, 2013

POLITICS AND SHOWBIZ: A REDUDUNCY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 13, 2013
POLITICS AND SHOWBIZ: A REDUNDANCY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Score one for NBC. I mean the entertainment division, which has gotten priceless publicity by inciting an uproar over its plans to air a four-part Hillary Clinton biopic years from now. The controversy guarantees huge ratings whenever it airs, which is TBA. The part of Bill Clinton has not been cast yet. Let the snarky speculation begin! Diane Lane already has been cast as Hillary, as she bounces from the Monica Lewinsky mortification to U.S. senator to secretary of state. The upheaval, though, is caused by what might be her next gig: candidate for president. Add to the mix the fact that CNN also is planning a documentary on her, and the Republicans are going bonkers over what they believe will be puff pieces about their potential rival in the White House race.
It’s certainly not hard to sympathize with their outrage. Nor is it difficult to agree with the fuss inside NBC News. Correspondent Chuck Todd calls the announcement a “total nightmare” for those who cover politics for the network, because most people don't understand or care even a little that NBC Entertainment is separate from the news division. Chuck’s colleague Andrea Mitchell calls the plan “unsettling and uncomfortable.” I fully concur, and before someone raises the point: While I am not employed by the company, I appear frequently on MSNBC.
As for the GOPers, their complaints were justified, at least until Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus got into the act. In effect, he’s delivered an ultimatum: If NBC and CNN go ahead with their Hillary programs, those networks would not get to moderate presidential candidates in 2016. He went on to explain -- on MSNBC, no less -- that it is because they are “not actually interested in the future of the Republican party and our nominees.”

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August 16, 2013

Bob Takes Gotham

Start spreading the news. I'll be in New York New York this weekend, on MSNBC from 30 Rock at 3:30 PM, Eastern, Saturday and between 8 and 10 AM Sunday

August 15, 2013

POLITICS-THE MUSICAL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 9, 2013
POLITICS -- THE MUSICAL
BY BOB FRANKEN
If you’re a baseball fan, you’re probably aware that major leaguers get to choose the song that blares from the speakers as they trudge to the batter’s box. What you hear is a genre variety of rap, country and some heavy metal. Some of the tracks are weird; others just loud. It would be appropriate if Alex Rodriguez came on to the chorus of Chance the Rapper’s “Juice.” Don’t listen to the rest of it, because it’s offensive. Anyway, it isn’t going to happen. This shtick has been featured in the movie “Major League” -- which, to some of us, is a silver-screen classic. In it, Charlie Sheen plays a Cleveland Indians pitcher with serious control issues. One of the funniest scenes in this truly sophisticated film is his entrance to The Troggs’ “Wild Thing.”
What if the players in the contact sport of politics could do the same thing? There’d have to be a few tweaks, of course. Take President Barack Obama. Yes, he does have “Hail to the Chief,” but isn’t that getting a bit tired? Besides, I use that as my wife’s ringtone, so it’s time for POTUS to get something new. Given complaints from his supporters about his lackadaisical leadership style, maybe instead of “Wild Thing,” he could be preceded by “Mild Thing”: “Mild thing. Progressive hearts sink.”
Conservatives are pleased with his decision to blow off Russian President Vladimir Putin and skip their little summit in Moscow. What a pity. Their last photo-op went so well. Which brings us to Vlad and his walk-on music: How about “Put on a Happy Face”?
The Obama snub was brought to you by Edward Snowden, who has gotten asylum in Russia after he leaked embarrassing secrets about the United States government electronically spying on its own citizens.

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August 14, 2013

MSNBC DAWN PATROL

If you think you're having a very earlyThursday bad dream it might be you left your TV on MSNBC and you're watching me live (barely) at 5:15 Eastern

August 12, 2013

WORD FABRICATIONS


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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 6, 2013
WORD FABRICATIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Faithful readers — both of them (counting family members) — know that occasionally I like to discuss lyin’ language. Specifically, the focus is on phrases that express the exact opposite of what the user means. We’ve discussed before that when a company fires an employee, the memo invariably concludes with “We wish him well.” That’s code for “May he burn in hell.”And during a romantic breakup, when the breaker tells the breakee “It’s not you; it’s me,” she’s really saying, “You’re a total turnoff, plus you smell bad.”
Sports is loaded with them. The pitcher who throws a brilliant game will always say, “What really matters is that the team won.” Translate that to: “I was all that stood between victory and defeat for these bozos. I hope I get an endorsement contract out of this.” And if his side still loses, it always goes, “My individual performance doesn’t matter, we lost.” He’s really saying, “Who do you have to bribe to win a game around here?”
All of us are guilty. In my case, I can say I’m discussing this again because there’s a need to infuse some clarity into our conversation. In truth, there’s little to write about because Congress is out of town. There’s a lot of handwringing about how the members flew the Washington coop for August recess with so much unfinished business, and you even had a few of them publicly agitating for the rest to stay. That’s more lyin’ language. What they’re thinking is: “I hope they don’t take me up on this. I’ve got a cushy junket coming up, and besides, the weather here this time of year is the pits.”
Actually, we’re seeing a little more verbal honesty in the Senate, of all places. Usually, strict rules of etiquette are observed. When one member calls another “my friend,” he’s really saying “scumbag.”Until now. Suddenly, they’re beginning to let it all hang out, which is a pretty disgusting thought when you take a look at some of them. Harry Reid, the Majority leader, was trying to maintain a little order in the chamber as his colleagues were milling around. So he blurted, “Have senators sit down and shut up.” That knocked the stuffing out of even the stuffiest member; so much so that they sat down and shut up.

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August 8, 2013

OUR SHADOW GOVERNMENT


BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 2, 2013
OUR SHADOW GOVERNMENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
We live in an inverse universe. Where else but in an upside-down society would private be public and public be private. We now must take for granted that our personal lives can be scrutinized by almost anyone, particularly by the authorities. That was reinforced recently by a federal appeals-court ruling that cellphone-company location records may be searched to determine where an individual has been. The court found that the practice is not prohibited by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — even without a warrant. Let’s not forget the Supreme Court majority decision that a DNA sample may be taken from a person who has been arrested for a serious crime, and put into a registry well before conviction.
Of late, our government has been cracking down hard on anyone who dares to make information about sensitive parts of the people’s business available to the, uh, people. Just ask Pfc. Bradley Manning, former Army intelligence analyst. The authorities have lowered the boom on him for releasing to WikiLeaks thousands upon thousands of classified files containing material that officials didn’t want released. What we discovered, thanks to Pfc. Manning is that there was much we should have known all along, and we benefited from its disclosure. But some of it was embarrassing — or worse, revealed out-and-out dishonesty if those in power — so they went after Manning with a vengeance. After all, there is a certain amount of prestige that goes with access to secret information. But, suddenly everybody knew what the In Crowd knew. What’s the fun in that? Arguably, Manning could be lauded as democracy’s hero. Instead, he faces decades in prison.

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August 7, 2013

MSNBC AT DAWN AGAIN

Imagine the first image you see upon awakening on a Thursday is me. This can be yours on MSNBC tomorrow morning at 5:15,Eastern.

August 5, 2013

OBAMACARE SCARE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013
OBAMACARE SCARE
BY BOB FRANKEN
By the start of next year, we will have a pretty good idea of how the Obama presidency will be judged. For all the pushing and shoving over the budget, government spying on Americans and some contrived controversies, the legacy of this administration will be largely defined by the success of Obamacare. Or failure.
Fairly or not, the impression of the Affordable Care Act will be taken when it launches. If it gets off to a rocky start, if large numbers of people refuse to accept the individual mandate, if the beginnings are tangled in a bureaucratic knot, then Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats will be in deep doo-doo, as the man once said.
The president knows that. He acknowledged to The New York Times that we can expect some “glitches.” His peeps are going through all kinds of gyrations trying to get the machinery to creak into action to make sure that it’s not an embarrassment of glitches. The Republicans definitely are happily aware of the stakes, as evidenced by their blatant attempts to sabotage the whole thing. Their constant votes to repeal the entire law and the moves now under way to simply pull its funding are just part of the attack. This is all-out war.
Obviously it’s being fought on many other fronts. There are incendiary issues like immigration and abortion, but this is the season when everyone tries to get fiscal. We can look forward to some sumo wrestling between now and year’s end, collisions over whether the United States government can pay its debts and even whether the government should partially just shut down. That will happen if the White House and Congress can’t reach some sort of budget accommodation by Sept. 30.

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August 2, 2013

MSNBC AND ME ON A SATURDAY

I'm on another of those Saturday afternoon MSNBC "Brain Trust" panels at 3:30 Eastern. Don't ask me why.

August 1, 2013

DANGER, LEATHERS AND THE ROYALS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013
DANGER, LEATHER AND THE ROYALS
BY BOB FRANKEN
My choice as the best campaign slogan ever was the one that got a flagrantly corrupt Edwin Edwards re-elected governor of Louisiana in 1991. His opponent was Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, but Edwards supporters came up with a winning “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.”
Perhaps Anthony Weiner will have some luck with “Vote for the Perv.” He had been doing very well with his reformed-sinner act in his run for mayor of New York, insisting that since getting caught exposing himself on Twitter and resigning in disgrace from Congress in 2011, he was a changed man. But that was two years ago. Turns out that in the meantime, he’s been sending more sleazy Twitter pictures of himself to other women, this time using the online alias “Carlos Danger.” One tweetheart has come forward and identified herself as Sydney Leathers. Is it me, or does this sound like a porno? Actually, it is one. Even though he’s tanking in the polls, Mr. Danger, uh, Weiner, is hanging on and staying in the race, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side. So far. She’s committed to their marriage, she told reporters, though for a while, “it was not an easy choice.” Ya think? This is clearly one of the most long-suffering spouses in history. Or one of the most politically ambitious. It’s worth mentioning that she has long been an aide to Hillary Clinton.

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July 29, 2013

RACIAL MISUNDERSTANDING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2013
RACIAL MISUNDERSTANDING
BY BOB FRANKEN
Maybe it’s time for a modern-day John Howard Griffin to write another “Black Like Me.” In 1959, Griffin, a white man, medically darkened his skin. He spent six weeks traveling through the rigidly segregated Deep South and kept a journal of his experiences as a black man. In the best-seller he wrote afterward, he described how accustomed he became to the “hate stare” he constantly got from whites.
Fifty-four years later, it has been replaced by the “fear stare,” according to most blacks and other dark-skinned males of succeeding generations, including the man who became president of the United States, Barack Obama. While he definitely gets the hate stare from his political enemies, the president is trying to reach those of good will when he describes the reaction men of color can still expect in times that have changed, but not enough.
He decided to try to clear the air after the Sanford, Fla., verdict that found George Zimmerman not guilty of charges connected with his fatally shooting an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as the young black was simply walking through the gated community Zimmerman was patrolling as a neighborhood-watch volunteer. Zimmerman denies that race had anything to do with his actions, but the jury verdict that he was not legally culpable has provoked an outpouring of anguish over what minorities claim is the day-to-day experience of racial profiling, both public and, more insidiously, private. “There are very few African-American men,” said the president, “who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.” Same for “walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars” or experiencing “getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she has a chance to get off.”

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July 26, 2013

A SATURDAY MOVE ON MSNBC

I'll be plying my tirade on MSNBC in the morning this Saturday during the 7:00 Eastern hour. You didn't really want to sleep in,did you?

July 24, 2013

ANOTHER MSNBC THURSDAY IN THE DARK

I'm doing my regular Thursday early morning work on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. It's a dawnting task.

July 22, 2013

POLITICS OF HUNGER

BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2013
POLITICS OF HUNGER
BY BOB FRANKEN
The latest action in the tea party-controlled House of Representatives makes it abundantly clear that the conservatives care only about the mega-wealthy corporations that produce food and not a whit about the 47 million people who need help to afford enough to eat. How else to explain their insistence on pulling the food-stamp program out of the $195 billion farm bill subsidies for massive agriculture conglomerates.
It was necessary, they argued, because the harsh right that controls House majority Republicans is intent on gutting what’s now called SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as in food stamps. For decades, SNAP was cobbled together with the farm legislationto create an urban-rural bloc that was unstoppable -- until now. But the extremists insisted on cuts so brutal that the coalition shattered. In effect, they brushed aside any concerns about malnutrition as the price the poor pay for poverty. They have their anti-government ideology, and that’s that. Of course, that agenda doesn’t apply when it comes to fattening the fat cats who dominate the food industry and dominate Congress with their army of lobbyists and showers of campaign bribes (excuse me, contributions).

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July 19, 2013

MSNBC SUMMERTIME SATURDAY

The forecast for my Saturday afternoon appearance on MSNBC during the 2:00 Eastern hour: Lots of heat with low humility.

July 18, 2013

SEX IN THE CITY POLITICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2013
SEX-IN-THE-CITY POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
I know I speak for all my fellow cheat-shot artists when I want to express my deep appreciation to Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner for giving us an excuse to stoop to old lows.
Tawdry sex, after all, compared with the tedium of health care or the economy, is much, uh, sexier. Assuming, though, that they are not slinking back into the political arena merely to make our jobs easier, one can’t help but be astonished at their willingness to subject themselves to the groveling required to claw back up from their embarrassing downfalls. But grovel they do -- the allure of the spotlight is too intense for some to leave behind.
Look how well it seems to work. Obviously, the penance is mightier than the sordid. Weiner has quickly bounced back to the top of the New York mayoral race, just two years after he was exposed for exposing himself on Twitter to women he insisted he had never met. Spitzer, of course, is remembered for his dalliances with a hooker. He was Gov. Spitzer when he resigned in 2008, but here he is in 2013 trying to run for office again. He aspires to be New York City comptroller. It’s taken somewhat longer for him to take comptrol of his political fortunes again. In his case, he made a gradual transition, going from utter disgrace to TV personality (I said “gradual”) and now back to wannabe candidate.
This has happened enough times that there’s a tried-and-true formula for running the gantlet to get past the past. There is ritual contrition, admitting “mistakes,” maybe even tearing up on camera, as Spitzer did during one his interviews. Then it’s simply a case of counting on the truly American spirit of the voters. It’s not that we are particularly forgiving, but we get bored easily and hate old stories. The late-night jokes go stale and soon subside. The negative ends up turning into a huge plus: name recognition. Both Weiner and Spitzer immediately shot to the top of the polls. It would be tempting to conclude that nothing helps a politician like a good old sex scandal. Newt Gingrich is a repeat offender, and he’s back still again. At the moment, he’s in the TV-rehab mode as a co-host of the new/old “Crossfire” show on CNN.

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July 15, 2013

THE SPY COUPLE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2013
THE SPY COUPLE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Why wouldn’t Edward Snowden marry Anna Chapman? She’s asked him to via Twitter. That may not be the traditional way of proposing, but Snowden and Chapman are not your standard-issue couple anyway. For starters, they have never met. But when it comes to Americans with Russian spouses, there’s a lot of that going around. There’s a whole industry devoted to mail-order brides who really, really want a U.S. green card and are willing to take on a lonely American husband to get one. This could work the other way around. If Ed and Anna tie the knot, he could gain a Russian resident permit and start down the road to citizenship.
Not only that, but Ms. Chapman is a real looker. We’re all aware of that from the pinup shots and other pictures we saw when the story broke that she was an intelligence operative, part of a group that was conducting espionage on the United States -- or trying to -- while posing as middle-class Americans. Come to think of it, the espionage game is something she and Snowden have in common.
It’s a match made in public-relations heaven. He needs a place to live; she has an amazing talent for self-promotion. He needs to avoid prison; she needs to avoid having her TV career fade away. She was kicked out of the U.S.; he is desperate to stay away. So of course they should get hitched. Even if Moscow is not exactly paradise, it’s way better than supermax. If the wedded bliss turns to misery, though, supermax may be better. It certainly would be an incentive for couples’ therapy.

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Test

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July 12, 2013

SUNDAY ON MSNBC

I'll be doing my version of Shakespeare Sunday afternoon during the 3:00 Eastern hour making much ado about nothing.

July 11, 2013

UNHEALTHY HEALTH CARE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2013
UNHEALTHY HEALTH CARE
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’ve always loved the expression “Putting lipstick on a pig.” It’s the perfect way to describe an effort to gloss over something ugly. It’s certainly appropriate in the case of the decision by POTUS and his peeps to delay for a year the fundamental employer-mandate piece of Obamacare.
It’s the provision that would require businesses with 50 or more workers to provide affordable health insurance or pay a big fine for each individual. The administration’s “lipstick” was the claim that the decision to hold off until 2015 showed its “flexibility.” What was piggish was the hard-to-ignore suspicion that it was really more about trying to sidestep a huge political controversy before the 2014 midterm elections. 2014 is when the new Affordable Care Act is scheduled to kick into high gear, but now it will be missing one of its components.
Didn’t supporters argue incessantly that this plan to cover millions of the uninsured was an intricate proposition, with each part reliant on every other? So suddenly it’s OK to leave out one piece of this puzzle for a year? Or are we really just witnessing another instance of a president withering in the face of boarish opposition?

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July 10, 2013

PRE DAWN THURSDAY ON MSNBC

I'll be cursing the Thursday pre morning darkness on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern.

July 8, 2013

OUR DELICATE IMPERILED DEMOCRACY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013
OUR DELICATE IMPERILED DEMOCRACY
BY BOB FRANKEN
From the useless-information department: The 13 American Colonies legally separated from England on July 2, 1776. We celebrate on July 4 because it took two days for the Declaration of Independence to be officially adopted. Even back then, paperwork slowed things down.
Be that as it may, the soaring language of the document, crafted mainly by Thomas Jefferson, has served as our country’s inspiration for 237 years. It lives on as a warning about one of the biggest enemies of the egalitarian ideals that define this nation: expedience. It’s important that we constantly reflect on the dangers of taking the shortcuts that are perpetually a temptation to the thoughtless or ruthlessly ambitious.
Perhaps the most important sentence of the Declaration was and is, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Now that we’ve come to a point in history where we’ve shed the injustices of the 18th century, such as the suppression of women and the evil of slavery, we can really strive for the full meaning of those words. The United States of America must always be led by those chosen in orderly elections available to everyone, because “all men were created equal.” And yet, here we have today, a Supreme Court majority undermining a law that helped to enforce that precious right, and here we have today cynical, self-serving partisans coming up with various schemes to disenfranchise those who don’t happen to share their political views.
In this 21st century, we still have a cabal trying to disrupt the orderly government that ultimately grew out of our revolution. They use their wealth to gain unfair advantage. They intrude on our lives in ways no one could even imagine back at our nation's beginning. Instead of “Taxation Without Representation,” today we have taxation without fairness. All of which eats away at the support of the people who grow weary of what Jefferson called “a long train of abuses and usurpations.”

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July 5, 2013

MSNBC SUNDAY

I'll be doing my Chauncey the Gardner impression on MSNBC Sunday during the 3:00 PM, Eastern, hour. I hope I can count on your "Being There"

July 4, 2013

A SUPREMELY MIXED BAG

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013
A SUPREMELY MIXED BAG
BY BOB FRANKEN
You’ve got to hand it to the Supreme Court: It’s hard to pin down an agenda. The justices closed with a flourish, standing up for equality with their rulings on gay marriage.
Actually, one of them was a nonruling, but in the process of, in effect, rejecting a case for procedural reasons, they let stand lower-court rulings that overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in California. More importantly, in the other big case, they overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal matrimonial benefits to all but male-female couples. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, wrote that DOMA was “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
The merit of the decision was reinforced by Justice Antonin Scalia, who threw a hissy fit. He called it “argle bargle.” Before you decide he’s gotten completely unhinged, apparently, that’s Scottish for “nonsense.” He has some argle bargle of his own about the majority’s “real cheek” for having the audacity to overturn the will of Congress. Of course, he was conveniently overlooking his concurrence the day before in ripping apart of the foundations of civil-rights progress, which has been repeatedly and overwhelmingly renewed through the decades by that very same Congress.
That’s why this glass is only half-full. The half-empty part was the conservatives on the court putting together a majority to turn the Voting Rights Act into mush. I don’t know this for a fact, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that before he wrote the decision declaring the key section of VRA invalid, Chief Justice John Roberts had sought the advice of Paula Deen. That makes as much sense as his explanation that the landmark legislation had become obsolete and that Congress must come up with new realities to revive it.

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July 3, 2013

A SECOND CHANCE ON MSNBC

In addition to my July 4th predawn sleeptalk on MSNBC (see earlier note) I'll get two more chances at more civilized times, 1:00 and 3:00 PM Eastern

EARLY EARLY MSNBC JULY 4th FIREWORKS

Yes it's the Independence Day holiday but instead of sleeping in you'll watch me on MSNBC at 5:15 AM Eastern. Sure you will...

July 1, 2013

THE FARM BILL:SOILED POLITICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013
THE FARM BILL: SOILED POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’ve been thinking for a while, which is always dangerous, about our ferocious budget-and-spending battle. It has defied compromise. In addition to the ugly politics, another reason neither side has been willing to seek a middle ground is because both have valid arguments.
It is true that the federal government cannot continue to overspend itself into a future of economic collapse. It is just as valid to believe that we cannot abandon the desperate needs of the young, the elderly, the poor, the ailing -- to say nothing of whatever it takes to protect our citizens. We just can’t. So I keep on coming back to what would seem to be the obvious way out: We need to reach a bipartisan consensus on what the nation’s priorities are, what programs we want to fund and which ones we can shut down or at least scale back. After that, we can work on how to collect the revenue that pays for what’s left.
There’s one major problem with the idea: It is clear that a bipartisan consensus is impossible. Short of a war or another attack, there seems to be nothing that will cause us to rally around a common good, largely because we can’t agree what that common good is. Our leaders, who are really just followers of their constituents’ darkest instincts and campaign contributors’ selfish interests, are afraid to look past the next election. So they represent the worst in us.
Before you decide that’s too harsh, look at what just happened to the farm bill in the right-wing-controlled House of Representatives. One would think that if anything could bring everyone together, it would be our sustenance. But Republican extremists were not happy with reductions in the allocation for food stamps that already had been negotiated. They insisted on slashing even more. Apparently, poor people shouldn’t eat. Their cuts were so severe that Democrats couldn’t support the massive legislation, and down it went, leaving our entire agriculture system in a state of chaos.

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June 28, 2013

SATURDAY WITH ME ON MSNBC

I'm on MSNBC tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 Eastern. To paraphrase the Chicago song title, it'll be Saturday in the Dark.

June 27, 2013

OBAMA STAGGERING

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
OBAMA STAGGERING
BY BOB FRANKEN
President Barack Obama has a big problem. If he isn’t careful, it could cause his presidency to unravel. In fact, many believe it already has started to.
If a new CNN/Opinion Research poll is more than a measure of the political moment and instead reflects a trend, then he’s in a heap of trouble. It not only shows slippage on how he’s handling various issues, but overall his disapproval rate has shot up to 54 percent. Worst of all, the percentage of those who believe he is honest and trustworthy has slipped below 50 percent for the first time. For a leader who has always gotten high nice-guy points, that’s huge.
Obviously, the timing matters. He been chewed up by Republicans who see blood in the water from the administration’s self-inflicted wounds and perceptions of heavy-handedness and ineptitude that his political enemies have exploited. There has been a big drop among independents and, notably, those who formed his base, the young and other blocs of supporters.
A common lament from those who were inspired by his “Change We Can Believe In” message is that he has disappointed them. Nothing has really changed — same stuff, different president. For some of them, his rationalizations for massive surveillance are identical to the ones from the previous White House. He may seethe at comparisons to Dick Cheney, but the fact that his natural allies are drawing the parallels and that he even has to dispute them demonstrate the depth of his credibility problem. In a fantasy debate with him, one of them might say, “I knew Barack Obama ... You’re no Barack Obama.”

