FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 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. ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. OF SLEAZE AND GIFTS
  2. OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN
  3. A MANAFORT CAVE?
  4. THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK
  5. OF STORMS AND MORONS
  6. More Recent Articles

OF SLEAZE AND GIFTS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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.

 

Alas, it is not to be. Hannity has toughened his tone with Moore, as has every other Republican outside Alabama, who just wish he would go away. Not only that, but he made nice about Keurig, saying that his viewers shouldn’t smash their coffee makers. Now Keurig also has wimped out, saying in effect that its announcement that it pulling its spots was hasty and didn’t follow protocol.
So now what do I do? (Yes, I work in in TV; it’s always about me.) Moore is hanging tough. He accuses The Washington Post, along with all the other scumbag media (pardon the redundancy) and the various establishments -- liberal, GOP, all of them -- of spreading lies about him. Other women have emerged to tell their own stories of their encounters with a handsy Roy Moore back then.
At this point, I need to mention that Sen. Al Franken has recently admitted to imposing himself on a female model, who is now a Los Angeles broadcaster, while they were on a 2006 USO tour. I need to mention it because we are related. Plus, it’s another example of totally smarmy behavior that Franken had no choice to admit to after a damning photo showed him joking about groping her while she was asleep. Of course, it was just a matter of time before President Trump reacted: In the case of Moore, Trump basically didn’t react, saying it was up to Alabama’s voters. Meanwhile, he ridiculed “Al Frankenstein.” That’s original.
That’s bad enough, but what’s worse, I’m still wondering what gifts to get.

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

    

OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

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.”

“T” also can stand for “transgender,” which also defined Virginia, where an openly transgender woman, Danica Roem, won a House of Delegates seat in the state legislature. And she beat a man who was a cultural Neanderthal. Robert Marshall had held the same office for 13 terms and proudly described himself as the state’s “chief homophobe.” Not only did Roem conquer that demagoguery, but she also had to overcome the stigma of being an ex-reporter. Will wonders never cease?
It certainly was a good night for the D’s, the Democrats, who have suffered a lack of good nights and days, particularly in the past year, when Hillary Clinton managed to make so many mistakes that she and they forfeited the presidency to a racist, moronic narcissist. Since then, their debacle has been the source of incessant analysis and recrimination. We still have official investigations underway to determine how much the Russian government had to do with all that -- remember that the “T” in “trouble” rhymes with the “P” in “Putin.” It also stands alone with the heap of trouble Donald Trump would be in if it was proven that he was aware of any collusion with Moscow. That would feed his adversaries’ fondest hope, which would be a shot at impeachment. For now, they’ll have to settle for the traction they got get from the widespread disgust at the nonstop slapstick pratfalls by those who now control the federal government.
It will be interesting to see if the Democrats manage to fritter away their momentum, which is their normal practice, or if they will bury all their squabbles with a coherent message to wipe out the GOPs, who are clearly in Trouble. We’ll find out in a year of political song and dance, which is largely dissonant. Instead of the “76 Trombones” tune in “The Music Man,” we can title this one “76 Buffoons.” Actually, way more than 76.

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

    

A MANAFORT CAVE?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 231
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 31, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

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.


As big a deal as the charges are and as serious as the allegations they face are, Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos are not just ham sandwiches but potatoes, relatively small potatoes. Mueller must ultimately determine whether to charge Donald Trump. So he’ll be putting the squeeze on those lower in this food chain to see whether any of the three will spill their guts about higher-ups -- that is to say, provide information about collusion that could bring down the president. Lapsing into another cliché, these are just the first shoes to fall.
As for the really big shoe, he’s doing what he always does when he’s agitated: He turns to Twitter. Pointing out that these indictments weren’t about collusion, he cleverly tweeted, “NO COLLUSION.” That was after he pecked: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”
First of all, Hillary Clinton is off the point. As Trump reminds us every chance he gets, he beat her. He’s the president; she’s not. Her misdeeds, if any, would not result in her impeachment. But that’s getting way ahead of what has happened so far. Even if Mueller ultimately charges Trump with any crimes, as president of the United States, Donald Trump first would have to be removed from office before facing legal consequences. That could be iffy even in extreme circumstances given how the Republicans in Congress are so terrified of his, uh, ham-handed politics.

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

    

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 24, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK
---
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.

I, too, am from Arkansas, so I know from Southern speak. I can say “y’all” with the best of them and put on a drawl whenever it suits my purposes. There are a lot of these banalities. One of my favorites is, “Why bless your heart.” What that really means is, “What you just said is truly stupid.” Reporters had asked if former Marine Gen. Kelly could face them again and explain the obvious discrepancies in his takedown of the congresswoman, and this is Sanders’ exchange with a persistent CBS correspondent Chip Reid (full disclosure: Chip and I are longtime friends):
“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said. “I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general --”
Reid interrupting: “That would be great if he would come out here and do it.”
Sanders finishing her sentence: “-- that’s inappropriate.”
Why bless your heart, Sarah. It’s not inappropriate at all. Members of the media are not supposed to salute smartly when a general speaks. We need to ask them the same impertinent questions we ask all our leaders. How else are we going to gather the “fake news” your boss is always talking about. Why bless your heart, Donald, by the way.
The fact is, members of the White House press acted beyond appropriately when Kelly was defending his boss’s call, even to the point of accepting his limitation that questions come only from those who knew a Gold Star parent. That was in deference to the fact that Kelly is one; he lost a son, who was killed in Afghanistan combat seven years ago.
But now it was time for him to explain or defend his charges about Rep. Wilson, which apparently included false information. Did he get what the military calls “faulty intelligence”? It would seem he’d be anxious to maintain his reputation as a straight shooter and as a man who has spent his life defending American values, including the open government one, which is enforced mainly by skeptical journalism.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the president don’t share that reputation. Returning to her “all hat and no cattle” description, it’s fair to say that her reporter briefings are not meant to enlighten, that they are usually a way of spreading a load of male cattle excrement.

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

    

OF STORMS AND MORONS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
OF STORMS AND MORONS
---
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.

He’s also sticking it to all the late-night-show hosts, comedians who consider the Trump presidency the gift that keeps on giving. “Late Night host(s) are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ & repetitive material, always anti-Trump!” he tweeted. “Should we get Equal Time?”
Absolutely, he should get equal time on the late-night shows, on all of them. What fun that would be, particularly if any of the hosts was willing to thoroughly question him and endure all the death threats and hateful spittle that certainly would follow. That truly would be a “storm.” A spittle storm.
In the meantime, we will just simply have to wonder what POTUS was talking about when he declared that it was the “calm before the storm.” It already has set off a bombast of speculation on cable news, as every pundit imaginable (who also consider this president a tremendous gift) is slithering on set to pretend to have some special knowledge. Is he talking about some significant development concerning North Korea or Iran, or maybe he was talking about Nate, the latest hurricane to wreak havoc? Who knows? Among those who might not even know is Donald Trump himself. I understand that this might seem to be astonishing, but sometimes he shoots off his mouth because he just wants attention. Apparently, the band playing “Hail to the Chief” when he enters the room isn’t enough.
Perhaps he really does have some specific turbulence in mind. To a great extent, he does control the climate. Maybe, just maybe, he’s aware that it would create quite a storm in Washington if he fired Rex Tillerson. Then again, he’s moved on from Tillerson. His newest Twitter trash-talk target is Sen. Bob Corker, who has responded in unkind by calling the White House “an adult day care center.” Adult?

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

    

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