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Bob's Columns and "Franken Sense" Archives

September 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

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

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September 15, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

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

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

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September 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 11, 2018

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

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September 8, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

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

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September 5, 2018

WHINING COUNTRY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 4, 2018

WHINE COUNTRY

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

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September 1, 2018

GOOD GRIEF-BAD GRIEF

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 31, 2018

GOOD GRIEF-BAD GRIEF

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

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August 28, 2018

JOHN MCCAIN ONE MORE TIME

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2018

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

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August 25, 2018

THE DANGERS OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 24, 2018

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

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August 21, 2018

THE PARADE HIT

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 20, 2018

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

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August 18, 2018

OUR SELF PROTECTION PROTESTATION

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 17, 2018

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

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August 14, 2018

THE SLEAZE SQUEEZE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 14, 2018
---
( From your wretched writer:

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

THE SLEAZE QUEEZE


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

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

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

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August 7, 2018

WITH APOLOGIES TO SEUSS' GRINCH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 7, 2018

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

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

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August 4, 2018

ISO A TWITTER ATTACK

ROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 3, 2018

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

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July 31, 2018

MEDIA ACTION PLAN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2018

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

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July 28, 2018

ALL CAPPING IT ALL OFF

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018

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

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July 24, 2018

ATTACK OF THE WIRMS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2018

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

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July 22, 2018

WHIP THE PRESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018

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

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July 14, 2018

THE LAWBIZ COUNTRY CLUB

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

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July 10, 2018

ACRONYM CREATION TACTICS (ACT)

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BOB FRANKEN
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ACRONYM CREATION TACTICS (ACT)

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

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July 7, 2018

THE SUPREME WORD MASQUERADES

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE SUPREME WORD MASQUERADES

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

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

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

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July 3, 2018

FREEDOM'S DOWNWARD SLIDE

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BY BOB FRANKEN

FREEDOM'S DOWNWARD SLIDE

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

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June 30, 2018

DOUBLE SPEAK-DOUBLE CROSS

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

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


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

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June 26, 2018

A NATION'S AMNESIA

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

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June 23, 2018

THE THOUSAND PER CENTERS

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

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June 19, 2018

A NAFTA WORLD CUP?

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

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June 17, 2018

THE ART OF THE HUSTLE

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

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June 5, 2018

PAID VACATION

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

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June 2, 2018

ROSEANNE, SAMANTHA AND KIM

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ROSEANNE, SAMANTHA AND KIM

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

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May 26, 2018

NFL AND DPRK

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

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May 22, 2018

ROYAL COUPLE-ODD COUPLE

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

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May 19, 2018

THE ART OF THE GEOLAE

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THE ART OF THE GEOLAE

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

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

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May 15, 2018

SLEAZE NEVER CHANGES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018

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

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

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May 8, 2018

TURNOUT IS FAIR GAME

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

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May 6, 2018

SEWAGE LEAKS


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BOB FRANKEN
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SEWAGE LEAKS

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

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May 1, 2018

BUYING DEMOCRACY

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

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April 28, 2018

STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2018

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

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April 22, 2018

HANNITY'S UNNECESSARY DISCLOSURE EXPOSURE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018

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

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April 17, 2018

MISSIONS ONGOING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2018

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

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April 14, 2018

RYAN ESCAPES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2018

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

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April 10, 2018

PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2018

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

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April 7, 2018

THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY

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


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March 31, 2018

THE "IS" DILEMMA

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

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March 27, 2018

GOOD FEELINGS OR EFFECTIVE ACTION?

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

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March 24, 2018

HIGH TECHNOLOGY-LOW HUMANITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2018

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

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March 17, 2018

TRUMP, CLINTON, HAWKING

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

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March 13, 2018

TRUMP'S BEAUTIFUL PARADE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2018

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

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

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March 10, 2018

SIMPLE STORMY SEX

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

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

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March 6, 2018

TRUMP--THE TRANSLATION

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

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March 3, 2018

WHITE HOUSE EXITUS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 2, 2018

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

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February 27, 2018

SECOND GUESSING THE SECOND GUESSERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 27, 2018

SECOND GUESSING THE SECOND GUESSERS

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

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

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

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

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February 24, 2018

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 23, 2018

THE EMPATHY DEFICIT DISORDER

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

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February 21, 2018

GUNS AND RUSSIANS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 20, 2018

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

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February 17, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 16, 2018

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

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February 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 13, 2018

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

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February 11, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 9, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

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

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February 6, 2018

FAKE NUNES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 6, 2018

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

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February 4, 2018

DINOSAURS AND CHEAP SHOTS

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

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January 30, 2018

STATE OF THE (DISS)UNION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 30, 2018

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

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January 28, 2018

SAD ADVICE FROM THE POET

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 26, 2018

SAD ADVICE FROM THE POET

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


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January 24, 2018

POINTING WHICH FINGER?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 23, 2018

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

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January 20, 2018

UNHAPPY ANNIVERSARY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 19, 2018

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


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January 17, 2018

OBSCENE DISTORTIONS

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

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

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January 13, 2018

POTUS (PROFANITY OF THE UNITED STATES)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 12, 2018

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

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January 9, 2018

"FIRE AND FURY" FIRE AND FURY

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BY BOB FRANKEN

"FIRE AND FURY" FIRE AND FURY

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

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January 7, 2018

TWEETY BIRD TRUMP

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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January 3, 2018

THE 2018 GAMES

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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December 31, 2017

AWARDS BY THE BAGFUL

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BOB FRANKEN
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AWARDS BY THE BAGFUL

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

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December 28, 2017

THE YEAR OF THE DOG

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 26, 2017

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

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December 23, 2017

THE SPITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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BOB FRANKEN

FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 23 2017

BY BOB FRANKEN


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

THE SPITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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

Except if you’re poor or otherwise vulnerable.

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

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

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

The opulence there is certainly decadence-laced.

And that’s probably what some critics have meant,

About those who are members and their sense of entitlement.

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November 23, 2017

THE HUMAN TURKEYS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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November 19, 2017

OF SLEAZE AND GIFTS

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

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

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November 12, 2017

OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

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OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

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

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October 31, 2017

A MANAFORT CAVE?

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A MANAFORT CAVE?

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

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October 24, 2017

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK

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

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October 10, 2017

OF STORMS AND MORONS

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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
OF STORMS AND MORONS
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “moron,” but we are the real morons -- certainly those in Washington, D.C., who allow Trump to so easily mess with our minds.
He’s at it again by calling in media types for a photo op at a White House dinner he was hosting for his seniormost generals and their spouses. It looked purely social, just a group picture for souvenirs. That is, until the Trumpster threw out this little bit of provocation: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
Whoa! What did he mean by “the storm”?
Good journalists that the White House pool reporters are, they asked that very question. Repeatedly. And repeatedly he refused to explain himself, brushing off requests for an explanation with a cagey “You’ll see.”
When the commander in chief starts talking about a “storm” in a room full of generals, “You’ll see” is just not going to cut it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson whose job it is to keep White House correspondents in the dark, was her usual helpful self, which is to say not helpful at all. Of course, that led to the obvious question: Was the chief executive simply messing with the press? “I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” she said, which means he definitely was messing with the press.
He’s been known to do that. In fact, it’s nonstop. He’s made “Fake news” his contemptuous go-to dismissal of any story that doesn’t praise him to the high heavens. He also runs a never-ending guerrilla campaign against the media. His latest Twitter onslaught to leave us ink-stained wretches all atwitter, to say nothing of the hair-sprayed wretches on TV, was his tweet “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up -- FAKE!”
Of course, that would be seriously unconstitutional. Presumably Trump is familiar with the Constitution, but it doesn’t matter. His base probably isn’t. Besides, Senate Intel is a bit preoccupied right now, investigating whether Trump and/or his campaign sold out the country’s election to Russian comrade Vladimir Putin.

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October 8, 2017

THE PLATITUDE AND DEFLECT STRATEGY

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE PLATITUDE AND DEFLECT STRATEGY
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There are first responders -- men and women who are heroes who bravely swarm to the rescue whenever there’s a tragic emergency -- and then there’s the first response, by politicians who have nothing to add so they put out statements that invariably include the bromide that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families. Admirable thought until we consider it has become a purely mechanical way of saying they have zero to say, that they’re concerned but impotent. At its worst, it is an excuse not to take meaningful action.
Then there’s the other cliche that’s currently in vogue. We hear it constantly after the massacre in Las Vegas by a heavily armed maniac who slaughtered or maimed hundreds of innocents who were simply having a good time; it’s some variation of “This is not the time to discuss politics” or “we’ll get to the gun-control discussion after the period of mourning.” It’s a favorite of government leaders who wish to deflect discussion about common-sense limits on the most insanely destructive killing machines. They have aligned themselves with the deadly arms industry’s lobbyists, the National Rifle Association and the rest, and have opposed any sort of controls on these weapons of mass destruction, like the ones in the arsenal of the Las Vegas monster. But what better time to talk about it?
In fact, Republicans and other arms merchant apologists are so spooked that they’re even saying they might “look into” making “bump stocks” illegal, which they’ve refused to do in the past. In case you’re not a homicidal weapon aficionado, a “bump stock” is a readily available add-on that can turn an already lethal semi-automatic assault rifle, where you have to pull the trigger each time you shoot someone, into a fully automatic one, where you literally don’t lift a finger as you spray mass murder around without exertion. Now even the NRA claims that it might support some sort of regulation on them. Of course, they didn’t say it would be meaningful regulation. At the same time, the GOP has discreetly put on hold legislation that would have made silencers legal so a shooter’s hearing isn’t imperiled. That’s truly the rationale advocates have given. So that’s what passes for progress, albeit minuscule. Or it could be that GOP leaders are simply hunkering down until after attention to this massacre is distracted.

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September 26, 2017

THE SPORTING STRIFE

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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 26, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SPORTING STRIFE
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I’m ending my National Football League boycott. My faithful readers, both of you, are aware that I have not been watching NFL games because the teams are blackballing quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick set off an uproar by refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a protest against U.S racism and, specifically, deadly police brutality inflicted on minorities.
More players steadily have joined him, mainly by taking a knee when the national anthem plays. But they really took up the cause when President Donald Trump decided to pander to the crowd with some crude remarks at a rally in Alabama. In a subsequent rant on Twitter, he suggested an NFL boycott. That’s enough for me. Mine is over, even though Kaepernick, who is obviously more qualified than many other quarterbacks, still is being shunned by owners and coaches.
So POTUS decided he really, truly needed to dive into still another poop pile. He just can’t resist them, sort of like a dog rolling around in them -- except that dogs are wonderful, when they’re not rolling around in poop piles.
I don’t know why I’m using such polite language, considering that I must now issue a Profanity Alert to continue. That’s so you can cover the eyes of your kiddies, even though they constantly utter obscenities the moment you’re out of earshot. Ready? Quoth President Trump: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now -- he’s fired.’”
I am so confused: Does the current president want us to stand for all anthems of his various supporters, and salute all their flags? There are so many. Besides “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Stars and Stripes, there’s “Dixie” and the Stars and Bars. Must we show respect when his neo-Nazis fans goose-step while carrying their swastika symbols? And how about the hammer and sickle revered by his comrade, Vladimir Putin? (Excuse me, alleged comrade.) Yes, I know, that’s not the Russian flag anymore, but Putin clearly wants to return to the glory days. I wonder if he has considered a baseball hat with lettering that says: “Make the Soviet Union Great Again.” It would be red, of course. Oh, wait ...

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September 24, 2017

DOTARD AND ROCKET

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BY BOB FRANKEN

DOTARD AND ROCKET

Quick! What does Kim Jong Un have in common with Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, most journalists and so many Americans who have somehow crossed President Donald Trump? You already know the answer: Kim has officially joined the ranks of the D-4-Ts. He, too, is now a Donald Trump Trash Talk Target.
D-4-T is not to be confused with “deportee,” which is what the president and his rank’s rankest xenophobes want to make of every poor soul in the United States not born in the United States. No, these D-4-Ts are those who have achieved the singular honor of having a dishonorific attached to their names.
“Rocket Man” Kim now joins “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco” and the “Fake News Media,” along with a slew of others who have displeased Trump and become nicknamed recipients of Donnie’s Antagonistic Childish Attacks, better known as DACA. (You thought DACA stood for something else? You must be dreaming.)
Now, the North Koreans are no slouches when it comes to smack talk. Rocket Man fired his own ICBM (Insult Carrying Buffoonish Missile) aimed at Target Trump, calling him a “Mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” What followed was a spike in people searching for the definition of “dotard,” which means “senile old man.” Maybe Pyongyang is onto something.
As one might expect, particularly one who has been around children, the Dotard Son of Queens hurled his own playground taunt, calling the Rocket Man “obviously a madman.” Take THAT!
It would be huuuuugely entertaining to watch these juveniles, Rocket and Dotard, were it not for the fact that they’re playing on a nuclear schoolyard. Still, it’s just been a war of words. So far.
It’s scary to believe that the safety of humanity is in the hands of such hotheaded delinquents. Kim is finding out that Trump has been immature a lot longer than he has; Dotard Don has decades more experience at name-calling.

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September 17, 2017

HURRICANE HOT DOGS

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BY BOB FRANKEN
HURRICANE HOT DOGS
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Amid all the hurricane stories about dangers and human suffering, I find it necessary to focus on an issue that invariably comes up during these stormy times: There always are people out there who ridicule us TV reporters when we stand in the extreme wind and rain and shriek our live shots over the roar of the wind. You might think that’s insignificant, but then perhaps you’re not familiar with every television correspondent’s axiom: “It’s all about me.”
As compelling as that belief is, it’s not our only motivation. But it’s a biggie. Take it from me, because I’ve ventured out in quite a number of blizzards, hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions. (By the way, I’ve often wondered whether a tropical depression is the melancholy some people experience around palm trees. But I digress.) Having weathered the storms, so to speak, I possibly can provide some insights: First of all, you can disregard the Saffir-Simpson scale of wind velocities. I’ve developed a much simpler way to gauge whether it’s too dangerous out there: If the winds are bl;owing so hard that they cause my hair to fly around after I’ve sprayed it into the usual helmet, then this is probably too hazardous, particularly for us 8-by-10 glossies, unless, of course, the competition has ventured into this tempestuous maw. More about that in a moment.

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September 12, 2017

NFL BOYCOTT

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BY BOB FRANKEN

NFL BOYCOTT

I did it! I made it through Sunday without watching any NFL game! Perhaps I didn’t mention it, but I’ve decided to boycott the National Football League. It’s not an easy decision for me. I played football. Come to think of it, that might explain my mental acuity (or lack thereof). But I’ve had a lifetime attachment to the game. Until now. At least I won’t be watching the pros play on TV, and certainly not in person. That’s become way too expensive.
The reason for my shunning the NFL can be explained in two words. You can probably guess them. No, not those two words. I’m talking about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who isn’t -- isn’t on any pro squad in spite of the fact that he is way more qualified than many of the others who’ve at least hung on as backups.
By now you know the reason why; Kaepernick created quite an uproar last year when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. He chose not to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He explained that it was his way of expressing opposition to the sometimes deadly police brutality on so many occasions aimed at minorities and the mistreatment in general of the poor and people of color.
Kaepernick, obviously, doesn’t fit the stereotype of the dumb, oblivious jock. Nor does he comply with the regimented, go-along-with-the-program mandate that’s implicit in professional sports. So in spite of crushing pressure to abandon his protest, he refused. He continued to sit out and, finally, kneel out during the national anthem. Imagine the abuse he got. It showered down from people who said it deeply offended their sense of patriotism and particularly those who are severely antagonized by anti-law-enforcement expressions like Black Lives Matter.
At the end of last year, Kaepernick decided to become a free agent, to leave the 49ers and to try to sign a more lucrative contract with another team. But guess what? No other organization would have anything to do with him. In spite of his obvious talents and record, including a Super Bowl appearance as the starting quarterback, Kaepernick was not hired by any franchise, even those who developed a dire need for quarterback help.

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September 11, 2017

STORMY WEATHER

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BY BOB FRANKEN

STORMY WEATHER

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What a crying shame it is that it takes a calamity for Americans, in particular our leaders, to rally around and do the right thing together. The spirit of unity is then quickly forgotten, and we once again dissolve into bickering, or much worse, which threatens our very sense of national community.

So it is that the catastrophes of Harvey, Irma and other pending natural disasters have shamed us into narrowly avoiding the civic disasters that were about to consume the barely United States. It’s almost like the catastrophic hurricane winds blew away petty political concerns and created a momentary atmosphere of cooperation. Perhaps it’s that chagrin that caused President Donald Trump and our congressional leaders to abandon their normally embarrassing misconduct and agree to temporarily avoid the chaos that would be caused by a partial shutdown of our federal government -- just when it’s most needed for storm rescue -- and also to shove aside the typical demagoguery and approve an increase in the debt ceiling.

Usually, the perennial candidates who run things like to dabble in precipitous bluster before doing what’s necessary to raise the borrowing limit. Our government was on the brink of being unable to pay for its vital functions and suffering the degradation of sovereign debt default. So it looks like the weather fiascos are acting as catalysts to prevent economic fiascos.

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September 2, 2017

HUMANITY AND INHUMANITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 1, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

HUMANITY AND INHUMANITY
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Hurricane Harvey is such a tragic natural disaster that it’s been impervious to the vigorous attempts to steal the spotlight by that unnatural disaster Donald Trump. Even though our current president desperately craves the soothing of constant attention, his attempts at provocation -- like the Joe Arpaio pardon and his usual Twitter outrages -- were not enough to deflect our focus. The nation was concentrating instead on the thousands upon thousands of people suffering in the Gulf region, particularly Houston, as the historic deluge drove them from the safety of homes that had been turned into death traps by the rising water.
But as they struggled with their horror, the flooding could not sink the heroism of ordinary Americans banding together to assist their neighbors in trouble. Professionals from police forces, fire departments, the Coast Guard and National Guard, along with medical providers, social workers, etc., overcame monstrous conditions to do their jobs and put all their training exercises into real rescue operations. They were joined by a remarkable armada of private citizens; so many who had a boat and a boatload of compassion joined the frenzied effort to save their fellow citizens. Except for the local officials, who worked tirelessly, the politicians -- the national ones who so tarnish this nation -- were irrelevant for the moment. They were shunted aside by the likes of the “Cajun Navy,” dedicated owners of all kinds of floating devices who came from sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many had been bailed out themselves when they were overwhelmed by other catastrophes, and now simply viewed it as their obligation to risk their safety and do whatever they could to help their fellow citizens. Others were opening their homes to the families that had been driven from their own.

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September 1, 2017

MSNBC LABORING

My extended weekend includes a Monday MSNBC appearance during the 8AM Eastern hour. Call me crazy but I strongly suspect we'll be talkin' Trumpster trash.

August 30, 2017

NOTHING IS UNPARDONABLE

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BY BOB FRANKEN

NOTHING IS UNPARDONABLE


Those who cover Washington these days never make unbreakable plans for the weekend, thanks to that smarmy tactic known as the “Friday Night Dump.” That’s when the ethically challenged politicians (pardon the redundancy) who are the subject of one scandal or another release the embarrassing or incriminating documents they’ve been trying to hide, or take highly controversial or outrageous actions. They wait till after the nightly network newscasts, knowing full well that people are too occupied with errands and fun to pay much attention to the Saturday papers and TV news. It shows that our most powerful leaders often are cheesy weasels.
As a journalist, I’ve witnessed this chicken-spit little game through several administrations and have had countless Friday nights blown to smithereens by presidents and their peeps pathetically trying to minimize the damage when they’re forced to come clean about something or other. Of course, their efforts leave them still covered in slime.
And now we come to President Donald Trump, who has taken the Trump Dump to new lows. Not only did he wait until Friday evening, but he did it lon a Friday when media and the nation’s attention was focused on Hurricane Harvey and the millions of people in Texas and along the Gulf Coast who were facing destruction and severe personal danger from the powerful storm. That’s when he and his ultra-cynical clowns hit us in the face with an Arpaio.

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August 28, 2017

THE TWO DONALDS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE TWO DONALDS
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What I’m about to describe is Fake News -- it hasn’t happened, at least so far. However, I think it’s just a matter of time. At some Nazi/KKK rally where some of President Donald Trump’s “good people” are joining the lunatic-fringe types in hateful demonstrations, they are confronted by angry counter-protestors. Someone pulls a gun and starts firing. The violence escalates, and people die.
You say that it has already occurred, in Charlottesville, Virginia? True, that’s where an angry right-wing lunatic took his car and slammed into a crowd of innocents, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. But this might be even worse, believe it or not. It’s hard to conceive that a vehicular attack would be met by another in response. It is not hard to speculate that when one armed wacko pulls out a pistol or rifle and starts shooting, those on the other side will pull out theirs, and bullets will be flying everywhere, leaving many casualties.
With so many people packin’ heat these days, and with the anger escalating in this country, it seems almost inevitable. I don’t think we are yet on the brink of another civil war in the barely United States, but we are fast reaching the point. Since the campaign and election of Donald Trump, civilized political debate is becoming impossible. It is shouted down by the intense antagonisms that are spiraling out of control, their flames fanned by a president whose fragile ego and inner demons override any semblance of reason. That doesn’t bode well for our government -- for that matter, it doesn’t bode well for a world that is always a tinderbox looking for a spark. Donald Trump is a walking, talking spark.

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August 23, 2017

STATUE STATUS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 22, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

STATUE STATUS
Now that President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have announced that they’re skipping the Kennedy Center Honors because the honorees were joining the rest of those shunning him, let’s talk about the foolish debate he’s attached himself to: whether to retain those statues that glorify the Confederacy. Because it’s such a foolish debate, I’m not about to call everyone who opposes getting rid of statues of Robert E. Lee and the rest “bigots.” “Insensitive,” yes, but not necessarily bigots. At least not all of them. Many of them are, however — including President Trump, who is aligning himself with the Nazis, Klansmen and other racists who contend that the statues of Lee and others should stay in place to reflect history.
Never mind that it’s the history of slavery, which they fought a deadly civil war to defend. He and Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and all the “Johnny Reb” soldiers are glorified in bronze and marble instead of vilified, which is what they deserve. They are icons of a blighted American reality that resonates to this day, from slavery to Jim Crow to modern-day prejudice exploited successfully by our demagogue president.
Of course Trump opposed the removal of these icons of hate. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted, “... the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
Unfortunately, I must respectfully disagree with the president. Oh, let’s be honest, I disrespectfully disagree with this president. They can be “comparably replaced” and could reflect a much more realistic view of U.S. “history and culture.” As these tributes to treason are eliminated, let’s install new ones that depict slavery. They could be works of art that honor the slave being beaten by his white owner with a whip.
And let’s not forget the Jim Crow legacy. That could be symbolized by civil-rights demonstrators being met by Bull Connor and fire hoses. Another statue could depict an African-American prospective tenant being denied an apartment rental by Donald Trump and his father.

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August 20, 2017

ALT UNIVERSE

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ALT UNIVERSE
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So, we have the “alt-right,” the “alt-left” and a president who is clearly not “alt-there.” What Donald Trump is fast becoming is alt-isolated, as the accumulated disgust over his constant degradation of the office has boiled over. After days of vacillating, his news conference tantrum -- where he argued that there is a moral equivalence between Nazis, Klansmen ,other violent white nationalist haters and those who fight them -- revealed the depths of his immorality, amorality or just plain stupidity.
That was the last straw for many who had opportunistically cooperated with his administration. The list even included the corporate CEOs who had allowed themselves to become members of his various White House task forces. I say “even” because usually, many of these business titans value profits without honor, and they joined up with Trump because the proximity allowed them the chance to whisper in his ear and push their agendas to make their swollen treasuries even more bloated.
But then at that grotesque news conference, the nation’s chief executive clarified his thinking about who was responsible for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought on by protests organized by virulent racists, anti-Semites and other white supremacists. Trump insisted on stating: “You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.” He was insisting that among those who associated with Nazis were some “very fine people,” and those who resisted them in Charlottesville bore comparable blame.
When the CEOs either were so dismayed about his remarks or made their market research calculation that pandering to fringe extremists was bad PR, they made it clear they would bail on the task forces. Trump quickly disbanded the groups in order to save face.

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August 15, 2017

"MANY SIDES"

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"MANY SIDES"
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Finally President Donald Trump acknowledged in a statement that “Racism is evil,” and described the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” as “criminals and thugs.” Put that in the “too little too late” file. It had taken two days before he could denounce the extremist bigots responsible for the deaths in Charlottesville, Virginia. Still, his immediate response was the one that matters, because it reveals what a toxic force he is.
Originally he had condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides -- on many sides.” On many sides? Was the current president of the United States suggesting that counter-protesters shared equal blame with the fascist terrorist who drove his car into a crowd and mowed down more than a dozen people, killing an innocent woman? Apparently he was dismayed by those who dared to resist his crowd of fellow fringe fanatics in Charlottesville.
This president seemed to be suggesting that fighting against those advocating violent racism is morally comparable to the actions of the violent racists. One can argue that physical force is misguided from either side, but the motivation is nowhere near equivalent. It’s easy to surmise that Trump doesn’t comprehend that. Or one might conclude instead that he absolutely understands that the core of his support comes from the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis and other white supremacists who have exploited white lower-middle-class angst in the United States and turned it into their irrational hatred. He couldn't offend them. And obviously he didn’t.

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August 13, 2017

DOWN IN THE "FIRE AND FURY" FLAMES

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BY BOB FRANKEN

DOWN IN 'FIRE AND FURY' FLAMES
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Is it me, or does “Fire and Fury” sound like the name of a rock group? President Donald Trump apparently made up his
own lyrics when he trash-talked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he blustered on live TV. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Aides insist that the “fire and fury” words were Trump’s own, although they had agreed that he needed to convey a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” message. What Trump really accomplished is scaring the daylights out of just about everybody on the planet --
everybody but Kim. It wasn’t very long before Pyongyang fired back with another threat, this time to loft missiles at Guam, in effect, to make the little U.S. territory “Guam With the Wind.”

For good measure, North Korea called the “fire and fury” warning “a load of nonsense.” As usual, Trump then proceeded to double down, insisting his language “maybe wasn’t tough enough.” Still, his national-security people tippy-toed away from the harsh, bomb blast bombast: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it a point to make an appearance before cameras aboard his plane while flitting around Asia. He offered a reassurance that “Americans should sleep well at night,” and insisted that the boss was only trying
to be crystal clear: “I think what the president was doing was sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language.”

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August 6, 2017

ACRID ACRONYMS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

ACRID ACRONYMS
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For those of us who thought that “acronym” was a city in Ohio, it is not. It’s an abbreviation formed from initials used to describe something that’s then pronounced as a word. SCUBA, for example, stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Did you know that? Most divers are simply happy to make SCUBA do when it comes to clearly labeling their underwater pursuits.
Unfortunately, many acronyms are really tortured and designed to mislead. Wait -- “tortured and designed to mislead” defines the American political system, so it’s no surprise that many of these clever abbreviations are political and therefore deceptive, contrived to disguise some ugly intention in pretty platitudes.
So it is with the RAISE act, brought to you by the ultraconservative sponsors of legislation that would cut in half legal immigration to this country and replace family considerations with meritocracy standards, among them already speaking English. Critics would say that it effectively shuts out millions of people whom the white right would consider undesirable, and that it flies right in the face of this country’s historic welcome to “huddled masses yearning to be free.” Backers of the proposal, including the president (of course), argue that it’s a way to preserve jobs for U.S. citizens. Although hundreds of studies have disputed that, it plays to the fears of unemployment and many prejudices of the frightened millions of Trump supporters who would be afraid of their own shadows if their own shadows came from another country.
So the proponents of the cutbacks call it the RAISE Act. That’s Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy. Get it? It’s a crock, but there it is. What’s regrettable is that there are other acronyms to use. How about the Bill Intending to Gut Our Tradition, or BIGOT. Isn’t that a more accurate acronym?

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July 26, 2017

THE THEME SCENE


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THE THEME SCENE

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People, we have an attitude problem to discuss: It has come to my attention that too many of you are mocking President Donald Trump and his “Made in America” theme week. Perhaps it’s because it takes some nerve for Donald Trump to champion
“Made in America,” since so much of the merchandise hustled by his family’s many enterprises is definitely not made in America.

A little thing like that didn’t stop POTUS from turning the White House grounds into a display of domestically manufactured products. Shameless, he’s not. He even wandered around the stuff, playing with a firetruck and allowing himself to be photographed in a cowboy hat. Words cannot convey how he looked in his Stetson.

It’s not the first time this administration has concocted one of these. Who can forget “Infrastructure” week, “Technology” week or “Energy” week? “American Heroes” and “American Dreams” are up next. Weak, but lest you haters out there jump at still another opportunity to ridicule this president, he’s not the only one; George W. Bush had them all the time.

My main quibble is that they don’t reflect reality. Yes, I know that’s being picky, but the administration’s branding geniuses can come up with more cutting-edge themes that really capture the Trump experience. First of all, it’s likely you’re scratching your head right now (or whatever you do when you have no idea what someone is
talking about). Perhaps you thought that it was actually “Russia Investigation” theme week or, more specifically, “Presidential Pardon” week, since Trump and his lawyers are reportedly discussing his pardoning whomever of his associates gets accused of criminal activity in connection with the probe into whether his side sold out the American election to his buddy Vladimir Putin. Some accounts, by the way, included discussions about whether he could pardon himself. There’s a real heated debate about that one, although the Trumpster claims he has “complete” power to pardon.

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July 18, 2017

TRUMP'S RUSSIAN COMEDY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017

TRUMP'S RUSSIAN COMEDY
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I can tell you what the cast members of “Saturday Night Live” are doing during the off-season: They are practicing their Russian accents.
It would take pretty much the entire repertory company to do a bit on the meeting between Don Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the gang from the Kremlin. There were altogether at least eight people at that infamous get-together that we now know was called to dish some dirt on Hillary Clinton. “SNL” already has been feasting on the Trumpsters to the point that this season it gathered 22 Emmy nominations, the largest number ever in the show’s four-plus decades of existence. The problem the writers always have with the Trump crew is coming up with a farce that is more slapstick than the real thing.
Take that meeting with the Trumpets and the Soviets -- oh, excuse me, Russians. That, by the way, was the first mistake of Junior and the rest: agreeing to take that meeting. First, they had to find an office big enough to accommodate the crowd. Presumably the ostentatious building has conference rooms, because this gathering featured a cast of characters that could fill one of those TV reality shows. We might call it “The Real Colluders of Trump Tower” or, given young Donald’s role, maybe “The Apprentice”? (Nah. Who would call a program “The Apprentice”?)
Of course, there was young Donald; we call him “young,” although, as many have pointed out, he’s the same age as French President Emmanuel Macron. You know Emmanuel Macron: He’s the one with whom Trump the elder was cavorting in Paris, telling Macron’s wife what “great shape” she was in. Our president is nothing if he’s not cool. (What’s French for “ewwwwww”?)

