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, APRIL 17, 2018 MISSIONS ONGOING --- “Um ... I would have recommended ending this tweet with not ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. MISSIONS ONGOING
  2. RYAN ESCAPES
  3. PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS
  4. THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY
  5. THE "IS" DILEMMA
  6. More Recent Articles

MISSIONS ONGOING

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, APRIL 17, 2018

MISSIONS ONGOING
---
“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.

 

One could have predicted that the Cohen raids would ignite a chief executive hissy fit. And one certainly would be correct. His Twitter tantrum included calling them an “attack on our country.” “Attorney-client privilege is dead,” he added. Again, if Trump was more into complexities, he might at least pretend to understand that attorney-client privilege is not absolute. Furthermore, the feds, in particular, jump through hoops anytime they conduct a raid against a lawyer. Their warrants require probable cause approval by a federal magistrate who must be convinced that an intrusive raid was necessary, as opposed to a simple subpoena, where records and documents could be destroyed before they are surrendered. That is just for starters.
It also has to get an official go-ahead from Justice Department higher-ups, in this case, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein, as we all know, is on the Donald Trump Snit List right now. He’s the one who oversees the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. In fact, it was a Mueller referral that resulted in the Cohen raids. Rosenstein and Mueller are considered to be in constant danger of being fired by Trump, who seems to be mainly constrained by warnings that doing so would jeopardize his very presidency. Of course, the ongoing Mueller investigation itself is relentless, causing serious grief to Donald Trump and nowhere near becoming a “mission accomplished.”

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

    

RYAN ESCAPES

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, APRIL 13, 2018

RYAN ESCAPES
---
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.

Now that Donald Trump has taken over, Ryan’s survival skills dictate that he embrace the president at the same time he keeps him at arm’s length. That’s exhausting, and increasingly difficult, particularly since Trump has this tendency to go kablooey as the walls close in. Look at his classy Twitter reaction to Jim Comey, by Trump’s description an “untruthful slimeball.” As I said, classy. And the walls are closing in. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is grinding on, and POTUS is in a tizzy. He’s lashing out, and who knows what he’ll do as the pressure builds. Washington is definitely not the place to be for someone who wants to position himself as a leader of the “I told you so” gang after the kablooey really hits the fan. Ryan’s hometown is about as not Washington as any place can be to escape the splatter.
There is a group of Republicans who are jockeying to be the head of that pack. John Kasich, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Bob Corker and now Paul Ryan are just some of those who want to claim the mantle of the non-Trump. Of course, they’ll all have to compete with Vice President Mike Pence, who will have to do a turnaround, from Donald Trump sycophant to critic. But he’s an opportunist, as is Ryan, who ran for vice president with Mitt Romney.
Besides, in Speaker Ryan’s case, he certainly has calculated that the time soon will come to get out from under the ruin that faces congressional Republicans while the getting’s good. It’s no fun being a minority leader, and it’s looking like the GOP might just lose control of the House. Forty-plus Republican members are exiting stage right, or being forced out because of scandals.
If the Democrats avoid the tendency to squander their own momentum and actually assume the majority, Donald Trump’s presidency might well be toast, particularly if Mueller lowers the boom or Trump lowers it on himself.
Meanwhile, back under the Capitol Hill big top, the circus will become a political freakshow as those Paul Ryan left behind try not to look like clowns as they maneuver to replace him. The difficulty is to break out the long knives while not appearing to be a crude back-stabber. But now Paul Ryan can be above all that.
If you don’t think all of this has occurred to Ryan, I have some dairy land in Wisconsin I can sell you. Soon, he will be back in Janesville with the family. He insists that he won’t run for office again. Don’t bet on it.

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

    

PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS

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, APRIL 10, 2018

PHANTOM STORMS-REAL STORMS
---
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.

A big part of the problem is our attention span. We in media dread being stale. We incessantly need fresh controversies to plunder. We already have one available to us this very week, and it’s our next someone: Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook creator who has seen his brainchild grow into an all-powerful international force with a world of inherent flaws, will be forced to face a thrashing at the hands of the Congress -- festering with politicians who are desperately eager to come up with the winning sound bite. Given how Zuckerberg is perceived as someone who is just past puberty, without the gravitas to handle social complexity, look for him to be the House and Senate canines’ fire hydrant. It’ll last two days, during which time journalists will have time for little else. Unless some other traumatic development wrenches the spotlight away from Zuckerberg, that would thrill him to no end.
For now, his comeuppance is over the precious right to privacy, which we’ve all lost. Mark Zuckerberg and others of his ilk may be geniuses in concocting something gigantic, but they’re not all that smart when it comes to understanding or even caring about the dangerous implications of their many-tentacled monsters. In Zuckerberg’s case, at least we’ll be focused on issues that matter.
Pruitt’s pettiness and Stormy’s titillations are merely distractions from the many decisions that threaten our prosperity (what’s left of it) and even our safety. Trump’s petulant trade moves are threatening to pull the floor out of the economy. While the administration and the Chinese engage in a huge game of tariff chicken, the stock market has taken a nosedive.
Meanwhile, this president does everything he can to antagonize anyone he can. His scorn knows no bounds. His nastiness is splattering over all those in this hemisphere, while it also easily spans the oceans to undermine relations in Europe and Asia. Closer to home -- much closer to home, as in the White House -- he goes out of his way to diminish once-proud aides who made the error in judgment of joining him in running the country. Chief of staff John Kelly, who was brought in to establish order in the chaos, is now caught up himself in the snide tide of Trump’s sewage. It’s considered just a matter of time before Gen. Kelly decides that enough is enough.
Of course, there are some menaces to Trump that will not evaporate such as Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which overlapped at the start of the week, with the raid on the offices of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's personal attorney. the President called the Cohen raid "an attack on our country". That really means he's very scared, perhaps realizing he faces many serious threats. Even Stormy Daniels may be a one night stand that lasts a very long time.

