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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 17, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
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.
The animals were treated so cruelly that the condemnation over them finally did in Ringling Bros. Another highlights the Trump show. It's a Russian bear that appears to be friendly but is instead setting a trap. When Ringmaster Trump has been lulled into oblivious total complacency, the bear, Vladimir Bruin, suddenly will replace his jovial act with brutish aggressiveness. If Trump isn’t careful, he and all of us will be badly mauled. This may be a huge bear, but he’s sneaky.
Under the Big Top, aka the U.S. Capitol, Ringmaster Trump is counting on the members of Congress to do whatever he commands. The problem is that these animals aren’t all that well-trained and have their own ideas about how the circus should be run.
He has an even bigger problem with press-corps members who are screeching at the way he’s trying to cage them. Frankly, it worked during his campaign; he effectively incapacitated the news organizations and individual reporters who didn’t follow his script. If necessary, he’d toss the disobedient ones out of the cage. He and his henchmen are making it as clear as can be that either the press does what he orders when he cracks the whip, or he’ll toss out the individuals who get too rowdy -- or even move the entire group away from the White House.
There are some who argue that journalists need to stand on their hind legs and get more unruly -- that we need to stop acting like trained animals and resume our roaming wherever our stories takes us, whether Trump likes it or not. While he has a variety of ways to intimidate the beasts of the media, we should take this opportunity to return to the tradition that justifies our existence: We are here as an institution to let the American public know about the activities of our leaders, particularly the outlandish ones.
Few are promising to be more bizarre than Ringmaster Donald Trump. He comes in with heavy baggage attached to his multibillion-dollar personal fortune. Few have expressed such contempt for the traditions that have defined the government they are about to lead. Many of those traditions are, as Trump contends, outdated or outright corrupt. But many of them are there for good reason and should be preserved. The difficult part about running this circus is figuring out which is which.
Yes, the circus tent is coming down. It had become a relic, which is what our country might become with Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again.” Particularly if he relies on slapstick comedy.
© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.