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July 11, 2017

MCCONNELL'S HEALTH CARE MANIPULATIONS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

MCCONNELL'S HEALTH CARE MANIPULATIOMNS
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Beware of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lowballing. That’s good advice for the Democrats and others who are getting cocky about defeating a Republican replacement for Obamacare. Be very suspicious of stories appearing in the papers of record and TV network news that all say the same thing, which is that McConnell’s intentions to sell his partisans in the Senate on some variation of a plan are in deep doo-doo.
The consensus of all these stories is that too many moderates and right-wing immoderates in his party are irretrievably split into those who feel the evolving legislation leaves millions upon millions of sick and poor people unable to afford medical protection and those who apparently feel the plan should dump everybody but the rich or well.
But McConnell thrives in deep doo-doo when it comes to the messy process of deal-making. If the United States ever wants to get serious about negotiating with Vladimir Putin or any of those other troublesome world leaders, we’ll send Mitch McConnell, not some rank amateur like Donald Trump.

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July 10, 2017

THE BF BS REPORT

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THE BF BS REPORT

This is another BS column. By that I mean “Bob Simplifies.” (Whatever did you think I meant?) With so much misleading rhetoric, politicians are able to constantly confuse what they are really saying with complicated babble. So, as a badly needed public service, Bob Simplifies:


This is another BS column. By that I mean “Bob Simplifies.” (Whatever did you think I meant?) With so much misleading rhetoric, politicians are able to constantly confuse what they are really saying with complicated babble. So, as a badly needed public service, Bob Simplifies:

“Fake news” misspeaks for itself. It actually means that the particular expose in question is probably accurate. As a part of his campaign to discredit any critical coverage in the media, Donald Trump has been able to deflect all but the most sycophantic stories. The tactic has been wildly successful with his millions of lemmings -- pardon me, his “base” -- who are consumed by resentment for anybody not named Trump. Scumbag journalists are high on their list of lowlifes, where we’ve been since the beginning of time when we began reporting on the people who would lead us, supported by adoring crowds of followers. This is nothing new.

We’re the skunk at their picnic. Recently it’s become their favorite way of dismissing a valid story: Call it “fake news.” Take Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kovach, who is vice chair of the federal voting commission, which was contrived by Trump to prove his fictitious claim that widespread election fraud denied him an actual majority victory in the 2016 presidential campaign. Kovach has requested that states provide the commission individual voter data, and a huge number of states are resisting. Stories about that? Kovach calls them “fake news.” Hey, that’s all the true believers need to hear to disbelieve.

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July 4, 2017

TWITTER DEPENDENCE DAY

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BOB FRANKEN
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BY BOB FRANKEN
Twitter dependence day
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Donald Trump almost got it right. Where his predecessor from a couple of generations ago, President Harry Truman, famously said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” President Trump’s version would be, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out the Twitter.”
He’s been at it again, celebrating the July 4th break with a tweeting fireworks show. Some of them blow up in his face, like his attack on Mika Brzezinski for her face-lift that never was. Then he topped that with a 10-year-old video from World Wrestling Entertainment, the epitome of class, that shows him fake pummeling WWE owner Vince McMahon. But in this version, McMahon has a CNN logo superimposed on his head, which has created still another media uproar. Clearly, Trump loves media uproars. But his allies cringe when his tweets switch positions without warning, as with his sudden support for repealing Obamacare without replacing it.
Poor baby has gotten frustrated at his party’s inability to come up with a credible approach to the delivery of medical services in the United States. The Republicans have spent years promising that they’d replace their hated Affordable Care Act with something better. But they haven’t been able to get their ACA together. So Trump has now cyberannounced, “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”
That undermines everything Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP Congress have been trying to do. It becomes just another tweet from the Trumpster that tosses their efforts into the dumpster. They are in constant cringe mode, and just wish he would stop with his Twitter tantrums.
Stop? Trump promises more, and defends them: “My use of social media is not Presidential -- it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again.” His critics say his social-media ventures are sociopathic, but supporters adore every one. They like the fact that their hero governs by turmoil. He talks to them in their language, which is the language of frustration and hatred, and not just hatred for all the scapegoats he attacks, but also for the elitists who enrage them and get enraged at him.

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July 2, 2017

Pre Independence on MSNBC

I'll be doing MSNBC on a Monday at 9AM Eastern. We'll discuss whatever the latest buffoonery is.

May 31, 2017

A HELPING HAND

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BY BOB FRANKEN

A HELPING HAND
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Melania and Donald Trump have a problem, and obviously the hands-on approach isn’t working.
Twice on their overseas trip, video showed the president reaching for the first lady’s hand and her avoiding his like the plague. Let’s not forget that this is a guy who is a germaphobe, so Melania shouldn’t have to worry about the digital plague -- no matter what size hubby’s digits are. Still, there she was; one time pretending to deal with her hair when he reached out and the other clearly swatting away his attempt at photo-op affection. Even if that was her rebelling against the irritatingly phony handholding charade between politicians and their spouses -- remember Bill and Hillary Clinton used to grit their teeth and lock fingers -- Melania’s refusals to touch paws gave the world pause.
The video of her dexterous rejections went so viral that not only did they infect the internet, but they contaminated every TV news show on the planet. Even newspapers in their digital (pardon the pun) editions offered links to Melania’s refusal to link with Donald.
So then what happened? Obviously somebody performed an appendagectomy, which was accomplished by super-gluing their palms together. I defy you to spot a picture of them anymore where they are not holding hands. They may be scowling, but they are determined not to be seen together in any way but attached at the wrist.
In their desperate effort to stifle speculation that all is not well behind the closed doors of their gilded relationship, they are giving not just one finger to the trolls, but all of theirs. In Trumpworld, after all, image is everything. That’s a variation on perception is reality; but with all Trump’s lies, there is no reality. Alternative facts, yes. Reality, no.

So now Mel and Don are presented as a happy couple -- as happy a couple as can be when both are scowling most of the time. There are some practical problems with the new hand-holding mandate. First of all, often it’s awkward. It’s not always easy for a 70-year-old man to reach for Melania when she’s occupying her usual space somewhat behind him (which explains why Mr. Trump was so comfortable with the Saudis). Besides, as Donald himself explained on the video that’s not usually where he grabs a woman.

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May 2, 2017

POTUS AND HIS PEEPS

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BOB FRANKEN
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POTUS AND HIS PEEPS
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Let’s be real, people: When President Donald Trump constantly savages journalists for reporting “fake news,” he’s faking it.
The man-child has a constant need for the attention that only mass media can provide. He watches cable news obsessively, reads the papers the same way, particularly the New York Post and, with someone there to explain the big words, The New York Times. When any report falls short of outright adulation, he throws a tantrum. And his followers roar their approval. The voted for him because they were angry at being left behind, angry at anybody and everybody identified as part of the “establishment” that they don’t really comprehend -- they still are, but they love their Donald.
So it was on his 100th night in office. He spoke in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a state chosen because it had raised a big finger to that establishment and voted for him. “I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington swamp ... with much, much better people,” he bellowed. It also was more than 100 miles away from the subdued, but still pretentious, White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, that annual event where self-important media types and self-important Hollywood celebs mingle with self-important political types to tell each other how important they are. It was a little deficient in the celeb department; most of those stayed away, still getting over their post-traumatic stress disorder after Hillary’s loss. She wasn’t there either. In fact, the political ranks were depleted because the leaders of the Trump administration were boycotting in support (voluntary or coerced) of their great leader Donald Trump, who declined his invitation to attend. He became the first sitting chief executive not to show up since Ronald Reagan, who did have an excuse: He was recovering from being shot.
Trump’s excuse was that he wanted to be as far as he could from the gathering of journalists who “are a disgrace ... incompetent, dishonest people.” Not only do they spread “fake news,” he says, but they work for “failing” organizations and are overall “enemies” of America.

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April 26, 2017

THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM

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THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM
BOB FRANKEN

Those who worry that they are closed-minded because they can’t conceive of agreeing with anything Donald Trump says or does can stop beating up on themselves--along with him. He’s finally come up with something sensible, calling the intense focus on any president’s first 100 days in office a “ridiculous standard.” It is ridiculous, largely media hype, a contrived way to judge how a new administration is doing.
For the record, Trump is doing a miserable job. He’s a reverse King Midas. Everything he touches is tarnished, and it’s not even gold to begin with, except maybe fool’s gold. Still, the hundred-day marker means very little. The first one that means anything politically comes 650-plus days in, on Nov. 6, 2018.
That would be the day of the midterm elections in the United States, when Americans choose a full House of Representatives, 435 seats, and a third of the Senate, 34 this time around. Right now, both are in GOP hands, and Democrats have a steep uphill battle to gain control of either. But they are hoping mightily that Trump will have made such a mess of things that they will overcome the odds against them, and crawl over the rubble of his mistakes to somehow take back Capitol Hill, or at least half of it.
There are several problems with that strategy, of course. First of all, Democrats have this bad habit of beating themselves -- they are usually their own worst enemies. Exhibit A would be their most recent presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton should have scampered to victory, far outdistancing the buffoon running against her. Instead, she hung a “kick me” sign on herself and stood there while Donald Trump did just that. That was after Trump had done everything he could to divide his party.
But the Democrats, who specialize in party division, came up with antagonisms of their own. Suddenly, it was Bernie Sanders and the Sandernistas fighting Hillary Clinton and the Clintonistas. The infighting overwhelmed the outfighting, sapping the strength and enthusiasm of Democrats, who often were more intent on settling grudges than doing in Donald Trump. Instead of riding the Clinton coattails, Democratic candidates for Congress tripped on them. And they have an innate ability to do so again in the midterms.

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April 13, 2017

AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS

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BOB FRANKEN
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AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS
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We don’t know if President Donald Trump was purely motivated to fire cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield. Was he genuinely horrified by the nerve-gas attack on a rebel-held town ordered by dictator Bashar Assad? His strongest critics insist that Trump saw the revulsion at the deaths of the innocents, including children, really and cynically as an opportunity to boost his approval ratings, which have spiraled ever downward during the constant embarrassments that have defined the earliest days of his administration. There is no way to know.
He wouldn’t be the first president whose commander in chief actions raised that same woeful question. In August 1998, Bill Clinton ordered a missile attack of his own, against the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum, Sudan. He contended that it supplied chemical weapons to al-Qaida, although there has never been any actual proof of that, to this day. What is a fact is that it took place on the day that Monica Lewinsky was scheduled to testify before a grand jury in connection with, well, you know. Suddenly, the intense news focus shifted from a Washington courthouse to across the world.
I know this because, during my CNN phase, I covered the various Clinton scandals and was set for another day of live shots, tons of them, to service all the news networks in the Turner Broadcasting empire. Then came word from the White House of the rain of missiles on Khartoum, and suddenly I had nothing to do. No live shots for me. I couldn’t buy airtime. More than once I’ve quoted a colleague who observed, “We (the news networks) can only overcover one story at a time.” It was all Khartoum, all the time.
To this day, we don’t have any idea how the Monica factor influenced the Clinton calculations, any more than we do about Trump’s incentives. As a distraction, it ultimately didn’t work; four months later, President Bill Clinton was impeached. As for President Donald Trump, the early positive responses literally gushed. Suddenly, the pundits couldn’t be ecstatic enough about how Trump had been soooooo commander in chiefish, even the ones who had just moments before described him as soooooo buffoonish.

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April 2, 2017

AMERICA'S PASTIMES

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BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICA'S PASTIMES
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What a relief: President Donald Trump will not be throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals’ opening-day ballgame. I should say what a relief pitcher, because now the Nats will have to find someone else to give a ceremonial start to the season -- which will only end when they’ve won the Beltway World Series, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games (who you calling a Beltway “homer”?).
The Nationals have a standing offer to presidents to heave the first ball, but the White House declined, saying POTUS had a “scheduling conflict,” which is another way of saying Trump and his handlers realized that he would be booed out of the stadium. Besides, with that weak pitch he gave Republicans before their health care plan loss, he had to realize that he’d probably fall short of the plate. Apparently he doesn’t have the strong-arm he might have had in the past.
It’s a pity, because the tradition dates back to 1910, when William Howard Taft did the honors. One might think Trump’s people could have at least offered up one of their own as a substitute, but that’s not as easy as it would seem. Let’s say they chose Steve Bannon, Trump’s incendiary chief strategist (and, some believe, the real president). The problem is that Bannon only throws bombshells. If he had his way, he’d simply trash the place, or at least upend the infield.
Sean Spicer would angrily throw a beanball at the batter and then pull out a weapon, which he’d fire at the press box. Kellyanne Conway would insist it was only an “alternative pitch.”
Meanwhile, Ivanka would want to stay behind to run her profitable private businesses from her White House offices. Her husband, Jared, had already set up shop there so he could take on the government functions in his portfolio, which includes everything.
If the Nationals decided to go to Capitol Hill, they might seek out House Speaker Paul Ryan. Since he’s so adept at speaking from both sides of his mouth, perhaps he can throw a ball with each arm at the same time. But alas, Ryan was not available, because no one could explain what was in it for him. As for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, he was too busy batting away any threats to his patron Donald Trump, particularly the accusations of coordinating the election campaign with Russia.

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March 29, 2017

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH

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BY BOB FRANKEN

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH
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Let’s dispense with the sanctimony and admit it: Most of us really enjoy piling on. I know I do. There are few things more exhilarating than participating in mass malice. Rarely do we get such an obvious opportunity for schadenfreude than the Trump-Ryan health care debacle. Maybe Donald Trump should have his ghostwriter create a new book: “The Thwart of the Deal.”
And while we are being brutally honest (or is it honestly brutal?), let’s acknowledge that such cheap shots like that are the best shots. They’re certainly no cheaper than all the promises Trump made while campaigning -- like his repeated pledge to dismantle Obamacare “first thing.” He denies saying that, but he did. It was a regular dose of the snake oil he sold, lapped up by millions of rubes who elected him president. He obviously was pandering to those right-wingers who still foam at the mouth at anything Obama.
In office, Trump realized how serpentine the issue is, exclaiming last month that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well, I don’t know how to break it to you Mr. President, but a lot of people knew. It’s just that some demagogues carelessly peddle the idea that they have simple solutions to impossibly complex problems.
That also would explain why Trump and his merry gang of misfits so badly botched their anti-Muslim immigration blockade. They haven’t even gotten to walling off Mexico yet.
Instead of “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump’s motto should be: “Used to be I couldn’t spell ‘president.’ Now I are one.” He’s like that country bumpkin Gomer Pyle (do a web search, kiddies) who would be awestruck and exclaim “Gawwww-leeeee.” Except Gomer Trump is a city bumpkin who tries to cover up his ineptitude with nastiness, usually unleashed on Twitter.

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March 26, 2017

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S LIAR

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BY BOB FRANKEN

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S LIAR

Before Donald Trump and his language manipulators can really plan to “drain the swamp,” as they like to say, he and his cohorts need to stop fouling the air. The “swamp,” as we well know, is Washington and its stagnant slime of corruption, combined with an atmosphere of deception. The stench of D.C. air is particularly bad these days, worsened by the constant smoke screens deployed to manipulate reaction to the outrages that permeate the infant — make that infantile — Trump presidency.
Blatant lies pile upon blatant lies, followed by buffoonish rationalizations designed to obfuscate — smoke screens, in other words. None of them was more obvious than the attempt by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to confuse the folks about the overwhelming evidence that Trump’s Twitter tantrum was utterly false when he banged out on March 4: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”
Since then, Trump and his accomplices have tried to wriggle out of that one, but each attempt has been met with increasingly authoritative rejection of the entire claim. None was more devastating to Trump than the testimony of FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, who is in charge of the government’s electronic surveillance, that nothing of the sort happened. They were appearing at a rare public hearing of House Intelligence to discuss the allegations that Donald Trump and/or his people colluded with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government to throw the election Trump’s way. We learned that the FBI is taking that charge seriously enough to be engaged in a full-scale investigation. We also learned from the ones who would know that the surveillance accusation against President Barack Obama was total bunk.

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March 22, 2017

SKINNY BUT OVERWEIGHT

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BY BOB FRANKEN

SKINNY BUT OVERWEIGHT

It’s called a “skinny budget,” because it’s just a president’s blueprint for where the federal money goes, and it doesn’t get into details. Those will be fleshed out later. Actually, this one is anorexic, containing the usual bullet points that Donald Trump always prefers rather than getting tangled in the weeds of messy specifics. That would require concentration, which has definitely never been The Donald’s strong suit. However, even these budgetary bullet points target the entire notion that the United States has a kindhearted government.
The money largely affirms the idea that this is a nation in a defensive crouch. There are huge increases for our armed forces and homeland security, including that wall that has become Trump’s trademark. Somebody has to pay for all that, plus the tax cuts for the super-rich he envisions, and that would be the non-super-rich. Just like always. The programs that will be gutted feed the poor and elderly, and address the extensive hunger in children that is a shame on America. In the past, the funding has gone to support education, and protect against fouling our nation’s and the world’s environment.
It is a concoction whose recipe compiled by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney whose rationalization for abandoning the malnourished, for instance, twists the normal language into tangles of meaninglessness and, might I add, meanness. We have gotten used to the Orwellian absurdities from the Trumpsters, but try this on for size, as Mulvaney is facile about the absence of compassion in this budget. He feels too “compassionate” toward the taxpayers “to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.’”
To pay for the Meals on Wheels program, that is a lifeline for the shut-in elderly and disabled. Or the program that would be cut that provides out-of-school meals to the children who would otherwise not eat: “We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good.”
This is a budget proposal that sounds good to the fat cats who will become obese. Everybody else who relies on the federal government not just for nutrition, but for consumer protection against predator banks and corporations, for basic medical research that can save millions of lives by potentially curing or eradicating killer diseases, and even for the arts, which define our culture, well, see you around.

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March 15, 2017

THE NATIONAL ILLNESS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE NATIONAL ILLNESS

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Many Republican leaders are leery about having their name attached to the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare, a health care overhaul they have demonized since it was passed seven years ago. But they’re having a devilish time coming up with one of their own that doesn’t make things worse.
It’s hard to blame them for preferring not to be identified with their American Health Care Act, which is the official title of their slapped-together replacement. They have to come up with something now that they have a lock on our government. After all, they promised incessantly to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In fact, they are actually obliterating overall about a century’s worth of progress, but let’s focus on how they are gutting health care.
White House officials made it clear that their boss doesn’t want it to be called “Trumpcare.” On down the line, those who created it also don’t care to be held responsible. After all, it manages to take all the problems of the ACA and make them worse. Still, “AHCA” could be mistaken for a sneeze. So we have to come up with a better name.
This hodge podge was prepared under the guidance of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is really into arcane policy. He’s also into maintaining the myth that there are ways to deliver health care in the United States, given our bought-and-paid-for politicians, that are more effective and less expensive than Obamacare. So he’s coceived his own scheme. Apparently he doesn’t want it to be called “Ryancare,” but it is his baby, so how about something like the Speaker’s Contrivance for Access to Medical care: SCAM?
It is a scam. While it’s presented as a more effective approach, it really provides health care coverage to fewer people and will be more expensive with most of the financial benefits going to the wealthy.

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March 13, 2017

OPEN MOUTH, TALK STUPID

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OPEN MOUTH, TALK STUPID
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I’ve hesitated to do this, but the time has come to catalog the truly dumb comments uttered by our great leaders. There is so much material, it’s an embarrassment of embarrassments.
We have to acknowledge Ben Carson, who’s now our housing secretary because, well, Donald Trump had to put him somewhere. Secretary Carson was seeking to rally his department’s troops, to inspire them with a speech about the country as a “land of dreams and opportunity.” Even if we ignore how dicey it is for any member of this administration to speak at all about immigration, Carson caused an uproar when he referred to slaves as immigrants, specifically “other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships ... they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”
Carson’s supporters point out that Barack Obama had expressed something similar in December 2015: “So life in America wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way, were immigrants themselves.” So let’s be bipartisan about this: It was as stupid when Barack Obama said it as it was when Ben Carson did a year and a half later.
But, that was then and this is now, when Donald Trump is the main man, the supreme leader, the apprentice president himself. Unfortunately, he can’t help himself either; he’s a compulsive tweeter, a paranoid twitt-so-phrenic who communicates really crazy stuff every time he gets near a smartphone. Rambling on about President Obama wiretapping him might strike some as being little different from those who hear voices or radio waves. He's not well. So let’s be compassionate and give him a break. Like he would do if he had all his marbles.

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March 9, 2017

THE TWITTER TANTRUM SUBTERFUGE

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE TWITTER TANTRUM SUBTERFUGE
---
He’s doing it again. He keeps singing the same tunes. But this time, people are getting tired of the familiar old song. It’s early in his presidency, but already Donald Trump has faced one controversy after another. None has been more perilous to him than the accusation that he was elected in large part due to the interference on his behalf by his comrade Vladimir Putin and Putin’s agents of the Russian government.
That one just won’t go away. Even as Trump has blustered, battered and bullied, the news organizations persist in catching various Trump deputies in lies about their conversations with representatives of Moscow.
When the blustering, battering and bullying don’t work and the media reports threaten to consume his administration in dangerous scandal, POTUS leaves his Plan B and falls back onto Plan T. “T,” of course, stands for “Twitter,” and Donny can always be counted on to put out some tweets late at night that are so outrageous, they can only be designed as a distraction from another damaging crisis.
This is after a week that ended with still further destructive disclosures that his functionaries had seemingly inappropriate confidential contacts with Russian operatives, both during the campaign and during the transition, before he and his troopers rolled into the White House to begin their reign of errors.
The latest ruinous crisis involved conversations with the Russians conducted by Jeff Sessions -- discussions Sessions had denied under oath. It was the talk of the town until TOTUS swung into action. “TOTUS,” of course, stands for “Tweeter of the United States.” This time TOTUS -- who was weekending in his Palm Beach, Florida, fortress -- was up very late, flinging whatever he flings late at night, at his predecessor, Barack Obama. The charge was that Obama, while still president, had Trump Tower phones wiretapped: “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

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March 6, 2017

WASHINGTON SWAMP QUICKSAND

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BY BOB FRANKEN

WASHINGTON SWAMP QUICKSAND
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You’ve gotta love Washington. Where else could the president of the United States deliver a massively important speech and be praised to the high heavens simply for not embarrassing himself -- and, for once, not further diminishing the nation?
That is exactly what has happened. Donald Trump, who has inspired such intense anger and ridicule with his and his administration’s nasty buffoonery since taking over, managed to get through an address before Congress without straying from the teleprompter script. He stuck to what was basically a bland recitation of his controversial policy goals with few specifics, and there were no Twitter outbursts from him afterward. For that, he has been basking in the accolades: More than one analyst and political operative has called it a “turning point” in his presidency.
What turning point? This is still a White House that is focused on hate and destruction. How else but “hateful” would you describe its nastiness toward immigrants? What word better than “destructive” should be used for the various efforts to roll back environmental protections? That verbiage also could apply to the gutting of consumer regulations aimed at protecting the American people from super-wealthy financial predators whose insatiable greed almost brought down the world economy.
But hey, he gave one sufficient speech, so maybe he’s not the impetuous embarrassment he has appeared to be. Perhaps his overt hostility aimed at the media will subside. The simple fact of the matter is that the press intimidation tactics are not working. The Trumpsters still will continue to deal, for instance, with explosive reports that claim his election campaign colluded with the Russian government.

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February 27, 2017

WHO CARES WHAT WE THINK?

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BY BOB FRANKEN

WHO CARES WHAT WE THINK?
---
OK, OK, OK, you say. Enough already. We in the media have made our point. In fact, we have made it ad nauseum. We are alarmed over Donald Trump’s vicious descriptions of us. Besides, our precious little feelings are hurt. According to our current president, we are “dishonest.” He shouts that to the world every chance he gets. He also implies we are in cahoots with terrorists when we under report violence. We are particularly all atwitter over his declaring us “enemy of the American people.” Actually, it’s President Donald Trump who is all atwitter -- he’s all Twitter, all the time, all outrageous, all the time. But of all the foolishness that has marked his infant presidency, there’s little that has gotten our attention more than his condemnation of us and our “fake news” reports.
Fellow journalists, it’s time for us to stop with all our narcissistic coverage of the president’s media bashing. All politicians media-bash, even those who are now sanctimoniously talking about the need for a free press. Granted, the Trumpster was his usual crude self about it, declaring us enemies of America, but let’s recognize that for what it is, which is nothing more than his heavy-handed way to stifle any reporting or commentating that doesn’t stroke his childish ego. When we go bonkers with our public reaction just because it involves us, we are as childish as he is, and we play right into his little hands. We are going overboard, and drowning ourselves. His deflecting accurate stories as “fake news” only works when we even bother defending ourselves. The term has become a knee-jerk reaction from him and the jerks around him when they don’t want to deal with any critical reporting. It’ll get stale, as we do fresh stories.

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February 25, 2017

THE INCOMPLETE ENEMIES LIST

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BY BOB FRANKEN

THE INCOMPLETE ENEMIES LIST

---
My feelings are hurt. I’m not on President Donald Trump’s list of “enemies of the American people.” Here is his exact tweet:
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
1:48 PM - Feb 17, 2017”
I mean, what do I have to do to make the team? I’ve called him a know-nothing buffoon. I’ve condemned his abusive policies on immigration. My comments on his reaction to judges have dripped with scorn. I’ve ridiculed the ineptitude of both him and the people around him. Yet I’m not on the list of “FAKE NEWS media.” I am as big a “FAKE” as any of them. But nooooo, that badge of honor has been withheld from me.
Perhaps he simply forgot. I notice that The Washington Post is not in the rundown. And WashPo has poh-mouthed Donald Trump as much as any news organization. Is that it? Does he have a faulty memory? That’s debatable. On the one hand, Trump remembers slights in his life that date back to childhood. (What’s that? He’s still going through childhood at 70 years old? Perhaps, but let’s stay on point.) Yes, he holds grudges forever. But at the same time, he recalls events that never happened, like Muslims cheering right after 9/11. So maybe he’s delusional, or simply a liar. What a choice that is.

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February 20, 2017

HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP THE SPY?

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

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February 6, 2017

THE SUPREME GAMES

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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January 30, 2017

BRASHMAN'S EGO

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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January 25, 2017

MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"

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BY BOB FRANKEN

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

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January 22, 2017

THE PRESIDENT TRUMP WAGER

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THE PRESIDENT TRUMP WAGER
His “America First, America First, America First” inaugural address is seen by many as divisive, particularly those who are miserable that Donald Trump is actually president of the United States. They continue to look for straws to grasp and might take solace in the Irish bookmaker who is setting the odds that Trump will be impeached within six months at 8-1; it’s 4-1 that he’ll be tossed before his term is done. Of course, the bookie took a bath predicting that Hillary Clinton would win the election, so don’t place your bets with money you can’t afford to lose. But also factor in polls that show President Trump begins with dismal favorability numbers. The CBS News poll places the Trumpster in the dumpster at 32 percent positive. Gallup has him at 40 percent, with 54 percent unfavorable. It’s the first time the incoming president has started in the hole. Even George W. Bush, who won only after being handed a Supreme Court ruling that Democrats insisted was political larceny, entered the White House on the plus side. Trump reacted in his usual way, saying these polls are “rigged.”
If experience is any guide, it’ll be downhill from here. After all, this is an administration that is wasting no time in ruthlessly promising to rip up Obamacare. With all its faults, the Affordable Care Act did insure 20 million more Americans, including millions who had pre-existing conditions. Trump and his fellow Republicans are scrambling to come up with a replacement that doesn’t pull the rug out.

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January 19, 2017

CIRCUS MINIMUS

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CIRCUS MINIMUS
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Yes, I know we in the U.S. of A. like to dwell on our stability as a nation and how that is reflected in our smooth transition of power. We’re witnessing it again.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has announced that it is shutting down. It’s been around since the mid-1800s. But never fear, it is immediately being replaced by another circus. By that I mean, of course, the presidency of Donald Trump. Like P.T. Barnum, D.J. Trump is guided by the maxim “There is a sucker born every minute.” No greater proof could ever exist than Trump’s election. He put on what amounts to a freak show -- actually, a tweet show (same thing) -- that no one took seriously at the time. The other side, meanwhile, was presenting the Tamest Show on Earth (translate: boring), put together by elitists who looked down on Trump’s supporters as a bunch of rubes.
The rubes got their revenge. Now Donald Trump becomes the ringmaster for the nation, where the three branches of the government he leads promise to become three rings. His stars will be presenting their nation’s death-defying performances without a net. It will be a constant high-wire act. Let’s avoid any comparisons to clowns, because it’s too obvious. Besides, the ringmaster also will handle that job himself, providing nonstop laughs.

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January 11, 2017

TWITTER OF THE UNIVERSE

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BY BOB FRANKEN
TWITTER OF THE UNIVERSE
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Let’s call him President-elect Tweety Bird. Donald Trump clearly has decided that he will continue to utilize his stream-of-consciousness Twitter messages to intimidate others -- whether it is an individual whose actions or comments have bruised his fragile ego; or a corporation that faces his threats because he believes (correctly or not) that it is shutting down American facilities for the promise of cheap labor across the border; or the “liars” in the “dishonest media” who dare to report on you-name-it unfavorably. He has commented on issues, often complex, with simple-minded, usually nasty, superficiality.
Although he issued a scathing tweet in response to Meryl Streep’s attack at the Golden Globes award show, calling her not just “overrated” but (gasp) “a Hillary flunky,” for him it’s not just “I tawt I taw a Democrat.” He’s a bipartisan Tweety Bird, just as quick to turn on his own. House Republicans painfully discovered this in their brand-new session, when their first order of business was their sneaky attempt to gut an ethics enforcement mechanism that had often complicated their lives when they’ve wanted to pull a fast one. President-elect Tweety Bird swooped down on that one, questioning on Twitter why they had made it “their No. 1 act and priority.” Presto change-o, the action was reversed.
That was one of his more subtle communications. He’s continuously shared his obvious anger at those who even suggest that Vladimir Putin ordered his hackers to throw the U.S. election Trump’s way. He has repeatedly and heatedly complained that the mere suggestion is just a “sore loser” attempt to discredit his presidency. He’s pretty much ignored the intelligence communities’ highly documented case that Putin did his best to engineer Trump’s victory. In the process, he has treated our various spy agencies with open contempt.

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January 6, 2017

POLITICS IS A MUCH TOUGHER GAME

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BOB FRANKEN FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 3, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
POLITICS IS A MUCH TOUGHER GAME
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What a phenomenal postseason finale for the political football season! Donald Trump’s Trump University won the Electoral College championship. At least his fraudulent institution didn’t cause him to lose the big game. In fact, he won, and afterward, with a sweep of his pen on his checkbook, he got rid of this irritant even as he was gloating over how he pulled it off despite all his legal troubles. Now he can dismiss his opponents with an angry “Trump U!” or whatever other sentiment he wants to tweet.
Actually, though, as long as that bitter season was, it was only his warm-up. Now Trump enters his season of reality. Barring anything we can’t anticipate, it will run either four or eight years. Much depends on how well he does, particularly on whether he can overcome his notoriously short attention span. Governing, unlike campaigning, is drudgery. It almost always requires focus that extends beyond the 140-character limit of Twitter. He’s proven himself to be the Tweet Master, but just about any issue is too complex to be finessed with some facile remark.
He hasn’t demonstrated that he’s an intellectual heavyweight like so many of those Machiavellian characters with whom he’ll be dealing. Right now, for instance, he’s being easily finessed, played by leaders of Taiwan, Israel and certainly Russia. There had to be a good reason Vladimir Putin ordered the cyberinterference in the election to install Trump, and we’re starting to see hints that Putin will regard Trump as his boy toy. The problem is that by cozying up to Vlad, he risks making Europe mad -- as in angry, very angry. And that doesn’t even include his fellow Republicans, who have made their contempt for Russia an article of faith.