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

    

THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY

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, APRIL 6, 2018

THE UNWILLING EXIT STRATEGY
---
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.


In fact, Pruitt is quickly becoming legendary, even by Washington’s dreary standards. His insistence on spending $40,000-plus of taxpayer money to construct a soundproof telephone room at his agency for his use was just one embarrassment. Until the drumbeat of criticism got too loud, he insisted on flying first class. EPA policy requires economy seating, with permission granted for an upgrade in exceptional circumstances. The “exceptional circumstance” his PR people finally settled on was that security concerns dictated he fly first class; he argued that being in the front of the plane would shield him from threatening passengers. Apparently, it’s a dangerous jungle in the back.
He’s now grudgingly seated in the fetal position with the scary riff-raff in the back, even though his people even explored renting a private jet to fly him around in style. That idea was hastily abandoned when word got out, in spite of his best efforts to stiff what he calls the “toxic” media. They ask too many impertinent questions.
He’s adopted a policy of avoiding any but the friendliest, churning out interviews with the likes of Fox News and the right-wing Washington Times. However, even the Fox interview was awkward, with correspondent Ed Henry asking tougher questions than he expected. He embarrassed himself, plain and simple. Looking bad on TV is the original sin in the Gospel According to Donald Trump.
So down at Casa Blanca, El Presidente is trying to determine whether all the bad publicity is enough to add Scott Pruitt to the list of those he must replace. On the one hand, Pruitt has been shamelessly effective at gutting environment-saving regulations at the EPA. That pleases Trump, who insists he has full confidence in Pruitt.
But is that the Don Trump Kiss of Death? The indicators are becoming familiar: The president and maybe chief of staff John Kelly assure the unfortunate one that they have his back. At the same time, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or another White House-designated knife-wielder makes it clear that they possibly mean that his back is there to stab. So here was Sanders, telling reporters “We’re reviewing the situation. When we have had a chance to have a deeper dive on it, we’ll let you know the outcomes of that.”
Scott Pruitt may be the next to take the dive ... with concrete. If he’s smart, even while he struggles to stay on, he’ll be making sure all those wealthy special interests are there when he leaves power, so he can cash in his chits.

© 2

    

THE "IS" DILEMMA

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, MARCH 30, 2018

THE "IS" DILEMMA
---
“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.

Various news media have repeatedly reported that President Trump’s lawyers have implied in numerous ways to those ensnared in special counsel Robert. Mueller’s Russia investigation that they might be pardoned by the president. The latest are the stories about Trump attorney John Dowd allegedly making such implied offers. Dowd has recently resigned. Whenever this comes up, another Trump lawyer, Ty Cobb, has the stock answer that he has “only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House.” That is simply another is-is response.
Here, however, the similarity ends. When Bill Clinton appeared before the grand jury, he was intellectually prepared.
Fast-forward two decades and the question is when, or whether, this president will be questioned under oath by Mueller and his team of legal sharpies. Donald Trump probably has never been described as “intellectually prepared.” By his own admission and the accounts of everyone who’s ever been around him, he’s a wing-it kinda guy. Whether it’s because he trusts his instincts or because he has an attention span measured in nanoseconds, this is not someone who has ever crammed for an exam. Instead he relies on bluster to see him through, playing fast and loose with the truth.
So, his legal team is very worried. Any interview worth its salt could be, would be, a “perjury trap.” Lawyers conducting depositions or the like are not nice people. They can be expected to try to trip up anyone. When it comes to language precision, Trump is a severe klutz. That happens also to describe his factual precision.
The prosecutors will be waiting to pounce on any semantic gamesmanship. Quite frankly, any verbal stunts that Trump pulls would be child’s play to them. All the tweets in the world haven’t inhibited the methodical Mueller investigation. And as it unfolds, it appears that the president has his own “is.” He clearly is in trouble.

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

    

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