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June 26, 2013

DAWN'S EARLY FRIGHT

I'll be getting Thursday off to an early start on MSNBC at 5:15 AM, Eastern with breakfast or Wednesday to a late end at 2:15 AM, Pacific with the munchies.

June 24, 2013

SECRETS AND SPIES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2013
SECRETS AND SPIES
BY BOB FRANKEN
For those who turn to this space for the highly creative idea in the face of controversy, you’re in luck once again. The issue is massive government cyberspying on Americans, largely by using a puppet court to force Google, Facebook and the others to turn over their data about our so-called private lives. So here’s the brainstorm: Why not get rid of the middleman and nationalize all of these companies, make them an official part of our national-intelligence apparatus. We can call the entire thing “Snoople.”
The first money-saving move this new entity could do is terminate the cable-TV contract at National Security Agency headquarters. Talk about redundant.
This, of course, is the polar opposite of an earlier scheme, which would be to privatize our espionage operations. The flaw with that one is that to a large extent we already have, since so much of the work is done by contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton.
That’s the giant consulting firm whose proudest achievement was hiring Edward Snowden. How were they to know that they were employing such a versatile young man, one who was not only skilled in the technical aspects of highly classified operations, but also brilliant in the equally dark art of public relations. Snowden, after all, has made Booz Allen a household word and finally given government prying into its own citizens’ lives the attention it deserves. I’d say his bosses probably secretly admire him, but since nothing’s secret anymore, that’s obviously not right.
If we were going to pursue that privatization thingy, maybe it would be an appropriate time to resurrect Mitt Romney, so he could work on arrangements to outsource the enterprise to low-wage sweatshops.

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June 21, 2013

SUNDAY ON MSNBC

I'll be on MSNBC Sunday afternoon at 3:00,Eastern,discussing what it all means: Hint: probably nothing

June 20, 2013

LEAKS AND LIES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2013
LEAKS AND LIES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Polls are useful, no doubt about it. They also can be misleading. They utilize statistics to take an opinion snapshot. But snapshots can confuse because they only capture an instant, instead of the context of the moment. Besides, as Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli are all too often quoted, there are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
In polling, so much depends on the precise wording used in the questions. So it is that our various surveys seem to indicate that when asked about the mass data scoops by the National Security Agency, the composite view is Americans don’t know what to think. I base that on several tallies that suggest people are all over the map. Washington Post-Pew Research Center sampling projects 56 percent who find them “acceptable.” CBS counts 58 percent who disapprove of collecting information about ordinary Americans. I first thought the issue would have staying power and said so just one column ago. One of the cool parts of this job is that you can change your mind.
So now I believe that soon, those of us in and around political showbiz (“Hooray for Washington!”) will have to move on to something else we can sensationalize. It’s a shame, really, because this topic is one that definitely deserves more attention. It’s not even a question of how our private lives are such an open book. Surely, we’ve figured that out with all the surveillance cameras and GPS devices monitoring our every move. We’ve also come to accept that corporations closely analyze the intimate data that are revealed by whatever we do with our electronic devices.
In fact, maybe we can take a big chunk out of the deficit by simply subcontracting the snooping to Google or Facebook or Amazon or one of those other companies that already are doing the same thing. At the very least, the U.S. government could merge its program with the Chinese, who also are cyberspying on Americans. Think of the economy-of-scale savings.

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June 19, 2013

WEE SMALL HOURS OF AN MSNBC THURSDAY MORNING

I'll be trying not to put you back to sleep as I talk politics on MSNBC at 5:15AM, Eastern, tomorrow. Or for that matter, me.

June 17, 2013

THE SURVEILLANCE DRUG ADDICTION

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CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013
THE SURVEILLANCE DRUG ADDICTION
BY BOB FRANKEN
With our teeny attention spans, we’re used to what could be called “Fireworks Controversies.” They light up the political sky, and quickly disappear, then another flares into a momentary blast of commotion. Some, however, are too consequential for that, and they stick around to fill the void for more than just an instant. The ruckus over the government’s encroachment into our personal lives is one of those.
President Barack Obama -- who is establishing a legacy as the most zealous national-security warrior, more even than his Cheney-Bush predecessors -- has been forced to shed any pretense and now defiantly says he welcomes a debate over the “choices as a society,” between “100 percent security and ... 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.” Never mind that as senator and president wannabe he was fond of calling that a “false choice,” but the former con-law professor also is offering a far-too-simplistic choice: The real question is not whether there must be a trade-off, but how much of one.
As someone with a long track record of frivolous debating, I think this can be better likened to one of those pharmaceutical ads that saturate our TV. Imagine the various shots of patriotic Americans at parades that tug at the heart strings celebrating baseball, motherhood and apple pie; cue the soothing narration:
“The secret is out. The best formula for combatting deadly terrorism is PRIVACIDE. That’s right, PRIVACIDE works in new ways to track down the cells that metastasize into lethal mass violence and then sends drones to wipe them out.”
At this point, Mr. or Ms. Announcer jumps in to race through all the side effects:
“PRIVACIDE must be used with caution. Experience has shown that it will spread to those who have no connection whatsoever to terrorism. The drones have a high probability of killing nearby innocents. It will cause leaks, which reduces its effectiveness. While PRIVACIDE may prove useful in combatting deadly terrorism, overuse can cause severe harm to our nation in many other ways.”
Ignoring all that, the pitch person will end with: “PRIVACIDE, the strongest prescription for protection. A product of Orwell Labs.”

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June 14, 2013

MSNBC Saturday This Week

This week I'll be on MSNBC on a Saturday afternoon. 3:30 Eastern. Confidential communications with producers monitored by the National Security Agency.

MSNBC Saturday This Week

This week I'll be on MSNBC on a Saturday afternoon. 3:30 Eastern. Confidential communications with producers monitored by the National Security Agency.

SEX AND THE PITHY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2013
SEX AND THE PITHY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Once again, we should congratulate the winner of the coveted Sound Bite of the Week award. Put your hands together for New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. She sent TV people covering the military sexual-assault hearing into sheer ecstasy when she scornfully told the generals assembled before her, “Not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and rape.” With that, she took the sound-bite honors (dare I say it) hands down.
Besides, she was making a strong point, which is that the cluelessness of the uniformed hierarchy is a significant contributor to the loathsome spread of rape, similar attacks and harassment in the armed services. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno admitted they’re “like a cancer.”
Did you see the wide-angle shots of the witness table? There were more stars on the panelists’ shoulders than you’ll see in many galaxies, but their testimony revealed that their grasp of the problem has disappeared into a black hole. It’s tragic that after all the years of caterwauling over openly homosexual troops, the real threat to decency and order comes from heterosexuals whose assaults in the military have spread like an epidemic while the leadership, until now, has given the outrage short shrift.

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June 12, 2013

DAWNING ON MSNBC

Another Thursday morning for me on MSNBC at 5:15, Eastern. See it live, on DVR or in the NSA data bank

June 10, 2013

THE IGNOMINY OF DEFEAT--CORRECTED

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013
THE IGNOMINY OF DEFEAT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Maybe it’s time for a civics lesson. In the United States of America, we elect officeholders. Those we choose have a specific term in office, during which they are supposed to make decisions. At the end of that cycle, they can run again if they want, and the voters can express whether they approve of the actions or whether to choose a replacement. In any case, the idea is to allow a full tour of duty for the victor to run things the way he or she thinks best. That’s how we’ve managed to maintain stability in our country all these centuries, just as the Founding Fathers designed.
They also provided an escape hatch to interrupt severe bad conduct. In extreme cases, an offender can be removed or his or her egregiously bad policies overturned. Also pretty cool. Or it would be were it not for the fact that all too many refuse to accept the ballot winners, immediately question their legitimacy and try to sabotage the winners along with any action they take, even after rigorous legislative debate. Putting it another way, we’ve become a nation of sore losers.
Let’s take gun control. In Colorado, the state legislature added some restrictions and responsibilities for the owners of deadly weapons -- mild restrictions. Nevertheless, they infuriated those who have a passionate love affair with their rifles, pistols and ammo clips. So they have immediately started recall campaigns -- encouraged, of course, by the National Rifle Association. The NRA believes the nation should be an armed camp and will try to destroy anyone who stands in the way. It’s also worth mentioning that the organization gets much of its funding from those who make and sell these munitions, but we all know that and simply accept the fact that they are able to use their ill-gotten gains and whip up enough gun owners to back recall drives to get rid of their adversaries. It’s easy to do. Too easy.
On the other side of the political spectrum we had Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who had just been elected when he took on organized labor, trying to relieve public employee unions of a huge amount of their bargaining power. After a sometimes-bizarre legislative battle, he succeeded. What did labor and the Democrats do? As we all know, they forced a recall election. Walker survived it, so nothing changed, but millions of dollars were spent.

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June 7, 2013

MSNBC Sunday New Time

The MSNBC "Brain Trust" panel that is obviously misnamed because I'm on it is moving to an earlier time. It's 3:30 Eastern this Sunday afternoon.

June 6, 2013

BEACH PARTISAN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013
BEACH PARTISAN
BY BOB FRANKEN
Chris Christie is a confrontational conservative running for at least one more election. He has a well-known, significant weight problem. Oh yeah, he’s governor of New Jersey and fits right in with that state’s stereotypes. Barack Obama is none of the above. Yet the two seem to get along quite well. The word “bromance” has been used to describe them so often that it’s gone from clever to banal. At the very least, though, they are photo-op buddies in spite of their differences, both personal and partisan.
Much has been made of this, particularly since their ability to work together and be civil is such a stark contrast to the unyielding nastiness that defines our political system these days. Our government is far too often paralyzed by an atmosphere of outright hostility that defines compromise as treason. There is no dialogue, only malicious monologues filled with the most noxious and distorted recriminations.
As we all know, the Obama-Christie collaboration was cobbled together because of a natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, that severely wrecked much of the Northeast, including parts of New Jersey. For some reason, though, with our country standing on the edge of so many other kinds of mostly man- and woman-made calamities, our government leaders find it impossible to accomplish anything, even when they agree it is necessary. In fact, the hard-liners in Christie’s own GOP have made it clear they would like to make him pay a price for his perceived appeasement.

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June 5, 2013

MSNBC AND ME IN THE DARK

It's my regular Thursday morning dawn appearance on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Hopefully it won't be as cheesy as those IRS videos.

June 3, 2013

SCOUTING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013
SCOUTING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
I am an Eagle Scout. I’m sure your first response is to thank me for sharing, unless you’re a Boy Scout official, who would prefer I don’t. But it’s true. Back in the dark ages of my youth, I compiled the required number of merit badges and completed the other assignments. So I got the Eagle. It was/is considered a badge of honor, and, as such, the framed certificate has long been displayed in my office. If nothing else, it causes anyone who sees it to wonder where I went wrong. However, as it became known that the Scouts’ traditional three-fingered salute was one-fingered when it came to gays, I turned the award upside down to express my aversion to such discrimination.
Well, now it’s on its side. Like the traditional half-empty or half-full debate, we can discuss whether it’s half-up or half-down, but the Boy Scouts of America have taken a step in the right direction. Finally, after all these years, they’ve decided to accept youngsters who openly acknowledge that they’re gay. While it’s a partial step away from bigotry — non-heterosexual adults are still barred from becoming leaders — it is enough to cause religiously intolerant and other purveyors of ignorance to have a hissy fit.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was prominent among those “greatly disappointed.” One of life’s important guiding principles is that if Rick Perry is against something, be for it, and vice versa. Of course, with most any credo, there are exceptions. Perry has expressed some thoughts about immigrants that fall short of the hatred we get from those in his usual posse. When it comes to gays, though, he’s right out in front of the backward movement.
Unfortunately, they’re still able to exert the power of their hatred on public policy. Even as we witness majority acceptance nationwide of alternative choices manifested in the military rejection of don’t ask, don’t tell and spreading legalization of same-sex marriage, we still are burdened with bigoted public policy. The halting steps toward humane treatment of immigrants would have been stopped dead in their tracks had legislation to bring some sanity to the issue included a common-sense provision that would extend permanent residency to same-gender partners just as it does for conventional man-woman couples. This is mainly a result of political necessity. Senate Republicans who signed on to the compromise largely because their party has been hammered by the Hispanic vote, nevertheless said extending the proposal to include gays would poison any chance of getting GOP support. So the Democrats swallowed their pride and their principles, allowing simple fairness to be kept out.

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May 31, 2013

SUNDAY FOLLIES ON MSNBC

I'll be spewing the political foolishness while appearing Sunday afternoon on MSNBC at 4:30, Eastern. See who gets splattered.

May 30, 2013

RECKLESS OR FECKLESS?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2013
RECKLESS OR FECKLESS?
BY BOB FRANKEN
“I have done nothing wrong,” she insisted. “I have not broken any laws. I have not broken any IRS rules or regulations ... and I have not provided any false information to this or any other committee.” With that, Lois Lerner took the Fifth and refused to answer any questions about her role in the Internal Revenue Service targeting of tea-party groups. If that seemed incongruous, it was, after all, in Congress, before a committee led by snarling Republicans. Is it any wonder she’s now been booted from her job heading the IRS unit that oversees tax exemptions? It’s at the center of a storm, not just because of its hostile actions against conservative groups, but also the tacky way she and her bosses decided to finally go public.
After denying, literally for years, that there was any singling out of right-wing organizations, they came up with a cheesy way to stage their confession. They planted a question with someone in the audience when Lerner appeared before an obscure meeting with tax lawyers. It was on a Friday, no less, which public-affairs geniuses like to think is a news graveyard. They were obviously hoping her revelation wouldn’t create much of a ripple.
Of course, it immediately caused a tidal wave of controversy. Republicans are hoping it will help drown the Obama presidency. His higher-ups seem to be intent on helping them. They grudgingly dribble out the names of those at the top levels who knew about this ahead of time, while insisting they kept POTUS out of the loop. Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was part of the in-crowd, but apparently Barack Obama wasn’t, and should be mighty unhappy about getting so blindsided. Even press secretary Jay Carney said there could be some “legitimate criticisms” after his boss had to tell the world that the first he heard of this outrage was from “news reports,” feeding an already-troublesome story line that he’s not really on top of things.

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May 29, 2013

THURSDAY IN THE DARK AT MSNBC

Just for laughs watch me wake up on MSNBC early tomorrow morning, immediately talking trash. 5:15 Eastern

May 27, 2013

BUMBERSHOOTING AIMLESSLY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013
BUMBERSHOOTING AIMLESSLY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Expect something dopey when Sarah Palin and her like-minded cronies take to social media (I realize that “minded” is a bit of a stretch). There she was on Facebook, after President Barack Obama called on U.S. Marines standing guard at a drizzly give-and-take with reporters to bring umbrellas to protect the Turkish prime minister and him from the elements. “Mr. President,” wrote Palin, “when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas.” In fact, the entire right-wingnut community was all a-Twitter, literally, over still another cover-up.
This, they shrieked, was an inappropriate task for a Marine. Actually, it is not. Perhaps the critics have never heard of aides-de-camp. Those are lower-ranking officers assigned to the highest-ranking as personal assistants to do whatever they’re told. It has a long history. I must say that this rumpus conjured up images in my mind of the Marines at the White House, practicing their traditional rifle drills using umbrellas, perhaps with bayonets on them. Still, what happened during the soggy news conference was entirely proper.
The arch-conservatives are simply cutting the president no slack whatsoever. In fact, some of their leaders are warning them against overplaying their hands and causing a backlash. The firebrands on their side are ignoring the admonitions and running roughshod over any restraints. It’s not just Sassy Sarah, but in Congress the Moron Caucus has been prominent. Founding member Michele Bachmann was front and center, flirting with calls for impeachment, but ascribing them to constituents. She’s just one on her far side using the “I word.” But when it comes to doltishness, the prize probably once again should be given to GOP Congressman Louis Gohmert, the pride of Tyler, Texas. Congressman Gohmert was among those at a hearing doing heated verbal battle with Attorney General Eric Holder. When Holder challenged him on some facts, Gohmert finally sputtered, “the attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus.” It’s easy to understand his fury. I know I speak for all of us when I insist that nobody mess with our asparagus.

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May 24, 2013

Sunday on MSNBC

It's another Sunday afternoon on MSNBC at 4:30 Eastern. After we're done, the Feds will immediately subpoena my phone logs and emails.

May 23, 2013

SILLY SULLYING

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2013
SILLY SULLYING
BY BOB FRANKEN
There is so much intense criticism about how the Justice Department, without warning, collected telephone records from Associated Press reporters and offices that we really need to come up with a positive spin. How about this: They haven’t water-boarded any journalists. At least not yet.
Instead, the feds swooped in and absconded with the logs from two months’ worth of calls from home and office phones used by about a hundred people. AP’s lawyer calls the move “massive and unprecedented.” The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a professional coalition, sent a letter charging Justice with using “police powers against the First Amendment.” So much for that love affair between Barack Obama and the media, which was largely a right-wing fiction.
The evidence was seized as part of an investigation into leaks that provided the basis of an AP story on a successful effort to thwart a plan by al-Qaida in Yemen to place a bomb on a U.S.-bound airplane. The Obama administration has been ferocious in pursuing and prosecuting those who make secret information public.
In this case, the attorney general, Eric Holder, disclaimed direct responsibility because he had previously recused himself after having been officially questioned in this matter. Still, he defended the decision to pore over the logs because the AP report resulted from leaks that were “within the top two or three most serious that I’ve ever seen” and “It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole.”
Considering that AP says it held the story until government officials said their concerns were alleviated, some might question whether the AG was guilty of hyperbole. It’s tough to tell, as it always is, when those in power raise vague national-security concerns and, in effect, say “trust me.”
Finally recognizing that that this actually might be worth of a response, particularly with Richard Nixon comparisons flying around, Mr. Obama stepped in and offered his support of a national shield law that had died on the vine on its last swing through the congressional thicket. Never mind that the legislation probably wouldn’t solve the AP encroachment, he needed to look like he was taking charge.
So, he also revved up a little outrage over the Internal Revenue Service mess. In the wake of the clamor over that, he replaced the acting director and told the world he was “angry about it.” Investigations, both criminal and congressional, are sprouting everywhere. Think of the delicious irony: The IRS is being audited. For many Americans who have felt tormented after their returns were red-flagged, this is deliciously poetic. The taxmen and -women will have to explain what they were thinking, if they were, when they made life miserable for groups on the hard right who sought exemptions as “social welfare” entities and were being dragged through hoops to show that they were not “primarily political.” The truth is that they were and are, and the prolonged hassle would have been valid had their liberal counterparts equally gotten a hard time. They did not, leaving the irresistible impression that someone who, by law, should be “neutral” in fact had an agenda.

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May 22, 2013

THE MSNBC DARKNESS BEFORE THE DAWN

How better to start your Thursday than with me at 5:15 AM talking politics on MSNBC? Let me count the ways...

May 20, 2013

The Stumbling Presidency

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013
THE STUMBLING PRESIDENCY
BY BOB FRANKEN
The word “doofus” is in the dictionary. In mine, it’s defined as “a foolish or inept person.” There are apparently some doofuses (doofi?) in the Internal Revenue Service. At least we hope that the agents were only foolish or inept and nothing more sinister when they targeted conservative 501(c)(4)s, as they’re called. That’s the section of the regulations that grants “social welfare” groups tax-exempt status as long as their primary mission is not politics.
After denying anything was amiss, the IRS now has admitted that its agents took “absolutely inappropriate” actions to investigate 501(c)(4)s on the right after receiving a flood of applications for the tax-exempt status and after Democrats complained that the organizations were flouting the rules. That’s when the Keystone bureaucrats went into a frenzy. They turned to their computers and plugged in key words like “patriot” and “tea party.” And, gee, guess what? Up popped groups like the Tea Party Patriots.
Not surprisingly, the Tea Party Patriots aren’t buying the IRS apology. Jenny Beth Martin, the organization’s national coordinator calls it “the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power.” It hasn’t helped that an inspector general report charges that senior officials knew aboutthis nine months before they were assuring Congress there was no targeting.
Everybody and his uncle is demanding an investigation. President Obama joined Republican in sight calling the actions "outrageous" "And they have to be held fully accountable" The big problem for the White House will be those who will be relentlessly trying to make the entire administration accountable, attempting to create a narrative that this was more than just another blunder.
It was a lousy week for the Obama peeps. The uproar over harassment by the revenooers came just as emails surfaced giving renewed credence to the GOP’s campaign to fan suspicions of an attempted whitewash in the aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi. The ferocious assault left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Republicans have been hammering away at the talking points — developed after excruciating negotiations between several agencies — that led U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to go on the Sunday talk shows and declare that the lethal violence was “spontaneously inspired.”In fact, the White House had to acknowledge that there was nothing “spontaneous” about it, that it was planned and carried out by extremists. The opposition has been screaming “cover-up” ever since, and the charges were given new fury by both testimony that a Stevens deputy was demoted after complaining and internal emails released by ABC News that suggest the talking points were massaged to deflect political damage in the heated election campaign.

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May 17, 2013

Sunday on MSNBC

I'll be trading some politics trash talk on MSNBC Sunday afternoon at 4:30 Eastern.
Think there's anything to discuss?

May 16, 2013

It Can't Be

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013
IT CAN’T BE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sometimes the reporter -- who, after all, is supposed to be skeptical -- runs across a story that seems simply too bizarre to be true. The arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffery Krusinski is certainly one of those. Lt. Col. Krusinski is charged with grabbing a woman in a parking lot outside the Pentagon by her breasts and buttocks and is now accused of sexual battery. By now, we probably all know that Krusinski is the man in charge of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. Or he was. He’s been removed from the job. Probably a smart move. That still won’t stop higher-ups from having to explain how he got the position in the first place.
What makes this even more galling is its timing. The alleged groping occurred just as the Pentagon released a report that shows sexual assaults in the military have increased by 35 percent in the past two years. It shouldn’t be startling, given all the news of misconduct by boot-camp trainers with their trainees, and celebrated cases where commanding generals have unilaterally overturned sex-related convictions against subordinate officers.
The commander in chief has weighed in, demanding reform: “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged -- period.” But he might want to focus on his top generals. He can start with Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh, who told a Senate hearing that much of the blame rests with the “hookup” culture of the young generation. Whatever one thinks of the choice of some kids to get it on without emotional attachment, Gen. Welsh still seems to miss the point that this hooking up is consensual, while forcible assault obviously is not. “Obviously,” sputtered New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, “there’s a failing in training and understanding of what sexual assault is and how corrosive it is.” Ya think?

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May 15, 2013

The Ungodly Hour

A 5:15 AM Eastern Thursday start on MSNBC. I'll be trying to make sense of the chaotic politics. Actually I'll just be trying to make sense.

May 13, 2013

Is Obama Ineffetive?