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December 30, 2016

2016 PRE-POST MORTEM ON MSNBC

I'll be tolling out the old year as it finally grinds into toxic dust, Saturday morning on MSNBC. The program runs between 10 and noon Eastern. Perky it won't be.

December 26, 2016

MSNBC AND ME

I'm doing MSNBC on a Tuesday morning during the 10:00 Eastern hour, then again at 2PM, proving still again that snark never takes a holiday.

December 25, 2016

THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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BY BOB FRANKEN


THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

’Twas the night before Christmas, very late in Trump Tower;
The Donald was tweeting, even at that late hour.
“Bah humbug,” he pecked, the holidays made him bitter;
“All that ‘Peace on Earth, good will’ stuff was designed for a quitter.”
He was in his resentment mode, in fact badly on edge,
He recalled those who’d slighted him and plotted revenge.

His young son was asleep, and so was Melania,
Which probably added to his severe melancholia.
“I’m king of the world, but I’m feeling futility.”
But his self-pity ended with a call from security.


“Some guy’s here to see you; he’s a truly weird mess.
He says ‘Ho Ho Ho,’ but it’s not Kanye West.”
“He’s got a red suit on, a big beard and he’s jiggly.
Though not like Miss Universe, this dude is REAL bigly.”
There’s a sleigh and nine reindeer, so he’s making me nervous;
I’m wondering, sir, did you order room service?”

“Send him up,” thundered Trump, and I’ll make you a bet
That someone will think he's in my Cabinet.”
“Besides, while that looney is distracted up here;
I can send my grown sons down to kill all the deer.”

There wasn’t a chimney, he used one of the lifts.
After a body search and guards wanding his gifts.
His bag was just bulging, the contents were grand:
All that he carried, stamped with the “Trump” brand.

Santa stepped out wondering just what Trump would say.
He was greeted instead by Kellyanne Conway.
And then came Ivanka, it was completely inane
Until they explained they were really his brain.
They needed to vet him, in case he’d come by
Because Democrats sent him to act as a spy.

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December 21, 2016

NAMING RIGHTS NOW!

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BY BOB FRANKEN

NAMING RIGHTS NOW!
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My loyal readers, both of them, possibly remember that I’ve long championed some outside-the-box ways to reduce the deficit before we’re overwhelmed with national debt. High on the list is naming rights. Our agencies could rake in billions of dollars by allowing corporations and other deep-pocketed special interests to hang their logos on official buildings.
It would be a symbol not only of the oligarchs’ patriotism, but a way of showing that they’ve totally taken over and will now dictate all policies developed inside.My other suggestions (e.g., turn Guantanamo Bay into a condominium development, a gated community for rich people, and making the public viewing seats of the House and Senate, known as galleries, privately owned loges where fat cats can observe the members on Congress below doing their bidding) -- these proposals never were given the consideration they deserved.
But miracle among miracles: maybe, just maybe, my improbable dream has come true! In Donald Trump. We have elected a president who has put his name on structures around the world. He’s sort of like a dog raising his leg to mark his territory. He’s a believer. To me, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he will move his entire operation down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Trump International Hotel D.C. It would be a kind of his-and-hers thing, since it would match the Trump Tower suite where his wife and son have chosen to live. Has it occurred to anyone that Melania decided to do that because she’s sick and tired of her husband? To quote The Donald, “I don’t know, but many people say ...” that’s the case. But I digress.

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November 14, 2016

THE TRANSITION CHARADE

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BY BOB FRANKEN
THE TRANSITION CHARADE
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For those millions of Americans who haveawakened to discover that their Donald Trump nightmare is not just a bad dream, the question is, What to do now? Do they accept the platitude about national unity from a stunned Hillary Clinton that “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead”? That begs the question: What is it we should be open-minded about?
Should we become amnesiacs and simply forget all the hateful rhetoric that defined his campaign, the personal vindictiveness that he simply couldn’t keep under control? Or instead, should we remember another cliché, which is certainly relevant: “Words matter,” meaning the constant spew of poisonous comments about women, Hispanics, African-Americans, Muslims (even Muslim war heroes), the disabled, the list goes on and on? Should we hope that his brain is somehow cleansed of such toxic thoughts, replaced by wisdom, knowledge and truthfulness that had been completely absent?
What we’re getting now is the pro forma national-unity choreography, like President Barack Obama sitting next to the man who will replace him at the White House, showing warm hospitality to the guy who raised the racist “birther” question about him for years. We witnessed Trump, who suddenly has gone into a contrived mellow mode, describing as a “great honor” his meeting with the man who just days before called him “unfit” for the office.
On Jan. 20, Donald Trump and his forces will be taking over our government. So forget the enforced cordiality. The question is, How can they be effectively resisted? For starters, ritualistic protest demonstrations don’t cut it. Talk about clichés. Inevitably, they turn violent, which is counterproductive, to say nothing about flat-out wrong. Plus, setting a few fires or shouting shopworn slogans might get you on TV, but it won’t change the Trump administration from stomping all over social progress.
So, what might work? Another of those banal comments we always hear at this point goes something like this: “We need to look to the future. Dwelling in the past isn’t a good idea.” But looking forward can work only if we indeed look back at what mistakes were made and, yes, who made them. In fact, we should play the Blame Game.

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November 11, 2016

THE JOY OF BOB AND DONALD

I'm appearing with Joy Reid on MSNBC Sunday morning during the 11:00 hour, Eastern. Any guesses about what we'll discuss? Or who?

November 7, 2016

THE PAST IS GROTESQE BUT THE FUTURE GROWS WORSE

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THE PAST IS GROTESQUE BUT THE FUTURE GROWS WORSE
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I'm hearing some variation of this wherever I go: "Thank heaven the campaign is finally almost over. I can't stand any more of this ugliness! I so look forward to Nov. 9."
My response is always along the lines of: "The ugliness will just get worse. No matter, which of these two becomes the head of our federal government, that government will have trouble functioning. We'll constantly be facing a choice between paralysis and actions that continue the deterioration of our nation."
How's that for perky? Actually, how's that for reality? If we even know the winner of the Nov. 8 election by Nov. 9 -- or more likely, if the loser actually accepts that the other side won -- we almost certainly will be bogged down in bitter, hard feelings that threaten the remaining shreds of national unity. There will be no coming together, no rallying around Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Each has already established him- or herself as among the most unpopular people in the formerly United States of America. There's no chance the grudges will dissipate.
Various Republican leaders have made it clear that their obstructionism to the Barack Obama presidency will only intensify in a Hillary Clinton presidency. Leading dismal lights like Sens. John McCain and Ted Cruz say they will do everything they can to stop Hillary from elevating any nominee to the Supreme Court. Never mind if that turns the constitutional principle of "advise and consent" upside down; who cares as long as it appeals to the GOP base?
Not only that, but House leaders state explicitly that they will continue their harassment campaign by holding continuous oversight hearings on the Clinton emails and every other scandal, real or imagined. No matter how hard the executive branch tries, cooperation will be next to impossible. It will be the same government by crisis that has gotten us into a deep mess, with no visible plans to work together to climb out.
As a matter of fact, some Republicans, even before Election Day, are outright predicting without hesitation that if Hillary Clinton wins and becomes president, she will be impeached.

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October 28, 2016

THE UNITY MIRAGE

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THE UNITY MIRAGE
By now you probably have heard the story from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, telling of a moment before the Al Smith dinner in New York where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump briefly met with him as they were about to enter. Dolan asked the two to pray with him, which they did, and then Trump, well ... why don’t we let Cardinal Dolan tell it: “[He] turned to Clinton and said, ‘You know, you are one tough and talented woman,’” adding, “This has been a good experience — this whole campaign — as tough as it’s been.”

“Whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards,” Clinton responded. It’s difficult to think any such warm and fuzzy conversation between the two of them would even be possible in a campaign that has been so brutally cold and abrasive. But let’s suspend our disbelief. After all, it’s a cardinal describing what happened.

Whether their graciousness was sincere or not — and in politics almost nothing is sincere — Hillary’s comment about working together is going to be a vital imperative once the election is decided, if there’s any chance whatsoever of putting a stop to the nation being badly ripped to tatters. The United States is not united, and the shredding has been going on for many years. Trump exploited the division and made it worse, and assuming it’s Hillary Clinton who wins, she will need Trump and his millions of intensely angry-at-everyone supporters to help stanch the bleeding and rescue a country that is weakened by, let’s be honest, hatred and distrust.

We exist in separate antagonistic enclaves. It’s worse than the red state/blue state boundary lines where the culture rigidly rules politics; it has even poisoned personal relationships. A Pew survey in June found that almost half of Clinton backers, 47 percent, said they have no close friends who support Donald Trump. Nearly a third, 31 percent, of the Trump supporters said none of their besties were in favor of Hillary Clinton. How do you achieve any national consensus with that kind of isolation? The answer is that you cannot. And in the past decades, we have not. But we must. Somehow, we must find a common ground or the ground beneath us will collapse, which is another way of saying the U.S. will not survive.

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October 24, 2016

NOT A GIGGLY BIGLY

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BY BOB FRANKEN

NOT A GIGGLY BIGLY

Here we thought there was nothing more this campaign could teach us. Thanks to Donald Trump, we discover that “bigly” is a real word, not something made up that you’d use to entertain your 4-year-old.
The dictionary tells us it’s an adverb meaning “loud” or “boastful.” It’s kind of related to Bernie Sanders’ “huuuuuge.” Trump’s darkly conspiratorial view of a badly “rigged” election could be described as a “bigly riggedly,” which explains why, at the final debate the other night, he caused a sensation when he refused to promise to accept the results. “I will look at it at the time,” he said when pressed by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. “I will keep you in suspense.”
“That’s horrifying,” Hillary Clinton shot back, jumping all over Trump with both feet. It ruined his good night. Until he self-destructed with that gem, the story was that Donny came across as fairly lucid in the early parts of the debate, as Wallace guided the candidates through some substantive issues. But then it deteriorated into the personal attacking that we’ve come to expect. Once again, Hillary proved that she can handle herself in a verbal knife fight, that she was fully capable of turning Michelle Obama’s canard “When they go low, we go high,” into “When he goes low, I aim for where he’s most vulnerable.”
She accused Trump of “choking” when he met the Mexican president. That’s an attack on any guy’s manhood. And when the angry back-and-forth stopped at Vladimir Putin, and Trump charged that Putin had “no respect” for her, she landed a brutal mocking zinger: “He’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” All he could manage was the kind of outraged retort you’d hear on a kiddies playground: “No puppet, no puppet,” Mr. Trump sputtered. “You’re the puppet.”

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October 17, 2016

THE UNCIVIL WAR OF WORDS

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THE UNCIVIL WAR OF WORDS

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All the talk about Donald Trump coming “unhinged” is inherently invalid, as it assumes he was hinged to begin with.

This is the man, after all, who has since day one of his campaign insulted Hispanics, the disabled, blacks, Muslims, women, you name them. But now that the conversation has shifted from his INsulting women to allegedly ASsaulting them, he’s going completely off the rails.

More and more of them are now going public with their claims that in past seemingly innocent encounters with Trump, he groped them, or that he popped in unannounced while contestants in beauty pageants he ran were in various stages of undress in their changing rooms. That one he even bragged about when he went on Howard Stern’s radio program and repeatedly competed for the poor-taste prize of the day.

Now, as his campaign is imploding, he’s exploding, blasting ever more scary promises about jailing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, if he’s elected, and coming close to inciting violence with charges that if he loses, it will be a “rigged” election and that his passionate -- make that rabid -- supporters need to plan for that.

It’s the kind of thing that might be worthy of, say, a totalitarian Russian leader. Oh wait, he and Vladimir Putin seem to be an item, although Donny says he doesn’t know Vlad personally. But he’s expressed such admiration for his comrade that he’s provided an opening for Hillary Clinton’s people to evade giving answers about the daily embarrassment of Wikipedia hacked emails from her campaign. U.S. intelligence people say they feel Russia is WikiLeaks’ source, so when the emails disclose dicey conversations by aides deriding Catholics, Mexican-American leaders or Bernie Sanders supporters, or when they portray Hillary as an ultracautious, two-faced politician, her spokespeople can try to change the subject to their indignation about Russians trying to influence the election in favor of Trump, who seems hellbent on turning the U.S. of A. into the USSR.

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October 12, 2016

SLIMEBALL POLITICS

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SLIMEBALL POLITICS

Donald Trump has stated repeatedly that his brand is all-important. Well, if what he says in that infamous recorded open-mike conversation with Billy Bush in 2005 about grabbing women’s crotches uninvited is true, then his brand should be his prison number. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for sexual-assault charges in California, where he confessed to that crime, apparently has run out.

He didn’t help himself at the second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, which was as down and dirty as it could be. How’s that for understatement? With its town-hall format, he was free to roam around the stage while Clinton spoke. It looked for all the world like he was trying to intimidate her, while she ignored him. It certainly didn’t help him with the women’s vote. Of course, his poll numbers with females already are in the toilet, and they probably won’t escape the swirl this time, as he looked like a hulking stalker on the stage. When he spoke, he left the impression he was a mugger with a sinus problem. More than one person has referred to him as “Sniffles.”

He had been driven into the ground with the disclosure of his lewd comments, but down in the mud and sewage is Donald Trump’s natural habitat, and he exposed himself to be a strong believer in the maxim “the best defense is a good offense.” Throughout the campaign, Trump has shown on a daily basis that he is the champion at being offensive, and he demonstrated it anew even before the debate started: He held a media event to display the women who, over the years, have claimed they were sexually abused by Bill Clinton. Trump’s point was that what he insisted was just “locker room comments” back in 2005 didn’t compare with the sex crimes actually committed by Bill Clinton in the decades before.

Frankly, that’s an arguable point, but did I mention he was referring to Bill Clinton, not Hillary? Hillary, according to the women accusers, was mainly guilty of viciously trashing them, also an arguable point. On debate night, the question was which of today’s candidates is the worse abuser. That one Trump won hands down.

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October 5, 2016

THE TRUMP FANTASIES

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BY BOB FRANKEN
THE TRUMP FANTASIES
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Here’s what I’m wondering: Was it Alicia Machado’s really mild sex video that caused Donald Trump to wake up with a start about 3:00 the other morning? What was he thinking about as he fired off that “unhinged” tweet about her recorded activities under the sheets? And, yes, conscientious journalist that I am, I forced myself to see the tape of her romp. Talk about boring -- unless you are amused by how unexciting it really was. But apparently Donny found it far more interesting. Something got him going, whatever he was thinking, or maybe fantasizing, as he grabbed his device and pecked out: “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?”
Actually, he didn’t send that one till 5:30 a.m. He obviously was still seething about how Hillary Clinton had blindsided him in their first debate over his cruel handling of his Miss Universe, who was the very same Alicia Machado, when she won the beauty contest 20 years ago. Hillary had him backpedaling as she attacked him for being a serial misogynist. That’s when she brought up Ms. Machado and her descriptions of how Trump, who ran the competition, made her life a living hell when she gained some weight. According to Alicia, he ridiculed her as “Miss Piggy.” Trump didn’t deny it. Adding to his cruelty, he resorted to an ethnic slur to describe Miss Venezuela/Universe as “The Housekeeper.”

As much as anything else, Hillary Clinton won the debate when she drew blood by confronting him with Machado’s charges. By the way, Hillary did win the debate, even though Trump’s various toadies tried to cite totally unscientific web surveys that named him as the victor. Even so, it could have been forgotten after a day or so, except that Donald Trump, like the elephant he is, never forgets. He couldn’t let it go, as we found out several days later when he fired off his early-morning tweets. And by the way, if he called Machado “Miss Piggy,” can the overweight Trump be called “Mr. Elephant”? Sure. What’s good for the piggy is good for the elephant. Or something like

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September 15, 2016

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ILLS

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BY BOB FRANKEN

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ILLS

What a terrible weekend Hillary Clinton had! First she stepped into needless controversy, calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables.” The next day, she gave a mealy-mouthed statement of “regret” -- not for using “deplorable,” but for the “half” part. How dopey did that look? But it was the video of her stumbling or nearly fainting when she got overheated at the 9/11 ceremony in New York that looked nothing short of alarming.
Let’s face it. The “overheated” explanation of her campaign and assurances that she was just fine simply didn’t ring true. And they don’t ring true for a candidate who has tried to wave off innuendo from Rudy Giuliani and the other Trump-supporter crazies that she is suffering serious health issues and concealing them. Her credibility issues haven’t helped her, and her organization did her no favors by hiding her from her traveling reporters.
Then her representatives waited hours before releasing what I like to call an “Oh, By The Way” statement, as in “Oh, by the way, Hillary has been treated for pneumonia for the past couple of days.” PNEUMONIA!? That is not incidental. We Americans have a right to know when a candidate for the office that can determine the life or death of the planet is feeling even the slightest bit puny.
The weekend before, she had been seized with a coughing fit during a Labor Day appearance in Ohio. Her allergy explanation seemed plausible, particularly when she quipped that she really was allergic to Donald Trump. But this latest episode -- when video shows her wobbling, at best, and lifted into her van by Secret Service -- cannot be laughed off.
To put it bluntly, her campaign is also wobbling. She received a lot of flak for her “deplorables” remark about Trump supporters: “To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.” But after Trump and his partisans squealed in outrage, she had to weigh in with a kind of apology, saying she felt “regret” that she had specified “half” of the Trumpsters, even though she went to great pains to exclude those who are “people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them ...”
While that may be true, Trump’s supporters have embraced a candidate who certainly has earned all those labels. So they are deplorable by association. Donny himself outlandishly labeled what Clinton said as “SO INSULTING” (his caps). What a cruel joke, that. Donald Trump has made Don Rickles look like a sycophantic flatterer. His entire campaign has been like a roast of anyone who opposes him, be they the other candidates, Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled, women -- you name them; Trump has flung crude hatred at them.

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September 5, 2016

CHEERING FOR COLIN KAEPERNICK

weekend.
Amy

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BOB FRANKEN
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BY BOB FRANKEN
CHEERING FOR COLIN KAEPERNICK
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It was refreshing, in a way: Finally we have a player in the United States who has become a target of the haters and who is not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. And this player actually is one, a football quarterback named Colin Kaepernick who has had the audacity to remain seated while the national anthem is playing during pre-game ceremonies.
While everyone else robotically stood as usual, fidgeting and wondering whether his or her hand was supposed to be placed on the heart, Kaepernick refused to get up. It was, he explained over and over, a protest against this country’s sorrowful record of violence by police against minorities. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Kaepernick knowingly thrust himself into the middle of a cyclone generated by the outrage of millions of infuriated people. In fact, the super-patriotism backlash has threatened his NFL career. “To me, this is bigger than football,” he told one interviewer, “and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
How dare he be so ungrateful, his angry critics exploded. How dare he belittle the sacrifices of our military! Kaepernick didn’t back down. In the next game, he refused to stand. Instead, he and a teammate kneeled as the national anthem was played. Meanwhile, miracle of miracles, the debate suddenly included some reflection that started scratching away at all the jingoism. Wasn’t Colin Kaepernick really honoring the military by demonstrating what they fight for -- the right of Americans to freely express themselves? Besides, didn’t we eventually honor Muhammad Ali for his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War, even when he was banned from boxing as a result? And, oh yeah, what about that “Star-Spangled Banner,” whose third verse passionately advocates for slavery? Shouldn’t we consider replacing it? It’s a tortured melody to begin with. Anyone who has suffered through it being screeched at a game can attest to that.

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September 2, 2016

LABORING ON LABOR DAY ON MSNBC

As you end your extended weekend of sun and fun, watch me talking politics on MSNBC during the 3PM Eastern hour, your transition from frolic to folly.

FOR ALT WE KNOW

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BY BOB FRANKEN

FOR ALT WE KNOW

Forget about the anti-everyone-else zealots, the so-called white nationalists who hang on Donald Trump like a hooded robe. They like to refer to themselves as “alt-right,” which is all right with Hillary Clinton and her peeps, who argue that the Trumpster has pulled the crazies out of their dumpster and spewed their noxious garbage into the mainstream of politics. He’s even made one of their most outspoken haters his campaign chief. Still, Donny responds to her charges with his usual finesse. He’s now calling Hillary “a bigot.” It’s great entertainment. If you like horror movies.

But “alt-right” is nowhere near as much fun as that other characteristic of this campaign, the constant litany of conspiracy theories. Let’s call them alt-wacko: The election is rigged; a judge of Mexican heritage can’t give Donald Trump a fair hearing; Vladimir Putin is in cahoots with Trump, so the Russian government is releasing private emails that embarrass Hillary Clinton and the Democrats so much that the emails will sway the election toward Trump. After all, look at all the nice things Vladimir says about Donald. And look at the experts citing evidence that hackers attached to his government are the ones dumping material that discredits Hillary, though she does a good job of that herself.

Yes, look at that stuff. But also consider how blatant it is, how heavy-handed, how widely accepted it is that Putin wants to put his guy Trump in the White House. Except that maybe it’s too neat, too obvious. So let me show you a double-cross conspiracy theory, one that will demonstrate that I, too, can play the nutcase game.

Consider the possibility that it’s really Hillary that Vlad wants to win. What if he’s floating all the assumptions that he’s a Trump guy, because of a public perception that he’s manipulating Donald like a puppet — actually, it’s more like the Trumpette Show. If his geeks at the Kremlin really wanted to humiliate the Democrats, would they be so transparent about it? In this case, the Russians have done everything they can to take credit, short of tagging their hacks with “I’m Vladimir Putin, and I approved this message.”

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August 29, 2016

THE NATIONAL UNREALITY SHOW

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BY BOB FRANKEN
THE NATIONAL UNREALITY SHOW
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I must say that I don’t understand why people try to make up stuff about our presidential candidates when there’s so much that’s real and so totally bizarro. For example, let’s consider the phony issue that shameless Trump supporters (excuse the gross redundancy) have created out of thin air that Hillary Clinton’s health is precarious. Trump, of course, exploits this fiction constantly, questioning her “stamina.” His mouthpieces, like Sean Hannity and the gruesome Rudy Giuliani, are constantly promoting the rumor, which is somewhat sexist when you think about it -- that Hillary is weakened by all kinds of maladies. Giuliani even goes so far as to justify his claims by suggesting that one only needs to go online to see that he’s not making this up.

That’s part of the problem, of course. You can find anything online, and that includes wild rants that have no basis in fact whatsoever. So when Hillary moves her head back and forth to mock a reporter’s question, she’s having a seizure. And when she’s helped up the stairs, she’s obviously near collapse. And when those of us in the media show that the facts prove otherwise, we’re only secret supporters of hers, pretending to be journalists.

Of course, we are the very same ones who antagonize the Clintonistas by reporting on the unfolding email scandal. Yes, the ever-spreading indications are that her hidden emails reveal the staffs at the Clinton Foundation and the State Department may well have been involved in some sort of “pay to play” operation. If true, that would, in fact, be a “scandal.” It also might drip out in a way that brings her campaign down. Her people dismiss each disclosure by saying that it’s just another effort to discredit her by Judicial Watch, “a right-wing organization.” They say it so often, we might think we’re hearing an echo. And we’d be correct. It’s been more than 18 years since Hillary Clinton first talked about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” on the “Today” show. That was during the time of Monica Lewinsky, which showed that the right was not always wrong. We’ll see if they’re onto something again.

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August 24, 2016

LYING NAKED

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BY BOB FRANKEN
LYING NAKED
Sometimes being unfair is totally fair. As the proverb goes, “Turnabout is fair play.” (“Proverb” is the old word for “sound bite,” which is the old word for “tweet.” But I digress ...) The point is that in some instances, people deserve what they get.
So it is with Donald Trump. He has insulted or directed hate at just about everybody except old, ignorant white guys, his constituency. Women? That’s another story. His remarks and conduct would put him in the Misogynist Hall of Fame if there was one. (Maybe that should be a Hall of Shame, but that’s another digression.) His comments about Megyn Kelly are so well-known that it’s not necessary to explain who she is or what he said about her “whatever.” It’s the same with Rosie O’Donnell. He delights in calling her a “fat pig.”
So, even those of us who know that body shaming is wrong believe it was absolutely the right thing to do to place in several cities the naked Donald Trump statues, ones that show him with a fat-pig body that clothing can’t really cover up. Is it accurate? I have no way of knowing for sure, but I want to believe so. I must admit the publicity and ridicule was, in this one case, entirely appropriate. Has anyone heard from Rosie O’Donnell?

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August 22, 2016

COMIC STRIP POLITICS

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COMIC STRIP POLITICS
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“I am who I am,” says Donald Trump, getting in touch with his inner Popeye. (I know it’s “I yam what I yam,” but cut me some slack here, Popeye purists.) Trumpy the railer man was assuring his interviewer that he’s definitely not going to get all Wimpy moving forward. That’s both fair and foul.
It’s fair because he’s gotten to where he is with a nasty mix of bigotry and hateful insults, spewing his sewage to millions who have made him their hero. Of course, that toxic mix is cheap-shot demagoguery and is as foul as it can be. But it’s the @realDonaldTrump, so why should he pretend he’s anyone else?
He has been under a lot of pressure to do just that from seasoned Republicans who say that he needs to turn down the spite spigot and try to act like a serious presidential candidate now that he is, in fact, the GOP nominee. Their contention is that while the hard-right-wingers in their party got whipped up enough by his simple-minded belligerence to put him at the top of their heap, the general electorate -- even those who can’t abide the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton -- might be horrified by his repeated crass cruelty.
The campaign brought on a political pro, Paul Manafort, whose job it was to somehow make Donald Trump appear to be at least minimally plausible to be president of the United States. Manafort deposed the first campaign leader, Corey Lewandowski, whose main strategy was “Let Trump Be Trump.” Lewandowski got to be vicariously Popeye, and among the ways he enforced his approach was to harshly grab the arm of a female reporter. He was accused of assault, but the charges were dropped. Later, thanks to Manafort, Lewandowski was dropped.

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August 18, 2016

POO POO POLITICS

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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 16, 2016
BY BOB FRANKEN
POO POO POLITICS
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If you had any doubts about how juvenile those of us in newsbiz are, put them to rest. Look no further than how much attention we gave pundit Fareed Zakaria after he was asked on TV to characterize Donald Trump. He called him a “bulls**t artist.” Now, Zakaria is considered a serious columnist, perhaps even pompous, and he doesn’t usually get all that much attention. But let him drop the “b” word, and we callow ones can’t stop tittering and talking about him. (And, yes, I’m so immature that I go out of my way to use the word “titter.”)
As for Zakaria, he obviously recognized that he had cussed his way into publicity pay dirt, so he even decided to follow up and write a serious analytical piece on the history and meaning of the term “bulls**t.” Here’s my quick review of that column: totally boring bulls**t.
It’s not that he was wrong. When all is said and done, Trump is a bulls**t artist. His most famous book probably should have been called “The Art of the Bulls**ter.”
To be clear, it’s not that vulgarities offend me personally. When it comes to my private conversations, I swear by swearing. But a lot of people don’t, and they don’t want their precious little tykes to hear such talk, even though their precious little tykes casually use foul language the moment they’re out of earshot of mommy and/or daddy.
It’s just that there are so many clever ways to describe The Donald without being quite so crass. My personal favorite came from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who characterized Trump’s rhetoric as “verbal poo-poo.” Doesn’t that have a nice touch? Donny’s talk of “Second Amendment people” dealing with Hillary? “Verbal poo-poo.” Same for his “sarcasm” about President Barack Obama being the ISIS “founder”: poo-poo. And when he describes the miserable shape the nation is in, he’s poo-mouthing the country.

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August 15, 2016

NOT SO FAST HILLARY

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BY BOB FRANKEN
NOT SO FAST HILLARY
I’ve always loved the story about Babe Ruth, negotiating his salary in 1930 as the Great Depression gripped the nation. When told he was being paid a higher amount than President Herbert Hoover, his response was: “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover.”
Fast-forward to now, when we have French President Francois Hollande declaring that Donald Trump makes him “want to retch.” Well, Trump might be forgiven if he wanted to, uh, throw up a snarky response like this: “I had a better year than Hollande.”
That’s a fact. As high as the Donald’s unfavorables have been in the polls -- 60 to more than 70 percent in the latest ones -- he’s still doing better than Hollande, who is held in low regard by an incredible 9 out of 10 men and women in France. When I was in Nice, Hollande came to show his support the day after last month’s terror attack that left more than 80 dead. As his motorcade sped past, the crowds lining the sidewalks loudly booed him.
Besides, it’s not really the opinion of a foreign leader that matters to Trump. What is important, however, is the number of leaders in the U S of A, from his own Republican Party, who are declaring that his temperament, harsh policies and flat-out ignorance make it impossible for them to support him. Sen. Susan Collins said so in a Washington Post op-ed. Fifty national-security types, including two Homeland Security secretaries from the Bush administration, signed a letter declaring their opposition to him. They’re not the only ones from the GOP, even as some of the party’s leaders, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, grit their teeth and continue to endorse him.

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August 10, 2016

THE NATIONAL SPLIT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 9, 2016
BY BOB FRANKEN
THE NATIONAL SPLIT
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There’s an interesting debate going on among some liberals, some “Never Trump” holdouts and even some other conservatives. It is a really fundamental question: Can they be personal friends with supporters of Donald Trump? They have decided that Trump stands for bigotry, misogyny and cruelty toward the handicapped -- and, in fact, anyone who dares criticize him, even the parents of a Muslim soldier who died defending this country. They’ve concluded that his backers clearly must share outlooks which they abhor, or at least find them acceptable. So, can they maintain cordial relations with them, or must they shun them? OR are they reacting to intolerance with an intolerance of their own? For a number of Americans, it’s a personal dilemma.
It’s also a spreading issue in politics, which is the antithesis of personal. It’s usually not about scruples, but calculation. That’s clearly what’s motivating various leaders of the Republican Party. Typical of double dealers, they are trying to have it both ways. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain, even Trump’s running mate Mike Pence are among many in the GOP making it obvious time and time again that they are repelled by the repeat instances of Donald Trump ugliness, like those relentless, cringe-worthy attacks on the grieving parents of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber. But, deeply offended though they may be, they can’t bring themselves to abandon their endorsement of Trump.

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August 9, 2016

IF TRUMP QUITS, THEN WHAT HILLARY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 5, 2016
IF TRUMP QUITS, THEN WHAT HILLARY?
Here’s a tough question, but first, you have to presume you’re Hillary Clinton, except that you have to give a straight answer. So, if you were Hillary Clinton, would you prefer to run against Donald Trump, or watch him implode along with the Republican Party to the point that he would decide to pull out of the race? Obviously, if he chose to pack it in, he’d leave the Republicans in tatters, struggling to come up with a candidate and a strategy to take Hillary on, to say nothing of building from the ruins he left behind (which would be particularly weird since Trump claims to put up structures, not demolish them). One can certainly argue that Hillary could benefit from taking on an opposition party that had been left in tatters.
Ah, but she’d suddenly have to run against someone she presumably couldn’t portray as such a bigoted, cruel, ignorant man who had no impulse control. In other words, she might have to rely on her own merits, to ask the voters to accept her as president, as opposed to rejecting that crazy guy. And poll after poll shows that majorities or pluralities of respondents have serious reservations about her, with her unfavorables second only to Trump’s.
So IF Trump decided to bail or was somehow forced out and led away babbling his stream-of-consciousness hatred, and IF the GOP managed to accomplish that in time to get on all the states’ ballots, which is to say, quickly, and IF they came up with someone who was credible or at least not so bizarre, someone who also could placate the millions in the party who rallied around Trump’s toxic-waste dump, would you, you pretend Hillaries, prefer to take on a devastated party, or continue with the current guy, who might still beat you even though so many consider him to be so scarily unfit?

