FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236 FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017 BY BOB FRANKEN A HELPING HAND --- Melania and Donald Trump have a problem, and obviously the ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. A HELPING HAND
  2. POTUS AND HIS PEEPS
  3. THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM
  4. AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS
  5. AMERICA'S PASTIMES
  6. More Recent Articles

A HELPING HAND

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

A HELPING HAND
---
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.


These days, he mainly uses his fingers for tweeting, although in his overseas trip, his staff was able to prevent most of his usual Twitter damage. Perhaps they tied his arms by his side, releasing them only when he was walking hand in clenched hand with Melania. In any case, his travels produced only a series of minor boo-boos, particularly the European part of it. But there were no huge gaffes, nothing visibly mortifying. That was enough for him to describe his foreign venture as a “home run.” But now that he’s run back home, he’s discovering the messes he left behind. And he’s also rediscovered his little Twitter finger, firing off the usual cyberhate. In between his tweetrums, he faces struggles with health care, tax reform and the debt ceiling, to say nothing of the crushing “Russia thing” that is his biggest distraction. Characteristically, he’s blaming his subordinates, so he’s started a gutting of his White House staff.
His most gut-wrenching problem is the staff member named Jared Kushner. Jared is sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of Russia collusion investigations. Given how Kushner is POTUS’ son in law (SILOTUS?) it’s not likely President Trump will get rid of Jared. If he’s smart though (which millions seriously doubt), he will recruit some people with Washington experience. In addition to Melania, he desperately needs some others to give him a hand.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

POTUS AND HIS PEEPS

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, MAY 2, 2017

POTUS AND HIS PEEPS
---
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.

It makes me proud to be one of those scumbags, but what’s interesting is how seriously so many of my fellow lowlifes take these attacks. It’s just part of the Donald Trump comedy routine that has served him so well over the decades. But like him, they are hypersensitive to criticism. Time and time again, they described the dinner as a celebration of journalism and a free press and all that jazz. What it was instead was a celebration of themselves and their thin skins.
“We are not ‘fake news,’” Jeff Mason, the association’s leader, declared as the audience roared approval. “We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.” Take that, POTUS!
Of course, they had to share the TV screen with a president who was out celebrating his 100-day milestone with the folks who had been with him from day one. The self-serving coverage of the dinner had to share an audience with the self-serving speech of the president. And on a Saturday night, the television audience probably numbered in the dozens.
Can you imagine what it will be like if President Trump actually attends the dinner next year? He says he’s considering it. But then, he’s considered many issues during his first days, but doesn’t have much to show for it. The job, he explains, is harder than he thought it would be.
Assuming he doesn’t get tired of the drudgery, and assuming he hasn’t created some international emergency, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he actually did show up at the reporter shindig, mingling with his enablers. Without them, he’d be just another bankrupt contractor. With them, while pretending he’s against them, he’s all for them. These fakers, after all, made him president, the guest of honor.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017
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.

The other problem with running against President Trump and his embarrassments is that they might be worse than embarrassments. Six hundred and 50-plus days is more than enough time to blunder this country into some huge disaster -- or disasters -- leaving behind little but a nation’s debris. His domestic policies are disgraceful. His approach to immigration could be called borderline bigotry if it weren’t for it being full-fledged bigotry. His approaches to such matters as health care, taxes and trade, along with other economic and environmental policies, are designed to make the rich richer. Period. The nation can’t be a world power much longer with such a divide between the wealthy and everyone else.
That’s even more the case when it comes to Trump’s geopolitics. By treating various crises like he’s negotiating for a casino property, he’s gambling with the planet. Just one miscalculation, just one enemy who doesn’t back down in the face of his amateurish bluster, and he’ll either fold or cause a deadly disaster. Either one will bring the United States serious harm.
Even Kim Jong Un, the pipsqueak, murderous North Korean dictator, might defy Trump’s blunt threats by going over the brink. Thousands upon thousands of Koreans and Americans would die before he was overrun.
Less than a hundred days in, we are moving precariously close to such a scenario. So the Democrats can’t wish too hard for a downtrodden President Trump, because he may take his country down too. Actually, short of impeachment, the next chance to replace him is more than 1,300 days away, Nov. 3, 2020. As the song goes, it's only just begun.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS

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 11, 2017

AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS
---
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.

It didn’t take long, though, for the ones who hadn’t been totally caught up in the personalities of this administration, or the lack thereof, to start raising substantial questions about the long-term effects this jolt of decisiveness would have. Would it hasten the tattering of U.S.-Russian relations, even as charges continued to swirl about The Donald and The Vladimir colluding to push the election Trump’s way? Was the withering Russian response in the face of American chest-beating just rhetoric, or did it escalate the chance of a physical collision between the superpowers’ forces on the ground in Syria? Would the cruise-missile attack cause Assad to think he had to prove his manhood with another attack, either on U.S. forces or with some other horrific provocation. As a defiant gesture, he quickly launched another bombing attack from the same airfield, which was no big deal, but could all this escalate out of control?
As it stands now, the vengeance for the war crime and the grotesque deaths it caused has amounted to a few blown-up Syrian jets. Some optimists contend that it could even become a basis for some diplomatic negotiation that ultimately could hasten an end to a bloody war that has claimed a half-million lives, to say nothing of creating a flood of refugees. How can we forget that the President Trump who was so moved by the Syrian victims of nerve gas is the same President Trump who tries to block any of them from entering this country after fleeing their deadly homeland?
Some of these questions will be answered only in the days and months ahead. The ones about motivation, as we learned with Bill Clinton, will probably never be answered to the satisfaction of everyone. The fact that they are asked at all speaks volumes about our politics.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

AMERICA'S PASTIMES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017
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.

Come to think of it, there are those who believe that it’s Vladimir Putin who is running the country -- or, actually countries, the USA and USSR he’d like to restore. But no one wanted to ask him to throw out the first pitch because of the risk he’d be offended and murder the one whoever suggested the idea. Besides, now that he got Trump elected, the U.S. is playing ball with him just fine, thank you. To be fair, Putin denies that his government had any role in the U.S. election. Most recently he was asked by a CNBC correspondent whether Russia meddled in the campaign and he responded, “Read my lips. No.” Actually, what he said was, “Chitay po gubam. Nete.” But let’s not quibble. In any language, we wouldn’t expect him to say anything else, would we?
And let’s not forget someone else who demanded we read his lips: President George Bush the first pledged “no new taxes.” Subsequently, he raised taxes. Maybe “Read my lips” means “I’m lying” in Russian as well as English.
So many similarities: In baseball, the players aren’t always successful in avoiding collision, charging into each other; in the game of politics, Donald Trump is desperately trying to avoid charges of collusion. In baseball, the player often strikes out; in politics these days, President Trump often lashes out. In baseball, the player’s out. Trump’s not out. Yet.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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