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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2013
IS OBAMA INEFFECTIVE?
BY BOB FRANKEN
What an interesting debate. It’s about which of our leaders is to blame for the failure of our political system. Sadly, that failure is considered a given by a huge majority of our citizens. And for good reason: gridlock. It’s a paralysis caused either by petty and dangerously stupid obstructionists controlling the opposition or by a president who’s too ineffective to overcome them.
The latter narrative is slowly gaining circulation. A growing number of columnists who are often considered Barack Obama’s progressive soul mates are teeing off on his inability to strong-arm Congress. Maureen Dowd, of The New York Times, has gotten a lot of attention with her conclusion that the president “still has not learned how to govern.” That’s because “he chooses not to get down in the weeds.”
Make no mistake about it: Politics is all weeds. It is an unruly turf where a con game is played by people whose overriding motivation is ambition. At its best, it is the dark side of democracy. What we’re stuck with these days could hardly be described as being at its best.
We are witnessing a circus where the extremist clowns who control the Republican agenda are able to thwart even the most obvious fixes to our problems. Some new requirements for gun purchasers, for instance, which were already watered down, were defeated in the Senate, even though, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, 90 percent of Americans supported the restrictions. Even worse, the crazies seem to delight in making things worse. The sequester is a case in point, only one of too many to list.
More galling of all is how the most heat is generated by some of the dimmest light bulbs. The GOP’s Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann in the House and TedCruz in the Senate are among those whose appeal to their voters is based on the maxim “Ignorance is bliss.”
Having said that, here’s another: “It is what it is.” And that’s what his critics believe Obama fails to grasp. By now, his promise to change the way Washington works seems hopelessly naive. And his disdain for those who manipulate the process, which is to say nearly everyone in D.C., has left him so far above it all that results are out of reach.
Plainly and simply, he needs to climb down from his high horse and wallow in the mud with everyone else. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews calls it “Hardball,” but what it’s really like is rugby. We don’t want to know all the dirty stuff that happens in the scrums, but that’s where the matches are won. Actually, the saying about rugby is that you don’t win; the best you can hope for is surviving. The president’s agenda almost never survives the brutal collision with the gang on the other side that is singularly dedicated to his losing —nothing else.
At his recent news conference, he ridiculed those who think “my job is to somehow get them to behave,”meaning the Republicans in Congress. Actually, that is the job of the chief executive. “Woe is me” just doesn’t cut it. If you get into the slime, then you must play dirty like everyone else in there. The White House has all kinds of nastiness at its disposal that can make the lives of its enemies a living hell. They seem to be impervious to shame, but everyone has buttons to push. The secret is using that power without crossing the legal line, like Richard Nixon did. But that leaves plenty of room to switch from defense to offense, really offensive offense, if necessary.
Mr. Obama was not selected to be Mr. Congeniality. He was elected president of the United States. The cliché is that it’s the most powerful position in the world. These days, it just doesn’t look like it.

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May 10, 2013

Doing the MSNBC Sunday thing

As you're recovering from your hyper weekend, transition back to reality with me on MSNBC at 4:30, Eastern Sunday afternoon

May 9, 2013

Gay Rebound

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013
GAY REBOUND
BY BOB FRANKEN
Question: What do you call a man who is 7 feet tall and weighs more than 250 pounds? Answer: Whatever he wants. Yes, that’s an old joke, but here’s a new version: What do you call him when he announces “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay”? Same answer.
What he’s usually called is Jason Collins, and unless you’re in solitary, you’re aware that he’s the first active male professional athlete in the U.S. to declare his homosexual preference. Happily, the first question most people asked was, “So what?” The second one probably was, “Now that he’s out of the closet, what happens when he steps into the locker room?”
Based on most of the public responses from his fellow pro basketball players, very little will change. “I’m happy for him,” said Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett. “We here support everything he’s doing, and I’m happy for him.” Even Kobe Bryant, who was once fined $100,000 for shouting an anti-gay slur at a referee, used Twitter to show his support and tell Collins he shouldn’t “suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.”
There are some skeptics who say that many of those who really disapprove are not saying anything for fear of being ostracized. There’s some truth to that, particularly in the super-duper macho world of sports. But the fact that they’re keeping their homophobia to themselves is itself positive. In an amazingly short time, social attitudes about gays and others who make alternative choices have turned around in a remarkable way.

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May 8, 2013

MSNBC Dawning On US

Can I be perky at 5:15 in the morning, Eastern time, on an MSNBC Thursday? Don't bet on it, but take a look.

May 6, 2013

Flighty Politicians

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013
FLIGHTY POLITICIANS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Congress has passed legislation that finesses the sequestration cutbacks on controllers, flights will be on time again, and air travel will once more be an effortless joy. Oh, wait. That’s delusional.
At least we’ve seen how rapidly our politicians react, inspired solely by a desire to make life better for all Americans in a responsible, bipartisan way. Ridiculous, you say?
Well then, let’s find a different explanation for the fact that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House joined the White House in providing a quick fix at the first complaints over fight delays caused by air-traffic-
controller furloughs brought on by that idiotic sequester. Of course there is one.
It starts with the aforementioned idiotic sequester, which forced indiscriminate budget cuts throughout the federal government. It was considered such a ridiculous idea that any rational group of policysetters would do whatever it took to come up with a way to avoid something so destructive and, let’s call it what it is, stupid.
But there’s the rub. We’re not dealing with rational people here. Instead, we have crazed partisans ruling our roost, and they were unwilling to be even minimally reasonable. Because of their spite, we are stuck with the sequester, which means that various federal programs have to be trimmed with little regard for their relative merit or desperate need.

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May 2, 2013

Terrorism Cheap Shots

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013
TERRORISM CHEAP SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s assume Peter King wasn’t just trying to politically exploit the Boston Marathon attacks when he called on law enforcement to focus on “the Muslim community and increase surveillance there.” King, a Republican from New York, is chair of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. “We can’t be bound by political correctness,” he went on. “I think we need more police and more surveillance in the communities where the threat is coming from, whether it’s the Irish community with the Westies, or the Italian community with the Mafia or the Islamic community with the Islamic terrorists.”
Would someone remind him that while many of us will never be accused of political correctness, maybe we all should be held back by the idea that the U.S. is not an authoritarian state, that we should all be able to count on some privacy without Big Brother monitoring our every move and utterance. Already that’s a shaky premise, but singling out certain ethnic groups for more invasive intrusion runs counter to the whole "Yearning to be Free" concept of this nation. What he’s advocating could mean that because of the Mafia, there should spying on all Italian-Americans. For that matter, since some members of Congress have engaged in criminal activity, perhaps we should bug the homes, offices and cars of all members. Would a next step be to follow the World War II model of Japanese-American internment?

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May 1, 2013

Cracking the Dawn on MSNBC

The eternal question: at 5:15 AM on Thursday, is it better to curse the darkness, or watch me on MSNBC? And have more reason to curse.

April 29, 2013

ANTI MUSLIM BIGOTRY


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2013
ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY
BY BOB FRANKEN
It was a common thought among people of good will: Please, please don’t let those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings be Muslims. Unfortunately, it seems that those who carried out the savage attacks were Muslims, giving the people of ill will a chance to renew the intolerant attacks of their own.
Allen West, that purveyor of malignant demagoguery who was mercifully turned out of Congress by the voters, is trying to revive his career on a platform of extremism. Boston gave him another opportunity: “Let me be very clear,” he wrote on Facebook. “The terrorist attack in Boston and evolving events indicate we have a domestic radical Islamic terror problem in America.”
Erik Rush, another hatemonger, claimed he was joking when he tweeted: “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”
Before we dismiss these rants as voices from the fringe, let’s examine the mainstream views of our nation at large. A Gallup Poll taken in 2010 showed that 43 percent of the respondents acknowledged they felt some prejudice against Muslims. And that result includes only those who were willing to acknowledge their feelings. Of course it doesn’t help when media report false information about Saudi suspects or people who are “brown-skinned.”
It doesn’t matter whether this Boston attack was motivated by Islamic jihadism. Fanaticism exists in just about every movement in our country, religious and otherwise, but we wouldn’t think of holding such sweeping bias against all those who passionately oppose abortion or favor gun rights, would we? As for Muslims, estimates range from 2 million to 7 million, almost all proud Americans in spite of the reality that they are viewed with suspicion by so many.
The fact that the brothers allegedly responsible for the Boston abomination might have had a twisted religious motivation has Islamic leaders worried about a backlash, and rightfully so. Already we’re getting reports of people accosting anyone who might look the part and verbally abusing them as they demand to know “Are you Arab?” Never mind that the two brothers linked to the horror in Boston were ethnic Chechens, not Arabs at all, but that doesn’t stop the stupid bigot from acting like a dangerous idiot. Nobody should have to suffer that treatment, Arab or not.

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April 26, 2013

SUNDAY, AFTER THE PROM IS OVER

On Sunday afternoon , once the weekend WH Correspondents festivities have wound down I'll be part of a panel on MSNBC. 4:30 Eastern. Much less formal.

April 25, 2013

The Best and the Worst of Us

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2013
THE BEST AND THE WORST OF US
BY BOB FRANKEN
The unspeakable terrorism in Boston has caused us to reflect on the stark contradictions of humanity. Many are able to soar beyond magnificence even as some sink beneath contempt. So it was in Boston, and so it was in Washington.
After the bombs went off, we immediately witnessed on-site courage, compassion and super competence from those who displayed the loftiest ideals of their training and callings: medical providers, first responders, as well as ordinary citizens who instinctively showed us the best that we can offer.
A host of Boston’s citizens generously offered food and their homes to the marathon’s runners and fans who suddenly were left without shelter because their hotels in the immediate area were shut down, denying them access to their clothes and other basics, as well as credit cards and ID. Days later, they cooperated with the region-wide lockdown, motivated by civic pride.
In Washington though, the word we heard was “shame,” appropriate scorn for the members of the United States Senate who couldn’t ratchet up the scrap of courage it would take to vote for minimal gun control.
They cowered under the heavy-handed pressure of the National Rifle Association and others who do the dirty work of the deadly weapons industry. Forty-five of them were brow-beaten into ignoring the still-raw memory of the January mass shootings at Newtown, Conn.’s Sandy Hook Elementary. “Shame on you,” came the shouts from the Senate gallery. “A pretty shameful day for Washington” said a visibly angry President Barack Obama afterward. Shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords chimed in with a New York Times op-ed heaping scorn on “the cowardice these senators demonstrated.” She and the devastated families of the murdered innocents who worked up the energy to lobby were no match for those mercenaries thrive by manipulating the perverse love affair so many Americans have with their guns.

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April 22, 2013

CHARLIE BROWN AND BARACK OBAMA


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2013
CHARLIE BROWN AND BARACK OBAMA
BY BOB FRANKEN
You know the Peanuts comic strip; it’s appeared in some form for more than 60 years: Lucy puts down the football and promises that this time she’ll actually let Charlie Brown kick it. Each time, as he races to boot it, she pulls it away at the last second, and he crashes to the turf. Once again, the trusting soul is done in. Poor Charlie Brown.
Poor Barack Obama. Once again, he’s come out with a compromise budget proposal in the belief that the Republicans also are willing to compromise. And once again, they have pulled the political football away. In his opening proffer, the president already gives in deeply on entitlement cuts in the naive expectation that the other side will respond in kind and show flexibility allowing tax increases for wealthy individuals and powerful corporations. Instead, Republicans responded by digging in their heels.
After all, they made some piddly tax concessions earlier this year, so now Speaker John Boehner is saying “no way” because: “The president got his tax hikes in January. We don’t need to be raising taxes on the American people.” What he means is rich people, and what he's saying is that this time around he and his GOP buddies are digging in their heels. Actually, given how their single strategy from the get-go has been to block almost anything that Obama suggests, his continuing attempts at being reasonable means he is their willing sucker.
While compromise is a wonderful concept, in Washington it has been turned into CONpromise. Give-and-take demands are deceptions from those who are really saying “You give, we’ll take.” Even the highly publicized Senate deal on gun control, where those who favor broad restrictions surrendered a lot to those who are against them, ended up playing into the hands of the opponents. Despite heart-rending appeals from the families of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, all they could come up with was a bargain that provided for watered-down background checks. The polls show nine out of 10 Americans favor expanding them, But so what, the NRA is against. They’d already pretty much doomed prohibitions on assault weapons and defanged other items that lacked teeth. Giving all that up only attracted enough votes to get past an initial filibuster. Now the Senate will deal with amendments some of them odious , which almost certainly will turn what’s left into mush or even worse than where they began. Even if it does pass, it must go through the House of Representatives shredder. What’s left of new gun control will be nothing of the sort. The same thing is going on with immigration, where a so-called Dream Act will end up largely fulfilling the dreams of the moneyed interests.

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April 20, 2013

Well I'll be Switched

Due to ever shifting news, my first MSNBC hit this Saturday afternoon is now slated for 3:30 Eastern instead of 4:30. Same thoughts, different slots.

April 19, 2013

MSNBC Saturday

I'm on MSNBC tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 participating in the ongoing Boston terror coverage

April 18, 2013

News Bulletin Board

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2013
NEWS BULLETIN BORED
BY BOB FRANKEN
I recently was asked to join a discussion with news executives who were seeking alternatives to the weary old “Breaking News” alarm that TV news operations set off. You know the one. It has been used to hype developing stories of everything from wars to neighborhood block parties. One idea was to accompany the screen graphic with the sound of dishes shattering. But we finally reached a consensus: “Breaking News” would be replaced with “OMG-WTF!,” which means “OH MY GOODNESS-WHAT’S THIS FOOLISHNESS!” But you already knew that.
Just imagine: A tape is leaked to reporter David Corn at Mother Jones magazine, revealing Sen. Mitch McConnell and his campaign peeps planning a heavy-handed negative campaign against movie star and Democratic candidate wannabe Ashley Judd. This is surprising stuff. Who knew that politicians employed oppo research to find bombs to drop on the other side? It may not have been as startling as Corn’s campaign exclusive when he made public the video and audio of Mitt Romney’s “47 Percent” remarks, which arguably cost Romney the election, but this definitely is big stuff. Judd called the meeting “yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington,” never mind that she dropped out of the race before she got in. This is clearly OMG-WTF! material.
Actually, this might be a two-clanger. Sen. McConnell, who plays the victim as well as anyone in the game, told reporters, “They were bugging our headquarters -- quite a Nixonian move,” an attack from the “political left.” He requested an FBI investigation. So let’s see: Secret recordings made in today’s age of the smartphone? No question about it: OMG-WTF!
Of course, McConnell’s re-election chances are in greater jeopardy because of challenges from the right. An awful lot of Kentucky extremists (pardon the redundancy) are upset with him for having the effrontery to sometimes work deals with the Democrats. So he’s suddenly attaching himself to the hip of any hardliner he can find. He originally opposed Rand Paul in their state’s GOP primary. Now Mitch has expediently made Rand his BFF. His indignation over the “political left” is pure contrivance. So let’s scratch OMG-WTF! and replace it with SO-SO, as in “SAME OLD-SAME OLD.”

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April 15, 2013

The Sexist President

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2013
THE SEXIST PRESIDENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s be honest: For someone whose rhetoric can reach such heights, sometimes, when Barack Obama opens his mouth, he can really step in it. No, I’m not going to specify what “it” is, but he certainly will want to pull his foot out of his mouth real fast.
In case you missed it, POTUS was in a San Francisco suburb at a fundraising event when it came time to acknowledge California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough,” he began, but then Mr. President suddenly slipped into street-corner construction worker mode: “She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country.” What possessed him to say that? Was he the victim of another “Jedi mind meld,” this time with his vice president, the gaffe-a-minute Joe Biden?
Yes, he called to apologize and trotted out press secretary Jay Carney to say that “he fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged on appearance.” Wowee zowee, what amazing insight! Harris’ looks, of course, have nothing to do whatsoever with her performance. Nothing. This is not prudishness or political correctness gone wild. The sad truth is that appearance is given inordinate importance. Far too many glide into prominence or prosperity simply because they’re physically attractive. They end up way over their heads and cause real problems for everyone. Conversely, those who are attractive and accomplished often see their capabilities dismissed.
Even worse, way too many qualified people are held back because they don’t meet the narrow standard of sexiness that prevails at any particular point in time. They are deprived of a fair opportunity; we are deprived of their talents. So the president’s description of Attorney General Harris as “best looking” is irrelevant, demeaning and harmful. It was a dumb thing to say.
It’s even dumber than his announcement that he’ll forgo 5 percent of his salary “to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants.” It’s supposed to be a show of support for the federal workers who stand to lose 20 percent of their pay when they’re furloughed because of the sequester. He’s not the only one, of course: Cabinet secretaries and other Washington pooh-bahs are tripping over each other to voluntarily forfeit a bit of their salaries to show solidarity. Never mind that most of them are so independently wealthy they probably weren’t even aware they were compensated for their government work. In addition, their lofty positions come with so many perks that they will live high on the hog anyway. They won’t be struggling to make ends meet or have to take a second job.

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April 12, 2013

Saturday On MSNBC

I'll be on MSNBC tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) at 2-ish Eastern. Funny, I don't look 2-ish

April 11, 2013

MADAME PRESIDENT?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2013
MADAME PRESIDENT?
BY BOB FRANKEN
It may seem a bit ludicrous that members of Congress will be the ones to decide whether to fund President Barack Obama’s new initiative to map the brain. These, after all, are the people whose thought process is so often severely limited. Think gun control or immigration as examples of issues that are critically important but completely entrapped in a single-minded focus on politics. The primal survival instinct in the 2014 election preoccupies everyone’s synapses, but 2014 is just the preliminary event. The next presidential race is well underway. And it’s high time we state the obvious: We should declare 2016 the Year of the Woman. Talk about a no-brainier.
It’s as apparent as can be. Hillary Clinton is already out there teasing us with her noncandidacy. Her speech before an event honoring female leaders around the world was breathlessly reported. So was her Web statement in which she supported same-sex marriage. She has a transition office — transition to what is a fair question. A Ready for Hillary super PAC already has been formed.
She is the most prominent figure in the latest “first ever” competition, as in the first-ever woman to become U.S. president. But she is definitely not the only one. While she is far and away the leading Democrat, there are other intriguing possibilities in the party and some that are probably not possibilities. There are those of us who think that Michelle Obama is eminently qualified, although who ever heard of someone who had been first lady running for President? Jill Biden is no slouch either, and wouldn’t it be fun if she ran in the primaries against her husband, what’s-his-name?
The Republicans have a binderful, too. Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire is a freshman senator (freshwoman? freshperson?), but already a leading light. Condoleezza Rice gets quite a bit of mention, and appropriately so. Among governors, Nikki Haley of South Carolina comes to mind. She’s controversial and far to the right, but she is unquestionably smart. For those who don’t consider intellect a prerequisite, there are Michele Bachmann and, yes, Sarah Palin, who has her own PAC up and running. Think of Palin as one of those Shmoo figures. You know the ones; they get knocked down, and they pop right back. That’s Sarah Palin.

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April 10, 2013

Crack of Dawn on MSNBC

If you're up at 5:15 AM, Eastern, first of all I'm sorry. But join me as I try to be coherent on MSNBC

April 8, 2013

The Right Fielders Strike Out

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2013
THE RIGHT FIELDERS STRIKE OUT
BY BOB FRANKEN
I think it was a dream: There I was at the Nationals’ Opening Day as they started the season that naturally will end in a World Series victory. As we all know, that isn’t a dream. In the fantasy, though, since it was a home game, which of course means it was in Washington, the normal preliminary lineup and ground rules meeting at home plate had ended in gridlock. The problem was that one of the managers was Republican, and didn’t want to allow any Latinos to play.
Obviously, that will never happen because far too many of the best players in baseball are Hispanic, but it’s not hard to explain having a nightmare like that. Blame the GOP. No matter how hard the party tries to work on its anti-immigrant image, we constantly are reminded that its team is riddled with haters.
Veteran Don Young was just the latest in foul territory when he used the term “wetbacks” in an interview. The man has been in the big leagues, part of the GOP congressional team, since 1973. He should know better. The managers, who are working so hard to convince the voters that they’re really warm, fuzzy and broad-minded were horrified. House Speaker John Boehner called the remarks “beneath the dignity of the office he holds.” The question is, What dignity? Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before Young was groveling and releasing the pro forma hollow apology for his “poor choice of words.”

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April 4, 2013

Gay Wedding Dance

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2013
GAY WEDDING DANCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
The Supremes have a variety of options when it comes to marriage law. They can take seriously that “Equal Justice Under Law” greeting chiseled into the entrance of their magnificent building. In other words, they can declare any impediment to same-sex matrimony unconstitutional. Or a majority can decide that the law of the land tolerates intolerance. The other possibility is that they can wimp out and hide behind a procedural finding.
Speaking of wimping out, this is where I less-than-boldly point out that discerning the final outcome of a case or even what the justices are really thinking is pure speculation. But let’s speculate.
In both days of arguments, they seemed to be looking for a way out of making a sweeping decision either declaring laws against gay marriage constitutionally impermissible discrimination, a la the landmark civil-rights rulings, or somehow coming up with an unconscionable rationale that they are acceptable. The preference for a timid solution was evident time after time. Even the liberals were skittish. Sonia Sotomayor suggested “letting society have more time to figure out its direction.” It begs the question she and the others didn’t ask, which is why allowing one more day of bigotry could be legitimate public policy. Maybe they’ll have exactly that kind of discussion in closed conferences before they take their votes and unveil their handiwork, probably in June.
There is, however, a third approach that is not being considered. What about achieving equality by doing away with government-sanctioned marriage for everyone? That way, there is no discrimination. People can have nuptials if they want, but all of the benefits, legal and otherwise, that accrue to spouses would be eliminated. That’s fairer to single people anyway. In federal law, there are more than 1,100. The arguments for strictly heterosexual wedlock are obviously weak. Procreation? We certainly don’t need it for that. Stability for the kids? Antonin Scalia, who was relatively subdued during these hearings, spoke of the “considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a same-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.” Actually, an answer came from a fellow justice, Anthony Kennedy, Justice Swing Vote himself: “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”
No less prestigious an organization than the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so. It came out with a position statement that gay marriage, like the traditional coupling, will “promote optimal health and well-being of all children.” Besides, we have a divorce rate over 40 percent, and that doesn’t account for the abusive families that stay together. They certainly would qualify as “harmful.”.

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April 1, 2013

Nuking It Out

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2013
NUKEING IT OUT
BY BOB FRANKEN
It is time to exercise the “nuclear option” in the United States Senate. The term is classic Washington hyperbole. The bomb-blast bombast is used to portray a threat to do away with most filibusters, the ones that have bogged down almost every piece of consequential legislation by requiring 60 votes instead of just 51 out of 100. As it happens, there is a procedure in place where a mere majority can do away with this stalling. The Democrats have 55 seats, and it’s high time they nuke the filibuster.
There are some arguments for maintaining the various parliamentary tricks used to slow things down in what members pompously call “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” The problem is that Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the entire Obama agenda by blatantly abusing these traditional rules of debate.
The latest case in point concerns Caitlin Halligan, the president’s nominee to the bench of the very powerful Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Because of the nationally significant cases these judges decide, they are considered to be second in legal influence only to the Supremes. Actually, she no longer is the nominee. The White House pulled her name in the face of an unyielding procedural blockade by GOP senators. They were able to make it impossible for her to get the simple majority she needed for concurrence by a Senate exercising its constitutional advice and consent power.
In spite of the strong endorsements she got from her professional peers, conservatives decided Halligan had committed an unpardonable sin: She had crossed the all-powerful National Rifle Association. As New York state solicitor general, she had advocated a law that would hold arms manufacturers responsible for crimes committed with guns they produced. No way, said the NRA, and that was that.