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August 1, 2016

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2016
BY BOB FRANKEN
Conspiracy theories
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I am so confused: Was the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails and subsequent public release by WikiLeaks right before the party convention part of some plot by Vladimir Putin to sabotage Hillary Clinton, whom he reportedly despises, and help his buddy Donald Trump? Trump has spoken warmly of Putin and has raised questions about America’s commitment to NATO.
The Democrats are trying really hard to salvage whatever narrative they can from the email dump. After all, it caused their party so much embarrassment just before its convention that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to resign or be pushed out.
That’s the face-saving theory that Hillary’s people are peddling -- that The Donald and The Vladimir are in cahoots. They even have many experts who say that this has the markings of dirty dealing by Russian intelligence. Conspiracy theorists are in ecstasy.
But let’s go one step further than their paranoia patrol: Could this really be the handiwork of some Bernie Sanders-supporting geek, sitting in his bedroom in his parents’ house, who put this out there to prove once and for all that the party organization -- which is required to be neutral -- really was conspiring against Sanders with the Clinton campaign all along. It certainly did rile up all the Bernie supporters. They were are already sorely antagonized that their guy lost. They angrily insist that there’s no way they will vote for Hillary, even though Sanders is pleading with them that beating Trump is even more important than being spiteful.

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July 29, 2016

GOING STEADY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 26, 2016
BY BOB FRANKEN
Going steady
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Hillary Clinton frequently will acknowledge that she’s not really the kind of campaigner who gets the adrenaline pumping. Instead, her pitch uses words like “steady,” “experienced” and “competent,” as compared with that bigoted, simple-minded, fraudulent madman on the other side.
The problem is that the bigoted, simple-minded, fraudulent madman she describes has already rolled over all the steady, experienced, competent Republican operatives and candidates. Donald Trump is the party’s nominee to be president of the United States.
Hillary’s spiel is that she is the one who can govern effectively, even if she doesn’t excel at all the electioneering buffoonery. We all repeatedly quote Mario Cuomo, who said campaigning is “poetry,” governing is “prose.” Well that’s one way to put it, but it’s far too elegant. More accurately, campaigning is a freak show; governing is drudgery. Just ask that now gray-haired campaign poet Barack Obama.
What’s essential to realize, however, is that you can’t run the country unless you win the election, and freak shows, uh, trump substance in today’s social-media world of hateful superficiality. To put it another way, Donald Trump can win this thing if Hillary Clinton and her people don’t pull their act together. Emphasizing her qualifications traps her in the hated status quo.
In that regard, while few question the credentials of Clinton’s vice-presidential pick and very few haven’t been charmed by his aw-shucks personality, Timothy Kaine is another Hillary. The dogmatic lefties in the party, the millions in the Bernie brigade, who are now infuriated with the hacked emails showing that the Democratic Party rigged the primaries for Hillary, certainly aren’t happy with Kaine. They believe he’s just another Clinton-style sellout, another establishment puppet. He’s definitely not a dogmatic liberal, but rather one who believes that civilized dealing is the only way to get anything done. But these are not civilized times. People are angry in our country. So Hillary and now Tim Kaine might have a tough time if they both present themselves as the personifications of reason. What we could have with that ticket is the perception that it’s the bland leading the bland.

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July 4, 2016

JULY 4th DISAPPOINTMENT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2016
BY BOB FRANKEN
July Fourth disappointment
It’s a funny thing about fireworks: As they fleetingly light up the skies, they temporarily can blind us to the dreary reality that lies below. As we mark the 240th year since our Declaration of Independence, we need to take stock about how far we’ve fallen from the fervent highs of the revolutionaries back in 1776. In too many ways, their idealism has become a dud.
Look no further than our alternatives for the next chief executive. Let’s be blunt: If the polls are to be believed, we will be forced to choose between “bad” and “disaster,” between someone who is untrustworthy and calculating, and a liar who is a shameless demagogue. How inspiring is that? It’s as if those fireworks to celebrate the spirit of ’76 have started to fizzle.
The Declaration’s premise is for a democracy that would evolve after the separation from England would ensure “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” as we all remember from middle school. Sad to say, our government has far too often become the catalyst for the pursuit of money and power for the few, with little regard for the people. What, back then, was a violent split from the “absolute tyranny” of the British king has turned into a fiefdom for the privileged who manipulate their puppets in government in a slightly more subtle way, the legalized bribery known as campaign contributions.

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July 1, 2016

JULY 4 ON MSNBC

It's only fitting on Monday the 4th, that I go on MSNBC during the noon hour, Eastern. On Independence Day, you can count on me to offer comments independent of reason. Plan accordingly.

June 24, 2016

SATURDAY MORNING FROLIC ON MSNBC

I'm appearing with Joy-Ann Reid on Saturday's "AM Joy": MSNBC between 10 and noon Eastern. Tune in as she says "You can't be serious Bob."

June 22, 2016

LOW LIVES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2016
Low lives
BY BOB FRANKEN
How low can we go? When it comes to politics, that’s a question that has a new answer nearly every day. Each time we think our campaign seems to hit bottom, somebody starts digging us in deeper. And I don’t want to tell you what they’re shoveling, because, well, you know.
So now we have Sarah Palin posting on Facebook that President Barack Obama is a “special kind of stupid.” Mind you, that’s Sarah Palin saying that. She was in a tizzy because the president has been restating since the Orlando massacre his frustration that we can’t put some limits on the easy availability of guns. Therefore, says Ms. Palin, he deserves “no due respect.” Of course he is the nation’s chief executive, twice elected — once when she was on the opposing GOP ticket as John McCain’s running mate. Actually stumbling mate was more like it.
Of course, McCain also is crossing the line with his rhetoric. Two days after Orlando, McCain told reporters that the president was “directly responsible.” After that hit Twitter, he was being showered with so much criticism that he pulled back a little bit, and said he “misspoke.” What he really meant is that Obama’s policies were responsible for ISIS.
Never mind that it was the Bush invasion of Iraq, which he so avidly supported, that created ISIS. McCain did not misspeak; he’s been in public office for a long time, and he knew exactly what he was saying. It’s just that he’s facing a tough re-election fight back home in Arizona, so he has to pander to his party’s zealots, who are head over heels in love with Donald Trump, the guy who will lead the ticket.

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June 20, 2016

MEDIA AWAKENING?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2016
Media awakening?
BY BOB FRANKEN
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“Oh goody,” you’re about to say sarcastically, “Still another media hack is going to write about Donald Trump’s attacks on a free press.” Well, yes, I’m going to do just that, because Trump is trying to shut down a facet of our democracy so fundamental that it is among the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution’s very first amendment -- even with, as Thomas Jefferson put it, the “agitation it produces.”
Trump is exceedingly agitated. Apparently, he has decided that such constitutional principles are suggestions, and not ironclad. So, if he doesn’t like the way he’s portrayed by journalists, he shuts them down, or attempts to. His latest target is The Washington Post. No longer, he decreed, will the newspaper’s reporters get the credentials necessary to get close access to his campaign. That’s because he didn’t approve when the Post characterized comments he made as suggesting President Barack Obama sympathized with Muslim extremism. Never mind that it was an accurate description of his innuendos after the Orlando, Florida, massacre. King Donald was not amused. So bye-bye, Washington Post.
Those of us in the media have not collectively done a great job covering this election, but it’s not because Donald Trump has been challenged unfairly; it’s because he and the others haven’t been challenged enough. Many complain that because his nonstop outlandish comments have made him such a ratings magnet, we have granted him unlimited access to publicity. Worst of all, we’ve let him spit out his moronic hatefulness without taking him on, without remembering that we are supposed to be every politician’s adversary.

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June 14, 2016

FOUNDERS AND FLOUNDERING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2016
Founders and floundering
BY BOB FRANKEN
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As I was watching the Tony presentations the other night, where the remarkable musical “Hamilton” was showered with honors, I could not shake the feeling that Alexander Hamilton and our nation’s other founders would be worried that this glorious experiment in democracy was being overwhelmed by hatred.
It’s not just the hatred of that maniac who, several hours before the awards telecast, had pretended he was an Islamic warrior as justification to massacre some of those whose alternative views of sex had apparently enraged him. As we all know, he chose a gay nightclub to target. He used a killing-machine assault weapon to spew his bullets and insanity, and slaughtered close to 50 innocents who were just trying to have a night of fun. Going about our lives unmolested is, after all, what those who designed our nation seemed to have in mind.
Now, it’s not unreasonable to worry if the political system they so carefully designed is beginning to crack, that more than two centuries later, too many of the ones we now elect or consider to lead this government are not worthy of the honor.
Obviously, millions of Americans reacted in horror to what happened in Orlando, Florida, feeling overwhelming sadness for the victims. But we cannot overlook those like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who tweeted the biblical admonition “A man reaps what he sows.” This was interpreted as a belief that those who don’t hew to his narrow and straight ways to love invite divine retribution. Patrick took down his message, but he has pandered to homophobia before, confident that a majority of the voters support him. How pathetic is that? How dangerously pathetic.

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June 10, 2016

SUNDAY ON MSNBC

I'll be joining Joy Reid on MSNBC this Sunday morning between 10 and Noon Eastern, adding to all the political foolishness.

June 8, 2016

PAUL RYAN'S AMORALITY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2016
Paul Ryan’s amorality
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Of all the Republicans displaying their two faces in accommodating Donald Trump, none is more obnoxious than Paul Ryan. Ryan has spent years carefully constructing his own pedestal upon which he has placed himself as the conscientious conservative intellectual, above petty politics. It was the platform from which he maneuvered to become House speaker. It turns out that the pedestal is nothing more than a sanctimonious mirage.
By endorsing Trump, while at the same time expressing concern about the GOP presumptive nominee’s various dangerous demagogic rants, Ryan has demonstrated that he’s just another opportunistic partisan hack, selling his alleged soul to the devil of expedience.
It is calculation, not principle, when he tries to rationalize his decision by having it both ways: “It’s no secret that he and I have our differences. I won’t pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.”
It wasn’t a day later before Ryan seized on an opportunity to demonstrate that he is still St. Paul when he criticized Trump for his bigoted attacks not just on the federal judge handling the Trump University litigation, Gonzalo Curiel, but on the concept of judicial independence. “It’s reasoning I don’t relate to,” Ryan said. “I completely disagree with the thinking behind that. And so, he clearly says and does things I don’t agree with, and I’ve had to speak up from time to time when that has occurred, and I’ll continue to do that if it’s necessary. I hope it’s not.”
Still, he’s going to vote for the man who has advocated the forced removal of 11 million illegal immigrants, who would bar almost all Muslims from entering the country, who is a proud misogynist, a serial liar, on and on ad nauseam. Why? Because Donald Trump, says Ryan, is someone he can work with to turn Paul Ryan’s agenda into reality.
The real Paul Ryan agenda is promoting himself. He has enjoyed great success by presenting himself as above all the ambitions that motivate normal mortals in this netherworld of politics. He has hidden his lust for power behind a facade of rightward righteousness. Now, however, he has shown his true colors, which is whichever ones get him ahead at the moment.

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June 6, 2016

PROUD SLEAZES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016
Proud sleazes
BY BOB FRANKEN
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I have to confess that I’m not doing a good job as a reporter. I haven’t called Tom Llamas of ABC News so that he could confirm or deny that he’s “a sleaze.” That’s what Donald Trump called him at that bizarre news conference where Trump berated journalists for having the audacity to check into his claims about donations to veterans organizations.
My dictionary defines “sleaze” as “a contemptible or vulgar person,” and it goes on to suggest synonyms like “creep,” “scumbag” and “slime bucket.”
So is someone a “sleaze” who mocks a person with a disability? How about a guy who is charged with fraud in a lawsuit, or whose businesses repeatedly go bankrupt? And what about the man who is accused of treating women like disposable objects? Does spreading hate and constantly lying qualify a person for sleazedom? How about trashing those who are simply doing their jobs seeking to hold a major party’s presumptive candidate for president accountable?

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May 30, 2016

REMEMBERING MEMORIAL DAY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016
Remembering Memorial Day
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s a shame that it needs to be repeated as we enjoy the three-day weekend, but Memorial Day is much more than beach breaks, barbecues and shopping sales. It’s the occasion when we are supposed to pay homage to all those members of this country’s armed forces who died protecting the nation. By extension, it honors all those who serve in the military to defend America.
Regrettably, we have broken faith with them, not just for the shameful mistreatment that impedes the repair of the broken minds and bodies for those who returned (more about that in a moment), but for the shoddy state of a political system that is fundamental to our way of life.
They didn’t intend to put themselves in harm’s way to witness a choice between two presidential candidates who are significantly disliked, both for good reason. One is a fast talking, lying, and ignorant racist who has played on the fears and anger of a fed-up population. The other is also widely considered to be dishonest, enmeshed in an email scandal that has now only made her look even worse with the release of a scathing report from the State Department’s inspector general. In addition, she’s a plodding, uninspired candidate, perceived as a pawn of the wealthy.
They also didn’t believe they were fighting to protect the selfish interests of a few robber barons who live in obscene luxury at the expense of everyone else.

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May 27, 2016

MY HOLIDAZE ON MSNBC

I'm on MSNBC Monday afternoon during the 2:00 Eastern hour. Watch as I replace your extended weekend reverie with my dopey irreverence.

May 26, 2016

WELCOME TO THE MCP

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016
Welcome to the MCP
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is going to get me in trouble, but I believe that the New York Times piece that spent a major amount of space detailing how Donald Trump is a sleazebag relic from the Male Chauvinist Pigdom nevertheless was a huge waste of resources. We knew all that.
Let’s face it: The Donald is not a young man. He dates back to a time when objectifying women was considered an honorable pursuit for a guy, where usually the main feature of the relationship was getting the reluctant female into his bed. Since time immemorial we’ve discovered that when we got up close, our most revered heroes were really quite ordinary; they took their pants off the same way as you and I do. The political realm has always been for those who prowl the Male Chauvinist Pigdom.
It is true that The Trumpster resembles the guys in “Mad Men” — although he’s not as pretty — but at the same time he was being a sexually regressive dirtbag, he was being a gender-progressive boss, promoting women who could tolerate his juvenile comments and attitudes. They thrived in his domain even as he was treating others like mannequins, there to endure his blustery innuendo. It was a power imbalance, of course, but he is not the first one who seeks to lead the nation who was a total fool when it came to relations with the opposite sex.
How different is he than Bill Clinton or John Kennedy or FDR in that regard? Nevertheless, the New York Times piece about Trump’s boorishness was the most read political article of the year, according to the Times. So it wins out over the hundreds of stories about Donald Trump’s lies, ignorance, racist rants and various simple-minded positions on just about everything that many feel could plunge the world into chaos or worse.
Never mind all that. We prefer reading about how Trump scored, or tried to. For all the controversy about the article, it has been met by his supporters with the same shoulder shrug as all the others. They are so angry at the system that they adore anyone who rants against it. They also have such contempt for Hillary Clinton that they will follow anyone who is an alternative.

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May 23, 2016

DAISY, THEN AND NOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2016
Daisy then and now
BY BOB FRANKEN
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I wonder if the Democrats’ plans against Donald Trump include reprising the “Daisy” ad. It was a major success in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson’s campaign released it in an effort to portray Republican nominee Barry Goldwater as a dangerous wild man. It simply featured a 3-year-old girl innocently counting petals and ended with a nuclear explosion, then a voice-over: “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd; the stakes are too high for you to stay home.”
The Democrats have made no bones about the fact they will hammer at Trump as an even wilder thing, one who has already blown up the rest of the Republican candidates with hateful rhetoric and insults. Come to think of it, the 1964 campaign was kind of tame compared with the nastiness we can expect this time around. The attacks against him they’ve already launched make the “Daisy” ad look like, uh, child’s play. (By the way, it had a huge impact, even though it ran only once. In this Internet era, nothing runs only once.)
Of course, the Trump forces are already planning their own barrage, hammering at Hillary Clinton’s negatives. When the Clintonistas charge misogyny, the Trumpsters will dredge up Bill Clinton’s record with women. When the Clinton people hammer at The Donald’s inconsistencies and lies, his troops will storm right back by unloading on The Hillary’s reputation for dishonesty.
It won’t be pretty, but it’s worked so far for Trump, who has taken the Republicans and turned them upside down, leaving party regulars in a pile. But his adopted party is not the only one with unity problems. Witness the Democrats’ melee in Las Vegas, which certainly didn’t stay there. It was a delegate-selection process that went awry, complete with chair-throwing and physical threats from the supporters of Bernie Sanders, who accuse the party’s establishment of unfairly thwarting their efforts at every turn. Sanders, who refuses to go quietly into the night, has been tepid with his reactions to the violence, suggesting it’s the natural anger of those trying to take on the political/economic machine.

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May 19, 2016

THE MEAN LATRINE SCENE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016
THE MEAN LATRINE SCENE
BY BOB FRANKEN
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I’m certain I’m not the first to raise this question about the North Carolina anti-transgender law. We’ve all heard that the state now requires those who use public toilets, locker rooms and other male-female separated facilities to relieve themselves only in spaces designated for their gender on the day they were born: My question is, how will that be determined? Will there be potty police stationed at each entrance to check birth certificates? What if you’re like most of us and don’t carry your birth certificate with you? Then what? Are you denied access? If so, I have some investment advice for North Carolinians: Buy stock in the company that makes Depends.
Actually, North Carolina is not the only jurisdiction that has found it necessary to crack down on a menace we didn’t know we had: pervs taking advantage of laws protecting those whose sexual identity has evolved. Apparently, politicians feel a need to raise the ramparts against the hordes of mainly male predators who will want to gain legal access to ladies rooms, endangering little girls everywhere. This is much more than fodder for bathroom humor. This is serious, uh, business.

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May 17, 2016

THE VILLAINOUS ESTABLISHMENT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016
The Villainous Establishment
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Donald Trump supporters have a point. So do Bernie Sanders’ legions. They are correct when they say that our society is rigged in favor of those who have been able to game the system and accumulate massive wealth at the expense of everyone else. It is obvious that Trump has been successful in exploiting that anger through his facile demagoguery, pushing the buttons of the haters who want scapegoats as a substitute for rational strategies. It also is obvious that Sanders, for all his protestations of substance, addresses economic inequality with really poorly thought-out superficial approaches that simply don’t add up.
But let’s not lose sight of the reality that the oligarchs run things, that our government under laws doesn’t really mean they have to follow those laws. They go unpunished when their corrupt transactions destroy the lives of so many millions here and around the world. When the public education system is allowed to rot, they merely send their children to private schools to study courses like Entitlement 1-A and Hubris 101. They fly first class while all of us other riffraff are crammed into ever-shrinking seats, if we can even afford to fly. They have multiple vacation homes, while millions face foreclosure. If they do step over the legal line, their army of lawyers protects them. That’s actually rare, because their lobbyists are able to bribe the lawmakers and those who administer the regulations with campaign contributions. In return, the rules are written and enforced so that they don’t apply to the powerful. In the process, they’ve taken our “Shining City on the Hill” and strip-mined it.
At the core is a political structure that is the foundation for this inept, unprincipled government house of cards. So along comes Donald Trump, who pretends to challenge this stodgy system by employing mindless bigotry. And along comes Bernie Sanders with slogans that appeal to the gullible youth, allowing him to give fits to Hillary Clinton, the candidate of the Democratic Party organization.
The narrative could well be about Hillary potentially making history as the first female president of the United States; instead, she has been held back by questions about her character. Furthermore, instead of trailblazing, she travels a well-worn path, campaigning for the status quo.

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May 11, 2016

THE UNREALITY SHOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2016
The unreality show
By Bob Franken
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He watches from the loftiest perch on the planet. Barack Obama has more than eight months left to his presidency, after seven grueling years of trying, to mixed reviews, to keep the country and the world, from being consumed by crisis. But even as he continues the grind, he has become a spectator as the nation lurches toward choosing his successor.
Only now is he condescending to really engage in the politics that he has disdained for so long. In his trademark self-consciously cool way, he’s starting to participate in a process that has given rise to Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee of a major party. Of course, from his point of view, it doesn’t hurt that it’s the Republican Party that’s in chaos. It’s the one that has been utterly shameless in thwarting his agenda, for philosophical reasons and ones that are not so philosophical, if you get my drift.
So here he was at his most recent news conference, taking on the master showman Trump: “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show.” He’s half-right. It truly is as entertaining as can be. What works, as it always has in modern times, is campaign buffoonery. Substantive issues have little appeal for many, if not most, voters. Trump’s supporters don’t care if he’s caught in a huge mistake or even a lie. A serious discussion about solutions to our glaring problems doesn’t cut it. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who tries to present herself as a policy wonk. Unfortunately for her, she has come across instead as inauthentic or dishonest. She and Trump compete for the highest unfavorability ratings, although Trump still leads in the race to the popularity bottom
The current president is correct that it’s “not a reality show.” When the two party standard-bearers are regarded as substandard by their fellow Americans, we have a situation that is decidedly unreal.

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May 9, 2016

THE TAWDRY QUANDARY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2016
The Tawdry Quandary
By Bob Franken
---
You gotta hand it to House Speaker Paul Ryan. He has successfully staked his claim to the moral high ground -- at least when it comes to his image crafting. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether he’d now endorse his party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, that he and his staff had prepared a ready answer: “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.” Translation: What’s in this for me?
Let’s be honest: A lot of people in politics are not honest. Many are, and I treasure the ones who are, value those who are friends. Far too many, though, are not. Their scruples match those in the business world, exclusively guided by the “whatever sells” mindset, with no regard to product quality, public health or treatment of employees. If it fattens profits, it’s acceptable, their thinking goes; whatever undermines the bottom line must be resisted.
In politics, it’s “whatever keeps me/us in power.” Remember that as we ponder the “ethical dilemma” confronting Republicans who believe that Donald Trump as president would be a disaster for the country and certainly the party. Some are staying defiant, saying there’s no way he’s their guy, but for most others there is no dilemma; they’re falling in line, their feelings of horror about Trump a dim memory, obliterated by their canny instinct for self-interest.
They are frantically calculating what leaves them in the best position to maintain their power and prosperity. Can they get ahead or at least survive better by being good soldiers, or do they benefit in the long run by repudiating Trump so that after a Republican debacle on Election Day, they are able to loudly shout, “I told you so!”

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May 7, 2016

THE HUMBLING TUMBLING

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE HUMBLING TUMBLING
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s gotta be tough for a candidate to quit, particularly when running to be president. Suddenly the humongous ego trip is over. Gone are the days when your very presence is an event, where even the wealthiest and most powerful act like groupies, and doting aides are always fluttering and flattering. Being dumped out of that gilded cocoon is brutal. Very quickly you’re alone in the humbling real world, as all the lackeys start licking someone else’s boots. These extinguished stars who are shoved off the stage but are still longing for that last sliver of spotlight barely hang on by endorsing someone else and playing a demeaning supporting role. Think Chris Christie.
Oh yeah, there might be a little principle involved, a policy agenda and all that, but what’s most cruel is losing the addictive rush of adulation. That explains, partially at least, why Bernie Sanders hangs on by his fingernails, even though Hillary Clinton has rolled over him and has an almost clear path to the nomination. It helps one comprehend why Ted Cruz and John Kasich come up with their desperation deal to divvy up the remaining state primaries in order to try to stop Donald Trump. They are among the last hopes of the party machine to somehow thwart Trump by using whatever chicanery they can create to do it, but all the Cruz-Kasich bargain really accomplished was to bring a lot of ridicule crashing down on them. Cruz is playing all the angles. He’s named Carly Fiorina his vice-presidential running mate. For Carly, it means she gets her fawning entourage back for a while. Nevertheless, The Donald’s juggernaut seems to be on crude control, meaning he might very well come to the convention with enough delegates to make all the feudal game-playing futile. What we’ll witness then will be all the party poobahs pathetically sidling up to Trump to assure him he was really their favorite all along.

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May 2, 2016

THE ABCs OF CAMPAIGNING

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2016
THE ABCs OF CAMPAIGNING
BY BOB FRANKEN
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If you want real betrayal and towering egos, forget the presidential campaign; look no further than the gripping intrigue swirling around Michael Strahan’s leaving his perch on the ABC “Live!” program that he’s co-hosted with Kelly Ripa for four years. He’ll move over full time to the network’s slipping morning show “Good Morning America.”
All of this was engineered by duplicitous upper management, pardon the redundancy, behind the back of Ms. Ripa. As Bart Simpson would say, she had a cow when she heard the news, which was about the time it was publicly announced. So she retaliated by simply not showing up for a few days while she had her conniption fit and the tabloids feasted.
Comes now the question about who replaces Strahan. It’s time for the executives to think really big. If they do, and things happen as they just might, there is one man who is a proven showman without compare. Yes, I’m talking about Donald Trump. Is that a brilliant idea or what? Actually, it was suggested by a friend of mine. I have weird friends.
Still, think of the possibilities. He and Kelly could share their experiences if he, too, got back-stabbed -- in his case, by the Republican machine operators. After a while, we’d grow tired of hearing his righteous indignation, just as his bombastic routine is finally getting a little tedious now. But he’d need a new venue, need his daily TV fix, so he’d be available. Of course, Kelly would have to put up with his misogyny and other crude utterances, but hey, ratings are ratings.
Anyway, he can probably adapt. According to both Trump and his new handlers, he can be more appropriate when the time comes. His toxic spew is only an act, designed to attract his hordes of supporters who are angry and longing for the good old days when they could hate without guilt.

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April 18, 2016

HOT TIMES IN GOTHAM

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BOB FRANKEN
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HOT TIMES IN GOTHAM
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s tough being a pollster in New York: “Excuse me, sir, will you tell me your preference for president? Or should I just go (expletive) myself?” Yes, that is a somewhat cleaned-up version of an old joke -- one of my favorites, by the way. But like so many, its humor comes from truth: New Yorkers are not known for their genteel civility.
Cut to the Democratic debate in Brooklyn. Bernie Sanders has abandoned his phony politeness, and Hillary Clinton has had it with Sanders standing in the way of her march to the party nomination. She had spent all that effort to not look like she felt entitled to it, and suddenly there was Bernie to demonstrate time after time that her nonpretender pretense was, in fact, for real. She’s not entitled; she’s had to work at it.
Meanwhile, Sanders is not someone who suffers fools very well, which he defines as anyone who dares question his policies. To quote Hillary from the debate: “If Sen. Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the ‘establishment.’” She has a point there. The truth also is she has tight connections to the money people he demonizes, and when she’s reminded of that, we’re treated to the famous Hillary glare.
The evil eye was on full display during their confrontation, with both showing that they know how to hold a conversation employing NYC etiquette, which is to say none whatsoever. It got raucous enough at one point that CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer admonished, “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.” Wolf, you’re a friend and I admire you as a consummate professional, but I must respectfully disagree: In Brooklyn, where the altercation was held, if you’re not screaming, no one pays attention to you.
The candidates didn’t disappoint. Not that they broke any new ground: They simply squabbled face to face over each other’s judgment, over her coziness with the rich and powerful, over his anti-gun-control votes, over Israel and over fracking (no expletive necessary). When they weren’t bobbing and weaving, dissembling and distracting, they were heaping scorn on one another. It was perfect for a city whose slogan should be: “If it ain’t scorny, then it’s corny.”

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April 11, 2016

NAKED CITY POLITICS

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BOB FRANKEN
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NAKED CITY POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Don’t worry about clumsy metaphors and awkward and predictable musical references. You won’t see them here as I start spreading the news that the presidential campaign has ended its pre-Broadway run and assumed a New York state of mind. No siree, no clichés here, as the candidates try to take their bites out of the Big Apple.
They’ve finished milking the votes out of Wisconsin. Donald Trump’s brutishness was done in by “Wisconsin nice,” but now he’ll be taking on Ted Cruz and John Kasich back on his home turf. We all know there’s no such thing as “New York nice.” Bernie Sanders also thrived in the Great White Way of Wisconsin, no surprise considering his audiences usually have the demographics of a folk music concert. But NYC is a tiny bit more diverse, not counting Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In addition, there’s a whole other part of the state outside the boroughs, which ever so faintly resembles America.
For three of the four candidates, this is a battle for hometown creds. As we’ve all heard, Trump, Hillary Clinton and Sanders have deep roots. If they can’t make it here, they can’t make it anywhere. Cruz, who’s from Texas, and way down in the polls in third place, will need some real chutzpah to be in contention here. He definitely has it, even though he and his evangelical followers probably don’t know what the word means.

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March 31, 2016

FRIGHT OR FIGHT

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BOB FRANKEN
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FRIGHT OR FIGHT
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
To illustrate the differences between the Republican and Democratic primaries, all we have to do is note the latest bizarre developments that drew the most attention and Twitter conversation. For the D’s it was the Bernie Sanders bird, which dominated the, uh, tweets. Meanwhile, the R’s continued with their ongoing Trump/Cruz bird flip. It managed to get even tackier, dragging in their wives and charges of marital infidelity for bad measure.
Sanders was addressing one of his “yuuuge” crowds in Portland, Oregon, when along came a finch to filch the show. Actually, Sanders was perfectly willing to be upstaged as the little feathered tyke flitted around and finally landed at the podium. That set the huge audience into flights of applause, which is understandable. After all, most of those attending were so young that they remember seeing Disney animated movies like it was yesterday. Actually, it probably was yesterday. The films always included the cutest whistling creatures chirping along with some sappy song. That was cartoon fantasy. Sanders’ skeptics argue his promises to accomplish social reform or wrest power from the country’s entrenched interests are real-life fantasy. Still, the rally provided some comic relief, which was harmless, particularly since nothing was left behind, if you know what I mean.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were dumping plenty of you-know-what-I-mean on each other, managing to splatter their wives in the process. If that wasn’t enough droppings, the National Enquirer, that paragon of journalism, added to the pile. Let’s review: Donald Trump said Ted Cruz hit the fan first with a digital ad showing his wife, Melania Trump, posing barely covered for GQ way back when and questioning whether she is first-lady material. Cruz said he had nothing to do with that. Still, Trump responded with an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz, which allowed Hubby to forcefully state his righteous indignation for cameras. Then the Enquirer got into the act with an article accusing Cruz of having various affairs while married. Trump insisted he had nothing to do with that. Here is the question: Whom do you believe? Most probably would respond “None of the Above,” except those who consider all this simply a disgusting waste of time.

