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TABLE GAMES

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2019

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


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The Democrats, who speak a completely different language from Trump, nevertheless throw around the "option" platitude every chance they get.
Now that President Trump is raising his own gesture to Congress and the Constitution, and ignoring all House Democrat subpoenas and demands for administration figures to show up for questioning, those in the Democratic leadership are sputtering, particularly when they discern that there is really very little they can do.
They can hold their adversaries in Contempt of Congress. Obviously the Trumpsters do hold Congress in contempt, but what are the consequences for the charge? Not much. So what do the Democrats mumble when they realize that? You guessed it: More options piled on that table.
In any case, where is this table? Is it sagging or near collapse from all the options it carries? Does an option even weigh anything? Maybe not. In Venezuela, the ultimate U.S. threat would be a military invasion by American armed forces. Wouldn't that be a mess?
Here in the United States, where chaos seems to be the law of the land, the most fierce arrow in the Democrats' quiver would be impeachment. But leadership is quivering too much to fire that one. And for good reason. It would probably circle back and hit them right in the heart, possibly dooming their chances for political success in 2020. And isn't 2020 what this is really all about?
House Dems are even gasping and grasping at straws over William Barr and his defiance on behalf of Donald Trump. They are particularly incensed over Barr's defense of Trump, distorting the outcome of the Mueller investigation. Although, as attorney general, Barr is supposed to have the American people as one big client, he has apparently decided his main responsibility is to his Don.
Maybe his understanding of the job is that he's merely there to fill the gap left by Michael Cohen, who served so many years as Trump's so-called fixer, his legal gofer. Cohen is now serving time. He has just started his prison term for lying to Congress, among other charges.
Barr has been accused of the same thing, but that hasn't stuck. Yet. So far, he's been successful in helping his client run out the clock as the Democrats desperately look for a strategy. Will they decide to go the impeachment route or seek court action? What about Venezuela? What can be done short of all-out war? You guessed it: "All options are on the table."

(c) 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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