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March 29, 2013

Saturday on the Brain Panel

Once again tomorrow afternoon, I'll be on with other members of the Saturday brainiac panel on MSNBC at 4:30, Eastern. Let the trash talking begin!

March 28, 2013

Fight on the Right

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013
FIGHT ON THE RIGHT
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s being asked a lot today, and it’s jarring: Has the GOP become entirely unmanageable, ripping itself apart as its various factions march to their different drummers? What makes the question so weird is that until recently, the Republicans’ big advantage was the party’s ability to move in lock step. It was the Democrats who were compared to a herd of cats, a screeching collection of centrists and unyielding lefties.
It’s not that the Dems have gotten any better at that; just ask President Barack Obama. At the same time, you can now ask GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner about cat herding. When he’s trying to negotiate anything, the White House is the least of his problems. It’s when he gets back to the Capitol that he runs into a buzz saw as he faces the tea partiers and other zealots.
The D’s are used to this, but the R’s are not. These days, the establishment moderates and the upstart moderates are clawing at each other. We witnessed a display of the bruising intramural collision at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Right afterward, the hard feelings really raised their ugly heads even more when that specially commissioned Republican panel came up with its recommendations for rescuing the party from political oblivion. After all, it did blow the presidential election, and a big reason Republicans lost is because blacks, Hispanics, women and gays voted against them and their harsh policies.
Out of the handwringing that followed came the obvious judgment that the party was increasingly obsolete in changing times, antagonistic to the very groups that were growing in size, influence and public support. So the leaders starting talking about a need to rebrand. Of course, there’s one teensy-weensy problem: The harsh perception is reality. As party chairman Reince Priebus put it, “We weren’t inclusive.” It’s painfully apparent, though, that the hardliners have absolutely no desire to be inclusive nor to soften when it comes to immigration, gay rights or any of the other stances no matter how they alienate powerful constituencies. Jenny Beth Martin, who heads the Tea Party Patriots, insisted that the real mistake was that the party “failed to promote our principles and lost because of it"

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March 27, 2013

Dawn at MSNBC

Still another Thursday morning on MSNBC. I'll be on at the ungodly hour of 5:15, Eastern and maybe even coherent

March 25, 2013

CPAC and Gays

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 2013
CPAC AND GAYS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Ah, CPAC: So little space, so much nastiness to write about after the Conservative Political Action Conference annual gathering near Washington. Let’s focus on Marco Rubio, who is one of the hard right’s flavors of the month.
In his speech, he tried to justify gay-bashing. “Just because,” he said, “I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.” First of all, hiding behind states’ rights was the same subterfuge segregationists used to justify their bigotry, which the dictionary defines as “stubborn and complete intolerance.” One could say that denying a group of Americans the same legal rights as others fits the intolerance bill. That would include gays, Sen. Rubio.
This is such a personal matter. Just ask another GOP senator, Ohio’s Rob Portman, who has just announced he’s abandoned his opposition after his son told him he was gay. That didn’t sway his fellow Ohioan, House Speaker John Boehner, at all. Boehner told ABC that even if one of his children came out, he wouldn’t change his mind: “It’s what I believe; it’s what my church teaches me.”
Remember the Loving ruling? What more appropriate name could there be for a Supreme Court decision about the matrimonial rights of a mixed-race couple? It was actually Loving V. Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving’s challenge against state prohibitions. In 1967, in a landmark case, the Supremes unanimously ruled, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” Substitute “same sex,” and that’s all that should be needed. Did I mention it was unanimous?
The justices rejected the assertions that allowing blacks and whites to wed would undermine family tradition and violate religious doctrine. That last one is the exact same rationale we get today from Speaker Boehner.
Forty-six years after Loving, as the high court gets ready to hear arguments in two same-sex-marriage cases, the discussion is, in fact, eerily similar, with the added point that only male-female couples can procreate. I don’t know how to break this to you, folks, but you don’t need marriage for that. Besides, one would hope our thinking would have risen above such primal considerations, that we were beyond the amoeba stage. Apparently not.

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March 21, 2013

Sweet Talk Sour Result

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2013
SWEET TALK, SOUR RESULT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Some routines get a laugh no matter how old they are. For me, that includes the social occasion that turns into an unmitigated disaster of angry arguments and hard feelings. Standing in the debris, one of the organizers says to the other, “Well, that went well.” So it is with President Barack Obama’s outreach to the Republicans.
“Outreach” is Washington’s term du jour. So there was Obama, getting together -- behind closed doors, of course -- with his House Republican antagonists. He had an intimate dinner with some GOP senators and then lunch with House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. After that, an appearance before the entire House Republican gang.
Apparently, there was no flying food, but the next day, Speaker John Boehner fired off a Washington Post op-ed saying that the president has failed to move “beyond the same proposals and Democratic dogma.” Of course, it probably didn’t help that beforehand on ABC, Mr. Obama admitted that, when it comes to a real deal, “the differences are just too wide.”
Meanwhile Ryan responded by releasing a new plan that is nothing but a poke in POTUS’ eye. It would do away with Obamacare, for starters. Actually, that qualifies as a nonstarter. It also says about all that needs to be said about the president’s stab at private charm.
As we all know, the guy treasures secrecy. One gets the impression he envies the cardinals in Rome, who were able to clear the conclave room with one “extra omnes,” which in Latin means “everybody out!” Thus far, Washington’s quest to come up with a deficit reduction has produced nothing but blown smoke. While the cardinals could announce “Habemus Papa” in Vatican City, it is strictly “Non Habemus Budgetum” in the District of Columbia. Or in Pig Latin “Ixnay Udgetbay.”

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March 18, 2013

Of the House and Home

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 2013
OF THE HOUSE AND HOME
BY BOB FRANKEN
Have you been following the uproar over the new Yahoo CEO’s policy on telecommuting? To put it in its simplest terms, Marissa Mayer is banning it in most cases. As the immortal Bart Simpson would say, a lot of people are having a cow.
It’s easy to understand why, since working from home is such a help in balancing the overwhelming demands of professional and personal lives. Ms. Mayer’s theory is that the advantage of everyone going to the office is the productive face-to-face contact. Of course, the big disadvantage of everyone going to the office is the time-wasting face-to-face contact.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the members of Congress simply stayed at home and spent little time in the Capitol? Oh wait, that’s what they do now. They pop in for a couple of days a week to name a few post office buildings. The Republicans also will contrive a vote against anything President Barack Obama wants before they head out. Paradoxically, about the only time they show up is during their many extended holiday breaks. That’s so they can take taxpayer-funded trips to the world’s exotic destinations. They prefer to call their days off “District Work Periods,” but that’s only accurate if their district is in Paris or on some beautiful beach in Thailand.
Washington is a big telecommuting town. When you think about it, the president mostly works from home. Right now, he’s making a big push to stifle the impression that the budget sequestration is not that big a deal. If this were the old Johnny Carson show, we’d have his straight man asking “How bad is it?” Each day, some cabinet member pops up with an answer.

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March 15, 2013

MS BRAINIACS

It's an MSNBC Saturday for me, on a new 4:30 PM Eastern time segment called "The Biggest Brain". Others will appear with me. Obviously

March 14, 2013

DRONING ON ABOUT DRONES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013
DRONING ON ABOUT DRONES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Thanks a lot, Rand Paul. Now that your filibuster went from frivolous publicity stunt to raising the serious question about deadly use of drones against Americans in America, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out the National Rifle Association will get one of its toady congressmen to sponsor legislation that would allow all of us to carry Stinger missiles. Instead of just packing heat, we could be packing heat seekers.
Think of this as your “50 Monkeys at a Typewriter” moment, Senator. Suddenly, a lot of people who usually consider your politics to be at home on derange are congratulating you for sounding the alarm about lethal attacks on the homeland when national-security officials gone wild decide someone needs to be taken out. And it wasn’t even Dick Cheney who forced the issue.
Instead, it was that relatively mild-mannered Attorney General Eric Holder. By hemming and hawing about whether a president theoretically could order such an attack under extreme conditions, he gave Sen. Paul the chance to do his Mr. Smith imitation, which, of course, we in media covered like a blanket. The guy probably would still be talking had he not had to go potty (sorry if the rough language offends anyone). Apparently, he’s never heard of Depends.

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March 13, 2013

MSNBC?

Assuming I'm not blown away by Pope coverage I'll be doing my regular early Thursday bit at about 5:15 AM Eastern

March 11, 2013

Courting an Audience

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2013
COURTING AN AUDIENCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Allow me to paraphrase an old joke: A prominent psychiatrist suddenly dies at a young age. When he arrives at the Pearly Gates, he is outraged, sputtering to St. Peter: “Why, why, why did you take me before my time!?”
“We’ve been having this problem with God,” St. Peter explains. “He thinks he’s a Supreme Court justice.”
Sad to say, from what glimmers we get of the Supremes, that doesn’t seem far-fetched. They spend a lot of time convincing each other that they are above accountability. How else to explain the way they dig in against televising their proceedings. It boils down to this: Americans simply are not qualified to watch them doing their public business.
Think that’s exaggerated? Then let’s ponder the words of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who recently told Charlie Rose she has gone from supporting video coverage to opposing it because the people don’t “understand what the process is.” Justice Elena Kagan is similarly discovering the joys of insularity. At her confirmation hearing in 2010, she was all for letting it hang out in TV land, declaring that “would be a great thing for the institution, and more important, I think it would be a great thing for the American people.” Two years later at a University of Michigan appearance, she was backpedaling with “I have a few worries, including that people might play to the camera. Sometimes you see that when you watch congressional hearings.”
Apparently, her Senate confirmation hearing left a profound impression. Either that or she has come under the influence of the high court’s great backward thinker, Antonin Scalia. He has an amazing sway over his colleagues. Where President Barack Obama misspoke about a “Jedi mind meld” with Congress, Scalia sometimes seems to capture his fellow justices with his Luddite mind meld.

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March 7, 2013

The Festering Sequestering

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2013
THE FESTERING SEQUESTERING
BY BOB FRANKEN
It really happened. This time, the D.C. drama kings and queens couldn’t or wouldn’t come up with a reprieve. With all the hype over the indiscriminate budget cuts, I had been imagining a giant wave of disgust, with March 1 headlines from around the world screaming “Sequestration Happens! Pope Quits!”
Like everyone else, I’ve been wondering what the real story is about Benedict XVI’s resignation. After all, the Vatican has even more backstabbing intrigue than Washington. Here, we’re dealing with relatively mundane across-the-board cuts in the federal government, split evenly between defense and domestic programs. Actually, they’re only sort of across-the-board, because entire expenditures were left untouched, like troop support and Social Security. There’s a whole raft of exceptions that are considered by someone to be too vital.
Still, this is a sledgehammer approach. To avert a previous fiscal crisis, back in June 2011, the White House suggested and congressional Republicans quickly approved this little face-saving gem. It was supposed to be so drastic and foolish that the partisan combatants would have no choice but to come to their senses by the deadline and seriously address the nation’s spiraling debt. But that placed far too much confidence in the fundamental sanity of the zealots who feel they have a mandate to blast the government to smithereens. It was inevitable, and this time, the bounce from one temporary fix to another slammed into reality, even as everyone prepares for another fight to the death. Their next confrontation in a few weeks could shut down most of the bureaucracy. Call it the Roseanne Roseannadanna Effect.
Those of us past puberty remember Roseanne Roseannadanna. She was the ditzy news analyst on “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update,” brilliantly played by the late Gilda Radner, who would wrap up her commentary with, “It’s always something.” It was parody. Sad to say, these days the clumsy parody is what we’re witnessing in the nation’s capital.

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March 6, 2013

Early Early MSNBC

It's Thursday on MSNBC so we all can get up as I go on at 5:15 AM, Eastern. We'll all be there. Right?

March 4, 2013

WASHINGTON R-WORD REVISITED

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 26, 2013
WASHINGTON ‘R’ WORD REVISITED
BY BOB FRANKEN
There are two reasons I am writing once again about the hateful name of the Washington NFL team. First of all, I am sick and tired of sequestration. There is nothing left except to regurgitate more horror stories about exactly how it’s going to gut our government and take the rest of us down. Besides, if we don’t know by now what Bozos our political leaders are, we never will.
So it’s back to the clowns in football and Washington R-words. There, too, I thought all that could be said had been said, but that reckoned without the team’s general manager, Bruce Allen. He managed to bring the rationalizations to new depths when he was asked to react to calls to come up with a replacement, something not so deeply offensive to Native Americans. His response can be charitably described as dismissive, or less charitably as stupid: “It’s ludicrous to think that in any way we’re trying to upset anybody.”
What’s “ludicrous” is how that comment is so similar to the language of bigots who would cavalierly use the “N-word,” but insisted they weren’t trying to offend or harbored any prejudice, as in “Why, some of my best friends are n----.”

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March 1, 2013

MSNBC On Sunday

Since I've gotten no threats from the White House, real or imagined, I will just go ahead with an MSNBC appearance about 4:30 Eastern Sunday afternoon

February 28, 2013

Subpar Media Relations

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 22, 2013
SUBPAR MEDIA RELATIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s a story that may seem to be a concern only to those who are inside the inside of the Beltway: White House press corps members gripe that they were kept way far away and given no chance for any shots or video of President Barack Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods during his Florida weekend. Nothing whatsoever, no photo op, nada. The main public reaction is “Who cares?”
Actually, there’s reason to care. It’s easy to understand why Mr. President wouldn’t want to be seen chumming around with a man who has such a sordid past. So, while he was all too glad to let us record him with House Speaker John Boehner on the links, Woods might complicate the image control.
And “control” is the operative word. In a fine piece in Politico, my friends Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen write, “President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”
The tactics include keeping the knowledgeable beat reporters at bay and instead granting interviews with more pliant ones -- local TV anchors, for instance, who are more likely to ask puffball questions. That is accompanied by intimidation of the regulars and their management if they have the audacity to do a report that displeases the administration. The browbeating can take many forms, such as freezing out those who don’t play ball.
Frankly, it’s too bad that it’s taken this long for the correspondents to be so up in arms. There are many more-consequential issues where the Obama White House simply slams the door on information. And it’s not only journalists who are shut out. Look at the struggle Congress has had getting details on drone warfare and the legal rationale of targeting American citizens. Look at how litigation has been thwarted when national-security officials hide questionable actions in “State Secrets” bunkers. It’s a long list, and it leaves an impression that this chief executive sometimes sees himself as above accountability.

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February 27, 2013

MSNBC WAKEUP CALL

You're wondering what do do tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 5:15. Wonder no more. You can watch me on MSNBC.

February 25, 2013

Cruz Uncontrol

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 19, 2013
CRUZ ON THE POTOMAC
BY BOB FRANKEN
How sad can one political party be? Things have gotten so bad for the Republicans that Karl Rove is presenting himself as a protector of reason. His latest creation is an organization that is supposed to weed out the looney-tunes candidates who can’t control the utterly ridiculous things they say. The Democrats, who would otherwise be doomed, survive the race because their opponents are such wild-eyed fanatics.
The rationale is that these extremists can’t get elected; but the real problem is that they can and do. Then they come to Washington and live up to their batty promises -- actually, down is probably more accurate. Meanwhile, those of us in media, always desperate for a new flavor of the month, pay far more attention to their careless ranting than we should.
That would pretty much describe what’s happened with Ted Cruz, the newly elected senator from the great state of Texas (although, as we know, there is widespread sentiment deep in the heart of Texas to secede and NOT be a state anymore). Cruz is a Nation’s Capitol newbie, but he has lit up the D.C. sky like that Russian meteorite, making lots of noise and causing an awful lot of damage. If the GOP leaders are really serious about shedding the party’s hateful image, they need to need to rein in those like him who speak for the haters.
He is just one of the hard-liners who carelessly run roughshod over fairness. Granted that polite Washington, after decades of mannerly deal-brokering, has managed to drag the country into a huge mess, it certainly can’t be undone by ugly politics.
Cruz makes a big deal about his Princeton and Harvard education. Certainly, one of his Ivy League professors taught him about McCarthyism. Sen. Joe McCarthy, as even us dullards know, blazed into national renown with his red-baiting. He quickly flamed out, but not before he had ruined many lives and reputations with his smears and innuendos.

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February 22, 2013

MSNBC AND ME--4:30-ISH SUNDAY

Once again I am part of an MSNBC "Brain Trust" panel, scheduled about 4:30, Eastern Sunday afternoon. Think of it as pre-red carpet (Who will I be wearing?)

February 21, 2013

King Features Column

(This is a week old, as usual, delayed to keep the syndicator and paying client newspapers happy)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 15, 2013
THE ‘SMARTER GOVERNMENT’ NO-BRAINER
BY BOB FRANKEN
If there was ever proof that what President Barack Obama said was self-evident, all one had to do is look around the House floor during his State of the Union address when he declared that we need a “smarter government.” The speech came just a couple of weeks before we face a huge hit to our economy, a self-inflicted one. Everybody agrees that the sequester must be avoided; nobody has much hope of that happening before the March 1 deadline.
Instead of working away at avoiding that demolition, the different sides are sticking it to each other. On SOU day and the chief executive’s annual assurance that the “State of the Union is strong” (which is less and less true), his leading adversary, which is what John Boehner seems to be, derided Obama in starkly personal terms, telling reporters: “I don’t think he has the guts to do it. He doesn’t have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party — never has.” That is hardly grown-up language and certainly striking considering that the same speaker who was growling insults spends so much of his time groveling before the extremists in his caucus.
The GOP is so fractured that it requires two members to respond to the president. First Florida Sen. Marco Rubio assured us that he and the Republicans don’t “want to protect the rich.” He was visibly nervous and needed a swig of water. Was he worried we’d have trouble swallowing that?
His tea-party counterpart, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, attacked the president for offering “free stuff,” perhaps channeling Mitt Romney. Paul is one of the zealots who mostly want to dismantle the government. He argues that what we have now is unconstitutional. He might want to read the words of one of the Constitution’s authors, James Madison, who wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The other part of his equation was: "If angels were to govern man, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
There is a real shortage of angels right now, so we need to police the worst instincts of the greedy. On the other hand, the federal agencies all too often make a real mess out of nearly everything; ineffective mortgage-relief programs, for example, or the contemptible paralysis in the process of veterans and their families getting their rightful benefits.

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February 20, 2013

I'M DAWNING ON MSNBC

It's Thursday again. Tomorrow morning at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC, I'll be trying to be coherent. You'll be up to watch of course.

February 18, 2013

King Features Column

(As usual, let's note this column is a week old, delayed per the syndication deal to allow the paying newspaper clients to get first crack at it.)
FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 12, 2013
THE R-WORD
BY BOB FRANKEN
How can it be that among those of good will who normally avoid racial and ethnic slurs, there is such strong opposition to the NFL Washington Redskins changing their name? This would be people who wouldn’t even consider using the poisonous epithet for blacks, preferring instead to say “N-word” if the subject comes up at all. And yet so many of them, the avid football fans, resist any thought of getting rid of the R-word.
It’s plainly and simply an expression of bigotry, rooted in America’s sorry history of oppressing our original inhabitants. And yet it persists, a divisive term attached to one of the few entities that unites D.C. as crazed fans of all colors and political persuasions go bonkers for the home team.
That probably would not include the Native Americans here whose pleas for a change are drowned out. The only reason the subject came up again is that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian held a symposium on this festering issue. There also is legal action to force a name change that has been rattling around in various courts for nearly two decades.
By the way, no one from the team showed up for the event, which is hardly a surprise since the owner, like all the NFL chiefs (yes that was intentional), is too consumed with making money to reconsider a trademark that is so lucrative, no matter how offensive. Besides they’re too busy now that they have suddenly discovered that the highly marketable violence of their game is so dangerous that they face expensive legal jeopardy.
While they aren’t acting on the controversy over the odious name, other sports entities are. In 2005, the NCAA, which oversees the business of college athletics, banned the use of most Indian imagery and nicknames in the postseason.
Even at the secondary level there has been some sensitivity. The latest example comes from Cooperstown, N.Y., where the local high school has ditched the R-word and is considering “Deerslayers” or other names that would honor James Fenimore Cooper, who was from Cooperstown. Considering that the town is also home to another sport’s Hall of Fame, maybe the football team could call itself the “Baseballs.” It might be a tad confusing, but at least it wouldn’t be racist.

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February 14, 2013

King Features Column

(The usual drivel which points out this column is a week late here at the behest of the syndicators who want to give client (paying) newspapers the first crack at it)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 8, 2013
THE PREHISTORIC BOY SCOUTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Without a doubt, we are all avid readers of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine. So we’re all abuzz, I’m sure, about the newly published study that claims Neanderthals died off earlier than previously thought, which could mean they never shared our planet with full-fledged humans. Bet that knocked your socks off.
The only problem is that it’s wrong: Neanderthals are still among us. How else can we describe the two Ricks, Santorum and Perry. Once again, they’re speaking out for those whose brains are still evolving from antediluvian stage. This time, they’ve left the primordial ooze to weigh in on the Boy Scouts of America.

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February 13, 2013

Wee Small Hours of MSNBC

Tomorrow's Thursday people. And what does that mean? That I'll be on MSNBC at about 5:15 AM, Eastern. So rise and shine everyone! Yeah right...

February 11, 2013

King Features Column

(This column is delayed here because the syndication deal requires a week's wait after its newspaper release)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 5, 2013
THE BOWL GAMES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that we’ve gotten past the Super Bowl in New Orleans’ Superdome, it’s time to turn our attention to those in Washington playing under the Capitol Dome in the Stupid Bowl.
What else should we call the game-playing that’s going on as the partisan gladiators hurtle from one crisis to another? Next up, as we know, is the sequester, which goes into full, destructive effect in less than a month. To sidestep it, somebody will need to fake us out and come up with A way to avoid still another big loss — not just for the economy, but for the credibility of our government.
This crisis is particularly disgusting because it was self-inflicted by our elected leaders. In August 2011, to avoid a United States default, they concocted legislation that would impose nearly across-the-board cuts so appalling to both sides that Republicans and Democrats would be forced to set aside their partisan vitriol and cobble together a budget deal that would avoid this sledgehammer fiasco. They imposed a Jan. 1 deadline this year, thinking it would be plenty of time.
It’s hard to believe we could underestimate these guys, but we did. Jan. 1 came and went, and all the anxious-to-leave members of the outgoing Congress could do is pass a short extension, making midnight February 28 the new zero hour.
That’s less than a month from now, and we still have no agreement, other than people on both sides concurring that a sequestration would be a disaster. Sad to say, they also are ruefully acknowledging that it’s probably going to happen.
If they’re right, then on March 1 the Pentagon and most domestic agencies will begin to gut vital programs, crippling not just federal endeavors that are a integral part of our lives, but also doing very real damage as we struggle to avoid a return to recession. The fiscal situation is very fragile right now.