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March 30, 2016

WIVES AND OTHER CANDIDATE VICTIMS

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BOB FRANKEN
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WIVES AND OTHER CANDIDATE VICTIMS
BY BOB FRANKEN
What a presidential-election choice we have, America! That is if you enjoy political tactics that are so low, they would be better suited for a limbo contest than a campaign. We are choosing many candidates who, instead of representing our aspirations, are demonstrating our asinine worst.
For once, the latest example wasn’t started by Donald Trump. In fact, this one is from an anti-Trump PAC, “Make America Awesome.” It’s not officially connected to the Ted Cruz organization, but that’s a distinction without a difference. Who among us believes there’s truly no coordination just because it’s illegal? Judge for yourself with this social-media ad that features the now-famous, very revealing photo of Melania Trump posing for GQ magazine back in her days as a model. It’s accompanied by text that reads “Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.” That was the Utah primary, a state dominated by Mormons, of course, with their strict rules of modesty.
That ad is a cheesy cheap shot. Cruz ritualistically denied any connection to the group that put it out, but he’s no stranger to sewage politics. So the Trumpster ignored the claims of innocence to throw some Twitter trash right back: “Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” He may or may not have been referring to a 2005 incident where Heidi Cruz was taken into custody by the side of a road during an episode of depression. Trump didn’t let up, so Cruz, seeking any campaign advantage he could, worked up some outrage: “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward,” he thundered for the cameras, “Leave Heidi the hell alone.” Whoa! And those opportunistic histrionics even came before the accusation in that journalistic paragon, the National Enquirer, that Cruz has had at least five mistresses.

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March 7, 2016

PLAYING BAD HANDS

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BOB FRANKEN
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PLAYING BAD HANDS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Who knew that when Sen. Lindsey Graham, the thwarted GOP presidential candidate, stated that his Grand Old Party had gone “batsh-t crazy,” he was not just being gross, but was guilty of gross understatement? He gave his memorable analysis just days before the latest debate between the candidates who remain standing. Actually, wallowing is more like it.
Who could have imagined that this wrestling match could sink further down in the mud than the previous one? How low? Down where Marco Rubio went when he ridiculed Donald Trump for having small hands and suggested that meant something about Trump’s inadequate manhood. I’m trying to be family-friendly here, people.
Apparently, Mr. Trump (as Chris Christie calls him) understood what Mr. Rubio was talking about. So it didn’t take long after the show -- excuse me, debate -- began for Trump to put up his hands and insist that his “misterhood” is ... well, let’s use his words: “He referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.”
For starters, I know I speak for everybody when I say, “Thank you for sharing.” We also should express our gratitude to all the fact-checkers for deciding not to seek the evidence about that one. What will they prove, beyond the fact that this is a primary battle between men who obviously are very crotchety?

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February 29, 2016

THE THREE STOOGES

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THE THREE STOOGES
BY BOB FRANKEN
I know you’ll agree that sports metaphors are a tiresome technique employed by the mediocre writer. So I’m going to use one and suggest that in Thursday night’s CNN Republican brawl — uh, make that debate — Donald Trump was the paunchy old heavyweight fighter, frantically trying to fend off a relentless attack from the young opponent who was desperately attempting to overcome his reputation for being a wimp. So Marco Rubio bulked up and landed a barrage of punches on the flabby guy.
By the way, in case you’re wondering why I’d spend space on the Trumpster’s physical appearance, it’s because he’s done the same thing to women, and if he can be so misogynistic, then he can be the target for mister-sogynistics. To quote the cliché, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” And The Donald is one stuffed goose, which is obvious, no matter how well-tailored his Mexican-made suits are.
He was being pummeled by Marco “Talking Point” Rubio as well as Ted “Cheap Shot” Cruz. Little was off- limits: Trump’s inherited money, his commitment to Israel, his commitment to conservatism. Donald “Mr. Bluster” Trump flailed with his usual counterpunches, otherwise known as insults. At various times, his assailants were a “choke artist” “a liar,” “a basket case.”
But Rubio went toe-to-toe with him, even getting in some digs at his own expense by recalling how he’d been embarrassed at an earlier debate by over and over replaying his scripted answers. It was The Donald, said The Marco, who was really the grim repeater. In fact, my favorite moment of the night came when Trump insisted, “I don’t repeat myself! I don’t repeat myself!”
His real test comes when he tries to repeat his victories in the upcoming primaries, which are, as Bernie Sanders would say, “Yuuuuge.” We’ve got Super Tuesday coming right up. With its emphasis on Southern states, the expectation that Trumpie will carry the night sets him up for a fall.

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February 24, 2016

THE CUSS FUSS

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BOB FRANKEN
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THE CUSS FUSS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
“Breaking news,” said the local anchorman (who looked a lot like Marco Rubio). “Donald Trump has promised to avoid profanity.” It’s a shame really, because his use of the p-word, the s-word and all the other vulgarities has been one of his most endearing qualities, which isn’t saying a whole h-word-uva lot.
Apparently, with more Southern primaries coming up -- a region where it’s OK to cheat, lie, backstab and be a racist as long as you’re polite about it -- Trump has decided to swear off swearing, although with his track record on good manners, or lack thereof, that’s probably total b-word s-word, and I don’t mean Bernie Sanders.
Given his erratic impulse control, it might be interesting to do an MRI to see if his brain even has a frontal cortex. It doesn’t seem to matter, according to his horrified critics, because no matter how brainless his rhetoric, he’s riding high, fresh off a win in South Carolina. To the establishment types in the Republican Party, it doesn’t matter whether The Donald cusses or not; in their calculating minds, his very existence is a huge curse.
He’s riding roughshod over them and their more traditional candidates. The most traditional of them all, Jeb Bush, has folded his tent. His exclamation point has been replaced by a simple period at the end of his sentence. Even his huge silver spoon couldn’t dig him out of his hole. Not that the fam didn’t try. Former President George W. wasn’t able to accomplish his mission of rescuing brother Jeb. Not even Mom could save him. It probably didn’t help that she had said early on that “We’ve had enough Bushes.” That probably won’t go down as a triumph in impulse control either.

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February 22, 2016

BERNIE SANDERS' TRUTHFUL LIE

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BERNIE SANDERS’ TRUTHFUL LIE
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Here’s why what Bernie Sanders promises is false: Because what he says is true -- the system really is rigged so he can’t deliver. The wealthy in this country have a grossly unfair advantage because they can bribe our politicians to make sure the laws don’t apply to them.
Actually, they can use their financial advantage to buy the best of everything for themselves, whether it be tax shelters, medical care, lavish homes, education, you name it. They maintain their gilded existence through what amounts to bribery. They use their campaign contributions, meaning payoffs, and the overlap of their lobbying might to avoid legal responsibility for cheating the rest of us and making their profits without honor.
Before Bernie Sanders, we had Will Rogers saying that we have “the best Congress that money can buy.” But it’s gotten exponentially worse in the generations since. By now we live in a society that is corrupt overall. And the people finally are completely fed up. They can’t trust our institutions because everything is so trumped up.
Now, wasn’t that a clever segue? Donald Trump has enjoyed great success exploiting this disgust with the kind of scapegoating and simple-mindedness that would be entertaining if they weren’t so dangerous. History has demonstrated that.
On the left, Bernie Sanders is also right that we are being had. But he’s wrong when he promises that he can deliver free college education and single-payer health care or that he can break up the megabanks, rein in Wall Street and collect much higher taxes, mainly from the rich.
Let’s not debate right now whether his solutions for correcting our absurd concentration of wealth and power have merit. They won’t happen. They can’t happen in a political system that has become less a democracy than an oligarchy, just as he describes. Do we believe for one minute that our corporate rulers are going to allow meaningful reform, that the insurance companies are going to forfeit their stranglehold on medical care or that our financial institutions and plutocrats are going to open their vaults, pay much higher taxes and redistribute their hoarded wealth in some sort of egalitarian way? Of course they won’t.
They even more ruthlessly will manipulate the political system, which is irretrievably corrupt. When they can’t get their way on tax policy, they already flee the country. When they cannot coerce American employees to accept slave wages, they outsource abroad to countries where desperate workers will. Their loyalty ends where their selfish interest begins.

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February 17, 2016

SCALIA AND THAT PESKY CONSTITUTION

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SCALIA AND THAT PESKY CONSTITUTION
BY BOB FRANKEN
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This shouldn’t be necessary, but apparently Republicans need a little constitutional review. So for Mitch McConnell and the rest of the partisans, let’s turn to Article 2, Section 2, which is about the responsibilities of the president. Can all of us see it there, the part that reads “he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States”?
Does everyone notice it says “shall,” that it’s not optional? I ask because the GOP consensus is that he should hold off naming a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, because President Barack Obama is in the final year of his term. Apparently they’ve overlooked the part where Article 2 states “He shall hold his office during the term of four years”? Perhaps they didn’t realize that “lame duck” doesn’t appear in the Constitution.
But then, so many on the right have simply refused to accept the legitimacy of Mr. Obama as chief executive from the get-go, even though he’s been elected to two of these four-year terms -- not three-year. After all, they fantasize, he’s not even eligible to serve, since he was born somewhere else, no matter what the overwhelming evidence shows, that demeaning need to come up with proof shouldn’t have been necessary, except, you know, he’s, uh, different. They don’t need to say how he’s different; everyone knows what they mean.
Maybe that’s why they’ve taken the words “advice and consent” and twisted them into “divide and dissent.” Because they can.
Sen. McConnell is correct that appointing a Supreme Court justice is perhaps the most significant legacy a president can leave behind. That’s because the Supremes are there for life. Scalia had been on the SCOTUS bench since 1986, and in the “thoughts and prayers” platitudes surrounding his sudden death at 79, he is being remembered as a sharply intellectual, ferocious conservative voice. He was actually an ultra-right winger, but it is bad form to say so right now -- except on the Internet, where nothing is bad form.

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February 11, 2016

NOT SO SUPER BOWL

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NOT SO SUPER BOWL
BY BOB FRANKEN
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Marco Rubio held a Super Bowl watching event on Sunday night. He’s a huge football fan, even married a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. He must have sympathized with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was brutalized by the Denver Broncos in the pocket all night long, much like Rubio in his “bubble” the night before.
Chris Christie, who is as nuanced as a linebacker, had actually been battering Rubio for days. Ever since Marco came out of Iowa smelling like an establishment rose, Christie has been heaping the stink on him, targeting his youthful cuteness and the way he clings tightly to his carefully crafted script like it’s a security blanket.
On the cuteness point, let’s face it, Marco looks like a lot of local news anchormen, although I hasten to point out that the ABC anchors at the debate did a terrific job.
How’s that for a double digression? In case you don’t remember, the discussion involved Christie (who definitely doesn’t look like an anchorman) ridiculing Rubio as a “boy in the bubble.” Unfortunately for Rubio, he came across as a bubblehead on debate night by referring not once, not twice, but four times to the same talking points, apparently to deflect the oft-repeated criticism that he’s so inexperienced he’s little more than “another Barack Obama.” In Republican circles that may be the most horrible insult, unless, perhaps, you call someone “a Muslim immigrant abortionist.”
Another digression. Rubio and his handlers had crafted a strange response: “Obama knows exactly what he’s doing.” They seemed to mean that Satan -- excuse me, President Barack Obama -- at his tender age had managed to inflict plenty of damage on the United States. Rubio considered it a killer response, and maybe it would have been once, but when His Cuteness kept saying it verbatim throughout the evening, people snickered, even booed. Chris Christie drove a truck through the opening, calling it “the 25-second memorized speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.”
Rubio was rattled. And no wonder: He had a Dan Quayle moment. For those not past puberty, Dan Quayle was the vice president and then presidential candidate who popularized the expression “deer in the headlights look.” Quayle famously had his face rubbed in it during a debate.

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February 8, 2016

GET OVER IT!

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GET OVER IT!
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Hillary Clinton can duke it out when she needs to. Or duchess it out. That was on display during the most recent Democratic debate when she confronted Bernie Sanders’ persistent charges that she is tainted by her financial ties to Wall Street and the political “establishment.” His accusation, she spit out, was “a very artful smear.” “Smear” is one of the most brutal pejoratives in the campaign game.
With Martin O’Malley no longer cluttering the stage, it was just Bernie and Hillary, mano a womano. And she played the female card: “Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”
More power to her. However, less of it to her defenders, who are offensive when they say that her gender somehow shields her from the brutal grinder that anyone must go through while running for the most powerful office in the world.
Regular readers might be aware that I like to quote the journalists’ cliché “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” In other words, be skeptical of the claims from anyone you’re covering. That certainly must include the first mother, who has a strong chance to be America’s first woman president.
That should seem obvious, but there’s a crescendo growing from Hillary Clinton supporters, mostly her female supporters, that she is getting unfair treatment, particularly from male critics and reporters, being subjected to a double standard. Allow me to speak as just one person who has covered the Clintons for a long time: That is a crock.

Continue reading "GET OVER IT!" »

February 1, 2016

A LOUSY CHOICE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 29, 2016
A LOUSY CHOICE
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Who can possibly govern a country where the name “United States” is an illusion? There is little united about us, not when it comes to politics. In both parties, we have candidate lineups that make the WWE look authentic by comparison, except that the wrestlers are not as weird as the candidates.
How else should we describe the bizarros in that latest tag-team match, otherwise known as the Republican debate? Actually, the star of that circus was the clown who didn’t show up. Donald Trump, the modern reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, turned the latest show on earth into a three-ring spectacle. We had what we like to call the undercard, featuring the candidates whose ratings barely are above asterisk. Then there was what was supposed to be the main event, except that it became just another undercard when Trump trumped all the players simply by staying away.
What a strategy! Let’s face it: The Donald is not The Debater. He doesn’t do all that well when facts and policy are involved. He’s not a substance kinda guy. But he is an amazing self-promoter, and he doesn’t need or want any other guys around the spotlight. He demands the stage for himself. When he does share it, it’s with someone who makes him look sane by comparison. Are you feeling used, Sarah Palin? Although come to think of it, maybe she’s using the Trumpster.
People, this is a GOP freak show. Trump rules the midway, and he overshadows the others, who range from smarmy buffoons to religious fanatics, outright liars to one or two who barely have a pulse. Several are all of the above. It’s the stuff of parodies. We all know how “Saturday Night Live” is having a continuous field day, but what’s really strange is that Tina Fey can’t match the real thing. The fact that Sarah Palin is still a star among hard-line conservatives means that on the right a lot of people are just not right, as in not all there. Or they’re consumed by hatred and fed up with being even slightly rational.

Continue reading "A LOUSY CHOICE" »

January 4, 2016

THE NEW YEAR PERVERSE VERSE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 29, 2015
THE NEW YEAR PERVERSE VERSE
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s the annual time to try new solutions
So we jot down, again, our New Year’s resolutions.
It seems oh-so-futile and it may be, I fear,
Since most of these pledges are at best insincere.

Speaking for all media, though of course I don’t, I promise we’ll do better, but of course we won’t.
We’ll continue to report each and every word dump
From, you guessed it, our fetish, our guy Donald Trump.
He’s embarrassed our country, but will we offer perspective?
Of course not — we thrive as he squeals his invective.
We don’t get embarrassed, we’re immune to self-hating,
The Donald is simply too boffo for ratings.

In the political world, he’s not the lone creep
A promise to trash each of them is a pledge we won’t keep.
This campaign charade pretends we have a voice,
But let’s face it, dear people — we have no real choice.
The differences are phony, when all’s said and done,
We go with Tweedle Dee Dee or select Tweedle Dee Dum.

Those who believe in rocking the boat,
Soon discover that rich folks will drown out their vote.
That’s dismal reality, a dark situation,
It would mean real hard work to salvage our nation.
We’d have to take chances, and to most that’s just crazy,
We’d simply get crushed — besides, we’re too lazy.

Continue reading "THE NEW YEAR PERVERSE VERSE" »

December 31, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR ON MSNBC, OR MAYBE NOT SO HAPPY

Begin 2016 with me at 9:30 and 11:30 AM Eastern on MSNBC, to watch as the New Year gets off to a stumbling start.

December 24, 2015

THE ANNUAL YULE FOOLS

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THE ANNUAL YULE FOOLS
BY BOB FRANKEN

­­­

’Twas the night before Seasons

Greetings throughout our house

Not a creature was online,

Using touchscreen or mouse.

The children had nestled; fell asleep, they got listless,

As the TV set blared about the “War Against Christmas.”

“Who cares,” they’d cried out, “about which holiday?”

“Just make sure we get big gifts and use credit to pay.”

But Mom in her kerchief, and I in my Skivvies,

Were still up and watching the loudmouths on TV.

When out on the lawn there arose even more clatter,

Some sled had crash­landed, the contents all shattered.

I wasted no time, this was not any trifle;

I grabbed ammo clips and my trusty new rifle.

I fired off some rounds; it was actually fun

I’d never had reason to use such a gun.

My aim was so poor I could not hit a lick

Which meant that I missed, did not kill old St. Nick.

He was pretty shaken, he was actually crying,

His sleigh smashed in the snow, and him nearly dying.

‘Twas already a grind, nothing happy or great,

There were still hard feelings lingering from the debate.

The Republican reindeer only wanted to go right,

And together they offered one real scary sight.

In the lead was The Donald, and he was a fright,

He’d brought his own mob, really hateful, all white.

He was followed real closely by the nose of Ted Cruz.

Kissing up to Trump’s crowd was part of his ruse.

Then Marco, and Carly not flying but slithering

And Carson seeming lost with his mumbling and dithering.

There was Kasich and Rand Paul, who’d be of good cheer,

Except that on this flight they took up the rear.

With Christie and Jebbie, who was not having fun

As the third of the Bush deer who’d gone out on this run.

And some of the others weren’t even around,

They were barely in sight, they were playing the lounge.

Continue reading "THE ANNUAL YULE FOOLS" »

December 23, 2015

THURSDAY MORN ON MSNBC

On the day before Christmas let me give you fair warning:
In the 7 o'clock Eastern hour during the morning,
Just what will you see on MSNBC?
Yes folks, you guessed it, you'll be watching me.

December 15, 2015

CROOKS, LIARS, DEMAGOGUES AND WIMPS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 11, 2015
CROOKS, LIARS, DEMAGOGUES AND WIMPS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Eds: Note the use of obscenity in graf 2.
---
Twenty-four years ago, Democrat Edwin Edwards -- a man who could have come out of central casting as the corrupt politician -- was nevertheless running for another term as the governor of “let the good times roll” Louisiana. The Republicans had managed to go bonkers and choose none other than former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to run against him. But Duke was too extreme even for the far-right-but-not-that-impolite members of the GOP establishment, so just before Election Day, they distributed a bumper sticker: “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.” The crook won. Edwards was elected to his fourth term. He later went to prison, but that’s not the point.
The point is that in 2015, the nation’s Republicans have their own grand dragon in Donald Trump. His latest noxious fire-breathing, of course, is his declaration that all Muslims should be prohibited from entering the United States. Even though he has edged backward a teeny bit by clarifying that this wouldn’t apply to U.S. citizens who practice Islam, the Trumpster’s latest pile of bigoted garbage still has brought widespread condemnation. Many of his fellow GOPs have tried to set fire to this latest Trump dump. Jeb Bush called him “unhinged.” Lindsey Graham declared, “Tell Donald Trump he should go to hell.” Even Dick Cheney -- a man whom President George H.W. Bush called a “hard-ass” -- was repudiating The Donald’s announcement: It “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.” Maybe that is because it didn’t include waterboarding.
What we were hearing from none of the Republicans was a definitive indication that if Trump was their nominee, they’d repudiate him and support the Democrat, presumably Hillary Clinton. Of course, they’ve accused Clinton of all manner of dishonesty, but there were few hints from them that if it was ultimately her versus Trump, they’d put conscience over expedience and create a new bumper sticker: “Vote for the Liar. It’s Important.”

Continue reading "CROOKS, LIARS, DEMAGOGUES AND WIMPS" »

November 30, 2015

INAUGURATION NIGHTMARE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 27, 2015
INAUGURATION NIGHTMARE
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
He had already kept one of his campaign promises: Donald Trump had demanded a wall along the U.S./Mexican border, and even insisted that the Mexican government would build it. Sure enough, the moment Trump was elected president, hordes of Americans decided it was time to live elsewhere. Millions believed that the bitter cold made Canada uninhabitable, and they decided, instead, to head south. Suddenly, the border was flooded with “los ilegales” fleeing the United States. The Mexican government had no choice but to build a wall.
Construction was well underway by Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, as Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. It was a singular triumph for a man who had to go to war with entrenched interests every step of the way. Not only did he take on the Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, but the big-money people in his own Republican party put up a ferocious fight against him. They considered him a loose cannon, since he loudly declared that he didn’t need them because he was so rich. Of course, he declared everything loudly, true or not. The masses of people who voted for him didn’t care whether he was bellowing fact or fiction; they were just angry, and now the president would be The Donald. His vice president would be The Carly.

Continue reading "INAUGURATION NIGHTMARE" »

November 26, 2015

NO THANKS ON MSNBC

Start your Friday with me on MSNBC during the 8AM Eastern hour. After your Thanksgiving meal arguments, I'll serve up some leftovers.

November 25, 2015

THANKSGIVING DARKNESS ON MSNBC

It's Turkey Day on MSNBC at 5:15 AM Eastern, featuring who else but me. Make of that what you want.

November 23, 2015

OUR CHEAPENED INSTINCTS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 20, 2015
OUR CHEAPENED INSTINCTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
What’s most pathetic about the presidential campaign is how it’s becoming little more than a battle between cheap-shot artists. Each day brings a new limbo contest, as they all compete to see how low they can go. Take, for instance, the ridiculous heckling by various Republicans because President Barack Obama and other Democrats don’t want to describe the brutal ISIS terrorists as manifestations of “radical Islam.”
The administration avoids the term because it casts the United States as an enemy of Muslims, which we make believe we are not. Many of the GOP candidates don’t even bother pretending. Donald Trump would shut down mosques and force Muslims to register; many of the others would block refugees fleeing the horrors in Syria from settling in the U.S., except maybe the Christian ones, a religious test that is particularly repulsive. After all, wasn’t our nation founded by those who were fleeing oppression and persecution? But here are our aspiring leaders, slamming the door.
Back to the term “radical Islam.” Logically, if we’re going to use that expression to cast aspersions on all people of that faith simply for the maniacal actions of its extremists, then we need to be consistent. For example: Should the Ku Klux Klan be cast as an example of “radical Christianity”? How about the bloody war in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics? Are those who practice violence against abortion clinics part of the “radical Catholicism” movement? How about those who insist on defying world condemnation to expand settlements in Israel? “Radical Judaism”?

Continue reading "OUR CHEAPENED INSTINCTS" »

November 18, 2015

DAWN CONTORTIONS ON MSNBC

I'm back to my Thursday dawn political commentary on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. I'll be doing my limbo act, is in "how low can you go?"

November 12, 2015

BREAKING THE MIRROR

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 10, 2015
BREAKING THE MIRROR
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
The one good thing about flying under the radar is that nobody pays attention to you. The worst thing, however, is when you’re somewhere over the radar, and suddenly everyone is paying attention -- close attention -- to everything you say or do or ever said or did.
So it is with Ben Carson, he of the “Gifted Hands,” but many are concluding that his mouth and what comes out of it may not be such a gift to his presidential aspirations. He’s not liking it one bit that many, particularly those Satans in the media, are closely examining his every utterance, past and present, spoken and written. To put it gently, many of his statements are controversial. To put it less gently, many feel that they are insane rants. To be blunt, a number of his claims about his past have been challenged factually, or at least are regarded as embellishments.
Carson may be new to the political game, but he learned in a big hurry that when you’re cornered by serious and valid questions, the best way to wriggle out is to attack the questioner. Suddenly, his opponents and journalists, who are supposed to be skeptical of anything and certainly everyone, are taking a hard look at the accuracy of his claims about his past, to say nothing about some of his outlandish statements about life and politics. Some of both seem to be far out there. So, what does he do when questioned about whether he’s a liar or a nutcase? He angrily accuses the questioners, mainly the reporters who cover him, of being “liars” themselves and lackeys for his opponents.

Continue reading "BREAKING THE MIRROR" »

November 8, 2015

BLUE MONDAY ON MSNBC

Reality begins at dawn as I help end the weekend with a weakened start to Monday. 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC. Not Thursday, as usual. Same doo doo. Different day day.

November 6, 2015

COVER THE STORY, DONT' BE IT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 3, 2015
COVER THE STORY, DON’T BE IT
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
This will not endear me to the television industry’s high muckety-mucks, because their news divisions make huge, almighty buckety-buck profits thanks to the astronomical ratings that come when they present the primary elections’ presidential debates. So they’re not going to be thrilled with my advocating that we end our Faustian deals with the parties and stop producing their candidate cattle calls ... or perhaps stampedes. I’m already not particularly the fair-haired boy right now with certain CNBC moderators. I’ve criticized them for embarrassing us all with their vacuous and blatantly hostile questions and discrediting the entire idea that journalists are supposed to confront politicians with skepticism. The moderators violated what used to be a cardinal rule, which is that it’s not really about us, it’s about those we are covering. It’s not about our questions, but their answers.
Unfortunately that’s become sacrilege in our ego-addled business. What we’ve accomplished, as a result, is to give those in the political community too much power over us. They can channel their hatred of anyone daring to inquire about their carefully crafted propaganda into claims that they’re victims of scumbag troublemakers in the press who have an agenda.
GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus knows this all too well, and he’s been very open about exercising control over the debates to the point of choosing which networks get to produce them and make lots of money in the process. CNBC may have suffered a ton of ridicule, but it also drew 14 million viewers -- its largest audience ever. So when Priebus publicly states that he wants to protect the Republican brand, the media clamor to deal with him.
Now, to tighten the screws, he’s punishing the owners of CNBC for all their “gotcha questions.” He’s sent a letter to NBC News, another division in the conglomerate, terminating the arrangement for the network to sponsor a debate down the road. And now, the campaigns of most of the GOP candidates are making their own demands.

Continue reading "COVER THE STORY, DONT' BE IT" »

November 4, 2015

DOING MY THING AT DAWN ON MSNBC

Another Thursday at dawn for me on MSNBC AT 5:15 Eastern. If the candidates decide to demand any control, they will get a two word response.

October 28, 2015

EARLY CONFUSION ON MSNBC

A prediction: On my usual MSNBC Thursday predawn stumble at 5:15 Eastern, we'll rehash the GOP debate the night before with some variation of "You gotta be kidding!"

October 26, 2015

GOOD TIMES FOR HILLARY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 23, 2015
GOOD TIMES FOR HILLARY
BY BOB FRANKEN
After Joe Biden announced that he wouldn’t be joining the Democratic fray, I was asked on TV if it meant that Hillary Clinton was “unstoppable” in her march to the party nomination. Overlooking the fact that Bernie Sanders is quite an obstacle, the reality is that there are all kinds of ways that Hillary could fall flat on her face and not get up.
First of all, it’s way too early to draw any conclusions about anything, certainly about inevitability. The first Iowa caucuses are more than three months away, the nominating convention nine months in the distance, and the general election is over a year forward to the future.
It is certainly true that Hillary is on a hot streak. She performed like a champ in the first Democratic presidential debate, and then before the House Benghazi committee, she took the Republican assailants, chewed ’em up and spit ’em out. She didn’t even have to bob and weave as they flailed away. In fact, as they came across as petulant children, she would occasionally taunt them, like telling one aggressive questioner, Jim Jordan, a hard-right Republican from Ohio, “I’m sorry it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman, I can only tell you what the facts are.”
It went on for the better part of 11 hours, but it was her inquisitors who got turned inside out. They didn’t draw any blood, except maybe their own. All the GOP members could sputter at the end is that they will continue with their investigation. But all they accomplished with their marathon confrontation with Hillary was to enhance her chances of becoming president.

Continue reading "GOOD TIMES FOR HILLARY" »

October 25, 2015

MONDAY EARLY BLAHS ON MSNBC

An extra predawn appearance for me on MSNBC on a Monday at 5:15 Eastern. So you and I can start the week weakly.

October 21, 2015

BAD DREAM ON MSNBC

Join the fun with me on another Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC, as if "fun" is even possible at that ungodly hour.

October 12, 2015

TALKING TO THEMSELVES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 9, 2015
TALKING TO THEMSELVES
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Here’s a bold prediction: The first Democratic presidential debate will not get the audience that the two Republican ones have garnered. Thanks to Donald Trump and a cast of other bizarro candidates too big for just one telecast, the ratings for the GOP semireality shows have been, to use a showbiz term, boffo.
The Democrats are barely able to fill a stage. Let’s face it, we’ll be watching a tussle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, which is like a battle between Ho and Hum. True, there will be other candidates -- four of them, whose rankings in the polls fall between dismal and asterisk -- but it’s Clinton and Sanders who will steal the show.
Of course, Joe Biden could have made it more interesting, but the vice president, who loves to quote the lessons his mother taught him, is staying out. He’s not declaring his intentions, proving his momma didn’t raise no fool. There’s no good reason for him to participate in this less-than-spectacular spectacle. In fact, there’s no good reason for him to declare his intentions until we have a better idea of whether the Clinton campaign will implode. If it doesn’t, Joe Biden’s last hurrah could end in a whimper, overwhelmed by the organizational and financial head start that even Hillary was unable to fritter away. If she does blow it, then he can emerge as the one who rescues the party, and all the megabuck contributors, from disaster.

Continue reading "TALKING TO THEMSELVES" »

October 7, 2015

GROPING IN THE DARK ON MSNBC

Another Thursday early early on MSNBC for you and me at 5:15 AM Eastern. Will I really nail it, or will it be another dawn of a new error?

October 5, 2015

WHO NEEDS FACTS OR TRUTH?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, OCT. 2, 2015
WHO NEEDS FACTS OR TRUTH?
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Here’s a shocker for you: There is strong evidence that many of those running for president are dishonest. What’s even more startling is that nobody seems to be the slightest bit surprised, and in some cases, supporters don’t seem to care.
Let’s take Carly Fiorina, for instance: She’s been climbing in the GOP polls in spite of her blatant misrepresentation of videos and what they show about Planned Parenthood’s handling of aborted fetuses. In fact, her devotees seem to celebrate her dishonesty. With nearly every reputable fact-checker finding that her depiction of the videos is pure fiction, Fiorina continues to suggest that all of them are engaged in some apparent conspiracy to discredit her. Her fans either buy that concept or they make it clear that they don’t want to be confused by the facts or that they believe lying in the name of the anti-abortion cause is OK.
To be bipartisan about this, Hillary Clinton has suffered mightily during her planned march to the inevitable Democratic nomination, followed by a planned triumphant parade to the White House. But her long history of word-parsing and perceived dissembling has made that way more difficult than she ever imagined. She can’t shake off the perception that she’s playing fast and loose with her explanations about whether she used a private email server to hide illicit conduct while she was secretary of state. The polls show that her straight line to chief-executive glory has gotten badly entangled in distrust -- of her. The polite detractors say they don’t trust her, that she’s dishonest. In more blunt assessments, she’s called a “liar.”
Even her disdainful maneuvers to dispel that notion actually have reinforced it. Partly this is because everything she says looks scripted. Fiorina, meanwhile, is able to sell herself and capture the loyalty of conservatives looking for a champion. She’s such a smooth talker that she can take her record in business and claim that it was something besides a disaster. (It was a disaster.) She can be disingenuous about her personal background, getting away with the implication that she came up from nothing. The fact is, she was a silver spoon. But there I go again, dealing in facts. Silly me.
What is true about Carly Fiorina is that she markets herself very effectively. How’s that for understatement?

Continue reading "WHO NEEDS FACTS OR TRUTH?" »

September 30, 2015

CRACKED AT DAWN ON MSNBC

Still another early early Thursday for me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Will it be a Boehner explainer, a Trump dump, or will someone new pillory Hillary? Bob's on the job.

September 28, 2015

FRANCIS AND THE POLITICIANS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 25, 2015
FRANCIS AND THE POLITICIANS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
What a sad contrast. We’ve been mesmerized by the visit from Pope Francis, who, within the limitations of Catholic doctrine, personifies tolerance and inclusion. He and his message are a momentary distraction from the relentless spewing of intolerance and exclusion we get from too many of those who seek to lead our country.
The latest is Ben Carson, with his declaration on “Meet the Press” that he’d oppose a Muslim aspiring to be president of the United States because his or her beliefs would not be “consistent with the Constitution,” ignoring the fact that the Constitution explicitly prohibits such a religious test. Happily, quite a few Americans went bananas over that one, particularly after he doubled down, blaming the uproar on our “politically correct culture.”
Of course, his position was rendered a bit shakier when Donald Trump weighed in. Trump, as we know, is openly running an entire campaign against political correctness, as evidenced by his nasty comments about anybody who crosses him. But even The Donald said he’d be cool with a Muslim president: “If properly vetted -- the proper people properly vetted -- going through an election, I think that anybody that is able to win an election will be absolutely fine.” Remember that this is coming from Donald Trump, the one who refused to correct a nutcase at his rally who declared that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Let us also remember that Trump has been a leading “birther” voice through the years, yet even he was cautious compared with Carson.

Continue reading "FRANCIS AND THE POLITICIANS" »

September 24, 2015

EARLY AFTERNOON ON MSNBC

Two in one day: During the 1:00 PM Eastern hour on MSNBC I'll again be contrasting the Pope's shining hope to the grim reality our politicians.

DEEPLY CREEPY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 22, 2015
DEEPLY CREEPY
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Say what you will about marathon Republican presidential debates -- and many are saying a lot about CNN’s performance -- but you can’t fault the network for one feature: its use of split-screen shots, mainly to show the reactions by Donald Trump as someone else talked. He’s become the network’s latest Malaysian Airliner ratings gambit.
This time his facial expressions (some animallike grimaces, some incredibly foolish grins) and his awkward moves toward the speaker as he was trying to show he was paying attention all reinforced an already strong impression: This guy is really creepy.
Yes, creepy, as in making your skin crawl. Normally, I wouldn’t stoop to such untactful bluntness in my descriptions, but since he’s declared bad taste to be acceptable, this is a chance to get rid of the polite facade and discuss him honestly. The guy is creepy.
A day after Carly Fiorina, and even Jeb Bush, chewed him up and spit him out, when someone less creepy might be still smarting from the embarrassment, he demonstrated how he’s dumbing down the campaign by encouraging so many of the bigots and nut cases out there. The scene shifted to Rochester, New Hampshire, where The Donald was at a town meeting. The first questioner to grab the mike stated: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” he began. “You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”


Continue reading "DEEPLY CREEPY" »

September 23, 2015

FROM THE POPE TO THE DOPE ON MSNBC

At my usual 5:15 AM spot on an MSNBC Thursday, I'll jar you awake as we segue from the Pontiff to my pontificating.

September 21, 2015

A TRUMP SLUMP?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
A TRUMP SLUMP?
BY BOB FRANKEN

It’s that time, kiddies! Now that Donald Trump has stumbled still again, many of us so-called experts will predict that his quest for the presidency and against everyone else will start to wither. Finally, we’ll declare, his improbable campaign of nasty put-downs and boastful superficiality will wear thin, that people who consider him to be funny and refreshing will start to decide that the joke is getting old and stale.

And stumble he did in the most recent debate, squirming as his opponents took the offense against his offensiveness. Carly Fiorina was the night’s big winner, if for no other reason than she showed stone-faced contempt when Trump was confronted with his comments in Rolling Stone magazine about her looks. He tried to worm his way out of that by stuttering that Fiorina has a beautiful face and is a beautiful woman, showing that he just doesn’t get it, that he should be running to be the leader of the Male Chauvinist Pigdom.

We should remember that each time he’s opened his mouth and spouted something that would turn most politicians into dust, Donald Trump has risen, not from the ashes, but in the polls. So let’s not get carried away with our speculation about his demise.

Actually, the other candidates better hope he doesn’t flame out. Without The Donald, people instead might focus on them. It’s not only Fiorina who can look good by comparison. Simply by discovering his inner anger at Trump, Jeb Bush was able to appear to not be such a wimp. In the case of Chris Christie, no longer is he the nastiest guy in the room; it’s Trump who gets the Mr. Non-Congeniality award. On down the line, even the most extreme in this group are overshadowed by the DT rants. Ben Carson gets to come across as Dr. Common Sense, even though many of his views would be considered downright wacko if anyone was really paying attention. Ditto Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee, although in Huckabee’s case, he has still managed to stand out as the voice of religious intolerance and amazing ignorance about how the American system of government works.

Continue reading "A TRUMP SLUMP?" »

September 16, 2015

DAWNING ON MSNBC

Another early early Thursday for you and me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Gee. I wonder what we'll be talking about.

ONE DOWN. WHO'S NEXT?

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 15, 2015
ONE DOWN; WHO’S NEXT?
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Now that Rick Perry has won the contest for the first to give up, he leaves behind several questions: First, of course, is “Who cares?” Other than Perry and maybe Ted Cruz. The eyes of Texas are only on Cruz now that his in-state rival has gone back home on the range. And what about those glasses Perry wore? Were they really for improving his eyesight, or were they an affectation to convince skeptics that he wasn’t as dumb as a stump? Will he continue to wear them, or will he return them and try to get his money back? Speaking of money, what will his sugar daddies (and mommies) do with the millions of dollars they funneled into the “independent” PACs that supported him? Unfortunately, that cash couldn’t be tapped to keep his campaign afloat, or to pay any staffers. So Rick Perry becomes the first one to ride into that sunset he says looks so good from his front porch.
The biggest question of all, though, is, Who’s next? So many candidates, so much time. Will it be one of the almosts, like Jim Gilmore and George Pataki, aka “Jim and George Who?” Gilmore didn’t even make it into the B-team debate on CNN, and Pataki barely did, along with Perry (before he bailed), Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham. Any of these guys is a candidate to become the next non-candidate, but you never know.
Maybe one of them can pull a Carly Fiorina and perform so memorably that they rise from the ashes of the ash-can debate and join the grown-ups in future encounters. As a matter of fact, the one who just might pull that off is Lindsey Graham. First of all, he’s got some substance, he’s not dogmatic and, most importantly, he is funny as all get-out. He even likes to make jokes about himself; he doesn’t need a Donald Trump to ridicule him. Even when Trump tried to, by famously releasing Graham’s cellphone number, Graham got the last laugh with a video showing him demonstrating the different ways to destroy his phone. Oh yeah, now you remember, that Lindsey Graham.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t done anything all that exciting since then, and he barely made the cut for the JV debate. But watch him and get a couple yucks.
He won’t have much competition in the comedy department from Jindal or Santorum. Neither is known for his sense of humor, or sense of much else. They’re interesting types, though. Santorum comes across, particularly with the sweaters he wears, as an amiable soul, like maybe Mr. Rogers, at least until you hear his take on morality and cultural issues. Then it’s a beautiful day in the 16th or 17th century. As for Jindal, he seems to be wound scarily tight.


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September 14, 2015

THE HILLARY CLINTON REALITY SHOW

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 11, 2015
THE HILLARY CLINTON REALITY SHOW
BY BOB FRANKEN
What do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have in common? They both despise the idea of apologizing. Those of us past puberty might remember the book/movie “Love Story,” which really should have been called “Sappy Story.” Perhaps the most cloying line in the entire maudlin melodrama was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Yeah, I don’t know what it means either, but The Donald and The Hillary have made it a watchword of their love antithesis — which, of course, is politics.
Except that — as her campaign started to implode and with Joe Biden menacing offstage — Hillary’s huge royal court of advisers, consultants, poll takers and assorted other sycophants decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. (I made that up. You believe me, don’t you?) With her email debacle and history of lawyerly public statements that at least sound like dissembling, survey after survey shows that the bulk of Americans consider her a “liar.” That’s clearly not a plus for a presidential candidate. So after going through her usual dismissive responses and disparagement of the reporter lowlifes who insisted on asking her about such things, her advisers convened a few more focus groups and then bravely suggested it was time for another strategy: humility.

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September 10, 2015

PROFOUNDLY IRRITATING CLICHES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 8, 2015
PROFOUNDLY IRRITATING CLICHES
BY BOB FRANKEN
There are certain expressions so cliched that they are as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard. To be entirely honest, “fingernails on a blackboard” probably makes the list, although it’s a golden oldie. There are new ones that are high up on my snit parade (this might be read by the kiddies, so let’s stick with “snit”).
Do you agree that “It is what it is” currently heads the chart? It’s the current catchphrase to express resignation, that some bad reality can’t be corrected. We hear it from politicians who beg for millions of dollars from mega-rich donors while, at the same time, decrying all the big money needed to run a campaign. So they repeatedly say, “It is what it is.”
We hear it from the baseball manager who’s trying to deflect blame for his team blowing a game to a bad call by the umpire.
Another one that grates greatly is, “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon.” It’s usually offered up by the aforementioned baseball manager whose team has a dismal record, or the candidate who’s down in the polls and hemorrhaging donors. Sprint or marathon, he or she is running into a brick wall.
But nowhere is quite as cliche-ridden as TV news. I’m not talking about the sportscast, but the news part of the show. How many times have you watched a live shot from someone in a dicey situation and, at the end, the anchor, sitting in a nice, air-conditioned studio with worker bees tending to his or her every need, looks meaningfully in the camera and warns the reporter to “be safe” or something like that. I guarantee you that when I’ve been the one out there, I’ve wanted to snap back: “And how, other than pulling out of here, do you suggest that I be safe? Not that you care.” I’d prefer honesty like, “Don’t let the competition get better video.”
Another one, even snappier, is when someone has finished a story and the anchor seriously intones to the reporter, “That was a terrific job.” I always wanted to break down in tears and wail: “Do you really think so? Thank you so much. I feel so validated!”

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September 9, 2015

DARKENING DAWN ON MSNBC

Another Thursday dawn for us at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC. I'll demonstrate my similarity to Kim Davis: She's intolerant. I'm intolerable.

September 7, 2015

THE FORMER LABOR DAY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 4, 2015
THE FORMER LABOR DAY
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Can we stop with the platitudes about celebrating the workers and face the reality of America? For starters, let’s do something about the name of this three-day weekend. Instead of Labor Day, let’s call it Plutocrat Day or maybe Oligarch Day. Let’s face it, fellow beachgoers, what we’re celebrating these days is fantasy.
No longer can we expect that hard work will pay off, that those who profit from it will share their rewards with those who put their noses to the grindstone for them. Instead, they’ll take away the grindstone when they merge their company with another and, in the name of “efficiency,” lay off by the thousands the people who made their corporation such a valuable commodity.
Labor movement? It’s moving, all right. Backward. In the late 1940s, more than one-third of the nonagricultural workforce was unionized. Last year, that had fallen to just over 11 percent, a large chunk of them government workers. Not only that, but among Republicans, anti-unionism is an article of faith, along with the religious faith that most of them want to impose on us.
We can celebrate labor with empty ceremonies and speeches all we want, but the dismal facts speak for themselves. With the decline of unions, we’ve seen the destruction of the country’s middle class. The statistics are well-known to all of us, and they add up to this: Just a few families, a very few, control most of the wealth in this country. The poorest half of the population owns 2.5 percent of the wealth. The top 1 percent owns 35 percent.
To be fair, there is a bit of an awakening. Campaigns to raise minimum wages to somewhat higher than slave pay have had some successes, as has a push to force companies to at least show the grotesque difference between the compensation paid to top executives and the average employee. In both cases, the “haves” are putting up a ferocious fight, threatening to cut jobs to maintain their caste system or even to relocate to some other country.

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September 6, 2015

LABOR PAIN ON MSNBC

I'm doing a Labor Day hit at 7AM Eastern on MSNBC. So those of you not at the beach can watch the son of a beach.

September 3, 2015

PERVERSE SELF-CONGRATULATION

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 1, 2015
PERVERSE SELF-CONGRATULATION
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
I’m a little bit ashamed of myself, because when the insane shooting massacre of an on-air news team in Roanoke, Virginia, gripped us in horror, it took just a short period of time before my thoughts switched from concern for those who were slaughtered and their shattered loved ones, to myself, as someone who has done thousands of live shots during my TV news career.
Worse, I said so publicly, on social media. I was wearing the tragedy as a perverted badge of honor, and I was hardly alone. It wasn’t long before so many of us were Facebooking and Twittering as fast as our fingers could type about the dangers we bravely face as we go about valiantly answering our calling to inform the world. Yes, that is a bit sarcastic, although I must hasten to say that I’m proud of what we do in television journalism, or at least of some of it.
We can perform an essential service; at our best, we show our fellow citizens what’s taking place, the good but more often the bad, as it’s happening. It helps explain why some police bad apples -- those who don’t want people to know how they’re misbehaving -- often turn on us, as do other lawbreakers. We also can be a magnet for nutcases. But we go through this stuff largely because it’s exciting work, it beats growing up and, frankly, because there’s nothing like the rush of being part of TV showbiz.
It didn’t take long, though, before I became embarrassed by my sanctimony, and that of my television brethren and sistren. What this really was about was self-aggrandizement. As in: “Look at what a hero I am. Forget the story, it’s all about me.” This will not endear me to my colleagues, but usually it’s not about us. In this case, it was about two more of the thousands of people in our country who are gunned down. It was about our inability and even unwillingness to do anything about this deadly national disgrace. Granted this latest case was particularly heinous because of the shocking way it happened, but it’s still just one more grotesque murderous act by a psychopathic “powder keg,” as he put it. Our story is about society’s failings and the suffering that results. It’s not about any rigors that we go through to report it.

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September 2, 2015

MSNBC AND ME AND THEE

Get up with me on another Thursday at dawn so you can beat the heat because my comments will leave you cold. 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC.

August 31, 2015

ONWARD AND DOWNWARD

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 28, 2015
ONWARD AND DOWNWARD
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
To show you how clueless I am: I thought the term “anchor babies” was a harmless way of referring to the very young kids of TV news readers. Now I discover that it’s a pejorative way to describe infants born to immigrant parents in the United States who automatically gain U.S. citizenship, a birthright guaranteed by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
There are some really good, fairly obvious reasons for birthright, having to do with slaves and fairness, but that hasn’t dissuaded Donald Trump from pandering to the GOP hater base by turning it into something so sinister and such a danger to the nation that he and they are justified in using an epithet that is insulting to millions of Latinos.
In fairness, it is true that there is a thriving industry run by hustlers who arrange for very pregnant women to come to this country just before a little one pops out and immediately gains citizenship. But does that necessitate the use of a description that is widely offensive? The answer is, of course not.
Let’s say this again: There will always be language-church ladies who will go ridiculous lengths to get attention by trying to stifle any descriptive language. It’s really easy to differentiate between that silliness and ugliness, and ignore such mindless busybody prudishness. We simply need to rely on common sense.
To wit: Let’s consider the word “boy.” Obviously, it means male child. But the vicious bigots in our country, past and present, have used it over decades to debase black men to the degree that it remains a symbol of oppression. So it’s very simple: Never, ever use it when referring to African-Americans. What’s so hard about that? It’s no more difficult than rejecting the name of the Washington NFL team. It’s loathsome that any business, particularly a quasi-monopoly that represents a region in this country, would continue to use a name that offends so many million Native Americans. That, too, should be a no-brainer, but it isn’t, just like the term “anchor babies” isn’t.

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August 27, 2015

DONNY AND JOEY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 25, 2015
DONNY AND JOEY
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Is it premature to ask who Donald Trump will choose to be his vice-presidential running mate? Maybe. Maybe not. No matter what absurdity The Donald spouts, no matter how bigoted or simple-minded, he maintains his lead in the polls ranking the GOP candidates. There are at least a couple of reasons.
First of all, the rest of the field is made up of ridiculous caricatures of regressive hatefulness or those who are mind-numbingly boring. On the second point, a few of them -- Scott Walker and Jeb Bush -- have announced to the world that, by gum, they’re going to become feisty. It’s a “No More Mr. Nice Guy” strategy that is somewhat funny and somewhat sad at the same time. It’s also just another straight line for Trump to mock, and he’s wasting few opportunities to do so.
Getting back to the question of who will be his running mate: This is assuming he’ll even want one, since he doesn’t like to share the spotlight. But the Constitution requires one, and Donald Trump supports the Constitution ... except for the 14th Amendment that guarantees citizenship to anybody born here. But let’s not quibble.

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August 24, 2015

RIDICULOUS POLITICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 21, 2015
RIDICULOUS POLITICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s always easy to dwell on the negative, but let’s not. Let’s look at what’s positive about the Trump immigration plan. First of all, Sarah Palin likes it. Her exact words on Fox News were that it’s “a real shot in the arm to constitutionalists and conservatives who want America to be put first.” What more needs to be said? If Sarah is for it, it’s a winner.
But there’s more: Donald Trump has put some flesh on the bones of his campaign platitudes by providing a few details of a policy for dealing with those millions of illegal immigrants who are here or want to sneak in. Unfortunately, the flesh is rotting, so rancid with hatred that any thinking person should be gagging in disgust.
Of course, it’s not put out there for thinking people. It’s for those in his base who only know that they’re angry at everything and want scapegoats. The Donald speaks for them. They love his sound bites to the extent that when he offers a few specifics -- in this case, six pages’ worth -- they simply support them, no questions asked. There’s no need for examination.
But let’s take a look anyway. He explains how he’d force Mexico to build the wall on our borders. He’d seize millions in financial commerce and charge onerous fees for those who want to come in legally. Most striking of all is his insistence that those who are here and undocumented must be rounded up and kicked out of the United States. “They have to go,” says Trump.

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August 21, 2015

AN MSNBC KINDA SATURDAY

It's a Saturday morning on MSNBC for me during the 10:00 Eastern hour. We'll be discussing the wild and wacky world of politics. Sarcasm is a distinct possibility.

August 20, 2015

DYNASTY DYNAMICS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 18, 2015
DYNASTY DYNAMICS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Because our nation’s creation is the result of revolting against a revolting king, we Americans are predisposed to being skeptical about political dynasties. True, we’ve elected some silver spoons, but still we’re leery of those who try to float along their famous gene pool, or those who dive in by marriage. Fundamentally, we suspect that they’ve received some unearned advantage. Fair or not, there’s been a lot of grumbling right now about the prospect of a White House race between still another Bush and still another Clinton.
Is lineage really such an advantage? Probably, that’s a resounding “yes” and “no.” Arguably, with all their qualifications, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton might not have risen to the heights of competing for the presidency were it not for accidents of birth or matrimony. Still, as they are painfully discovering, they carry some heavy family baggage.
In Jeb’s case, it is brother George W., the immediate ex-POTUS. It seems like wherever he turns, Jeb Bush is constantly confronted about brother George’s Iraq War, which is widely viewed as a huge mistake. Jeb sometimes has botched his response, but in fairness, he’s in an impossible situation where his choice is to appear disloyal to his brother or to support an unpopular military adventure. He couldn’t even go to the Iowa State Fair, which is supposed to be a jolly, hokey campaign ritual, without being hammered with uncomfortable questions about Iraq. It gets under his skin. “This is kind of a tough game for me to be playing, to be honest with you,” he said at the fair. “I’m my own person.” But this person owns a family legacy, whether he likes it or not. Chances are it’s both.

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August 19, 2015

EARLY MADNESS ON MSNBC

I'm spewing my mind on MSNBC. As usual I'm on Thursday at dawn: 5:15 Eastern. Free speech that's worth the price.

August 16, 2015

HILLARY'S STRATEGIC RETREAT

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 14, 2015
HILLARY’S STRATEGIC RETREAT
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s classic Clinton strategy: In the 20 years-plus that I’ve covered them, I’ve dealt countless times with their legal-political tactics (or is it the other way around?) of digging in and hoping the controversy goes away, then when it doesn’t, retreating when few are looking, and hoping once again that the issue either fades or can be finessed when it comes up months later. Usually when it does, it is dismissed as “old news,” with a possibility that we in media, with our tunnel vision, are single-mindedly focused on the big story of the moment and don’t have time for this.
So it is with the infamous private email server that Hillary Clinton utilized when she was secretary of state. By now, we all know that she bypassed the government system for her own. In March, when that was reported, she finally held a news conference to reluctantly deal with an issue that was already hitting her in her longstanding weak spot: her credibility.
She had grudgingly released to the State Department the emails she and her advisers determined needed to be turned over to avoid controversy ... note that she chose which ones. Furthermore, they would not be handing anyone her server because the rest of her communications on it were non-official, personal stuff, like family matters.
Besides, she went on, she had wiped the server clean. So the family matters would no longer be there for prying eyes to see, even when the family runs the Clinton Foundation and even when questions have persisted about foreign donations to their charities while she was secretary of state. That was then.
The next day I was among those on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program who agreed that, if ordered to, she certainly would turn over the server or else. And four months later, persistent Republican House committee investigators and equally persistent attorneys in various court cases have, in fact, forced her hand. In true “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” fashion, her spokesman declared: “She directed her team to give her email server that was used during her tenure as secretary to the Department of Justice, as well as a thumb drive containing copies of her emails already provided to the State Department. She pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry, and if there are more questions, we will continue to address them.”
Note that the announcement came as those of us in the tunnel-vision media were singularly preoccupied with all thing Donald Trump. So the decision, significant as it is to Hillary Clinton -- whose trustworthiness ratings in polls are pretty dismal -- is nevertheless a concession made in the darkness, outside the glare of our obsession with The Donald.
But a huge consideration remains: Remember, she saw to it that the server had been wiped clean. Are federal agents able to use sophisticated forensic technology to recover the stripped data, or is it gone forever? By now there are so many questions about the thousands of entries she deemed personal, and still more about her emails with close aides and friends, which also might add to the swirling controversy.
But for now, Hillary Clinton has faced reality and turned over her server. We have no way of knowing whether it contains material that is legally difficult or politically troublesome. Her campaign immediately belittled the whole matter as “nonsense.” We don’t even know whether we’ll ever know.
It’s doubtful, however, that these maneuvers will solve one of the fundamental problems of her candidacy, her credibility. If she’s the nominee, her campaign may have to rely less on perceptions of her character and more on emphasizing the wackiness of her Republican opposition. But that’s over a year away, enough time for the Clinton forces to hope, true to form, that the issues go away. Or that they find some other way to obfuscate.

© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

August 13, 2015

P.C.TRUMP OR P.T.BARNUM

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 11, 2015
P.C. TRUMP OR P.T. BARNUM
BY BOB FRANKEN

If you want to start a vigorous discussion, ask this question: Do you think we are too politically correct in this country? Let’s thank Donald Trump (I never thought I’d say those words) for raising the issue, which he did in the highly entertaining first Republican debate.
Trump pushed our buttons with: “The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Obviously, “The Donald” won’t ever be accused of being P.C., and there is certainly the other side for those who care more than he does about being an offensive blowhard: Avoiding demeaning or offensive insensitivity, which he does not, is what allows a community to reach common ground in a constructive way, as opposed to angrily tearing itself apart.
Is it the hated “P.C.” to avoid words that reflect vicious bigotry, to not make degrading comments about people with disabilities or about someone’s physical appearance or to stay away from out-and-out misogyny? Isn’t that just being minimally polite?
Of course, there are those -- many of those -- who take the civility concept and stretch it to extreme absurdity. College campuses are crawling with these pinheads who dance on the head of a pin to justify their existence as self-appointed enforcers of semantic rectitude. Should we allow them to cloud the issue? Just because they go too far, should we not go far enough toward simply being considerate?
Donald Trump apparently has decided that he’s so rich he doesn’t have to. That’s what led to the persistent questioning from Megyn Kelly, one of the outstanding Fox News moderators, who said: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals ...” And on it went. And that’s when he decided the world needed to know his thoughts about political correctness.

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August 12, 2015

MSNBC UNGODLY EARLY

Another Thursday at dawn for me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. In solidarity with The Donald's crusade against the political correct, any comment about him will definitely not be.

August 10, 2015

ABC? (ANYBODY BUT CLINTON?)

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, AUG. 7, 2015
A.B.C. (ANYBODY BUT CLINTON?)
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
All those who believe the Democratic presidential selection is already decided, raise your hand. Uh, not so fast, Hillary. Granted, that’s an old joke and granted she’s still the “presumptive nominee,” she’s had her invincibility challenged by a man, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who embraces the socialist label.
Part of that may be the disgust of so many in the party with the nation’s severe economic unfairness, which is right in the Sanders wheelhouse. But a lot of the Hillary slippage seems to be caused by the impression that she’s a lousy candidate. At least, many have drawn that conclusion. They have been turned off by her seeming total lack of spontaneity, her tightly scripted campaigning and the efforts by her staff to stifle any ad-libbing whatsoever in her appearances, along with their control-freakish battle with the press.
Most damaging, though, are the widely held questions about her integrity. The continuing controversies over her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state have raised “what is she trying to hide” concerns, the same ones that have swirled around the Clintons throughout their political lives. Add to that real or manufactured suspicions about their massive family foundation and rapid accumulation of wealth, and she is stuck with a perception that she plays fast and loose with the truth.
Of course, Republicans are only too happy to pounce all over this angst. They were anything but shy about it during their first debate extravaganza in Cleveland. “Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi,” declared Carly Fiorina, “She lies about emails.”
Obviously, Fiorina is on safe ground, teeing off on the one who’s still the GOP’s likeliest opponent. But in Hillary’s own party, a big number of leaders are queasy about her vulnerabilities. Calling Joe Biden!

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August 6, 2015

THE PAP SEER

FROM KING FEATURES
THE PAP SEER

Have you spent any time pondering the fact that those of us who offer political commentary often suffer no consequences when we’re flat-out mistaken? Probably not; you’ve got more significant matters occupying your mind, like deciding whether to open the door with your left or right hand.
But just for a moment, consider how unfair it is that we expect you to ignore the reality that we are sometimes dead-wrong — just like we pretend it never happened.

And we get away with it.

Up until now.

As a public service, and to fill a glaring need, I’m introducing an initiative to encourage readers and viewers to hold us responsible when our vacuous predictions don’t have the slightest resemblance to what turns out to be.
Let’s call it the Pundit Accountability Project, or PAP for short.And allow me to dive right into this uncharted territory, to boldly go where no man has gone before.Right now, with no hesitation, I’m going to forecast how the first GOP debate will play out.Once it’s over, you’ll be able to match my prognostications with what actually took place. Is that revolutionary or what?

Actually, there will be many different things going on: Scott Walker, for instance, will be called upon to show that he is able to intelligently address issues that don’t involve union-bashing.He’ll display whether he now has a grasp of issues that touch areas outside the state of Wisconsin — like foreign policy or the economy.He’s been studying, cramming with various experts and reading “The Presidency for Dummies.”We’ll see if it pays off.

Rick Perry will have the same kind of test, although the bar is lower for him.All he’ll have to do is remember the points he wants to make.And, of course, demonstrate that his new glasses give him intellectual power that many believe had been missing.

Ted Cruz has the opposite problem: high expectations. We’ve been told and retold that he is a super-skilled debater, and this will be where he shows whether he can live up to the hype.

After all, this is a debate. Isn’t it?

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August 5, 2015

BAITING DEBATERS ON MSNBC

Another Thursday in the dark for me at 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC. I'll share my usual complete debate analysis before it happens. Why wait?

August 3, 2015

HUMAN KILLERS

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 31, 2015
HUMAN KILLERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
I think we all can agree that we wouldn’t want to be Walter Palmer right now. He’s that Minnesota dentist who’s suddenly become the object of intense contempt for killing Cecil the lion. It’s hard to miss the story: Palmer, whose hobby-sport is big-game hunting, shot and killed in a gruesome (and allegedly illegal) way the majestic black-maned lion Cecil, who had captured the hearts of the people in Zimbabwe and animal lovers around the world.
Palmer is one of those who pays big money to hunt down various exotic animals. He apparently displays their heads as trophies. But now his life is in danger, or it certainly seems that way. At the very least, he is the target of scorn that oftentimes veers into the ominously threatening.
But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves a few questions. If he is an immoral man, what about the millions of other people who hunt for sport, who cannot wait to go out during deer season or to hunt bears or rabbits or whatever species that simply want to go about their business but are suddenly ambushed, their lives taken for human recreation? Is that any less appalling?
Apparently, we believe so. While a few politicians will take on the gun lobby, futilely trying to stem the flow of weapons in this country that take so many human lives, almost all of them hasten to add that they have no intention of restricting in any way the sports hunter who has passed that tradition from father to child for untold generations.
By the way, it should be mentioned that Dr. Palmer didn’t kill Cecil the lion with a gun. A crossbow was his lethal instrument. But the point is that hunting for sport is celebrated here and across the world. So how is ending the life of an innocent deer, which suffers fears and pain like humans do, ethically any different? At least, it’s a question we each need to ask ourselves before we so vilify the man who killed Cecil.
But let’s not stop there. We also need to address our preference for eating meat. Most of us do, but it’s not necessary. We can live better without consuming any flesh or muscle. All of the nutrients we possibly could need can be provided by a plant-based diet. In fact, it’s much better for your body. Not only that, but raising meat animals is rough on the environment. And we all know that those chickens, cows, calves and fish don’t die of old age before we eat them. They are slaughtered, often after suffering tortuous existences, or pulled from the sea to suffocate before we finally get around to making a meal of them. We don’t give any of that a thought before we chow down and suffer the significant physical health consequences.
Yet, we get completely outraged when we see or hear of someone mistreating a pet. I am among those who wishes nothing but harm on an animal abuser, but isn’t killing even worse?
I’d like to point out how ridiculous it is to me to go into one of those grocery stores that aim to impress shoppers who believe it’s hip to care about the environment. These markets have signs all over the place, talking about the humane way they treat their livestock. Of course, they leave out the part about driving them to slaughter so that we can devour them. But I suppose it’s a step in the right direction.
Certainly, Walter Palmer needs to face the consequences of his deadly brutality. But maybe we all need to look at ourselves and question whether we are complicit in abhorrent habits that devalue life.

© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

July 29, 2015

THE DAWN DUMP ON MSNBC

Another early early Thursday for me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern, where I try to be even more offensive than Donald Trump. And usually succeed.

July 22, 2015

A REASON TO GO BACK TO SLEEP ON MSNBC

Watch my usual Thursday dawn effort at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC . The Bob's comments will make The Donald's look friendly and enlightened by comparison.

July 15, 2015

NO LIGHT ON MSNBC

It's the usual Thursday cracked at dawn with me on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern. Will we talk about Donald Trump or the deal with Iran? Smarms or arms?

July 10, 2015

SATURDAY ON MSNBC WITH ME

I'm doing a Saturday afternoon hit on MSNBC during the 2:00 hour, Eastern. Just when you thought you could relax on the weekend...