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February 7, 2013

King Features Column

(Per normal, this column is delayed here a week because the syndicator requires that client newspapers get first crack at it)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 1, 2013
WARMHEARTED VS MEAN-SPIRITED
BY BOB FRANKEN
If there is any issue that puts on display the best and worst of our country, it is immigration. After all, a glory of the United States of America is our “Give me your tired, your poor” tradition. Unfortunately these days, too many of us add “as long as they are whites from Europe.” Much of the debate over who gets in legally or sneaks in is colored (and I use the word on purpose) by the kinds of stereotypes that are clearly racist.
Let us not get carried away about those Republicans who are now latching on to a less-malicious approach, an arduous path to citizenship for responsible undocumenteds who have built families and a hidden life in the U.S. Still, it’s a departure for a party whose candidates in the 2012 election competed to be the most hateful.
They got clobbered, and a big reason was that Hispanics turned out in droves to vote against them. So now the image-makers suddenly are trying to engineer a more inclusive facade.
In fairness, Sen. John McCain is something of an exception. He is a longtime voice for finding a sensible remedy and unshackling us from the intolerance that has so bogged down the search for a solution. Now he and other GOP senators have joined Democratic counterparts in proposing an outline that ultimately would give some of the estimated 11 million illegals and their loved ones living here a chance to come out of the shadows. McCain was blunt about the motivation: “The Republican party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens.”

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February 6, 2013

Way Early on MSNBC

I begin a weekly Thursday morning gig on MSNBC's "First Look" with Mara Schiavocompo tomorrow during the 5:00 AM, Eastern hour. You'll be up to watch of course.

February 4, 2013

King Features Column

(As always, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 29, 2013
THE WARM AND FUZZY BARACK AND HILLARY INTERVIEW
BY BOB FRANKEN
Will somebody please tell me what that Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama joint interview -- no, make that love-fest -- on “60 Minutes” was about? The two of them were almost giggling as they talked about their relationship with a somewhat-incredulous Steve Kroft. The best he could get for an explanation was Obama’s “I just wanted to publicly have a chance to say thank you.” If you believe that was all this was about, I would like to sell you a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
That, of course, is in the White House, which, according to widespread speculation, is where Hillary would like to take up residence in four years, this time as chief executive, as opposed to “wife of.”
Speaking of Bill Clinton, one couldn’t help but remember that Hillary has done a joint “60 Minutes” interview with Kroft before. It was back in 1992, when she was sitting by her man Bill as he campaigned for the presidency and we were getting our first insights into his carnal exploits. He ultimately became POTUS for eight years, and she was FLOTUS for that wild ride.
We’ve come a long way, and so has she. Now she’s leaving her gig as Obama’s first secretary of state, and Mr. Obama has said he wanted this interview as a wet kiss for the same woman with whom he brawled during the 2008 primaries, each slugging it out for the nomination he finally won.
Maybe they truly did want to show off what soon-to-be-former Secretary Clinton called a display of how, in the United States, political rivals, even intense ones, can move on and work together, “because we both love our country.”

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February 3, 2013

MSNBC Pregame show

A reminder I'll be on MSNBC this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 Eastern taking a break from all the Super Bowl festivities in the Superdome to discuss what's going on under the Capitol dome in the Stupid Bowl.

February 1, 2013

Another Sunday Afternoon on MSNBC

I'll be on MSNBC Sunday at 4:30 PM, Eastern, again a part of the "Brain Trust" panel. Or did they say "Brain CRUST"?

January 31, 2013

King Features Column

(The usual stuff: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 25, 2013
CRISIS MISMANAGEMENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Washington seems to be on a path to staving off a United States of America financial default until May 18, now that the GOP semicontrolled House has passed, and the White House has signed off on, legislation that doesn’t really increase the debt ceiling but delays enforcement of it till that date.
Don’t ask. All that’s important is that this crisis is now on the back burner for almost four months, which in politician years is, uh, almost four months. Paraphrasing Vice President Joe Biden, “This is a small blankin’ deal.” But hey, it’s a deal, which is a big departure in the nation’s capital these days.
To quote Laotzu (how’s that for classy?), “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and that sixth-century Taoist wasn’t just lip-synching Dixie. Even little tippy-toes forward in D.C. represent progress. Of course, the problem is that there are plenty of opportunities for these squabblers to fall flat on their whatever, and bring us all down with them.
This short extension really means the Republicans are buying some time so they can better position themselves for the budget fights ahead. They were getting hammered in the public-perception arena for appearing to dig in on their demands for huge cutbacks. Had they not backed off, they could have forced the nation into disgrace, a brutally embarrassing inability to pay her bills. Now they have cooled their jets, they can more comfortably try to impose their government-busting will in negotiations over averting a partial federal shutdown, which could happen March 27. Even before that, on the 1st, the delayed “sequestration,” the indiscriminate across-the-board butchering of both domestic and defense programs, is supposed to kick in. So the slashers have plenty of leverage in their demands to gut programs that help the old and needy. Otherwise, all agencies get clobbered, threatening not just the military, but essential civilian functions from air-traffic control to federal law enforcement and medical research.
Apparently, defaulting on obligations to bondholders is perceived as worse than defaulting on obligations to everyone else, so while it would appear that this was a retreat by Speaker John Boehner, it actually was pretty clever. He was able to hold at bay his tea party wild bunch and even got to weakly flex his party’s muscles a little bit with that ridiculous requirement in the legislation that the Senate pass a real budget for the first time since 2009 or the members won’t get paid. How hard-hitting was that?
The Democrats went along, muttering, “Yeah, sure, whatever,” particularly since they don’t call the U.S. Senate the “millionaires club” for nothing. Even those in the club who are not wealthy don’t have to sweat it. With all the special interests slithering around, no one in Congress has to worry about starving. That kind of concern is for constituents.
The reason they haven’t produced a budget, by the way, is because doing so would mean hard choices that could cause some of their lobbyist buddies to go berserk if they cut the fat. That’s what these times of austerity require, that plus raising taxes on someone. The best way they found to avoid offending anyone has been to just sidestep their responsibility. Now the Democrats have said they’ll actually hammer out something. Don’t hold your breath on that.

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January 28, 2013

King Features Column

(The usual disclaimer: this appears here a week after it was released to client newspapers because that's my deal with the the syndicator)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 22, 2013
BACK TO REALITY
BY BOB FRANKEN
“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together.” Barack Obama used his inaugural address as a rallying cry. The problem is, we certainly are not together as he begins his second term.
So much has changed since the nation celebrated its first black president. What a difference four years of malevolence has made. We have deteriorated from an “Audacity of Hope” to a paucity. Our country has been worn down by nasty opportunists who have turned Mr. Obama’s unique story into a “not one of us” divisiveness.
Their impressionable followers have been manipulated to the point that many of them go to absurd lengths to question the validity of his presidency. For instance, a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll shows 36 percent of the respondents still question whether he is “hiding information about his background and personal life,” 64 percent of the Republicans. It doesn’t matter how many times the “birthers” are repudiated, die-hard nonbelievers cling to their nonbelief that Mr. Obama is a natural-born American, even eligible to be chief executive.
That doesn’t even count those who apparently no longer want to be Americans. They are so infuriated that this interloper got re-elected, they want to secede from the United States. They fantasize about some nirvana where they can keep their arsenals and be free from responsibility for those in need. It doesn’t matter that they too benefit from the social programs they want to eliminate, their new country wouldn’t tax their minds with such trivia; in fact, it wouldn’t tax anything.
It’s a little wacky out there in the U.S. of A. circa 2013. Actually, it’s loony in here, by which I mean Washington, where extreme is mainstream. Consider Sen. Rand Paul characterizing the Obama executive orders addressing guns as a power grab. “I’m against having a king” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network News, “I think having a monarch is what we fought the American Revolution over, and someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress, that’s someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch.”
That might be considered a little loopy were it not for the fact that such incendiary misrepresentation of government is commonplace in these toxic times. The various calls for impeachment over the executive orders don’t even get much notice, except maybe back in the districts of the various representatives who casually throw around the idea. After all, they were sent to Washington by voters who are scared to death that Barack Hussein Obama wants to replace the Constitution with Shariah law or is conjuring some other sinister plot. That really wouldn’t bother them, if only they could secede. Absent that, they will simply have to wallow in their fearsome fantasies.

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January 25, 2013

Saturday on MSNBC

I'm on MSNBC tomorrow afternoon (Saturday), part of the "Brain Trust" (don't ask me what I'm doing there). 4:30-ish,. Eastern.

King Features Column

(This, as usual, is a week old to accommodate the newspaper syndicator)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 18, 2013
BULLETPROOF GUNS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Reality is really hard to swallow. We are conditioned to demand and expect fixes to any given problem. The harsh truth is that, oftentimes, there aren’t any. Gun violence in this country is just the latest example of an issue that is literally life and death and doesn’t really have an effective fix -- not a doable one, in any case.
The only truly sufficient remedy -- getting rid of all the civilian weapons in the United States -- of course is not going to happen in a nation that has 270 million of them.
There is plenty of talk these days about the effect movie and video-game violence has, particularly from organizations like the National Rifle Association and other groups that represent the interest of the corporate armament profiteers. There is conflicting research about the impact of that vicarious mayhem, but the problem is more ingrained. For generations, cowboy movies have been a part of our culture. Hollywood has made the deadly shootout routine with zero attention paid to the consequences. No wonder we so embrace our pistols and rifles; we are all trying to be the Lone Ranger. That isn’t going to change, and few politicians have the courage to take on such primal feelings.
An assault-weapons curtailment, as the president proposes? Won’t happen. Never mind that they serve no purpose except for lethal slaughter, they provide a pathetic feeling of power to those who own them.
Some of the toughest actions have difficulties of their own. The New York state legislation that calls for mental-health professionals to aggressively report to the authorities clients who are expressing dangerous thoughts is one of them. Obviously, it is desirable to keep guns out of the hands of a psychopath, but what about the person who is going through a rough patch and harboring dark feelings while he or she struggles through it? What does his or her therapist do if this person vents about these fleeting violent fantasies? Should the professional turn him or her in? What does that do to the premise of confidentiality, which establishes trust and allows troubled one to work through these issues?

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January 21, 2013

King Features Column

(Obviously this is a week old because of the deal with the newspaper syndicate. It's dated, but still a reminder not to get too carried away with today's festivities)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 15, 2013
MEATING OF THE ALLEGED MINDS
BY BOB FRANKEN
We all know the cliché comparing lawmaking and sausage-making. It has become a hackneyed way to rationalize the messy process of politics. Sad to say, it falls far short of describing the rancid waste we get from the Washington grinder these days. For that, we can thank all those who cook up one unnecessary crisis after another, leaving nothing but foul choices. Simply put, they either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care how poisonous their conduct is.
Case in point: We are looking over another abyss while our lawmakers do everything to jump off and take us with them. Once again, the imperative to increase the nation’s borrowing authority has slammed into demands for massive budget cutbacks. Both sides make arguments that would seem to be no-brainers: President Barack Obama makes the obvious point that the United States of America cannot be allowed to go into financial default, nor be held hostage by GOP hardliners. “They will not,” he insists, “collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy.”
But what about Republicans and their argument that federal overspending must be reversed? That certainly is not without merit.
Surely there is a recipe for compromise. Somehow, our leaders can figure out an agreement that avoids the national embarrassment of default while finally forcing the government to stop spending like a drunken sailor. Why does this always have to be a battle over whether to shred the social safety net? Why not take a hard look at the redundancies in our bureaucracy or whether we need all those agencies. Why not truly restructure our ridiculous tax system with all its loopholes?
What we get instead is a bitter menu of confrontation. Actually, there are two of them. The GOP offers only red meat, gutted social programs and ultimatums. That’s no worse than what some of the president’s allies are cooking up: They are proposing, in effect, nothing. Instead of taking on determined opponents, they operate on a pretense that he and they don’t have to deal with the other side. That great statesman Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, recommends the president act “without Congressional approval, if necessary.”
How cute. He and his buds are obviously trying to masquerade as hardball negotiators, so they speak of one-sided action by the chief executive. They cite the 14th Amendment’s stipulation that “The validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned.” Of course, they ignore Article 1 of that very same Constitution, which endows Congress with the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.” The president can attempt a veto, but a unilateral move by the White House would, at the very least, cause such a legal and political tangle that the nation would immediately explode into a crisis of embarrassment. So of course he’ll bargain, somehow.

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January 18, 2013

Sunday on MSNBC again

Before we get to football, I'll be kicking things around as part of another "Genius Panel" (I'll pause for jokes here) on MSNBC about 4:30, Eastern, Sunday afternoon.

January 17, 2013

King Features Column

(As always this column appears here a week after its newspaper release per my deal with the syndicator)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 11, 2013
THE PAYBACK PLAYBOOK
BY BOB FRANKEN
Mind reading is impossible, but you can bet we are not getting the complete story in the public part of the controversy over the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. A look beneath the surface leaves strong evidence of some private agendas, the distinct impression there might be payback involved.
That never comes up, of course, as the White House and critics argue over Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran, but let’s add to the mix any hard feelings that might exist over the role Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played in the recent election. He all but endorsed Mitt Romney and took a lot of shots at Barack Obama. Now President Obama has nominated a man who is causing an uproar, particularly among Bibi’s most ardent American champions. After all, Sen. Chuck Hagel got into several tiffs with leaders of what he disparagingly called the “Jewish lobby,” particularly with his scornful comment, “I am not an Israeli senator; I’m a United States senator.”
Hagel also managed to antagonize his fellow Republicans when he served with them in the Senate. Although he did vote to authorize George W. Bush’s Iraq War, he became an outspoken critic of how it was run. Perhaps some of them may be indulging in a little payback of their own with their harsh reactions to his nomination. He would send “the worst possible signal,” huffed Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, which is typical of the GOP reaction. So we can expect a knock-down, drag-out brawl during the confirmation process.
It’s not hard to conclude that the president seems to be looking for ways to pick a fight. Making it clear he favored U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton at the State department was sure to push the buttons of those with oversized egos who had borne the brunt of her undiplomatic put-downs through the years. He backed down in her case, but he seems to be going out of his way to rattle some cages.
It is true that he was vilified by some supporters for being a meek patsy during his first term, allowing the hard-right fanatics to control the agenda, this time around, he is pushing the limit in his effort to show he won’t be bullied.

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January 14, 2013

King Features Column

(First the usual drivel: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release so we can accommodate the paying customers )

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 8, 2013
SEN. BARNEY FRANK?
BY BOB FRANKEN
Consider this a fervent personal plea to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick from those of us who pay attention to Congress: If we can’t afford the therapy or meds to correct such self-destructive behavior, then you, governor, are our only hope to make this condition tolerable. Please, please, please appoint Barney Frank as the United States senator from Massachusetts.
To bring everyone up to speed: Now that John Kerry has been nominated for Secretary of State and confirmation will likely be greased by his fellow senators, Gov. Patrick must appoint someone to fill his seat for a couple of months until the state can hold a special election.
Enter Barney Frank, who just retired from the House of Representatives after 32 years. He has suddenly declared that he is interested in that temporary spot, telling MSNBC, “I’ve told the governor that I would now like to do that.”
Patrick, who is considering some others who have let it be known that they’re available, carefully responded with, “I have a lot of factors I’m considering, and he’s definitely on the list.” Frank’s take-no-prisoners style certainly would qualify as a “factor,” but it’s why this is too good to pass up.
Anyone who has watched Senate proceedings and managed to stay awake is well-aware that it is run -- or more accurately, crawled -- under strict Rules of Decorum, one of which states that members must not “impute to another Senator any conduct or motive unworthy by any Senator form of words, directly or indirectly or unbecoming a Senator.”
Barney Frank has spent a lifetime imputing. It would be uproarious to watch him operate in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” which is how this bunch refers to itself. The members laboriously and insincerely refer to each other as “my distinguished friend.” Frank probably has never ever used those words in his life. This is the guy, after all, who took to the House floor to ridicule anti-abortionists who “believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth,” who called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a “homophobe.” We need him in the Senate.
We should squeeze at least a couple more months out of someone who could go to a town-hall meeting and tell an angry constituent, “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining-room table.”

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January 11, 2013

Another MSNBC Saturday afternoon

Tomorrow, which is Saturday the 12th, I will be on MSNBC about 4:30 PM Eastern,or shortly thereafter on a segment called "The Brain Trust". Go figure.

January 10, 2013

King Features Column

(The usual disclaimer: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy)

. FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 4, 2013
STOP THE STOPWATCH
BY BOB FRANKEN
You know those dopey, backtiming clocks the news channels put in the corner of the screen each time the nation is facing another contrived crisis? We just watched them again, ominously ticking away the hours, minutes and seconds as our politicians lurched toward the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Day. Of course, just past the nick of time, our fearful leaders managed to avert immediate disaster by agreeing to shove disagreement aside for a couple of months, when they see to it that the country’s well-being will once again be endangered.
Maybe we should just keep the clocks going down there with all the other distracting graphic garbage racing past the anchorperson. After all, there are only about 1,400 hours, X minutes and X seconds before we face a financial default, or those debilitating cuts. So we need to know how far away our next national embarrassment is. Some might argue that our elected officials themselves are a national embarrassment, but unfortunately they have the power to cause some real damage. And while we’re at it, perhaps we should add even more to the clutter on the screen with a second clock, one that would count the time remaining till the budget deal that funds all of the U.S. agencies runs out. That’s right, we face another threat of a government shutdown at the end of March, 744 hours from debt ceiling zero hour. We need to know exactly how long we have between calamities. Surely there are some experts on Mayan chronology looking for work, since they blew it so badly on Doomsday.
Actually, with the start of a new Congress, the time has come for time-outs. A system must be established to discipline lawmakers who are behaving badly. When a senator or representative says something that is destructively hostile or otherwise acts out, he or she must spend some Quiet Time. Speaking privileges will be taken away until he or she promises to play nice. The problem is that at any given time, just about all of these delinquents would be stuck in Quiet Time Detention Hall, so all we’d hear on C-Span would be silence. Come to think of it, maybe that isn’t a problem.

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January 7, 2013

King Features Column

(As always, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release to accommodate the syndicator)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 1, 2013
SAME OLD CONGRESS — SAME NEW CONGRESS?
BY BOB FRANKEN
There is some good news that will come out of the “fiscal cliff” debacle: The 112th Congress will be history. Forget the 80th one, the infamous “Do Nothing” gang from 1947 and ’48. The crew from 2011 and ’12 will probably be remembered as the “Do Nothing Right” Congress. Instead of solving the nation’s problems, this madcap bunch made things worse, simply unable to comprehend the difference between campaigning and governing.
The fiscal-cliff crisis is just the latest way their simple-minded intransigence has embarrassed the United States. They were actually trying to dig out of the slop hole they created in 2011, when they passed legislation with draconian budget cuts to avert a U.S. default. Not only did they “kick the can down the road,” to use the cliché, but they did it clumsily. Add to the toxic mix the blind unwillingness by the anti-government fanatics to undo the fiscally disastrous Bush tax cuts with a small hike for their wealthy patrons. In total, we were left with a mess and still another disgusting spectacle.

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January 6, 2013

MSNBC, FOOTBALL AND ME--A TIME CHANGE

I will be on MSNBC this afternoon (Sunday) at 4:20 Eastern. The time was moved up, so we can all catch the beginning of the Washington-Washington game.

January 4, 2013

MSNBC Sunday and the Big Decision

I am on MSNBC Sunday at 4:30 PM Eastern. So now you have to choose whether to DVR me or the Redskins. Tough choice.

December 31, 2012

King Features Column

(This column appears here a week after its newspaper release as required by my syndicator)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 25, 2012
THE POLITICAL GUNBATTLE BEGINS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Maybe there is hope. Maybe something effective can be done to interrupt the cycle of gun violence in this country. But we’re sure not going to find it from the National Rifle Association. After hiding out in the aftermath of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., and then promising a “constructive contribution,” the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre had a destructive idea instead. He would place “armed police officers in every school in this nation.” “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun,” he went on, “is a good guy with a gun.” Yup. Nothing like a shootout to protect our children.
LaPierre and his accomplices know full well that furor over even such unspeakable slaughter doesn’t match the fury of the millions of Americans over any efforts to take away their precious pistols and assault rifles. All they have to do is wait out the politicians. Expedience and campaign contributions usually catch up with “enough is enough.” Memories fade. “Meaningful action,” as President Barack Obama demands, is elusive, and the gun lobby knows that. Already, Republicans are indicating they will resist any new legislation. If the president is successful in getting an assault-weapons ban through Congress, it could be riddled with loopholes, like the law that went into effect in 1994. Even that was allowed to expire 10 years later.
There is, however, one tool that can be used to bludgeon the lethal interests into submission: money. Choke off financing to the merchants of death, and maybe they will shrivel away. Look what happened when the California State Teachers’ Retirement System threatened to pull the $750 million it had invested in the private-equity firm Cerberus. Among its holdings, Cerberus owns Freedom Group. Freedom Group’s various companies manufacture guns, one of them the Bushmaster assault rifle Adam Lanza used to mow down his mother and the innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary.
All it took was one phone call from CalSTRS, one suggestion that it might pull its chunk of assets, and Cerberus suddenly announced it would be selling Freedom Group. Other public pension funds are examining the placement of their millions. Meanwhile, shares of the arms makers are dropping like a stone. So, of all things, the path to a moral result might run through the decidedly immoral world of high finance.

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December 30, 2012

MSNBC on a Sunday

I will be scorning our political leaders at Fiscal Cliffside during the 5PM Eastern hour on MSNBC this Sunday.

December 28, 2012

King Features Column

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 21, 2012
YULETIDE FOR BETTER OR VERSE
BY BOB FRANKEN

’Tis the time around Christmas, the liberals ecstatic
The White House next year will stay Democratic.

The victory this year must have seemed heaven sent
Once Mitt blurted out “47 percent.”

You’d think we’d have ended the political tiff,
But we’ve lurched right away to that gross fiscal cliff.

Believe it or not, it’s gotten insaner,
No agreement so far from Obama and Boehner.

They continue to fight over cutbacks and taxing
Makes it hard for us all to enjoy Yuletide relaxing.

No holiday cheer because of such sloppiness
We reporters must work and so must the lobbyists.

All over the country there arises a clatter
Of citizens screaming “Just what is the matter?”

“We told you we’d gotten awfully tired of this stuff,
So please cut it out, enough is enough.”

On, Obama! On, Boehner! On, Pelosi! On, Cantor!
On, the tea-party caucus, with all of its ranters.