July 9, 2015

INDEPENDENCE FAST FORWARDED

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 3, 2015
INDEPENDENCE FAST-FORWARDED
BY BOB FRANKEN
EDITORS: NOTE THE USE OF AT SIGNS IN GRAF 1.
---
Imagine if we’d had Twitter in our revolutionary days, and the Declaration was a Tweet of Independence: “Yo @King George. We are so outta here!” None of that “life, liberty and the purfuit of happinef” jazz. Imagine a modern war waged on social media. No need for Paul Revere’s “One if by land, two if by sea” rigmarole, which may have been a fiction concocted by Henry Longfellow anyway. No matter; @Reverep could have just taken a picture on ye olde smartphone and put it out on the Internet.
But noooo. Instead, we were left with a wordy document that most of us remember mainly because of that narcissistic signature by the guy for whom they named an insurance company. And what did we get from the flowery words? “Just powers from the consent of the governed”? Well, kind of.
It’s true that we hold elections. But it’s also true that those elections are largely bought and paid for by the American aristocracy. They’re sort of similar to kings and queens, except they have more power. Let’s face it -- the Founding Fathers probably didn’t anticipate “Citizens United.” Maybe they would have if there had been some mothers involved, but they weren’t.
Still, we mark the anniversary every July 4th, and mainly celebrate that it’s a day off or, as Revere would have tweeted, “Three if by weekend.” We pause for parades and fireworks, and try to forget the realities of our nation 239 years later.
Frankly, the fear of a terrorist attack puts a bit of a pall on the festivities, certainly for those whose job it is to prevent one. Every year the threat gets more real. Another factor that dims the luster is a general malaise about how our political system has evolved.

Continue reading "INDEPENDENCE FAST FORWARDED" »

July 8, 2015

BOB IN THE MSNBC DARKNESS

Watch my usual early Thursday stuff on MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern, to see why my comprehension of American politics is like the Eurozone now: It's all Greek to me.

July 2, 2015

A FIRECRACKER FRIDAY ON MSNBC

Friday July 3rd, when we skip work and celebrate the right to a three day weeked. Not me. During the verbal fireworks at 9AM Eastern on MSNBC, I'll be the dud.

July 1, 2015

BACK ON MSNBC IN THE DARK

MSNBC for me on a Thursday dawn again, at 5:15,Eastern. You'll soon conclude, to quote Mose Allison, that "Your Mind is on Vacation, but Your Mouth is Working Overtime".

June 11, 2015

THE TWO WHEELER DEALERS

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 9, 2015
THE TWO-WHEELER DEALERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
I certainly am not the first to call Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” a “Hog and Hog” event, since we’re talking barbecued pork and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Ernst is a newbie member of the U.S. Senate whose successful campaign was built on a TV ad where she spoke about her youthful farm experience castrating pigs. Therefore, she went on, she’d know how to cut fat in Washington. I am probably the first to wonder if any exhaust pipes got snipped. In any case, that, apparently, is what gets you elected in Iowa. And though this kind of campaign might be cause to worry about the state’s outsized influence on who becomes president, it is what it is.
For those who missed it, Sen. Ernst’s chopper parade to her picnic was a big draw, not only for party faithful, but also for GOP candidates, announced and not-yet-announced. Scott Walker was there riding a Harley and telling anyone and everyone that he has his own back home in Wisconsin, which is where the manufacturer is based. Rick Perry also was on one, and so were about 300 others, roaring from the outskirts of Des Moines to a farm 39 miles away where, in addition to seared swine, there were all the fixins (yes, I’m writing like a country boy on purpose). Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee were present, but didn’t get on their cycles. Rubio turned down Joni Ernst’s offer to ride with her, which was a huge disappointment to the camera crews and news photographers who would have gone crazy if he did. The opposition would have feasted on the picture, so he probably made a smart decision.
Chris Christie and Jeb Bush were among the no-shows. Still, it was quite a scene, with various politicians giving their boilerplate speeches about how awful Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are, before an audience that included a whole lot of people sporting a whole lot of tattoos.
Have you wondered whether any of the GOP’s presidential candidates have a tat? And if so, where? Is it too weird to even think about? We do know that Walker and Perry dressed up in black shirts to show some solidarity, and that Huckabee was the only one who wore a sport coat. Given the criticism over his recent remark on transgenders and showering with females, he was probably interested in playing it real straight. Hence, the sport coat.
The, uh, feeding frenzy was held at the same venue that will host the Iowa Republican straw poll later this summer, another event of debatable significance, except that it’s been a big money maker for the local yokels who have turned profit-making politics into a real art form. It’s understandable that the state is adamant about holding the first election of the primary season, even though it’s not a traditional primary but a series of caucuses that are distantly representative of the people’s will, but not much. It’s not really a bona fide election. New Hampshire is first for that.
Sen. Ernst is among those who realize that their national influence is amplified by candidates who are scratching for whatever advantage they can get in Iowa. So it’s no wonder that she told reporters the state is “a great cross section of America.” The reality is that the state is only really a cross section of white America. It’s sorely lacking in people of color, just like New Hampshire. So the fact that those two can be make-or-break for a presidential candidate strikes many as a sham shame. So far, nobody in the politics biz is willing to do away with this ritual. As a result, Joni Ernst exerts undue influence, which means candidates must care about what she does with hogs. Of all kinds.

© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

June 10, 2015

DAWN SHOW ON MSNBC

Time for the regular Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern game on MSNBC: Trying to determine if my words make up coherent sentences. Hint: Probably not.

June 8, 2015

WHAT'S "WRONG"? WHO DECIDES

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 5, 2015
WHAT’S WRONG? WHO DECIDES?
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
“Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you worry?” We’ve all heard and read that thought expressed during the never-ending debate over U.S. intelligence agencies massively spying on Americans ... all of us. The answer to the question is that there’s plenty to worry about.
After a big brawl, Washington has nibbled on the edges of the problem, making it a tiny bit more time-consuming for the shadowy National Security Agency to worm into nearly every facet of our once-personal lives. Now, if they even follow the law -- which is a big “if” -- our spooks will have to go through a few preliminary procedures before they violate our privacy.
Rand Paul became a temporary hero by using Senate rules to delay passage of the so-called USA Freedom Act, so our national-security agents will not be able to store all the information about our telephone calls, the who where and when. The phone companies will hold the information, and officials will be required to take an extra moment and a few baby steps to get it.
Government officials insist that they need unimpeded access in order to protect us against terrorists, but they can’t really tell us why -- it’s a secret. And what they do reveal sometimes turns out to be bogus. For instance, when pressed about the claim that they need these tactics to stop violent plots against this county, they admit that in all the years since 9/11, the intrusive tactics have not stopped one attack.
As for the “if you’re not doing anything wrong” rationale, here’s why we should worry about our private lives being stripped naked: For starters, to paraphrase a famous American who shall remain nameless, it all depends on what “wrong” is. Do we have to worry about access to our health and psychological records by people who have no business knowing what’s in them? How about the stuff in our lives that’s not illegal but embarrassing?
By the way, don’t take much comfort in knowing that our cyberspies might have gotten their wings ever so slightly clipped. The aerial wings of law enforcement are cramming the skies with their planes, drones, choppers, etc., scooping up everyone’s cellphone information from a given area, according to The Associated Press. Among their tactics: creating a phony wireless tower. Also according to The AP, they are doing the same thing on the ground, and secretly sharing the technology with local police departments. They also can and do follow potentially every vehicle using license-plate recognition. They try to keep this stuff secret, but when caught they insist that they need these tools to catch the bad guys. Besides, if you’re not a bad guy, why should you ... well, you know.
Back to the NSA: We are now painfully aware of how far that massive apparatus has gone, thanks largely to the disclosures of Edward Snowden. No need to explain that he’s the one who raised the alarm about the surveillance on all of us, nor to remind that he’s languishing in Russia. He wants to come home, but understandably is afraid to. U.S. government officials, from the top down, make it very clear that if he does, they will throw away the keys after they lock him up for the rest of his life. After all, he disrupted their cozy little arrangement -- never mind that they paid no heed whatsoever to the idea that, in a democracy, we are supposed to be entitled to freedom from arbitrary government action.
Shouldn’t we get to debate whether Snowden ought to come back to a hero’s welcome, even though he couldn’t claim protection under whistle-blower laws. They are stacked to exclude intelligence, based on the idea that secrecy has become sacred. Personal liberty used to be, but apparently it’s not anymore. That’s wrong.

© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

June 5, 2015

NOON HOUR SATURDAY ON MSNBC

During the Saturday noon hour, Eastern, I'll be on MSNBC. I'll be part of the Biden coverage so you'll understand why I'm forgoing the usual flippant comment.

THE NON HILLARYS

FROM KING FEATURES
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY JUNE 2.2015
THE NON HILLARYS

If you live outside Maryland and happened to notice that Martin O’Malley announced in Baltimore that he is running for president as a Democrat, you might well be asking yourself: “Who is Martin O’Malley, and why is he even bothering, since Hillary Clinton has things sewn up?” For starters, O’Malley is the former governor of that state and former mayor of that city. So now you know the “who,” but what about the “why”? What would possess anyone to waste his time and other people’s money to seek a party nomination that is already a done deal? For that matter, we could ask the same things about Bernie Sanders, but quite a bit has been said about him. O’Malley is even further back in the left-of-Hillary pack.

Of course, he’s leading the way-younger-than-Hillary-and-for-that-matter-Bernie pack. Hillary Clinton is soon going to be 68; Sanders is 73, and O’Malley 52. He rarely misses an opportunity to use the word “new,” as in the opposite of “obsolete.” Nevertheless, he’s in the everyone-else-but-Hillary bunch, polling 40 to 50 points under her. So again: Why bother?
Actually, besides the possibility that O’Malley and the others are jockeying to be second banana on a Hillary Clinton ticket, there is another reason to set oneself up as her alternative. In truth, while we all consider the nomination hers to lose, there is a gnawing fear among some in the Democratic Party that Hillary is vulnerable and could come tumbling down from her presumptive perch.

Let’s be honest: A sizable portion of the electorate doesn’t think she is honest. The Quinnipiac poll is just one of several that tallies an “I don’t trust her” response at more than 50 percent. What’s interesting is that these same surveys consistently show high marks for belief in her capabilities. But many can’t help but wonder whether she can sustain a perception of inevitability, given the steady water torture of disclosures about the ways she and her husband have amassed their family fortune. To some, the Clintons’ tactics appear to be smarmy at best, and they certainly provide opportunity for Republicans to exploit her as ethically challenged, to put it mildly.

Her strategy of dodging most questions can go either way: By focusing on the issues she and her handlers want to emphasize, they try to play offense instead of defense. However, it also can leave an impression that she’s hiding something. This is particularly due to a reputation for disingenuousness, which grew out of the way the Clinton camp has always mishandled the scandals that festered during the Bill Clinton presidency. Husband and wife both are lawyers, and it showed. But oftentimes the tactics they and their surrogates used appeared to straddle the line between legalistic and dissembling. They might have been semantically precise, but still raised nagging suspicions among those who weren’t members of the bar — that is to say, most of us.


And here she is today, seeming to play the same games when it comes to the contents of her privately held emails while secretary of state and the ton of financial questions that swirl around the Clinton family foundation. The GOP candidates all show a willingness to slime her, and some Democrats quietly worry that too much of the partisan mud will stick.

It’s easy to understand why the Martin O’Malleys and Bernie Sanderses of this world are putting themselves out there. Just in case, they’re jockeying to be Plan B. They won’t admit it, of course,they don’t have to, no more than Elizabeth Warren has to abandon a pretense that she’s not interested In the other bunker, the GOP may be struggling with a cast of characters that’s too big. The Dems have to be prepared if their lineup of one suddenly became none.

June 3, 2015

THURSDAY MSNBC GOES BRIEFLY DARK

5:15 AM, Eastern: I'll be doing my regular dawnThursday thingy on MSNBC. Wake up and see if I managed to. Although it's hard to tell.

May 27, 2015

A WARM START ON MSNBC

As you enjoy summer, and maybe the sun of a beach, at the crack of dawn on MSNBC, 5:15 Eastern, I'll show why I too am known as the son of a beach. Or something like that.

May 25, 2015

TRULY MEMORIALIZING MEMORIAL DAY

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 22, 2015
TRULY MEMORIALIZING MEMORIAL DAY
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
I admit it, I read my Facebook newsfeed. On frequent occasions, I am moved to tears by the video of a member of our armed forces surprising his loved ones as he returns safe and sound from a combat zone. What a happy occasion, even when it’s arranged by a ratings-hungry local TV station in conjunction with military public affairs. It usually makes its way from the news to YouTube to social media. We share in the emotional exhilaration as the missing soldier comes back unharmed to his life at home.
What we see much less of, almost none of, is the homecoming of those who have been severely maimed in combat. Occasionally, we are allowed to show the coffins arriving at Dover, Delaware, but it’s rare that we see those returning who will spend the rest of their days with a debilitating injury.
They are the ones, and there are thousands, as we know, we need to remember as we mark the Memorial Day period. They are the casualties we need to remember the next time we hear some politician trying to score sound-bite points with seemingly carefree but careless calls to march off to another war.
Many of these blowhards are the same ones who now admit that the action in Iraq was a mistake, a tragic waste, as they say, of American lives and treasure. Even the brother of the president who ordered the invasion (at the behest of his vice president), even Jeb Bush had to admit that it might not have been a good idea. Of course, he had an embarrassing struggle spitting out the words, but it doesn’t matter. This is not about election positioning, it’s about making a momentous, disastrous decision that was about politics, with little regard to the human consequences.

Continue reading "TRULY MEMORIALIZING MEMORIAL DAY" »

May 24, 2015

NO DAY OFF ON MSNBC

I'll be starting out Memorial Day on MSNBC at 7:00 AM Eastern. If you aren't awake at that hour on a holiday off, you can DVR it and later play the commercials and roll through me.

May 21, 2015

PLATITUDE ATTITUDE

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 15, 2015
PLATITUDE ATTITUDE
BY BOB FRANKEN
How many times have we been told that it is essential to have an optimistic attitude? Well, guess what, folks: If you read the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (assuming your subscription is paid up), you’ll find a study conducted by three professors who conclude that a perennially positive outlook might just be overrated. As one of them told The Washington Post: “As a rule, you’ll get the advice that it’s better to be optimistic. But the truth is that it makes no difference.” In fact, according to co-author Don Moore, “Sometimes, it’s even worse.”
That’s because overconfidence can lead to debilitating disappointment and a big waste of time. Sometimes, Debbie Downer is right. Sometimes, the silver lining has nothing but clouds.
There now. Has this added a bounce to your step? Maybe not, but a can-do attitude must always be mixed with realism. As a matter of fact, it’s probably useful to put many of our expectations into perspective.
We are incessantly reminded to take care of ourselves, but what’s also healthy is this dose of truth I saw somewhere: “I eat a proper diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep. But still, I die.” That is not to say that we should lead a toxic lifestyle, but there is so much pressure to stay up late and be couch potatoes pursuing flabbiness that the motivation for being in shape is elusive.

Continue reading "PLATITUDE ATTITUDE" »

May 20, 2015

BAD TIME ON MSNBC

Don't miss still another Thursday morning at 5:15 Eastern for me on MSNBC with comments that range from inane to mundane to outright insane.

May 18, 2015

NOBODY CARES


CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015
NOBODY CARES
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Is anybody the slightest bit surprised that, according to the investigator, it was “more probable than not” that an NFL team and its star quarterback were cheating? Professional athletes cheating? Be still, my heart. At least Tom Brady more probably than not came up with a novel way to do it instead of going the usual chemical route. His nonsteroidal offense was to order his minions to pump a little bit less air in the team’s game balls in a playoff game, because apparently squishy footballs are easier to throw and catch. That’s why the league has rules about that. But, it’s more certain than not that I don’t give a rat’s sass about “Deflategate.”

Continue reading "NOBODY CARES" »

May 15, 2015

ME AT 30 ROCK

I'll be spending my Saturday morning in NYC, on set with the "Up With Steve Kornacki" peeps. Slated for 9:30 AM Eastern.

May 14, 2015

AMATEURS AND WACKOS

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 8, 2015
AMATEURS AND WACKOS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
“Used to be I couldn’t spell ‘politician.’ Now I are one.” Yes, it’s come to that. It seems that now candidates are proudly declaring as they run for the most powerful political office in the world that they don’t know the first thing about politics. In fact, neurosurgeon-turned-presidential-candidate Ben Carson made no brains about it: “I’m not a politician,” he insisted. “I don’t want to be a politician. Because politicians do what is politically expedient -- I want to do what’s right.”
Easier said than done, Ben. There are an awful lot of experienced people running the system who have an entirely different idea of what “right” is, to say nothing of the powerful forces who will fight like crazy to maintain their abilities to do wrong. It's the biggest flaw in the thinking of the far-right people who despise government. They want to elect people who are totally naive and get pushed off the turnip truck right away.
Maybe they should listen to their own rhetoric. Aren’t they the ones who have complained from Day One that Barack Obama was a neophyte, in way over his head? In fact, they have reason to believe they were spot-on. It’s clear that Obama was taken aback and brutalized by those Republicans who have spent decades sharpening their skills in the dark game of politics.
But now the tea-party types are changing their tune ... Ben Carson is just what the, uh, doctor ordered. That’s because he prowls the same far-right turf that they do.
Let’s face it, though, he’s nowhere near as “out there” as some of the wacko birds (to borrow a phrase) who make up a part of the Texas population. Actually, they apparently make up a huge part, big enough to elect leaders who are nestled in the vast fringes with them.
What with all the disclosures of surveillance by law enforcement and our spies who are constantly finding new ways to invade our privacy, there are plenty of good reasons to be superparanoid. However, routine military exercises by U.S. Armed forces are not among them. Unless, of course, you’re among the hard-core conspiracy theorists who set up barricades in their minds and in the great state of Texas. If I wasn’t so politically correct, I would call them looney tunes.


Continue reading "AMATEURS AND WACKOS" »

May 13, 2015

MSNBC BLEARY IN THE MORNING

Another MSNBC Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern for me, where you can watch and say to yourself "Was I dreaming or did he really say that?"

May 6, 2015

DARK DAWN, DARK ANALYSIS

Another Thursday at 5:15 AM Eastern for me on MSNBC; the ridiculous hour matched only by my ridiculous commentary.

April 29, 2015

BAD START ON MSNBC

Early morning Thursday forecast for 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC: Pleasant temperatures but me blustering.

April 23, 2015

THE GOOD CYBER NEWS, THE BAD CYBER NEWS


FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY
10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708­7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

THE GOOD CYBER NEWS, THE BAD CYBER NEWS
BY BOB FRANKEN

­­­Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to stop and see how far we’ve come. It’s easy to take for granted the blur of technological progress that has brought us convenience at blinding speed. It is changing the way we live our lives, the ways
we shop and learn, and even the ways we relate to one another. It’s marvelous and, when you think about it, mind ­boggling.

This brave new world is scary. Free access to the universe comes at a huge cost: We pay for it by surrendering our privacy. As we go where no one has gone before, those who police our country and the planet are going where they have no
business, spying on our every move.

We are all too familiar with how the nation’s intelligence apparatus is now used to potentially track our every move and conversation. We can thank Edward Snowden’s release of highly classified National Security Agency records for
that startling bit of knowledge. But it’s not just the spies fighting the international bad guys who can suck up our private lives; it’s also the cops here at home.

Continue reading "THE GOOD CYBER NEWS, THE BAD CYBER NEWS" »

April 22, 2015

MSNBC DARKNESS

Another Thursday dawn upcoming for me on MSNBC. Sparkling repartee at 5:15 Eastern. Well, would you believe sputtering?

April 15, 2015

DAWNBABBLE ON MSNBC

Hillary and Marco are the latest to officially run for president and again on a Thursday, at a ridiculous 5:15 AM Eastern on MSNBC I'll be running off at the mouth. As usual.

April 8, 2015

THE 5:15 AM EXPLANATION ON MSNBC

I'm going to try something different Thursday early morning on MSNBC, and that is to make sense. But at 5:15 Eastern, will any viewers be able to tell?

April 1, 2015

SAME DOO DOO, DIFFERENT DAY DAY ON MSNBC

I'll be a day late this Thursday, but watch at 5:15 AM Eastern, on MSNBC as I make an April fool of myself.

March 31, 2015

CCTV AND ME

I'm on CCTV-America tonight at 7 Eastern. The show's called "The Heat". No sweat.

March 25, 2015

LOTS OF BOB

A busy Thursday coming up: First it's the usual agonizingly early rant on MSNBC at 5:15 AM, Eastern. Then at 9 it's three hours of fun and frolic till noon as I fill in as host on SiriusXM POTUS channel 124. Only then will I slither away.

March 18, 2015

WINTER'S LAST GASPS ON MSNBC

Who needs basketball when we have another Thursday with me in the dark?. Join me at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC for my early morning version of March madness.

March 11, 2015

PITCH DARK PITCH ON MSNBC

Still another Thursday for me, struggling to be coherent on MSNBC at 5:15 AM Eastern. And failing miserably.

March 9, 2015

THE RULES OF "GOTCHA"

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 3, 2015
THE RULES OF “GOTCHA”
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
There are a few reasons Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is flying high right now in the early Republican presidential sweepstakes, but none is mightier than his record of sticking it to organized labor. This is the man who, after all, staved off a recall election once he was successful in changing state law to severely restrict the negotiating power of public-employee unions even after thousands and thousands of protesters raised a ruckus at the Capitol in Madison. Nowadays, when he isn’t running for the White House prize, he’s back home again supporting a law that would make Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state. That would end a worker’s requirement at an organized company to join the union or at least pay dues.
Labor despises right to work; conservatives love it. Most hold nothing but contempt for unions. So when Walker answers a question at the Conservative Political Action Conference about how he would handle ISIS and says, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” the right’s true believers were ecstatic. When his spokeswoman later added a clarification that he really wasn’t comparing union members to terrorists, she didn’t really need to bother.
The annual CPAC meeting always closes with a straw poll. A Paul always wins. Ron Paul took the prize several times; Rand Paul has inherited the top spot, three years in a row now. But Scott Walker, who was fifth in 2014, ended up a strong second, zipping past Ted Cruz, among others. And Jeb Bush, who mounted a major effort to show well, ended up in fifth. Did I mention this was a conservative gathering, where Bush was booed during his appearance?
Walker is definitely the Republican flavor of the month. He’s made a couple of really red-meat speeches, and even when he refuses to say whether he believes that Barack Obama is a true Christian or loves America and gets ridiculed in the press for not answering, he scores positive points on the right. When he rails against the reporter “gotcha questions,” he taps into another hatred.


Continue reading "THE RULES OF "GOTCHA"" »

March 4, 2015

BACK AT DAWN ON MSNBC

I was sick last week but it's back to my early Thursday morning inanity on MSNBC at 5:15, Eastern. Funny: Last week, nobody noticed I was gone.

February 18, 2015

A COLD START ON MSNBC

In winter there's nothing like a Thursday dawn spent with me on TV to get your blood boiling. MSNBC at 5:15 Eastern.

February 12, 2015

BITTER NASTY MEDICINE

FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 6, 2015
BITTER, NASTY MEDICINE
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s easy to see the differences between Marshawn Lynch and Chris Christie -- really, really easy -- but the two have some traits in common. Lynch is the running back for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks who famously likes to diss the media when it suits his purposes. Christie is also someone who’s running, but he’s nasty to the press if they don’t suit his purposes. When reporters tagging along on what was supposed to be his London photo-op trip continued to pepper him with questions after he said he didn’t want to talk with them, he snarled “Is there something you don’t understand about ‘no questions.’”
Christie seems to snarl a lot. He’s the guy who told a persistent critic at a ceremonial gathering to “sit down and shut up.” This is the same Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, who believes that his Jersey way of bad manners will work on the national level. He’s all but sure to get in the presidential race. The best that can be said about him is that he runs a real mean charm offensive.
Of course, it’s not hard to understand why he was a tad defensive in Londontown. After all, the herd of journalists had asked him earlier about the current spread of measles and the controversy over those who refuse to get their children immunized in the face of overwhelming assurances from medical professionals that vaccines are safe, effective and necessary to protect everyone else’s kids. His answer caused him no small amount of grief: While supporting the idea of vaccinations, he went on to say “But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide

Continue reading "BITTER NASTY MEDICINE" »

February 9, 2015

MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 3, 2015
MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Mitt Romney has done his famous back-stepping once again and withdrawn from the presidential race, he doesn’t have to be concerned about poverty and the middle class anymore. At least for the moment. I say that because buried in his pullout is a hint that he could be pushed back in if GOP leaders decided that the other candidates were making the party go kablooey, and asked him to reverse direction one more time to come roaring to the rescue.
Could it happen? “That seems unlikely,” said Romney, which is not the same thing as “No way.” “Unlikely” in Mittspeak seems to translate to: “Oh, just ask me. Pleeeeeeze!” But give the guy some credit: He can read the handwriting on the Republican wall, which was saying “Mitt Romney, go home” (or perhaps more appropriately “homes”; he’s got a bunch of them)! So that leaves center-right field open to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and even Lindsey Graham, who seems to have started a “sure, why not?” campaign.
As for Mitt, maybe for solace he can turn to his close friend Bibi. He’ll have his chance in March if Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on the plan to address Congress and entirely bypass President Barack Obama — and probably seriously set back U.S.-Israeli relations in the process.

Continue reading "MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY" »

MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 3, 2015
MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Mitt Romney has done his famous back-stepping once again and withdrawn from the presidential race, he doesn’t have to be concerned about poverty and the middle class anymore. At least for the moment. I say that because buried in his pullout is a hint that he could be pushed back in if GOP leaders decided that the other candidates were making the party go kablooey, and asked him to reverse direction one more time to come roaring to the rescue.
Could it happen? “That seems unlikely,” said Romney, which is not the same thing as “No way.” “Unlikely” in Mittspeak seems to translate to: “Oh, just ask me. Pleeeeeeze!” But give the guy some credit: He can read the handwriting on the Republican wall, which was saying “Mitt Romney, go home” (or perhaps more appropriately “homes”; he’s got a bunch of them)! So that leaves center-right field open to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and even Lindsey Graham, who seems to have started a “sure, why not?” campaign.
As for Mitt, maybe for solace he can turn to his close friend Bibi. He’ll have his chance in March if Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on the plan to address Congress and entirely bypass President Barack Obama — and probably seriously set back U.S.-Israeli relations in the process.

Continue reading "MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY" »

February 4, 2015

GRUMPY REAL EARLY ON MSNBC

For those who want a bright perky start to the day at 5:15 AM, Eastern, on a Thursday I'm definitely not your guy. For the rest of us haters, I'll be there on MSNBC. Compared to me, Chris Christie is warm and fuzzy.

January 28, 2015

FREEZING ON MSNBC

I'm on MSNBC at 5:15 again on a frigid January Thursday where my dawn commentary is also guaranteed to leave you cold.

January 26, 2015

PETE AND THE POPE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 20, 2015
PETE AND THE POPE
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Back at the beginning of my TV career, in Cleveland local news, on-camera minority reporters were few and far between. Our business was just discovering the imperative of diversity. We had just one on our staff, a guy named Peter. Pete taught me a lesson that I’ve remembered through the decades.
The KKK was having a gathering in Cleveland, and, for some ridiculous reason, Pete was assigned to cover it. Pro that he was, he went to the event and ended up doing an interview with the grand dragon. Happily, the cameraman made sure to stay in a two-shot as the Klan guy described blacks as “beasts of burden” and “mules.” Imagine the impact of the image on the screen: Pete’s placid demeanor as he held the mike without outwardly reacting to the racist pig’s spewed hatred. It was a profoundly effective condemnation of bigotry.
Sadly, it is not the way most of us usually react to deeply offensive attacks. Take the gratuitously malignant cartoons that the French magazine Charlie Hebdo routinely publishes ridiculing Islamic and other religions’ sensibilities in the most juvenile, gross ways. Of course, we know that violent assassins presenting themselves as Muslim extremists launched a murderous attack in response to the cartoons depicting Muhammad. They killed a dozen people and spawned other fatal assaults.


Continue reading "PETE AND THE POPE" »

January 21, 2015

RIDCULOUSLY EARLY AGAIN ON MSNBC

Be amazed on a Thursday pre dawn at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC, that I or anyone can string a sentence together. Not that it will be coherent...

January 20, 2015

ME AND MORNING JOE

I'm on the Wednesday Morning Joe on MSNBC at 8:30-ish Eastern. So tune in-ish.

January 14, 2015

COLD AND DARK ON MSNBC

It's another Thursday at dawn for me at MSNBC to start your day at 5:15 Eastern with that inspiring question: "Who cares?"

January 12, 2015

MARIO CUOMO'S UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 6, 2015
MARIO CUOMO’S UNFINISHED BUSINESS
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
I am one of those who mourn the passing of Mario Cuomo, and celebrate his life. Among the more enjoyable experiences of my time as a younger reporter were various conversations I was privileged to have with him during the quiet that would precede the storm of news. He could argue without offending, unless he wanted to, be provocative without provoking. He was an unabashed progressive and will be remembered as one of his generation’s most exciting speakers, inspiring with his rhetorical style as well as his ideas.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the causes he championed, he leaves behind a society that is still struggling. After all, this is the man who thrilled the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco by deriding President Ronald Reagan’s repeated references to the United States as “a shining city on the hill.” He brought the house down with his description of an out-of-touch president who had a limited view from “the portico of the White House or the veranda of his ranch,” continuing, “There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don’t see, in the places that you don’t visit in your shining city.” Instead, he roared, America is a “tale of two cities,” of rich and poor, the haves and have-nots.
Here we are, slightly more than 30 years later, where the same “two cities” description is used to paint a picture of a worsening divide. The nation’s wealth inequality is far greater than it was then, fewer and fewer hold more and more while the bulk of our society struggles to get by on scraps.
As we’ve seen, the lives of whites and people of color still are separated, both culturally and physically. Even though Barack Obama will go down in history as America’s first black president, his contention during a recent NPR interview that we are “less racially divided” than when he took office in 2008 must be juxtaposed with the bitter feelings between blacks and police about law-enforcement tactics involving minorities.


Continue reading "MARIO CUOMO'S UNFINISHED BUSINESS" »

January 8, 2015

SEEING THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE THE PAST

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 2, 2015
SEEING THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE THE PAST
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s that time of year, folks -- that is to say, the beginning, a time for totally worthless predictions. Well, maybe they’re not totally worthless, but they have approximately the same value as our annual set of resolutions, the ones we mostly break, doing further harm to our self-esteem.
Where do we start? How about the presidential race and what we can expect from those public figures who have far too much self-esteem, so much that they think they can be an effective leader of the free world (or as free as one can be in these times of constant surveillance). As we all know, 2015 is really just pre-2016, where the various candidates tell us what we already know, that they’ve decided to run.
Hillary is a lock. Come springtime, or whenever there’s a slowdown in her $300,000-per-speech bookings, she will declare in some sort of lavish ceremony that she intends to become the first woman/former first lady/former senator/former Secretary of State to become the nation’s chief executive, which would mean that Bill Clinton would be the first first gentleman/former president/former Arkansas governor/former Arkansas state attorney general. There will be those who believe that we should just cancel the campaign, that she will have, at that point, wrapped up her nomination.
Then there are others of the Democratic persuasion who are in the “Not so fast, Hillary” wing of the Democratic Party, AKA the progressives, who worry that she is far too cozy with the big-money people they believe are the root of all evil in this country. So here’s a less-safe prediction:
Elizabeth Warren also will announce. Yes, I know, she keeps insisting that she’s not going to, but that’s one of those things you say when you are. She’s certainly making all the moves, speaking out louder and louder against the aforementioned fat cats. Each time she does, she causes those who inhabit the left wing of the party to swoon, or at least holler “Run, Elizabeth, Run!” If she doesn’t, Bernie Sanders will. Don’t know Bernie Sanders? He’s the Socialist senator from Vermont, positioning himself to be the one who claims the ultraliberal ground if Warren really means she’s not interested. It’s a position similar to Joe Biden’s, who is waiting to see if there’s any chance in the world Hillary gets cold feet.