Just settle this thing, put an end to your brawl
Then dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

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December 24, 2012

King Features Column


(As always, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release per my deal with the syndicator)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 18, 2012
MURDEROUS POLITICAL COLLABORATORS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s be direct: Those well-financed gun lobbyists who have so intimidated our craven politicians are complicit in the slaughter of the children in Newtown, Conn. That’s an opinion about the immorality of their bullying. The possession of weapons of mass destruction they promote is not a crime because our lawmakers have cowered and refused to make laws that would help end these increasingly common slaughters. The legislators also are complicit because of their dereliction of duty.
We need to abruptly change direction. The nation needs to be disarmed. Nothing less than that. The reality that there are pistols and rifles in nearly half of America’s homes, all capable of ending a precious life at the twitch of a finger, is insane. The fact that states are expanding the right to carry concealed weapons is a disgrace. Michigan is the latest to consider such action. Connecticut, where those innocent youngsters were massacred by a deranged young man who had easy access to a family arsenal, has stricter requirements, but obviously not strict enough.
President Barack Obama’s emotional response was shared by the entire country. But will his call for “meaningful action” be more than empty words? We have mourned the carnage so many times, and yet our leaders are afraid to eliminate the instruments that make such bloodshed so easy.
How many times must we go through this? How is it that after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Gabby Giffords, we have new bursts of horror that we mourn and then consign to apathy? While such atrocities sometimes do occur elsewhere — Norway comes to mind — it also is true that in countries where there is stringent control, gun deaths are vastly reduced. Here, it is not only the shock of the heinous incidents, but the evil of the routine. In the United States last year, there were more than 11,000 firearm homicides. Add to that those who were accidentally mowed down.

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December 21, 2012

MSNBC on a Sunday

I'll be doing MSNBC this Christmas Eve Eve Sunday, during the 3:00 PM Eastern hour. Think of it as the halftime show.

December 20, 2012

King Features Column

(The usual disclaimer: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019

CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236

BOB FRANKEN

FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 14, 2012

THE MYTH OF THE TEAM

BY BOB FRANKEN

Here's a tip for the independent thinker who is ostracized for not being a “team player.” Simply ask, “What's the team doing for me?” True, it is subversive, but it is often a really good question. How sad.

This is a cliché that dates at least as far back as Aesop: “United we stand, divided we fall.” Unfortunately, the concept of the United States as a united country is becoming a fable. The reality is that we have evolved into an adversarial society, increasingly separated by bitter distrust and hostility. It's red vs. blue, producers vs. consumers, the legal system vs. justice, banks vs. the world, rich vs. everyone else, you name the institution. And, yes, that would include those of us in media, where itthe bottom line over journalism.

This absence of teamwork certainly defines the workplace, where all too often the lust for profits unleashes the worst in predatory bosses who take every opportunity to gut the wages, benefits, security and dignity of their employees. They have been enabled by the demise of organized labor. That's why they have spent so much time and effort destroying the unions, helped at every turn by their Republican Party handmaidens.

Once again, their unholy alliance has achieved a huge victory for greed by sabotaging unions. Michigan's Legislature and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder have teamed up to, with little warning, jam an odious bill through the Republican-controlled legislature that suddenly creates another right-to-work state, one of 24. All of them sap the financial strength of the labor movement by no longer requiring nonmembers to pay dues in organized shops even when they benefit from the contracts that the local negotiated with management.

What is remarkable in this case is that Michigan is where the movement got traction. The United Auto Workers fought for and won agreements that helped create a middle class and allowed it to flourish. Now, as the unions disintegrate in the U.S., so does the middle class. We see the results in so many ways, not the least of which is the disgraceful financial inequality that is such a national blight.

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December 17, 2012

King Features Column

(As always, this column is a week late appearing here because the syndicator requires that client newspapers get first crack at it)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 11, 2012
SAPPY NEW YEAR
BY BOB FRANKEN
We’re running out of time to arrange our New Year’s parties. But how can we, with all the uncertainty about the “fiscal cliff? Obviously, that’s the preoccupation of each and every one of us, right? So should we plan a joyous celebration to welcome 2013, or will we be moping because our politicians once again really blew it?
If we pay attention to much of the posturing, it sometimes can seem like a deal is out of reach. Everyone is taking shots. Words like “stalemate” fill the airwaves and cable waves. President Barack Obama, who has been stung before by complaints that he’s squishy, is playing Mr. Hardnose now that he won the election. Wherever he can, he’s trying to stick it to the Republicans. At every opportunity, he is informing the world that this time, he will insist on higher tax rates for the wealthy. That, of course, is utter sacrilege for the GOP, which depends on handouts from the rich for its very existence.
House Speaker John Boehner and company are so flummoxed, they are putting forward proposals that at least pretend to include so-called revenue raisers. Granted, they are based on undefined reforms in deductions, but at least they are changing their tune by even talking about adding money to the budget.
The president doesn’t seem to be budging. Why would he? The polls are on his side. So all us pundits have now turned to discussing what just might happen when we hurtle off the cliff Jan. 1. Will anyone feel immediate pain? Certainly not. Except maybe investors, for a day or so. Will everyone be embarrassed by those we elected? Absolutely. They will have yet again demeaned the United States of America. That’s the noise in our echo chamber.
There’s one good thing about being a commentator: No one remembers what we say. Not only is it job security, it means we don’t have to be very brave to swim against the flow. That’s what I will be doing here, timidly going where few have gone before.
I believe you can make those party plans. Assume that the political parties will come up with a deal. It may be nothing more than a sham agreement, but they will be able to announce some sort of “hard-fought compromise after intense bargaining.” It probably won’t happen until moments before the deadline on the 31st, because of their addiction to 11th-hour melodrama. It might even come after midnight, if they use that old stop-the-clock routine, and we won’t officially know whether to sing “Auld Lang Syne” or Auld Lang Whine, but 2013 will begin with a deal.

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December 13, 2012

King Features Column

(Usual preface: This is a week old column, delayed after its newspaper release because the syndicator says so)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 7, 2012
ARMED AND DANGEROUS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Those of you who believe you should be able to “pack heat” or whatever expression people use to describe carrying a deadly weapon are about to get really heated up by what comes next: Bravo Bob Costas. Congratulations for using your forum on NBC’s Sunday night “Football in America” broadcast and having the courage to be direct about the nation’s “gun culture” when commenting on the tragic murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.
For the record, all that Bob stated was the obvious, that “If he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra would be alive today.” But that was enough to cause apoplexy among those who believe in a somehow-sacred right to possess their instruments of death.
The right wing has gone ballistic. On Fox News, host Brian Kilmeade angrily wondered whether it was “appropriate for Costas to make his remarks,” or whether he abused his position by taking advantage of a TV platform that amplifies his individual opinion to the point that it reached 20 million people. In other words, he should keep his points of view about everything but football to himself.
Actually, it’s a valid argument. Why should we care what a celebrity thinks other than being surprised that he or she really thinks? Why should those who are nonbelievers be forced to watch Tim Tebow and so many other athletes demonstrate their religious fervor each and every time they score a touchdown or hit a home run? Why should we really care which stars supported Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, or which ones come to Washington to testify before Congress about their favorite cause?
But we do care about what they have to say, and if that’s the case, Costas was entirely appropriate when he took a stand. How pathetic it is that our political leaders, among them President Obama, are so timid in the face of the gun lobby, kowtowing to those who have made America’s love affair with guns a murderous obsession.
How insane it is when mass murders in schools and colleges, movie theaters, houses of worship, you name it, are regular occurrences. How can we justify the ease with which a mentally ill person can get weapons and ammunition to gun down a congresswoman and those who came to meet with her? How could the question of whether disturbed veterans should be monitored for what’s in their arsenal even be worthy of debate, as it is right now in Washington? How can we accept the fatalities that come when someone who is panicking ends the life of an unarmed teenager because craven or opportunistic legislators passed a “Stand Your Ground” law? And how can we accept as routine the thousands of accidental gun deaths which bring a domestic dispute to an unspeakably tragic end,like the Belcher case, minus the publicity?
And yet Obama and others who might stand for common sense wither under the heat of such an incendiary issue and the NRA, lest they lose some votes. It is amoral expedience, plain and simple.

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December 11, 2012

King Features Column


(As always, the syndication deal requires that this appears here a week after its newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 4, 2012
POLITICS -- NO JOKE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Some of us who are past puberty will remember a routine by the late comedian George Carlin, in which he plays Al Sleet, the “Hippy Dippy Weatherman” doing the TV weather forecast. “The radar is picking up a line of thundershowers,” mumbles the stoned meteorologist. “The radar is also picking up a squadron of Russian ICBMs, so I wouldn’t sweat the thundershowers.”
In that spirit, let’s note the Mayan calendar and the belief of some who warn it’s predicting doomsday on Dec. 21. So, maybe we don’t need to sweat the fiscal cliff.
But what if the world doesn’t end? The default prophecy is that unless the White House and congressional Republicans negotiate some way out of their stalemate, economic disaster strikes at the first of the year. That will be when the federal government tumbles over that budget “cliff” and lands in a cesspool. Almost everyone agrees it should be avoided. But this is Washington.
Right now, the political game players are taunting each other. President Barack Obama sent his Treasury secretary to Capitol Hill to stick it to the Republicans with a proposal that was long on tax hikes for the wealthy and short on specific cutbacks. House Speaker John Boehner predictably took umbrage, calling the current state of play a “stalemate.”
That was designed to upset anybody who was watching all these games. But by now, almost everyone is used to the posturing that goes on in the name of leadership. The truth is that at the same time the two sides are trash talking, they’re also phone talking, working on ideas that can prevent embarrassment to their country and, more importantly, looking for a face-saving way to avoid embarrassment to themselves.
It’s just one of the old rituals that is being observed in your nation’s capital. There is another classic being performed, a variation on an old melodrama with different actors and actresses. The leading lady is Susan Rice.

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November 29, 2012

King Features Column

(Given today's Obama-Romney meeting at the White House, this column is somewhat dated thanks to the deal with syndicators requiring that my columns appear here a week after newspaper release. The current one appears in your paper. If it doesn't, feel free to cajole the editors. Or harass them.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 23, 2012
THE REPUBLICAN MAKEOVER
BY BOB FRANKEN
What a Thanksgiving Republican leaders had this year. Instead of the usual turkey, they were carving up Mitt Romney. Actually, come to think of it, they’ve made it clear that they consider him a bit of a turkey for losing the election to Barack Obama.
It’s hard to see why they’re such angry birds, since during the interminable campaign, Mitt tried to please each and every one of them. For right-wing audiences, he was the “severe conservative.” For the fat cats, who have no particular principles, he was the symbol of economic inequality. What more could the GOP want?
Apparently, the party wants to win. So the latest gambit is a stated effort to improve its image with the various demographic groups it antagonized during a hateful campaign: blacks, browns, gays, women, just about everybody but old, angry white guys. The last person they need is Malaprop Mitt.
He has quickly become “Mitt Who,” as everybody else in the party jockeys for favor. Marco Rubio, that non-Castro refugee, already is planning his Iowa trips. Bobby Jindal is making a lot of noise. Of course, there’s another Bush, Jeb, among those floating his own trial balloons.
Inevitably, we see Newt Gingrich and some of the others who messed themselves during the primary season popping back up in the “I told you so” frenzy.

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November 26, 2012

King Features Column

As always, this column is delayed a week after newspaper release to keep the syndicator happy. The newest one appears in your paper.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 20, 2012
AMERICA’S MITTFIT
BY BOB FRANKEN
One has to wonder why President Barack Obama would even bother to meet with Mitt Romney. Yes, he promised to, and yes, it is the polite thing to do in the name of soliciting his ideas, but Romney’s ideas are so repulsive that he needs to be removed from the conversation.
He demonstrated it again in his post-election conference call with donors, in which he contended that he lost because, “The president’s campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift.” Will somebody please remind Mitt, if you will, that Obama won more than 47 percent of the vote? That’s relevant, of course, because Mitt inadvertently revealed himself with his original spewing of contempt for the “47 percent,” those he dismissed as “dependent on government, who believe they are victims,” meaning those who have the audacity to seek government services for health and protection. What nerve!
Actually, Romney speaks for too many of his fellow 1 percenters. He and the others of their ilk have concluded that since they hoard 35 percent of the nation’s wealth (according to the Economic Policy Institute), they are part of a ruling class. They consider themselves above the normal responsibilities of citizenship. That, of course, would include paying their fair share of taxes, which they decidedly do not.
Their GOP handmaidens continue to bow and scrape to the selfish richlings with their obstinate rejection of increased taxation on the wealthy, even as part of a deal to stop the U.S. from hurtling over the “cliff” to recession. House Speaker John Boehner remains adamant that higher rates cannot be part of any bargain, still clinging to the discredited argument that they stifle job creation. Shame on him.

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November 23, 2012

King Features and MSNBC

(This is a week old because of the syndication deal that requires the delay from its newspaper release. Feel free to bug the editors if the current one isn't in your paper. As for that other medium, I am appearing on MSNBC ON THIS Friday afternoon during the 2:00 Eastern hour)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE DAY, NOV. 16, 2012
GO ALONG, GOT GONE
BY BOB FRANKEN
At least all this lunacy over the David Petraeus affair does serve one purpose: It reminds us once again about the foolishness of idealizing our national leaders. They are merely fallible human beings. They take their pants off just like the rest of us.
Petraeus and his biographer/paramour Paula Broadwell are just the latest whose high-level hanky-panky has caused a frenzy by media fixated on titillation. And inevitably, like others in their elite game, whether players or groupies, they’re being shredded in the news grinder.
David and Paula (I assume they call each other by their first names in private) have lots in common. They are great networkers. Brilliant or not, Petraeus excelled at self-promotion and the schmoozing arts, and she has been no slouch. Whatever their other talents, they built their careers on connections (let’s dispense with the jokes, they’re too easy).
Petraeus, after all, married the West Point superintendent’s daughter. He was not only someone who had mentors who were “like a father” to him, he had a father-in-law. As for Broadwell, she had a general, David Petraeus. She adored him, and he adored being adored. Both of them relied on one of humankind’s most potent weapons, and that is flattery. It is particularly effective at the top echelons of our society, because so many of those who occupy their lofty perches wonder in their heart of hearts if they are really qualified to be there. Washington is crawling with them.

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November 21, 2012

MSNBC Thursday and Friday

I'll be part of the MSNBC Thanksgiving break coverage. Turkey Day about 10:30 AM,, Eastern and then Friday afternoon during the 2:00 hour.

November 19, 2012

King Features Column

(The usual razz-a-ma-tazz: This column appears here a week after its newspaper release because the syndicator says so. The current one is in your paper. If not, the editors might need to be informed about the error of their ways. Feel free.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 13, 2012
REPUBLICAN SOUL-SEARCHING
BY BOB FRANKEN
So the Republicans want to broaden their appeal beyond angry white guys and entitled fat cats? In the ashes of defeat, it has occurred to their leaders that the hatefulness and greed they’ve represented for decades has meant modern life and demographics are passing them by. Now they want to put lipstick on the elephant.
Realizing that the times, they are a’ changin’ (I made that up) and that the politics of exclusion aren’t selling anymore, they’ve decided to try to improve their image with the immigrants, minorities and women they have alienated.
They’re sweating marginalization even though their deception and intolerant messages still attracted the votes of almost half the country. Obviously, though, trends are going in the other direction. That’s why they’re talking about initiatives that would broaden the party’s appeal to those they have abused with spitefulness and selfishness. Apparently, they’re counting on mass amnesia.

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November 15, 2012

King Features Column

(This is delayed a week after newspaper release as called for in the syndication deal. The current piece appears in your paper but if it doesn't, noodge the editors.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 9, 2012
GOING TO POT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Listen. What do you hear? It’s the sound of real life. The commercials on TV are once again selling the pharmaceutical companies’ poisons, not the toxic waste that penetrated our brains during the campaign season. The election is over; it’s time to move on.
Except, we didn’t really move at all. We have the same president, the same Congress and the same hostile, rigid ideologies that seized our leaders before November. We will continue to careen from crisis to crisis. The upcoming one, as we all have heard, is the financial “cliff.” Unless Democrats and Republicans, the White House and Congress -- particularly the House, which is festering with extremist conservatives -- can agree, a malignant combination of tax increases and massive budget cuts likely will dump the economy back into recession.
Already the White House is saying that the president will veto any bill without a tax increase on the rich. And already, House Speaker John Boehner is insisting that there is “no way” Congress will pass one. He has to answer to his hard-right caucus, where the thought of any hike whatsoever is heresy. So disregard any statements from either side promising cooperation. They continue to be fiction, and will be remain so unless someone finds a creative way to make them reality.
You have come to the right place. Where else would you be reminded that the answer may lie in the election? Not the national one, but in the states like Colorado and Washington, that voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. You might know where I am going with this. The solution to the D.C. gridlock is obvious: Move the bargaining to Colorado, Washington or one of the 17 states that allows marijuana’s use for medical purposes. We are, after all, talking about curing a national illness.
You provide a supply of the negotiators’ favorite weed and a lot of munchies, then let the two newly mellow negotiators go at it. It would give the term “tea party” an entirely new meaning. The whole thing shouldn’t take long. The signal of success would be a puff of white smoke; although, since there would be puffs of smoke throughout, we’d probably have to work on that. Whatever it was, everyone would come out to announce an agreement. Of course, they’d be giggling, but that’s a small price to pay.

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November 12, 2012

King Features Column

(Obviously this is the post election column from last week, a delay from newspaper release necessitated by the syndication deal. The most current one appears in your paper or it can if you bug the editors)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7, 2012
NOW WHAT?
BY BOB FRANKEN
Look, it was a boffo victory speech. President Barack Obama pushed all the right buttons after winning this foul fight. “While each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” Wonderful stuff -- except, we are a shattered family.
It’s great to aspire, as we do in the Pledge of Allegiance, to be “One nation ... indivisible.” Sadly, this election has made that notion really suspect. We are very divisible, and after a relentlessly hateful campaign, we are one nation divided into two separate camps.
More than $6 billion was spent, and we are left just where we started. House Speaker John Boehner, probably fearing for his job, went to Twitter to uh, tweet defiantly, “With this vote, the American people also have made it clear there is no mandate for raising taxes.” Of course, without some sort of deal on taxes, the country will continue to hurtle toward financial disaster and right off the “fiscal cliff.”
Boehner’s House extremists care less about that than persisting in their guerrilla war against government. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, who did pretty well thanks to the outlandish candidates the GOP put forward, will still continue to dither and get rolled by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his enablers. McConnell may have fallen short of his brazenly stated priority of making Obama “a one-term president,” but perhaps he will now promise to do everything in his power to make Obama a two-term president, making sure the second term is a living hell.
It’s great that Obama and Mitt Romney made their feel-good declarations of conciliation, but we need to take stock of what almost happened: The nation barely avoided a nonmilitary super-PAC coup by a small army of mega-wealthy who tried to use used money as a weapon to complete their corporate takeover of the country. The fact that this election was so close shows how easily manipulated millions upon millions of people can be.

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November 6, 2012

King Features Column

(Obviously, since it's Election Day, this column is dated, delayed a week from its newspaper release by the syndication deal. A post election piece will be offered to newspapers tomorrow.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 30, 2012
LOOSE CHANGE
BY BOB FRANKEN
You have to admit that Mitt Romney and his enablers have a lot of nerve. And a total lack of shame. How else to explain their gall in promoting him as the candidate of “change”? That’s what Romney’s doing in this final death throe of the campaign, telling an Iowa audience, for instance, that selecting him is “choosing real change, change that offers promise that the future will be better than the past.” He even said it with a straight face.
Let’s not mince any words: Romney represents change, all right -- for the worse, a return to the “social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s,” as President Barack Obama put it. Obviously, Romney is being sarcastic about the stirring Obama “hope and change” mantra, or Sarah Palin’s “hopie changee thing,” if you prefer. It’s really been small change. Washington is still gripped by a special-interest pay-to-play stranglehold, but Romney pledges to double down on our financial inequities. If he follows through on his platform, the country would continue its deterioration into a nation divided between the super-rich and everybody else.
Socially, he and his party have so pandered to the hard-right extremists that he would be forced to reverse the progress that women, minorities and other oppressed citizens have fought so hard to gain. He has carefully cultivated a base that is caught up in an intolerant frenzy of birthism, jingoism and, yes, racism.
On the latter, The Associated Press conducted a very carefully crafted poll that determined “a slight majority” harbors explicit and/or implicit prejudice against blacks. The negative views were held by 51 percent of the respondents. What is particularly sad is that the number is up from 48 percent in 2008, the year we celebrated electing Obama president.

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November 1, 2012

King Features Column

(Once again the disclaimer that this column is delayed a week after newspaper release due to the syndication deal. The current one appears in your paper unless it doesn't)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 26, 2012
THE GREAT DIVIDE AND CONQUER
BY BOB FRANKEN
Finally the debates are over -- all the preprogrammed jousting is history. Actually, for the first encounter, President Barack Obama’s handlers left him in “sleep” mode, but in all the others, the contrived sound bites from both sides were filling the air.
Finally, when Obama got snitty with Mitt Romney, Romney recited, “Attacking me is not an agenda.” As Joe Biden would say, “malarkey.” In this campaign, attacking one another is the entire agenda.
Think about how much time Republicans have spent portraying Obama as different, and ponder how many in their base consider him a hated Muslim, socialist or not even eligible to hold the office because he wasn’t born in the United States. They vehemently deny racism, but you decide.
But it’s the Democrats who have coopted the “Not one of us” label and are pinning it on Romney in a new ad savaging him as a privileged, out-of-touch Etch A Sketch of a man who is willing to say anything, become anyone his audience at the moment requires. They constantly question his integrity, in effect deriding him as a Richie Richard Nixon. So, of course, attacking is the agenda. In fact, it is fair to say that as a result, there a just a few who will cast their ballots for one side or the other. Most of us will be voting against the candidate we hate, thanks to the incessant demonization.
Actually, what was so interesting about the third debate -- which was sort of about foreign policy -- was that when the contenders actually talked about international security and military matters, Romney usually ended up offering such complete support for policies of the Obama administration that I fully expected the president to reply, “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved his message.”
Mr. Obama came armed with a few killer put-downs. Telling Romney, “You seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s” was like a hit to the solar plexus. Or somewhere. That was just one of the Obama shots. No wonder Romney was sweating before the night was over. About the best line Mitt could muster was his repeated assertion that Iran is “four years closer to a nuclear war.”
Even moderator Bob Schieffer got into the act. When Romney kept telling us how much he “loves teachers,” Schieffer dismissed him with, “We all love teachers.” Frankly, even that is debatable, given how many have lost their jobs in budget cuts. Remember, it was Romney who dismissed the importance of class size.

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October 29, 2012

King Features Column


(This is delayed a week, as usual, because of the syndication deal which requires the column appears first in the client newspapers. If that doesn't included your paper, nag their editors)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 23, 2012
SEND OUT THE CLOWNS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s face it, this entire campaign has been one big pratfall, so it’s terrific that the comedians have been adding more stand-up to their slapstick in the past few days. What great yucks the Obama-Romney vaudeville team got when they played the Al Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. From the Romney binder of gags: “As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white-tie finery, you have to wonder what he’s thinking: ‘So little time, so much to redistribute.’” And Obama: “Early today I went shopping at some stores in midtown. I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.”
That joint appearance in New York, with all the wisecracks, has become an election tradition. Headliners immediately took their pie-in-the-face shtick back on the road.
By the very next day, the Obama writers were in high gear, churning out new material for their leader to trash Mitt Romney and his celebrated tendency to reinvent himself: “I mean, he’s changing up so much -- backtracking and sidestepping. We’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through ... I think it’s called Romnesia.”
Let me tell you, the Obama entourage needs a drummer to do rim shots. As for the Romney-Paul Ryan crew, it already had one, playing behind country singer John Rich of the country group Big and Rich.
That has to be a joke, right? Obviously, Mitt was making sly fun of his big and rich self. He doesn’t really have to do that; there are plenty of people on the other side ready to provide the ridicule.

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October 28, 2012

King Features Column

(As usual, this column is delayed here a week after its newspaper release. The syndication deal requires it so it doesn't upstage the newspaper appearance of the newest one. If your paper isn't carrying it, noodge the editors)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 19, 2012
EXPLOITING AMERICA’S HUNGRY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Maybe you saw the picture. Paul Ryan and his wife, Janna, are shown washing a few pots and pans in a photo-op drop-by at a soup kitchen. It was appropriate in a perverse sort of way, given how the harsh policies championed by the GOP vice-presidential candidate and his new adoptive parent, Mitt Romney, would necessitate far more of these last resorts for the hungry and desperate.
But this event was insidious in so many ways. Such news contrivances inherently diminish human suffering to a cynical campaign ploy. This one was hastily set up as Ryan was traipsing around Ohio trying to win over the state that has become ground zero in this election. He had just finished an appearance in Youngstown when somebody in the entourage suddenly decided it would be cool to be shot at the St. Vincent de Paul dining room on his way to the airport.
Never mind that he didn’t have the proper authorization, and never mind that there was no one there to be humiliated when he showed up. He and his group, including the all-important camera person, swooped in, got the money shot and swooped out.
Exploitative? You bet. It is also part of a continuing deception by the Republicans, who try to justify their enrich-the-rich policies with the fiction that they are really designed to uplift the non-rich. It is amazing to watch Mitt at the debates continuously claim: “I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future.” That’s what he repeats each time someone brings up those taped remarks where he was recorded at a fat-cat fundraiser dismissing 47 percent of the population as “dependent on government,” “victims”who he might just as well ignore.
Ever since that discourse was found out, he has been in full damage-control mode. When the button is pressed, as President Barack Obama finally did in their second debate, he recites his “care about 100 percent” mantra, hoping that if he says it enough times, people will believe it.

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October 22, 2012

King Features Column


(As always, this appears here a week after its newspaper release, per the syndication deal. Tge latest one is in the paper, or if it's not, feel free to bug the editors to start carrying it)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 16, 2012
THE PROPS PROPOPOSITIONS
BY BOB FRANKEN
The political pros call them real people -- a contrast, probably, to the phony people: the candidates, officeholders and their handlers who use human beings to fill their stage and their camera shots and reduce humans to mere props.
You’ve seen them before, standing behind the star of a particular news conference or photo op. Maybe you’ve even been one. Your assignment is simply to stand there and appear (concerned) (sad) (pathetic) while said star waxes eloquent about your plight.
Usually, they/you are displayed as victims, and one or two of you may even get speaking roles, telling your tale of woe to help the luminary further his or her ambitions.
It can get mighty cynical or at least contrived, particularly when you/they are there in the service of someone who otherwise would have nothing in common with you.
Imagine if he or she was being candid. What if the “real people” were real rich people, friends of the candidate or more likely contributors? They would be there to plead for help, supporting something to reduce their suffering.
Can you see it now? The plutocrats would shuffle on the rostrum as their bought-and-paid-for champion made a pitch for further reducing their taxes. How touching it would be if one by one they came forward to talk about the wrenching difficulty they had paying the help or how it would be so tough choosing between that sixth vacation home or country-club membership without a new lower effective rate.
Our eyes would well up as they talked about the difficulties of boarding the private jet for trips to the Caymans or Switzerland. There also would be the staff of domestics so necessary for such visits to the hoards of money they have hidden away so they are walled off from the Internal Revenue Service. And their special advantages don’t just happen without a huge amount of effort spreading payments around to the politicians. Without such favored treatment, they would have to pay their fair share to the government, just like the riffraff do. Oh, the horror of it all.

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October 21, 2012

Me and Beth on MSNBC

I'm doing MSNBC with Richard Lui this afternoon (Sunday) during the 3:00 PM, Eastern, hour. But the biggest kick is that the other guest will be AP's Beth Fouhy, who is a long time dear friend of mine from our CNN days.

October 18, 2012

King Features Column

(As you can see, this has been overtaken by events. The deal with the syndicators requires that this appears here a week after its newspaper release. The current one is available in your paper. And if it's not, bug the editors)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 12, 2012
FIELD OF VEEPS
BY BOB FRANKEN
TV Twinkie that I am, I must begin by lauding Martha Raddatz, who did such a good, professional job of handling the vice-presidential debate. She was in control from the start, and was so fair with her persistence that only those who favor unfairness complained about her. Sean Hannity, of Fox, called her the “worst moderator ever,” which she should wear as a badge of honor. Her professionalism, knowledge and particularly control of the event were a sharp contrast to the preside-from-the-crypt performance by stodgy Jim Lehrer. This is inside baseball, I know, but humor me.
Speaking of which, thank heaven for DVRs. We didn’t have to choose between playoffs in baseball and debateball. The latter was so exciting, because the Democrat didn’t forfeit this time. Joe Biden, with his disdainful smiles and frequent interruptions, sometimes threw Paul Ryan off his game. At one point when Ryan was trying to justify his budget plans by using President John F. Kennedy as an example, Biden jumped in with “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.”
That, of course, was a blatant reminder of the legendary line from the 1988 VP encounter when Democrat Lloyd Bentsen quipped to Dan Quayle, “You’re no Jack Kennedy.”
It is fair to say, however, that Ryan showed he was no Dan Quayle. He was in command of his arguments even when they were misleading. No “deer in the headlights” look here, except perhaps when he gave his closing statement, which he delivered with the sincere look of a local TV anchorman.
What is so amazing is how important this vice-presidential debate was, considering how the office, for so long, was thought to be so removed from the action, occupied by someone whose only role was to be a “heartbeat away.” That’s not the case anymore, but the post is still defined by John Nance Garner, who was FDR’s No. 2 from 1933 to 1941 and famously said his duties were “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Actually, that’s not exactly how he put it

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October 15, 2012

King Features Column


(As usual, this appears here, thnks to the syndication deal, a week after newspaper release. The current one appears in the paper that carries it and might appear in others if you let the editors know they should run it)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 9, 2012
THE UNEMPLOYMENT CONSPIRACY
BY BOB FRANKEN
For those who love a good conspiracy theory -- and admit it, you do -- welcome to the Area 51 of politics. This presidential campaign is festering with them from the nut-go.
The “birthers” are still out there, encouraged by Republicans to hold fast to their delusion of a foreign-born Barack Obama, unswayed by documented proof, particularly since they insist the president is really a “Muslim masquerading as a Christian.”
But now they have a new departure from reality. Who would have thought those bland people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics could be part of a sinister cabal that suddenly is cooking the unemployment numbers?
It has to do with their latest monthly jobs report, which shows an unemployment number that finally has dipped below 8 percent, providing a smidgen of good news to President Obama when he really needs it after such a wimpy debate performance.
It apparently wasn’t enough for the Republicans to have their presidential candidate dismiss the news as too little, too late. They also needed to make sure they held on tightly to that all-important part of their base, the wackos.
Hence, the newest conspiracy theory: Obviously the bureaucrats and the White House are in cahoots, and never mind the impeccable reputation for nonpartisanship at BLS. This is clearly a sinister plot to cook the books.
Don’t just rely on Fox News for this one. Even Jack Welch, the legendary ex-head of GE, thinks so. He set the Twitterverse on fire with his suggestion that the latest report was concocted to rescue the president. “Can’t debate, so change numbers,” he tweeted. More on the debate in a moment. Actually, much more. First, though it’s easy to understand why Welch and his fellow Romney supporters would like to discredit the evidence of slightly eased hard times.

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October 12, 2012

MSNBC Saturday Evening

I will be on MSNBC tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) at 4:30 PM, Eastern. The program is called "The Brain Trust". Go figure.

October 11, 2012

King Features Column


(This is obviously a week old. My deal with syndicators requires that delay after The newspaper release. The current one appears in your newspaper or if it doesn't the editors might respond to reader pressure and see the error of their ways)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 5, 2012
ROMNEY 1, OBAMA 0
BY BOB FRANKEN
President Romney. Think about it Democrats. For those of you who have been lulled into a “no way” view of Mitt’s chances, the first presidential debate was a badly needed rude awakening. From your point of view, it had better be, because Romney walked all over President Barack Obama.
Actually, it was more a case of the president volunteering to be a floor mat, with his tentative — no, make that timid — approach to the challenger’s comparatively aggressive presentation. Time and again, Mr. Obama let Mr. Romney get away with explanations, justification and rationales for his campaign positions that were simply preposterous. When he did respond, the normally eloquent leader of the free world seemed to get lost in his old college-professor mindset, nearly mumbling his comments.
At times, he seemed almost as inept as the moderator, Jim Lehrer, who made one wonder if we could have been better off without him taking part. Obama appeared as if he didn’t want to be there either.
In the process, he managed to bring his momentum in this election to a crashing halt. While the impact of these debates is, uh, debatable, the fact is that the president could have used this first one to force Romney onto the ropes; instead, he let him not only slip away, but land a flurry of punches.
Much will be made about the fact-checking that has now become a part of the journalistic routine at events like this. An honorable pursuit, without a doubt, but it has limited impact, if any. First of all, both these guys played fast and loose with the truth. Their assertions about their policies and their opponent’s often were incomplete, lacked context or were outright dishonest.
Beyond that, the sad reality is that voters don’t want to deal with complexity. We are lazy, preferring not to have to tax our brains about taxes or make the effort to exercise judgment over health-care reform. Mitt Romney and his handlers understand that, so he can routinely misrepresent his positions and get away with it. President Obama, to the extent that he did participate in the conversation, was taken over by his Professor Obama persona and the compulsion to bore. Either that, or as David Gergen, on CNN, observed: “I don’t think anybody’s ever spoken to him like that over the last four years. I think he found that not only surprising but offensive in some ways.” Certainly, President Obama was not on the offensive this time. What’s interesting about Gergen’s reaction is that he has worked for a slew of presidents, both Republican and Democrat. So David knows a thing or two about keeping one’s opinions to himself in the Oval Office.

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October 8, 2012

King Features Syndicate

(Obviously this is dated, delayed a week after its newspaper release because of the syndication deal. For the current piece, see your paper, and it doesn't run there, bug the editors)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 2, 2012
THE HARVEST GAMES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sometimes it’s easy to see why Mitt Romney has such trouble connecting to ordinary people. Evidence continues to surface that he doesn’t really consider them to be full-fledged human beings, and hasn’t for a long time. Once again, Mother Jones magazine has uncovered very telling video, this one from 1985, in which Mitt describes his company, Bain Capital, as an investment partnership that takes over corporations until it can “harvest them at a significant profit.” How coldblooded is that? It certainly can add to the perception that Romney and those like him regard the jobs of workers as nothing but disposable fertilizer for a harvest that puts millions of dollars in his pockets.
Mother Jones has become the scourge of the Romney campaign -- the same left-leaning publication that released a damning, secretly captured recording of an unchanged Mitt this May, in which he dismissed 47 percent of Americans as non-tax-paying “victims” relying on federal handouts. He was speaking to a gathering of those who paid $50,000 a head at a Florida fundraiser. So he was talking to his soul mates (or is that soul-less?).
He is not unique. Look no further than the National Football League. Even though the NFL is a stupendously profitable enterprise, the owners were hellbent on jamming it to officials. And when the referees wouldn’t, uh, play ball, they were locked out and replacements were brought in (the word used to be “scabs”). Never mind their protests about “the integrity of the game,” the “product” needs to make even more money. “Product” is one of those management-consultant words that turns so many living, breathing operations to lifeless ledger entries.
Their actions were standard labor-busting tactics, and they almost always succeed. Workers be damned, quality be damned, it’s all secondary to more money. The super-rich corporate types are used to getting their way and are ruthless about it, but this time, as we know, their hubris and greed blew up in their faces. The replacement refs they plugged in were so inept, so unqualified compared with the striped shirts who were locked out, that the anger of the fans (the forgotten customers) exploded. The Sept. 24 Monday-night game was the final straw after a weeks-long comedy of errors that threatened to be a tragedy of errors.

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October 4, 2012

King Features Column

(While you know this is delayed a week after newspaper release at the behest of the syndicator, you can read the current version in your paper. If they don't carry it, feel free to pester them to do so.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 28, 2012
SAME RING, DIFFERENT CORNERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sure is a lot of attempted messenger killing going on these days. There’s Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife, bristling in a radio interview at frustrated Republicans complaining over how her hubby might be frittering away his chance to beat Michelle Obama’s spouse. “Stop it,” she scolded them, “You want to try it? Get in the ring.”
For starters, the mister spends an inordinate amount of time in the ring pummeling himself with one verbal sucker punch after another. But she might have swung and missed. One could argue that her reasoning would render all of Mitt Romney’s criticism of President Barack Obama invalid, because Mitt’s not “in the ring,” or in this case, the Oval Office.
It’s easy to understand her petulance. The polls are showing the Obama side gaining a little traction while Romney is spinning his wheels. Besides pinning their hopes on a boffo debate performance, Mitt’s puppeteers are hoping against hope that some controversy erupts, an issue that the president’s people mess up badly enough to hand the momentum back to their guy.
In fact, at the State Department they seem determined to do just that. Spokesman Philippe Reines went bonkers after CNN reported on the contents of a journal kept by the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. It was found by a CNN reporter at the consulate in Benghazi where Stevens and three other Americans died Sept. 11 in what the administration acknowledges may have been a planned terrorist assault.
In the journal, Stevens had voiced concerns about lax security. CNN reported the story in a somewhat-confusing way, citing “a source familiar with Ambassador Stevens’ thinking.” But that’s beside the point. Obviously, in an election year, the notion that sloppy security contributed to the deaths could be a campaign embarrassment for the Obama side.
So State apparently has decided that instead of focusing on that issue, there would be a smokescreen. CNN would be demonized for breaking a promise to the bereaved family not to report the diary’s contents, which explained the strange sourcing. “Disgusting” and “indefensible” were words he used in a tirade. Does anybody here not believe that Reines was channeling the secretary herself?

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October 1, 2012

King Features Column


(The usual disclaimer: The deal with the syndicator means this column is delayed here for a week after newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 25, 2012
MORE DUMPING ON THE CAMPAIGN
BY BOB FRANKEN
It is as certain as anything gets in politics: The Friday Evening Dump means the dumper is trying to hide odorous garbage, when all the dumpees’ attention is focused on weekend pursuits. True to form, Mitt Romney and his obfuscating team rolled out Romney2011 tax returns late in the day Friday. The idea, as usual, was to make it really hard for us to thoroughly report in time for the evening newscasts on whatever lurks in the piles of documents. By the time reporters and professionals have combed through the material, it’s an old story.
Then, Mitt and the gang can claim to the few who are interested that he was forthcoming about his finances, even though he has not been. Expert after expert can point out that the two years of returns Mitt and Ann have grudgingly disclosed reveal very little about how they took advantage of tax tricks available only to the superwealthy -- legal subterfuges that allow them to pay a much smaller share than ordinary people.
This is the latest attempt to deflect controversy over their refusal to follow normal candidate protocol and let the world see 10 or 12 years’ worth of tax records. Are there embarrassments buried in them that would reinforce the image of the Romneys as among those sheltered by their privilege from the normal obligations of us riffraff?
Apparently, Mitt Romney worries about that, telling “60 Minutes” that furnishing all the information would merely hand opportunities to the Democrats’ oppo-research people. It begs the question, of course: What’s he hiding?
Even the 2011 tidbit offers tantalizing clues within its 800 pages. For instance, there was the item that listed $3.5 million in income “from sources outside the United States.” Those “sources” would reside in countries like Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and the Cayman Islands, tax havens not available to less-prosperous simple folk.

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September 27, 2012

King Features Column


(As always, note that the deal with the syndicator requires that this column appears here a week after it has been distributed to the newspapers)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, 2012
MITT’S MISADVENTURES
BY BOB FRANKEN
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see a TV ad like this: a shot of the president and his voice-over, “I am Barack Obama, and I approve this message.”
It would then show nothing more than Mitt Romney, speaking in May before a Florida meeting of fat-cat donors, saying: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president ... who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them ... these are people who pay no income tax. ... My job is not to worry about those people.”
At the end, we’d see Mr. Obama again, answering, “Wow. I sure don’t approve of THAT message!”
The Democrats don’t seem to need a winning strategy, since Mitt manages to nudge them down the path to victory every time he opens his mouth. Fresh off his clumsy and desperate efforts to exploit an incendiary situation in the Mideast, he is next caught on a hidden camera displaying his silver-spoon contempt for all those he considers unworthy.
That little hidden camera gem came to us courtesy of Mother Jones magazine just a day after Romney wise man Ed Gillespie told reporters that the campaign would be retooling. Little did he know that the tool would be a verbal hammer that Mitt would use to pound himself on the head.
Once again, the makeover had been run over. How can an effort to overcome the candidate’s image as an inarticulate, out-of-touch, super-rich guy possibly succeed when he repeatedly is caught making comments that demonstrate he is an inarticulate, out-of-touch, super-rich guy? Even his running mate, Paul Ryan, used the word “inarticulate.”
Mitt and his troops were ready to show they are no slouches when it comes to class warfare, firing right back at Barack Obama for using the R-word, as in “Redistribution.” Of course, their opposition-research people had to go back to 1998, to video of then Illinois state Sen. Obama at a Loyola University event stating, “I actually believe in redistribution.” Take that, Democrats!
Setting aside that the remark was made 14 years ago and grossly taken out of context, let’s talk about redistribution. What about all that movement of wealth to Mitt and his super-rich buddies? Their manipulations have taken the hard-earned savings of the middle class and redistributed them to their smaller and smaller group of Hood Robins.

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September 24, 2012

King Features Column


(The usual blah blah which is that the deal with the syndicator requires this column appears here a week after its newspaper release.)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2012
THE DREADED MEGO
BY BOB FRANKEN
Ever wonder how politicians get away with their impossible promises? Wonder no more; there is a one-word answer: MEGO. It means “My Eyes Glaze Over,” as in “so boring that the audience of news consumers tunes out” or worse -- tunes elsewhere. So, to most of us little symbiotic media fishes swimming around the political sharks nibbling at scum, it is poison. We avoid all those tedious bites of complexity. And the sharks know full well that we do.
That’s why Mitt Romney will brazenly claim that he can cut taxes and the debt at the same time, with little fear of the experts. Or why his hucksters persist with their lying ads about Barack Obama killing the welfare work requirements. Detailed truth analysis brings about certain MEGO. Count on the normal person having the attention span of a gnat.
Only rarely does a candidate clumsily step into doo-doo so foul that even us lazy reporters must point out that something smells. When that happens, the aforementioned hucksters go into their reflexive media bash, blaming the liberal journalist fact checkers for misrepresenting their client and piling on.
We just witnessed one of those embarrassments when Mitt shot off his mouth about the Obama administration’s “apology” after the first Egyptian embassy attacks. He obviously had so little grasp of the facts and no knowledge of the deaths in Libya of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans that his foolishness was impossible to gloss over. True to form, his spinners and apologists came roaring out of the bunkers, firing away at anyone who had the audacity to question Romney’s timing or motives.
From early on, his grifters have tried to portray Barack Obama as a weak president who is constantly apologizing for America. It is a con -- they are trying to leave an impression about Obama that has nothing to do with reality. They know that laboriously setting the record straight guarantees a MEGO reaction. That’s why they were so quick to condemn the administration in the case of the embassy violence. But this time they were slick but not smart; they got caught for a change. They’re not as clever as they thought.

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September 20, 2012

King Features Column

(Usual disclaimer: The syndication deal requires this appears here a week after its newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 2012
MITT AND BIBI’S COSTLY CHEAP SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Forget Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s real running mate is Benjamin Netanyahu. True, he’s prime minister of Israel, but he obviously decided to add a spot on the Romney ticket to his portfolio.
That is the only possible explanation for his blatant meddling in the U.S. (a separate country, remember?) presidential campaign. In his temper tantrum, he used incendiary language, insisting this administration had forfeited the “moral right” to influence Israeli decisions on attacking Iran.
Netanyahu’s outburst followed comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the United States (a separate country, remember?) is “not setting deadlines” for Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. “Those in the international community,” he argued, “who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Let’s talk about “red lines.” There should be one between a foreign leader, an ally, interfering with an American election. It is unacceptable bullying. And to complain afterward that the president, the one Netanyahu clearly is trying to depose, had decided not to meet with him later this month added to the impression it was nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to coerce the Obama administration to submit.
And still on the subject of “red lines”: There should a bright one between a dangerous international situation and a candidate so desperate to score points against his incumbent opponent that he blurts comments with no regard to how he may sabotage his country.
Romney is getting creamed big-time for his seeming recklessness after racing to condemn the Obama administration before he even knew that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans had been killed during separate attacks by extremists in Benghazi, Libya. Romney is accused of spouting off without getting his facts straight. He’s getting it from all sides for thoughtlessly stumbling through a dangerous minefield.

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September 17, 2012

King Features Column

(As usual, the syndication deal means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 11, 2012
       SPINNING OUR WHEELS IN THE MUD
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       Let’s face it, the U.S. financial system is on hold, at least until November and maybe till next year. The unemployment numbers aren’t going to improve. American businesspeople -- the ones who could be hiring now, but are not -- have hit the pause button. What’s frustrating is that many of them are sitting on tons of cash, but they’ve made the strategic decision not to spend it. So those who are desperately looking for work aren’t finding it.
       Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will continue to blame each other and offer daily sound bites about their polar-opposite approaches, but their facile certainties have created toxic uncertainty. It’s no secret why executives are sitting tight and putting up a “Help Unwanted” sign. They have no earthly idea what the terrain will be after the election, and they’re afraid to commit until they have a better sense of the potholes they’ll encounter in the months ahead.
       Even after they know whether they’re dealing with a second Obama administration or having their way with a new Romney White House, they probably still will be hesitant. They still will have to deal with the inmates of the Capitol Hill asylum.
       If you think it’s been maddening to watch the members of Congress thrash around, wait until we see how the new brood can make things even worse and do its best to push us over the edge.
       You’ve heard the expression: The country is hurtling toward a “cliff.” That’s the precipice that our nation will fall from if the Bush tax cuts expire at the same time massive new budget rollbacks are imposed. Let us not forget that the slashing is mandatory. It’s called “sequestration,” automatic chunks totaling $1.2 trillion through 2021 unless Democrats and Republicans reach a new armistice. Otherwise, next year alone, crippling decreases of $55 billion for defense and $55 billion for domestic programs will be automatic. The idea is that this would be such an unmitigated disaster that the warring parties will be forced to negotiate some sort of tax-and-spending treaty.
       Riiggghhhtt. Let us also not forget that this is the desperation ploy from last year to barely avoid the debacle of a national default.
       As it is, our precious gold-standard credit rating was tarnished when Standard & Poor’s lowered it, but our politicians seem to have no shame. Their heels are dug in just as deep, even though the lethal combination of higher taxes and brutally lower spending almost surely will drag the United States back into recession, with unemployment heading up to more than 9 percent again, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

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September 13, 2012

King Features Column

(This is obviously a week old, which reflects the deal with the newspaper syndicate. It was released before Mitt had really stepped in it again)

       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2012
       STAGGERING TO THE ELECTION
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       Forget the speeches. What saved Barack Obama is where he did not deliver his: Bank of America Stadium would have been a terrible venue, named for one of the behemoth financial institutions whose egregious conduct symbolizes the shadiness of the nation’s financial debacle. What a lousy optic that would have been.
       Chalk up one blunder avoided, albeit inadvertently, but the clumsy last-minute pandering over adding God and Jerusalem to the party platform was a self-administered bruise that looked awful. The Democrats sure didn’t need that. They have enough problems.
       Foremost, of course, is unemployment. The brutal reminder came the morning after their big show, as they were striking the set to take their act on the road to the election less than two months away. Let’s face it. The new 8.1 percent number is not the kind of rallying cry they would want. Ninety-six thousand jobs added. Whoopee.