Continue reading "SEEING THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE THE PAST " »

January 7, 2015

MY MSNBC DAWNYBROOK

Be startled out of your sleep by me on a Thursday pre morning at 5:15 Eastern on MSNBC. Consider it a rude awakening

January 6, 2015

RADIOBOB DAY 3

Day 3 tomorrow (Wednesday) of my filling in for Michael Smerconish on Sirius XM channel 124 from 9:00AM to noon Eastern. Thursday Michael will be back to pick up the pieces.

THE INTERVIEW-A REAL FARCE

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 30, 2014
‘THE INTERVIEW’: A REAL FARCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Normally, I don’t do movie reviews, but rarely am I so attached to a film. I’m speaking, of course, of “The Interview,” a cinematic masterpiece starring Seth Rogen, who also directs, and James Franco, who plays the totally vacuous TV host Dave Skylark. Since I’m someone who has spent a professional lifetime in television, you can imagine how much I identified with Skylark.
So, here’s the review: “The Interview” was juvenile, crude and downright stupid. I loved it. Truth be known, I was planning to see it even before it became our patriotic duty. We can’t let a few North Korean hackers tell us what we shouldn’t watch, now can we? After all, that’s what President Barack Obama said.
That was after Sony went through its will-we-or-won’t-we-release-it gyrations and after the hackers who had shredded the studio’s reputation threatened mayhem if theaters showed it.
Well, after more indecision than a management meeting, a limited number did, and deals were worked out so that we didn’t have to leave our couches to dumb down even further. By now you know the plot: The show host and his producer travel to Pyongyang to interview Kim Jong Un and, at the behest of a hot female CIA agent, agree to assassinate the fictionalized real-life leader of the hermit kingdom. Ultimately, Kim gets vaporized. But not before a whole lot of the usual sex and toilet humor. Sophisticated it's not..
And pleased the North Koreans were not. Understandably. So their leaders made their typical threats. If you want to get some laughs, check out the way these guys respond when someone, anyone, pulls their chain. Their rhetoric often has gone racist — referring, for instance, to President Obama as a “monkey.” And how about this recent gem, after North Korea’s Internet system crashed? “The United States, with its large physical size and oblivious to the shame of playing hide and seek as children with runny noses would, has begun disrupting the Internet operations of the main media outlets of our republic ...” Their noses are definitely out of joint. Runny or not.

Continue reading "THE INTERVIEW-A REAL FARCE" »

January 5, 2015

MORE BOB RADIOHEAD

I'm back tomorrow (Tuesday) between 9AM and noon Eastern filling in on SiriusXM's POTUS channel 124. Proving sometimes I CAN be Sirius.

January 2, 2015

SIRUSLY FOLKS

On Monday and Tuesday I invite you endure three hours daily of me filling in for Mike Smerconish, 9:00 AM to noon, with repeats, on SiriusXM POTUS channel 124. Hey, at least you won't have to look at me.

January 1, 2015

FRIDAY MORNING ON MSNBC

I'll be spreading my joy or whatever I spread again on MSNBC tomorrow morning (Friday), scheduled for 7:25 AM Eastern although that's always fluid. Pardon the expression.

December 31, 2014

SAPPY NEW YEAR ON MSNBC

Whether you're up real late or awakening ungodly early, join me for my usual Thursday MSNBC rant at 5:15 AM Eastern and get the New Year off to a grumpy start.

December 25, 2014

T'IS THE BELTWAY AROUND CHRISTMAS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 23, 2014
’TIS THE BELTWAY AROUND CHRISTMAS
BY BOB FRANKEN

’Tis the time around Christmas and throughout the White House,
No one is stirring, not the Prez, kids or spouse.

They are hiding away, and trembling with fear,
As the GOP Senate prepares for a new year.

It’s going to be unrelenting bad news,
Mitch McConnell, of course, but also Ted Cruz.

Not only that, but even insaner,
Will be the House hard-liners running over John Boehner.

But now on the north lawn there arises a clatter,
Still another fence-jumper, but only much fatter.

This one wears red, has a beard, doesn’t jog,
Which is a mistake, ’cause he’s mauled by a dog.

He shouts “Ho Ho Ho,” though his treatment is rough,
And it isn’t too long before he’s handcuffed.

Sharp agents soon notice he’s got a big sack,
So they call off their dog, whpo’s in mid attack

“What’s in it?” they scream; he says, “Gifts, got a lot,”
And that’s when they call in the bomb-squad robot.

But what do they find when they rifle his bag?
Only presents, wrapped up, none with a price tag.

For Hillary, Ted and the rest who’ll be running,
The very same book, called “Campaigning for Dummies.”

But POTUS steps out, says Santa’s a hoarder,
And demands his release, by executive order.

So Claus slips away and looks for his sleigh,
But Parking Enforcement has towed it away.

Not only that, but his deer are big players,
So they’re drinking and eating at a bunch of fundraisers.

Imagine St. Nick, he can’t move, he’s just stuck,
Still another poor victim of Washington gridlock.

Just forget the North Pole, he’ll stay in D.C.,
Like everyone else here, a lobbyist he’ll be.

So shut down his old gig of handing out presents,
At least to the common folk; no more for the peasants

It’s just politicians who’ll be getting his gifts,
He’ll do fundraisers, raise cash, give campaigns a big lift.

He’ll have plenty of clients, Big Pharma and Uber,
If he schmoozes with Castro, he might just land Cuba.

And once he’s established as a Washington fixture,
He might get the big prize, represent Sony Pictures.

No more elves, no more reindeer, he’ll get paid much more bread,
With a new chauffeured limo he can get rid of his sled.

So he shouts and pulls out in his big Cadillac,
“Merry Christmas to all, and never look back!”

© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

December 24, 2014

THE YULE FOOL ON MSNBC

It's Christmas, but it's still Thursday at dawn on MSNBC. So join me at 5:15 Eastern as we discuss whether Santa should be charged with Breaking and Entering..

December 22, 2014

POLITICAL CRUELTY

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 16, 2014
POLITICAL CRUELTY
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Enhanced interrogation techniques, or even worse, EITs -- why can’t they just say “torture” as the apologists try to pretend that the CIA and our post-9/11 leaders didn’t shame America? Instead, they come up with sterile terms to describe their monstrous policies.
Another one is the term that two psychologists created to describe the state of mind they wanted from U.S. captives subjected to that torture: “learned helplessness.” The intent of their brutal interrogation tactics was to create a belief by prisoners that it was pointless to withhold information, that there was no hope of doing anything about their plight except to cooperate.
Come to think of it, the concept of “learned helplessness” might well describe how most of us feel as we watch the goings-on in Washington. It’s easy to conclude that it’s futile to wish that our Congress could do its fundamental job, which is to fund the government, without selling out to the bankers and the big-money contributors. Those who say they oppose the new goodies doled out to the high rollers, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats, raised a last-minute stink only after Republicans had made these handouts to the rich their condition for keeping the government open for business.
It’s not that this cheesy move surprised anyone. Warren and the rest knew these riders would be attached to the legislation, so their protestations were feigned, like the character in the movie “Casablanca” who exclaims, “I’m shocked, SHOCKED!” You don’t need to teach at Harvard to know this kind of thing always happens. It’s Politics 101.
Of course, Warren is going through the running-for-president stage where she claims that she’s not running, not even interested. But each time she gets the chance, she makes sure we know that she wants to take on the fat cats, leaving an impression that Hillary Clinton is too cozy with them. Warren is trying to decide whether there’s any chance whatsoever that she could be nominated. Usually, the first real step is when a prospective candidate announces that he or she is creating an exploratory committee. Warren is exploring whether to form an exploratory committee. Hillary isn’t running either, officially, but at least she makes it clear that she’s thinking about it, meaning she’ll make her announcement, maybe in the spring, after she’s made a few more $300,000-a-pop speeches.


Continue reading "POLITICAL CRUELTY" »

December 19, 2014

HOW FAR WE HAVE NOT COME

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. 12, 2014
HOW FAR WE HAVE NOT COME
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
It’s foolish to argue with President Barack Obama’s observation, made during his BET interview about police mistreatment of minorities, that “It’s important to recognize that as painful as these incidents are, we can’t equate what is happening now to what happened 50 years ago.”
“If you talk to your parents, your grandparents,” he continued, “they’ll tell you things are better. Not good, in some cases, but better. The reason it’s important to understand that progress has been made is that it then gives us hope we can make even more progress.”
But all you have to do is read the ugly social-media comments to see that hope tarnished a lot. While his election and re-election show that we’ve made significant improvement in race relations, the openly bigoted vitriol that has defined too much of the reaction to his every move and certainly the substantial imbalance in the authorities’ treatment of whites and people of color show how terribly far we have to go.
It is true that our laws prohibit some of the worst Jim Crow discrimination, but even now, many conservatives have no compunction about trying to turn back the clock -- attacking voting rights, for instance.
But setting that aside, study after study confirms that cops treat people of color differently than they do whites. An analysis by the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted during the lawsuit against New York City’s noxious stop-and-frisk policy determined that between 2005 and 2008, 80 percent of the stops involved blacks and Latinos, who total 53 percent of Gotham’s population. Ten percent involved whites, who total 44 percent of the residents.
In Ferguson, Missouri, while blacks made up less than two-thirds of licensed drivers, they amounted to 86 percent of those who were pulled over for traffic violations. Then they were twice as likely to be searched and arrested than whites were.
Obviously, I’ve cited these particular statistics because New York City and Ferguson are the two most infamous recent cases of the killing of unarmed blacks by white officers who were then not indicted. But this is not just about those two injustices. The profiling, with its deadly consequences, is a national problem.


Continue reading "HOW FAR WE HAVE NOT COME" »

December 17, 2014

TAP DANCING ON MSNBC

I'll be doing my usual Thursday crack-of-dawn thing on MSNBC at 5:15 in Washington, as well as Havana, which is suddenly much closer to the US.

December 15, 2014

NO STATE OF THE UNION

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. 9, 2014
NO STATE OF THE UNION
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
There have been so many times when we’ve been looking at issues in the wrong way. This is one of them. When Republican representatives, led by Paul Broun (Never-Heard-of-Him from Georgia), demanded that President Barack Obama be denied an invitation to make a State of the Union address next month, it was viewed by many as a petulant reaction to the president’s sweeping immigration executive order. That’s probably because it was.
Broun also was derided as just another conservative who simply can’t get it into his head that Mr. Obama legitimately holds the office, never mind the fact that he’s twice been elected. Again, there’s a lot to be said for that criticism. The whole birther stupidity is just more evidence that for whatever reason (well, we know one of the reasons ... racism), those on the far right refuse to believe that this guy is somehow the nation’s leader. Some of his fellow hard-liners also are suggesting that funds be cut off for Air Force One, because to them, he obviously doesn’t deserve the trappings of the office.
That’s how most of us have framed this latest flare-up, but maybe there’s a better way to look at it. Perhaps Congressman What’s-His-Name is doing us all, and that would certainly include the chief executive, a favor.
I mean, how totally awkward it is when POTUS schleps to Capitol Hill and stands in front of a bunch of raucous national leaders who noisily pretend they’re the slightest bit interested in the merits of what’s in the address. The only thing less sincere is the commentary from the various reporters covering the event as we pretend that it means anything whatsoever, which it rarely does. Believe me, after years of doing my breathless live shots before and after, I know about hyping State of the Union as the biggest thing since sliced bread; it’s not. The president knows it, the dignitaries in the audience know it (is “dignitary” the right word, since it suggests dignity?), and obviously the American people know it. What other explanation could there be for so many gravitating to one of the networks showing something else, like an infomercial for blenders or the latest action-packed documentary chronicling paint drying or grass growing. Anything but watching an hour in prime time of that circus in Washington.


Continue reading "NO STATE OF THE UNION" »

December 11, 2014

BODY CAMERAS FOR ALL


CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, DEC. 5, 2014
BODY CAMERAS FOR ALL
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
We may as well go all the way. I’ll let you ponder that double-entendre for just a moment before explaining that this is about body cameras, not whatever it was you were thinking about. Specifically, I’m referring to the one really big idea that came out of that White House meeting over widespread routine law-enforcement mistreatment of minorities in this country and, in a larger sense, about frequent police excess in general, where cops operate as if their authority overrides our basic rights.
President Barack Obama wants to ratchet up their accountability and document any bullying conduct by financing the purchase of a body cam for each and every officer of the law. Obviously the intention is a good one, but there are some reservations. Largely they center around civil liberties and concerns about further invasions of privacy and misuse of the video record.
Let's face it, that battle is over. We are pretty much always under surveillance. Besides, the hard-charging cop is probably going to turn off the camera when he or she doesn’t want to be taped in much the same way some police officers will cover up their badges and ID bars. So here’s a better idea:
Let’s make body cameras available for all of us -- perhaps make them mandatory, at least when we leave the house. Yes, it will mean that our entire lives can be monitored, but they already are. So why not have our own individual video record of our interactions with the world?
That way, in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown’s death could have been recorded, meaning we wouldn’t have to take Officer Darren Wilson’s word for how the tragedy occurred, even if he wasn’t doing all that he could to document his behavior. We already know that he wasn’t carrying his Taser, which might have been an alternative but nonlethal way to protect himself, because he said it was just too gosh darned uncomfortable to schlep around.

Continue reading "BODY CAMERAS FOR ALL" »

December 10, 2014

MSNBC AND ME STARTING THE DAY OFF WRONG

Me at my usual MSNBC Thursday dawn spot at 5:15 Eastern. That even exceeds any of the CIA's torture.

December 8, 2014

THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 2, 2014
THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Remember the Occupy movement, with all the encampments across the nation, populated by citizens taking on the 1 percent? At best, we have a vague recollection of them and their noble cause, which was to shame the country into doing something about the toxic inequality of our wealth. We took notice for a while, then lost interest as the media switched to others stories du jour. It wasn’t long before the authorities were able to sweep away their protest with nary a squeak in return from any of us, while also brushing off any hope for reform.
Let’s set aside for a moment the argument over whether the violence in and around Ferguson, Missouri, and disruptions around the country have any justification. Another question is, Will they accomplish anything or will the questions about police brutality -- particularly toward minorities -- be shoved out of the public’s consciousness by the next Malaysian Airlines, single-minded, simple-minded coverage.
The shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white cop, Darren Wilson, who admits he suffers no pangs of conscience, and the subsequent grand jury absurdity, which resulted in no indictment, has forced us to focus once again in this country on trigger-happy cops and anger from people of color about prejudiced mistreatment by the authorities.
As always, the victims of the destruction in and around Ferguson are largely innocent bystanders, struggling small-business people who have seen their lifetime work and dreams literally go up in flames. But in a larger sense, our society is victimized. The justified disgust at the thuggish destruction and dangerous behavior of a few troublemakers obscures the equally justified outrage at a law-enforcement system that is turning us into a heavily armored police state. Instead of “serve and protect,” for too many out-of-control officers, the watchwords are “intimidate and suppress.”
We can’t go on like this, not if we want to maintain a system that relies on the consent of the governed. If too many citizens conclude that they are being mistreated, they will withdraw their consent. We all have a stake in preventing that from happening. But even with the violence, the obvious needs for reform probably won’t be addressed. Soon Ferguson and the larger problem it represents will fade from memory, leaving just more residue of the distrust that defines our lives these days.


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December 4, 2014

ALL SIDES HATE THE MEDIA

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. 28, 2014
ALL SIDES HATE THE MEDIA
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Everyone is a media critic. President Barack Obama, unsuccessfully pleading for a peaceful reaction to the grand jury exoneration of policeman Darren Wilson, made it a point to show his scorn by describing the coverage of the “negative reaction” on the ground as exploitive “good TV.” Meanwhile, in his news conference, prosecutor Bob McCulloch couldn’t resist taking a shot at the “24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something -- for anything -- to talk about.”
I’ll tell you what, Mr. President and Mr. Prosecutor: You do your job, and we’ll do ours, which is to cover the debate over how well you are doing it, as well as the kind of violent damage we see in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s presented by journalists on the ground, in the face of danger, some of which has come at the hands of bullying cops. Granted, there are some hot dogs among them, but most are responsible and gutsy.
Of course, those of us who try to be serious about journalism must get used to, if not embrace, the reality that if we do our job properly, most people won’t like us. Many times, they hate the idea that we’re interested in what they’re doing, because it means that they’re doing something very wrong.
Ferguson is certainly a case in point. The protests and violence that erupted after the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white cop is clearly big news. Obviously, the explosive reaction to the grand jury’s nonindictment of Wilson also is huge.
Even so, many of those who call the area home deeply resent all the reporters, videographers and photographers, to say nothing of big satellite trucks, that have descended like a bunch of “vultures,” a term commonly heard from the locals. The president and prosecutor are merely channeling Americans who believe that those covering the story are irresponsibly promoting trouble with their very presence.


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December 3, 2014

COLD DARKNESS ON MSNBC

Forget the Tea Party, it's my usual Thursday dawn Me Party on MSNBC. 5:15-ish Eastern.

December 1, 2014

SQUAWKING AND TALKING

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. 21, 2014
SQUAWKING AND TALKING
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Barack Obama, with his immigration executive order, has taken off the gloves and, in effect, raised that time-honored gesture of defiance to Republican “members of Congress who question my authority,” they are angrily throwing down their own gauntlets, basically saying that he and (to quote John Boehner) his “lawless” presidency are toast, with no chance they’ll deal with him.
Don’t you believe it. Obviously the uproar is in high volume, and the neck twaddle is flapping in outrage. We certainly can expect the GOP House and Senate to do their very best to make Pennsylvania Avenue a war zone between the White House and Capitol Hill. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to bargain at the same time. Even though immigration has now been slammed onto the table, the people on both sides have plenty of other cards in their hand. That’s the case even when it’s easy to believe that none of these guys is playing with a full deck.
Notwithstanding their shortcomings, our political leaders have lots of items they will negotiate. For instance, you might think that the Keystone pipeline is a pipe dream for the oil industry and other investors who want to take the petroleum glop they’ve pulled out of the tar sands in Canada and transport it to ships waiting in the Gulf of Mexico, or worse, from the environmentalist perspective, that this is a dirty, crude way to extract dirty crude and a danger if there’s a massive spill.
Or you might be surprised to know that Republicans and organized labor are united on this one, arguing that it’s a jobs-producer that helps advance the goal of energy independence. Whatever, ultimately, POTUS, through the State Department, must approve the massive project, particularly now that the Senate wasn’t able to pass legislation that would have forced him to, short of a veto.

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November 27, 2014

THE NO THANKSGIVING

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. 25, 2014
THE NO THANKSGIVING
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
As even-handed as I try to be, it is time to be fair and balanced about Thanksgiving, meaning we should give equal time to the unthankful side, with the traditional discussion of my pet peeves. This is not a comprehensive list, because I have so many pet peeves you could fill up a peeve petting zoo with them.
For starters, there’s that annoying presidential turkey pardon. Each year, since the Bush I administration, POTUS holds a White House ceremony to spare a couple of the birds, so they end up in some nearby park instead of on a platter, unlike the millions of others that are engorged each year.
Perhaps it’s to store energy for Black Friday. Put that on my hit list. Why do people voluntarily risk their lives in dangerous, stampeding crowds to holiday shop on that one day, when most of the bargains are overhyped at best. Speaking of which, note that I used the word “holiday.” That’s an intentional effort to rile up those who get obnoxious when someone decides to be sensitive to others’ beliefs or nonbeliefs by not specifying Christmas during the Yuletide season. That doesn’t mean, as some of them rage, that there is any “War on Christmas.” To be honest, I believe what they’re doing when they raise a ruckus is conducting a war on religious freedom.
Did you notice my phrase “To be honest”? That’s another one: As if I’m going to let you know I’m lying. It’s just one of those expressions that are completely empty or transparently insincere.


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November 26, 2014

MSNBC GOBBLING IN THE DARK

It may be Thanksgiving but that doesn't mean you can't join me on MSNBC for my usual Thursday pre-dawn rant at 5:15 Eastern. Discover new meaning for the term "Turkey Day"

November 24, 2014

THE COMPROMISE SUBTERFUGE

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. 18, 2014
THE COMPROMISE SUBTERFUGE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s Republicans may control Congress now, but it’s an open question as to whether McConnell and Boehner control their own party caucuses. That’s an important consideration, because as they try to work out their deals with the White House, at some point they’ll have to convince President Barack Obama and the Democrats that they can deliver enough of their members. They can negotiate whatever compromises they want, but if their people revolt because they didn’t get enough and reject the bargains, then they’re just wasting time even trying.
There are all sorts of indications that they will not be able to guarantee the votes needed after the give-and-take is done. You have Ted Cruz in the Senate as well as his disciples in the House saying upfront that they’re not bending, and when it comes to giving up some of what they demand, they’re not interested.
Meanwhile, for the Democrats, Barack Obama is at the tag end of his presidency and suddenly has decided on a “No more Mr. Nice Guy” approach. Even after his party got “shellacked” in the midterms, he’s taking it to the Republicans like he never has before. And they’re foaming at the mouth. The leaked plans to take executive action that would, among other things, stop the deportation of millions of people in this country illegally is causing their heads to explode.
McConnell and Boehner are spending all their energy to prevent their troops from doing something precipitous and stupid. There is a lot of noise from their people that they should retaliate by forcing a government shutdown, or something equally confrontational. Of course, they’d be playing right into the Democrats’ hands, at least the ones who are thinking ahead to 2016’s race to elect the next POTUS, but principle is principle, and they’re not about to let some lame duck quack the whip.


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November 20, 2014

HUMANS ON THE COMET

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. 14, 2014
HUMANS ON THE COMET
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
How totally cool is it that human beings were able to land a probe on a comet? I refer, of course, to the European Space Agency managing to set its Rosetta craft’s lander down, wobbling on the icy surface of the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it zipped along on its infinite journey through the heavens.
The Rosetta has clocked about 4 billion miles since its launch 10 years back to gather data on comets. I suppose we can call it the Rosetta stone lander now that it’s studying as close as one can get -- on the ground. Not that it was easy, and the washing-machine-size craft didn’t exactly find the right spot on a very jagged two-and-a-half-mile surface. After all, we’re talking about a body zipping through the solar system at 44,000 miles per hour.
Besides, it’s a shame the lander didn’t have some passengers. There are any number of people we probably can agree would make us all better off were they to switch their address to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Certainly there are the politicians. Let’s not name names (mainly because there isn’t enough room), but we’d all benefit if we couldn’t really hear what they were saying. I remember that Newt Gingrich used to talk about lunar colonies. This could go him one better, although there is no reason we shouldn’t send him for a close-up look.
There are so many pundits, columnists, radio and TV hosts as well as other strident commentators who should be on the manifest because they are manifestly obnoxious, and yes, there are a few people who think I should be included, but I didn’t want to be selfish. There are space cadets who should go first.


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November 19, 2014

COLD DARK MSNBC

True, we've had early snow in many parts of the country, but at 5:15AM, Eastern, you can hear and see my usual Thursday very early snow job.

November 17, 2014

WHAT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS?

FROM KING FEATURES, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 11, 2014
WHAT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS?
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Will somebody please explain why a reporter is not allowed to impersonate an FBI agent, but it’s OK if an FBI agent impersonates a reporter? It’s obvious why no one should be allowed to dishonestly pass him- or herself off as a law-enforcement official, but it also should be apparent why any cop, federal or local, should not be pretending to be a newsperson. It undermines our credibility, and given the sloppy performance of too many in our business, we don’t have a lot of credibility to spare.
Let’s face it: Someone with sensitive material about our government or institutions is frequently scared to share that information with the police. Since our job is to monitor public officials -- and for that matter, corporations -- the public’s need to know is served only if those with vital material can trust that those they are sharing it with are not in cahoots with the bad guys.
It doesn’t seem to stop overzealous investigators from crossing that line. FBI Director James Comey just disclosed another case of such disdain when he admitted that an investigator in 2007 lied in saying he was working for The Associated Press while trying to build a case against a 15-year-old suspected of threatening to bomb his high school. The procedure even now would be, according to Comey, “lawful and in a rare case, appropriate.”
No, it wouldn’t be appropriate. First of all, there were so many other ways to appeal to the kid’s ego, which was the purpose of the deception. All it would take would be a little ingenuity. The FBI guy was lazy. In truth, though, his leadership doesn’t really like that someone is watching so closely. Authorities mostly consider the news media to be the nuisance media for getting in the way of their pursuits.
Another overzealous agent from the very same FBI accused Fox News reporter James Rosen (a friend of mine, by the way) of being a “co-conspirator,” which is to say a criminal, while tracking down leaks of classified information that formed the basis of a Rosen report. Only when it became public did Attorney General Eric Holder squash it.

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November 13, 2014

PRE POST OBAMA

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. 7, 2014
PRE POST OBAMA
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
The reporters at his news conference desperately tried to get President Barack Obama to come up with a one-word sound bite election analysis to match his “shellacking” description the last time he got, uh, shellacked, back in the 2010 midterms. But POTUS wasn’t playing. The best crumb he was willing to toss them was “The Republicans had a good night.” Then he promised that he and the GOP forces who control all of Capitol Hill would seek out compromises. Mitch McConnell had uttered the same platitudes a short time before.
Don’t hold your breath. The final quarter of the Obama presidency will involve the same go-nowhere warfare as the first three quarters. That’s because we instantly jump into the 2016 battle to see who replaces Barack Obama.
So much time, so many scenarios. For the Democrats:
Story line No. 1: Hillary runs.
Story line No. 2: Hillary doesn’t run. Chaos ensues.
Actually, if Hillary does announce that she will accept her party’s nomination, there will be quite a scramble to determine the No. 2 guy. I say “guy” because misogynists vote too, and there are a lot of them. She wouldn’t want to rub their noses in it with an all-female ticket. Pity.
Now on to the Republicans, where the free-for-all is already well under way. There are so many plausible story lines. To mention just a few:
Rand Paul is the nominee. After all, his Libertarian facade appeals to the younger voters who are turned off by government intrusion and by our institutions in general. His downside is that some of his views are pretty out there. Not as far as his father’s, mind you, but Rand is definitely a chip off the old Ron block.
Ted Cruz wins the cheap-shot battle against the other hard-right wingnuts and tries to turn the GOP presidential race into the new Crusade. The obvious advantage for him is that he appeals to his party’s religiously intolerant base. His obvious disadvantage is that he appeals to his party’s religiously intolerant base. That would scare the bejeezus out of anyone not hankering for a return to the Dark Ages.
Or, Republicans might go in the absolute opposite direction and choose the sensible candidate, say, Jeb Bush. The upside is obvious: Jeb is not a wack job. The downside is that he sure can be boring; another bummer is that we’d have a Bush-Clinton race. Been there, done that.

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November 12, 2014

MY MSNBC DARKNESS

Now that our politicians are pretending they'll cooperate, turn on my regular Thursday MSNBC appearance at the ungodly hour of 5:15 Am, Eastern, when I pretend I have something worthwhile to say.

November 10, 2014

ANOTHER WORD ABOUT BEN BRADLEE

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. 4, 2014
ANOTHER WORD ABOUT BEN BRADLEE
BY BOB FRANKEN
I’m about to be perhaps the one millionth news type to comment on the passing of Washington Post legend Ben Bradlee. I’ll be one of the few who acknowledges that I didn’t know him very well, our conversations limited to a few encounters in the same green room, where we never got much past platitudes. I am, however, in full agreement with those who lionize him in death as the personification of the highest ideals in journalism.
He was fanatical about building air-tight stories -- nothing less, based on facts, tediously accumulated by hard work with no shortcuts. We saw that in his most celebrated management of the Watergate scandal, but his high standards were largely responsible for the Post becoming one of the most shining examples of what the Founding Fathers envisioned in a free press.
I happened to work for another giant early in my career, another tough-guy manager from the Watergate era, Bill Small, first of CBS and then NBC, who epitomized and demanded strict adherence to making public the information needed so Americans could be well-informed. Each of them, and others, were willing to take on a Nixon administration that threatened serious economic consequences against their companies. Each had courageous corporate bosses who backed them, as long as the stories were impeccably fair and accurate ... playing no favorites.
There are a number of heavyweights still left, and the Post is still an awesome newspaper, one of many scattered across the country where aggressive reporters are inspired by today’s superiors to pursue the truth. However, let’s be honest, it was not only Ben Bradlee who passed on. All that he represents is a dying breed. The media field today is covered with what we can politely call “fertilizer.”


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November 6, 2014

BLOWHARDS, BULLIES AND EBOLA

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. 31, 2014
BLOWHARDS, BULLIES AND EBOLA
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
By now, this is hardly profound, but let’s state it anyway: The Ebola disease has exposed pervasive sickness in our society as well, certainly in our political system. On the latter point, some of our confused leaders have pandered to panic, in many cases making decisions that show more regard for the polls than common sense. We have hasty calls to block all travelers from West Africa, coming largely from right-wing hard-liners looking for any way to embarrass President Barack Obama -- who, in his maddeningly deliberate way, was correctly deciding that such a sledgehammer move would shatter all chances of confronting what could only be described as an epidemic of hysteria in the U.S.
When finally the proposed travel ban was discredited as the demagoguery it is, we witnessed a new cheap stunt from a couple of our governors: New York’s Democrat Andy Cuomo and his Republican neighbor from New Jersey, Chris Christie. At least we had a teeny bit of bipartisanship. Looking as stern as they could, they jointly decreed that medical workers arriving in their states’ international airports from the African hot zone would immediately be taken into quarantine.
It was a pleasure to watch how quickly bullies wilt when someone stands up to them. In this case, it was nurse Kaci Hickox, returning from a heroic stint treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, who landed and was accosted by authorities who handled her in that inimitable New Jersey charming way, brusquely placing her into an unheated isolation tent.


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November 5, 2014

MSNBC THE MORNINGS AFTER

Whatever will be talk about on MSNBC, during my regular Thursday 5:15 AM Eastern rant? The election will be passe, sooooo day-before-yesterday.

November 3, 2014

NOT ENOUGH OF THE DOGS' LIFE

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. 28, 2014
NOT ENOUGH OF THE DOGS’ LIFE
BY BOB FRANKEN
This is going to be one of those “Tell us how you REALLY feel, Bob” moments: In my opinion, far too many of those who live with me in Washington are jerks -- duplicitous, self-important jerks. This does not include everybody; far from it. But the town is crawling with viciously ambitious sycophantic young people cozying up to the more-established officeholders, lobbyists, consultants and, yes, us media types, who hold on to their lives of unprincipled entitlement. Frankly, I think their pervasiveness has a lot to do with the disintegration of politics and government because they control the agenda.
Do I feel better for getting that off my chest? You bet I do. But here’s something I find never-endingly fascinating: Any number of these people I deal with regularly and know that they fit right into this category, when I’ve encountered them in a dog park, these very same card-carrying cretins are magically civilized, cordial, considerate, even relaxed. Obviously, their pups transform them. It’s amazing. Although come to think of it, for a dog lover like me, it’s not amazing at all.


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October 30, 2014

OCTOBER SURPRISE REVISITED

ET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
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

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. 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?

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. 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?

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. 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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


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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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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

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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

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

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