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September 10, 2012

King Features Column

  
(As alway, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release thanks to the syndication
deal)

     FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 4, 2012
       PLEBIFRIGHT 2012
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       Now that Labor Day has passed -- or, as Mitt prefers to call it, Outsource Day -- we move into the final throes of the election season, the autumn of our discontent. Instead of Shakespeare’s glorious language, this play will feature a bomb blast of bombast. We will be assaulted by rhetoric and ads that pound us with ugly distortions that are blatant attempts to confuse. They are the handiwork of people who are shameless about lying.
       Anybody who tries to set the record straight will be immediately demonized as a partisan. That is standard operating procedure. In the midst of a Republican deception blizzard, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse blithely declared, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Note the term “dictated.” It’s a focus-group-tested buzzword, in this case, designed to inflame the fears of some sort of journalistic despotism. It’s a variation of that time-dishonored demagogue cliché, “If you don’t like the reflection, break the mirror.”
       So welcome, my fellow Americans, to Plebifright 2012. We can look forward to a scary, “pick your poison” choice that has left so many simply nauseated. It’s not that there aren’t clear-cut differences. The two sides present widely different roads for this country to travel. If you scrape away all the platitudes, you have Barack Obama advocating more government involvement in economic matters and less in social choices. Mitt Romney has been captured by the hard-liners in his party who demand just the opposite: a market system virtually free of regulation and an enforcement of stern moral values.

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September 7, 2012

King Features Columm

(As you can see, this is a week old. That's my deal with the newspaper syndicator)


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 31, 2012
DARK AND STORMY NIGHTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Wasn’t it entertainjng watching the networks switch between the tempest and the crackpots? Back and forth we went, from the insanity of the GOP convention to the inanity of the TV reporters in their high-tech gear barely able to stand up as they screamed over Hurricane Isaac. It was a hoot . It could have been better only if the political correspondents in Tampa, Fla., did their work in similar attire, hunkering down while the heavy gusts whipped inside.
We were all just blown away. What memories the party faithful will have as they move to the stormy campaign. Who will ever forget that two-thirds Clint Eastwood performance: Bad and Ugly. At any moment we were expecting him to stop, look at the camera and shout “LIVE FROM TAMPA, IT’S THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE!”
As compelling as that was, the night was not about empty chairs, but presenting Mitt Romney as more than an emotional empty suit. One after another old friend painted a warm, caring portrait of a man widely considered to be calculating and out of touch. Skeptics might consider it a coordinated effort to put lipstick on a prig.

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September 4, 2012

King Features Column

(As you can see this column appears here a week after its newspaper release. That's because of the syndication deal)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2012
PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
There is no attack more malignant than the passive-aggressive one. In fact, “passive-abusive” probably is preferable, since the intent is to do harm in the most cowardly way, disguised, for instance, as a joke. When the victim is hurt, the abuser can hide behind some line like, “Don’t be so sensitive,” or “I was just kidding, for heaven’s sake” or “We’ve got to have a little humor in a campaign.”
That last one was the disingenuous response of Mitt Romney when challenged in a CBS News interview for the gratuitous shot he took at an event in Michigan, where he and his wife had grown up: “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.”
Was that little joke an attempt to kiss up to the “birther” extremists, who are still a significant force in the GOP? Never mind that their contention that Barack Obama is disqualified from being president because they fantasize he was born outside the United States should have been discredited once and for all when Mr. Obama released his long form Hawaii birth certificate. And never mind that Mitt his very own self once again told CBS “I’ve said throughout the campaign and before, there’s no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S.”
Well, then, what could that line have been but a cheap-shot wink at the loonies, despite his insistence it was “No, no, not a swipe.” Outraged? Don’t be. Instead, let’s unleash all the passive abuse in politics. Forget the outright lies and direct assaults that make the campaign look like a daily series of muggings. It’s time for the more subtle approach.
Mr. Obama can blurt that “No one’s ever suggested that I haven’t paid any taxes or hide money in offshore accounts.” Or how about, “When we traveled with our dog INSIDE the car ...”
C’mon, Republicans: Lighten up. “We’ve got to have a little humor in a campaign.” By the way, the president should make sure to attribute that last quote to Mitt Romney or he’ll set off TV ads screaming about Obama plagiarism.

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August 31, 2012

MSNBC For Me This Weekend

I'm on Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 AM Eastern. You should be up to watch by then. Right?

August 30, 2012

King Features Column


(Usual yada yada yada: This column is delayed here a week after its newspaper release, because the syndicators say so)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 24, 2012

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES
BY BOB FRANKEN
Instead of vilifying Todd Akin, we should be honoring him for speaking the truth. Granted, what he said in a TV interview about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy is loony falsehood, but it is paradoxically the absolute truth about the rabid and misogynistic views of the extremist “base” that now controls and defines the Republicans.
More power to him as party leaders, including presumptive nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, call for him to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. It's certainly easy to see why Ryan wants to get rid of him, since the two have marched in lock step on this.
So, when Akin has pushed back, insisting on staying in as the Missouri GOP nominee, he was not only right, but a true symbol of his far-right party Now leaders are sweating bullets, worried that his public Neanderthal views might rescue Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill from a near-death experience. But actually, he is in tune with his hardscrabble conservative state, as well as with social militants that define his party nationally.
At the same time Akin was defying the elders and money people who were threatening to choke off his campaign lifeblood money, platform drafters in Tampa, Fla., were quietly approving a section that calls for a constitutional amendment forbidding abortion. Period. No exceptions for rape or incest. Is Akin so far out? Hardly. He seems to be pretty mainstream with this bunch.
They also were advocating a prohibition of gay marriage, proselytizing for their own theologies and prejudices, demanding they be imposed on all Americans. Now, thanks to Akin, their Dark Age views are out of the dark, thrust into the harsh light where they can be seen by rational voters.

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August 27, 2012

King Features Column

The usual disclaimer: The syndication deal requires this column to appear here a week after its newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 21, 2012
13 PERCENT OF WHAT?
BY BOB FRANKEN
Surely Mitt Romney didn’t believe that his new claim he "never paid less than 13 percent to the IRS” would be enough to dampen fiery demands from Democrats that he release his tax returns going back a decade or so. They’re having too much fun watching him squirm. 
Ignore his pretend petulance at a reporter asking such a “small-minded” question, Romney obviously had decided he needed to try to quell controversy over his refusal to release the returns. But he didn’t quell well.
The more he digs in his heels, the more he gives Democrats an opportunity to knock him over with their relentless portrayal of him as an out-of-touch super-rich guy who takes unfair advantage of a system stacked in favor of the wealthy hoarding their often ill-gotten gains. 
So when Mitt does his “trust me” act, the opposition responds with its “prove it” routine. Those were the exact words, for instance, of Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt on a conference call. Several of his other partisan soul mates pounced with variations of “What is he hiding?” 
One has to wonder about that, particularly when the candidate’s wife, Ann Romney, went on NBC’s “Rock Center” to once again contend that full disclosure would only give the opposition “ammunition.” That raises the Inevitable question: What kind of “ammunition”?
Would it blow up in their faces? Let’s just suspend disbelief and take Mitt at his word that he paid the percentage he claimed. Would the tax returns reveal whether he was basing that on income or the entirety of his annual haul mainly from investments? Would they show even more money sheltered in the offshore havens also used by some of the world’s most unsavory characters? In other words, would this “13 percent” reflect the frequent game-playing of the 1 percenters? 

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August 23, 2012

King Features Column


(In case it wasn't obvious let me mention that this column appears here a week after its newspaper release. That's because of the syndication deal)

       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 17, 2012
       THE “CHAIN” SCRUTINY
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       This is really important stuff, people. Mitt Romney and his crew, otherwise known as the “Romneyhood” merry band are seriously bent over the latest “Obamaloney.”
       Those zippy terms are among the latest products of the highly paid staffs on both sides. By the standards of this campaign, they are soaring eloquence. Almost everything else is deceitful bluster.
       The latest tempest in a teapot is once again a creation of the always-smooth-talking Vice President Joe Biden. There he was in Virginia, trashing Romney for wanting to “unchain Wall Street.” So far so good, but then he got worked up and added “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
       Notwithstanding the fact that Delaware Joe’s “y’all” before a Southern audience was flat-out phony, his choosing the word “chains” probably was not the best example of verbal finesse. And we all know how Biden always epitomizes finesse.
       Republicans saw a small opening, and they jumped right in. Mitt himself, who knows a thing or two about rhetorical embarrassment, nevertheless couldn’t wait to smite the enemy with his outrage, real or contrived. “This is what an angry, desperate presidency looks like,” he quickly inserted into his next speech.
       Actually, it was the vice presidency, but let’s not quibble. Some felt that Mr. Biden has crossed the line with “chains,” leaving the impression that he believes the Republicans are promoting slavery. Even in this era of poisonous rhetoric, slavery is a no-no. It’s bad form, sort of like comparing your opponents with Nazis. I hate this expression, but don’t go there.
       It would have been so much better if Biden would have avoided the C-word, and just stuck to the S-word, “shackles.” That tiny bit of fine-tuning would have precisely described a fundamental difference between the governing philosophies of the two sides.

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August 20, 2012

King Features Column

       (The usual drivel: Thanks to the syndication deal, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 14, 2012
       POSITIVELY NEGATIVE
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       Let’s get over it. All the hand-wringing in the world is not going to put a stop to negative campaigning. Why? Because it works.
       Two polls, conducted within days of each other in July, tell the story: One, by Knights of Columbus-Marist, tallied a full 78 percent who agreed that they were “mostly frustrated by the tone of political discourse.” One can only guess that the remaining 22 percent is comprised of the consultants and TV stations that find big bucks in the muck. They can justify their dark craft with the second poll, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey that reveals a jump in the numbers of those who have adopted extremely unfavorable opinions of both candidates. So we are attracted to tactics we consider noxious. Go figure.
       This is true even as the ads and charges are going increasingly over the top, or more appropriately, under the bottom. Let’s face it, Democrats: The commercial that ties Mitt Romney’s ventures to a woman’s cancer death is mighty low, to say nothing of grossly misleading. A Chicago Tribune editorial calls it a “vicious, shameful ad.” It doesn’t matter that it’s the work of Priorities USA Action, one of those super-PACs that can’t coordinate with a campaign it supports -- in this case, Barack Obama’s.
       Romney’s campaign doesn’t even make that pretense with its now-infamous Obama is “gutting welfare reform” tirade, which is a serious deception playing on TV screens everywhere. Dirty dealing? You bet, but guaranteed to tarnish the other guy.

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August 16, 2012

King Features Column


(As always the column here is dated by the fact that the syndication deal requires a wait of one week after its newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 10, 2012
LIARS BY ANY OTHER NAME
BY BOB FRANKEN
What is a lie? That should be an easy one. Dictionaries define the word as “an intentional untruth.” So here is the question: Why do politicians so often shy away from the word?
For instance, in response to Mitt Romney’s new charge that Barack Obama is getting rid of the “work” requirement in “welfare to work” because the administration is granting waivers to states that want to cut back on all the federal bureaucracy paperwork, Mitt Romney and his enablers are telling intentional untruths.
Romney knows that the dispensations require an increase in employment placements by 20 percent, and that in 2005, Massachusetts Gov. Romney was one of 28 state chief executives who requested them. So his new campaign, complete with TV ads screaming “Obama guts welfare reform,” are out-and-out lies.
But the Democratic push-back didn’t use the L-word. All Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter could muster was “false and hypocritical.” Why not just call it a lie, and Mitt Romney a liar for saying it?
Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten so benumbed to such outright falsehoods. Many of us aren’t even sure the candidates use their real names. In fairness, it is probable that no one would make up “Willard Mitt Romney” or “Barack Hussein Obama,” but how about the Senate majority leader? Is “Harry Reid” a pseudonym?
After all, this is the man who is almost certainly making up the “Bain investor” he claims told him that Romney had not paid taxes for 10 years. Props to Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus for calling “aka Reid” a “dirty liar.” (Just guessing that Priebus is also not an alias.) Give him credit for being honest about the falsehood from what’s-his-face. Reid’s fellow Democratic biggies are simply ignoring the dishonesty. Priebus’ counterpart, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, cites the fact that Romney refuses to release years of tax records. “Mitt Romney could clear this up in 10 seconds,” she argued. By the way, if a child of Wasserman Schultz’s married another with a double last name, would they, for instance, be Mr. and Ms. Wasserman Schultz Smith Jones? That is a toughie, which we simply cannot leave for future generations.

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August 13, 2012

King Features Column

(Much has happened but this column is a week old. The deal with the newspaper syndicator requires it)

  FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 7, 2012
       SLIMEBALL POLITICS
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       With a presidential candidate who constantly puts his foot in his mouth -- when he can shove it past the silver spoon -- and congressional candidates who demonstrate that the party is controlled by tea-party extremists, the Republicans should be in what George Bush the First called “deep doo-doo.” However, they are being kept afloat by the Democrats.
       Obviously, the Republicans are being helped along by the super-wealthy, who are willing to pay a little of their fortunes to keep their licenses to steal. It provides the GOP a huge advantage having all that money to finance a campaign of distortion and fearmongering.
       But the Democrats might be catching on. In the dirty pool competition, the party’s Senate leader, Harry Reid, is going for the tarnished gold. Without any evidence, Reid cites an alleged conversation with a “Bain Capital investor,” who claims that Mitt Romney failed to pay taxes for 10 years, and contends that’s why Romney won’t make his returns public.
       Who is this person? We have no way to know, since Reid ain’t saying, raising the possibility he is making up the whole thing. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has gone bananas, calling Sen. Reid a “dirty liar.” That’s because Reid’s comments have gotten traction. Romney felt compelled to respond: “Let me say categorically, I have paid taxes every year,” he insisted, “lots of taxes.” He demanded proof and that Reid “put up or shut up.” But he won’t budge off his refusal to put up his own tax returns, so Democrats aren’t about to shut up.
       Is this a dirty lie? Possibly. A justifiable cheap shot? Well, that’s a tougher one. It’s plausible this is a Harry Reid con to exploit the widespread impression of Romney as a tax evader. That would plunge the Senate majority leader into the political gutter. He’d certainly have plenty of company as he wallows around.

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August 9, 2012

King Features Column


(Same preface: This shows up here a week after newspaper release because the syndication deal says so)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 3, 2012
A LOSE-LOSE PROPOSITION
BY BOB FRANKEN
About winning presidential elections: It doesn’t happen. They are lost, not won. One side or the other puts up such a stiff that the other candidate waltzes into the White House. The overglorified campaign professionals don’t like to hear that because it threatens their golden goose, but after decades of covering this stuff, I consider that conclusion inescapable.
Proof? How about John McCain and Sarah Palin? We have made a lot about the historic significance of Barack Obama’s victory, as well as the media lovefest he enjoyed, but by this reckoning, the greatest factor was the stumblebum opponent he had in McCain — actually, two of them when you count Palin.
In case those two don’t seal the argument, let’s look at nonpresidents John Kerry and Al Gore, or one-timer George Bush the elder, who came across AS so out of touch that he blew his race for a second term. the was only elected the first time around because the Democrats decided to forfeit by nominating Michael “Tank Helmet” Dukakis.
Again, both sides are fielding candidates with major weaknesses. President Obama has the dreary economy, to say nothing of his inability to roll over dug-in enemies, which calls into question his leadership. And Mitt Romney has, well, Mitt Romney. 
Every time he opens his mouth without a script, he shows himself to be so tone-deaf that his rendition of “America the Beautiful” sounds like a virtuoso performance by comparison. Now he’s blaming the media, the self-pitying GOP default position. Relations with reporters have gotten so sour that a top press aide told one of them to “kiss my a**” (otherwise known as “kiss my asterisk”) and another one to “shove it.”
It was just the profane exclamation point at the end of a week in which the boss seemed hellbent on offending as many people as possible. His comments about London and the Olympics unleashed such a torrent of snarkiness that it was Romney who had to maintain the stiff upper lip. Same for his stop in Jerusalem, where he volunteered a mind bogging,y offensive comment  about the superior “culture” of Israelis compared with the far less prosperous Palestinians. The world gasped at the revealing combination of insensitivity, misplaced values, outright racism and total disregard for the realities on the ground. 

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August 6, 2012

King Features Column

(One more time: Because of the syndication deal, these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)

       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2012
       FUNDS AND GAMES
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       What a spectacle! With performers ranging from Queen Elizabeth II herself to high-stepping genuine doctors and nurses to real sheep, about all that was missing in the Brits’ opening Olympic extravaganza was a real sheepish Mitt Romney tap-dancing away from his embarrassing TV comments about England’s preparations for the games. By the time he skipped town, he had managed to turn all of jolly old England not so jolly. And this is the guy who is traipsing around on an overseas mission to demonstrate how adept he is at foreign relations.
       Where he is adept is fundraising. Before he had slunk out of London, he had a cozy gathering with high-finance types that included several connected to the Libor-rate scandal. The price of admission was $25,000 to $50,000 per fat cat. Ka-ching! The take was about $2 million.
       Then it was on to Jerusalem, where he held another. This one also was $50,000 a head, for wealthy donors who are intent on replacing Barack Obama because he hasn’t been deferential enough to the Israeli government. Among the visit’s choreographers was Sheldon Adelson, that international gambling tycoon and Jewish American militant. Adelson plans to dump $100 million into the campaign on top of the millions in financial support he has already lavished on just about any Republican who will toe his hard line and agree that Obama has been far too evenhanded in the Middle East. Never mind that Obama is president of the United States, which, for those who forget, is a separate country.
       Romney made sure his fervent patrons got what they paid for, declaring that as Benjamin Netanyahu threatens an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, “We will not look away, nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.” That is music to the ears of those nervous about Obama’s lack of fealty to the tough Likud agenda.
       He also held talks with old buddy Netanyahu and a blur of other officials, including lesser Palestinian leaders. Mitt and Bibi go back to the ’70s, when they worked together as corporate advisers. Now they are prime minister and president-wannabee. While Romney insisted he would not complicate the Obama administration’s open differences with Netanyahu’s agenda, he did just that: “Diplomatic distance in public between our nations,” he proclaimed, “emboldens Israel’s adversaries.” How could that not be a reason to believe the Israelis might have a more pliant U.S. chief executive after the election?

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August 2, 2012

Al and Bob on MSNBC

I'm doing Al Sharpton's show tonight (Thursday) on MSNBC during Tge 6:00 PM eastern hour. You'll have to see it to believe it.. And then you might not.

King Features Column

(Same old same old: The deal with the syndicator stipulates that this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012
       THE SORRY CAMPAIGN
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       Allow me to be the jeerleader at one of the most pitiful political games. It’s the one where the public figure wimps out after saying something provocative. Generally, it’s some variation of, “If my words hurt anyone, I am sorry.” Wouldn’t it be great to hear, “If what I said upset some people, then that’s GREAT.”
       Actually, that’s close to what we’re getting from the Barack Obama campaign, saying to Mitt Romney: “Apology? You gotta be kidding.”
       Kidding or not, Romney is substituting self-righteous outrage for answers, trying to deflect the shots at his record while he headed venture-capital firm Bain Capital. As we all know, uncomfortable questions swirl around his claims regarding when it was he left the company. Was it before or after it got into the outsourcing game? Romney insists it was before, even though there is documented evidence that he was head honcho years later than when he now claims he had severed the relationship.
       His team’s responses have been all over the map, raising more new doubts every step of the way. We’re still scoffing at Republican strategist Ed Gillespie’s assertion that Mitt’s departure from Bain Capital was “retroactive.” Figure that one out. And while you’re at it, explain the campaign’s insistence that it wasn’t “outsourcing” deals at all, but “offshoring.” It’s distinction without a difference. Both relocate jobs that could be filled in the United States.
       Since that obfuscation hasn’t worked, Mitt and his peeps are working on Plan C. That, of course, is the personal counterattack. The Obama outsourcing barrage is “beneath the presidency,” sputtered Romney. Therefore, he deserves an apology. Not this time.
       So it’s on to the tried-and-false tactic of branding Obama as some sort of unpatriotic, Muslim weirdo outsider -- and worst of all, he hates free markets. Romney: “I’m convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success.”
       Of course, there is the default position that Barack Hussein Obama really is a foreigner. The latest on that front comes from top Romney surrogate John Sununu, lamenting, “I wish this president could learn how to be an American.” He later expressed regret for his formulation, but Sununu chose those words the exact same day Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff and federally accused profiler Joe Arpaio claimed that his investigators have proven the president’s birth certificate is fraudulent. Coincidence? Probably. Low blow? Definitely.
   

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July 30, 2012

King Features Column

  
     (Once more with feeling: Because of the syndication deal, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012
       NATIONAL GRACE AND DISGRACE
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       I have been trying to get my thoughts and emotions around what the Aurora, Colo., massacre says about the United States. Thinking, for me, is always an ongoing struggle, but here goes: First off, a great part of the response demonstrates how largely we can be “united.” The sympathy from most of us, manifested in the individual kindnesses and memorials, shows us off at our best as we come together in collective mourning.
       President Barack Obama reflected all that is good about his fellow citizens by traveling to Aurora to meet with the families and act once again, in the face of all-too-frequent national horror, as “consoler in chief.” And so did Mitt Romney, who took just the right tone in supporting the president’s trip as “the right thing” to do. Their actions and words showed that even a brutal campaign can be set aside briefly for gentle dignity and simple humanity.
       Sad to say, these tragedies can bring out the worst in some of those who have managed to occupy an undeserved spot on the public stage. Congressman Louie Gohmert comes to mind. The man is an embarrassment even in the world of politics, getting elected from an East Texas district where a majority apparently celebrates his moronic extremism.
       It’s on display constantly. Gohmert was one of the Republican House members who joined Michele Bachmann to send a letter accusing Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of having ties to a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the government. And just a day or two later, there he was, attributing the movie house slaughter to “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” pandering to the harshest theocrats. Even worse, he went on to wonder: “With all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying? That could have stopped this guy more quickly.”
       What is scary about that was not just the possibility a shootout could have added to the carnage. What is really frightening is that millions of Americans agree with Gohmert.
       They buy into a tradition of guns that stains our history. It extends to weapons that are built for warfare. We cannot even pass restrictions that keep firepower for mass extermination out of the hands of the depraved and insane.

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July 26, 2012

The Rev and me on MSNBC again

Al Sharpton and I will be mixing it up on MSNBC tonight (Thursday) during the 6:00, Eastern, hour. As always, it'll be a laugh a minute.