FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN THE LOW BARR President Donald Trump is right that he does “have, as president, the legal right” to meddle in Department of Justice decisions. However, when he makes public comments, or when it can be shown ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. THE LOW BARR
  2. THE STACKED DECK
  3. BREAKING NEWS
  4. IOWA EYESORE
  5. STATE OF THE UNION-MUST SEE TV
  6. More Recent Articles

THE LOW BARR

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

THE LOW BARR

President Donald Trump is right that he does “have, as president, the legal right” to meddle in Department of Justice decisions. However, when he makes public comments, or when it can be shown that he has privately discussed any federal criminal case with his Justice subordinates, it should be considered undue interference, and a judge should order that all prosecutions of affected individuals or groups be halted. Furthermore, another count of Obstruction of Justice should be added to the list of criminal charges he will face when he leaves the White House.
Attorney General Bill Barr was also correct when he said in his ABC interview that the POTUS’ incessant Twitbitzing “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
For millions of Americans it might be too late to salvage the DOJ’s credibility, particularly since Barr, as its leader, has been all too willing to sacrifice its image of law enforcement independence to cater to whatever malicious whim Trump is having. Time and time again, Barr has demonstrated a willingness to act on Trump’s personal political vendettas or interfere with action against his friends, leaving the impression that he’s willing to be just another Trumpster attorney, as opposed to maintaining an unyielding reputation of being the nation’s chief federal law enforcer. Among millions of Americans, that reputation is shot. His coziness with his boss has been widely scorned.

With the debacle over Roger Stone, the Barr had gotten so low, he decided that he needed to issue a declaration of independence from the boss. Stone, who has a long history as a political adviser for Trump, had been convicted of lying to Congress, obstructing Congress and intimidating a witness. Justice Department prosecutors recommended a stern sentence to the judge of seven to nine years.
The president tweeted bloody murder. That recommended sentence to his running buddy was “horrible and very unfair.”
Presto change-o! Like a flash, Barr interceded, and the Stone sentencing recommendation was dropped like a, uh, stone. It was replaced by some milder but unspecified punishment. The clamor over Barr’s reputation as a Trump lapdog (which is a mental image that is outright disgusting) had turned into a small roar — a big roar, actually. So loud that Barr decided he’d need to do something to repair his image, particularly when the four prosecutors all quit.
How about a TV interview? He chose ABC News and declared on the telly that he wouldn’t be “bullied or influenced by anybody,” including President Trump, and that, furthermore, Trump should stop with “the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” So there.
It was the story of the moment: a defiance of Don Trump. Except it wasn’t. Trump was described as being fine with Barr’s little protest, though he’d keep on tweeting because he had the “legal right” to do so. He’s correct, as long as he doesn’t interfere with a court case in the process.
Stone, by the way, has fashioned an entire career as a political provocateur, a very public one. He has to love all the attention, particularly since he could expect a presidential pardon. He’d have to serve a few months behind bars perhaps, but after Trump won the election, he’d be freed. And if not, he can be included in the lineup of lame duck commutations. Although, he’s not waiting till then to take care of his buddies and those he feels have been wronged by the justice system, which is still another American institution that he is trashing.
Meanwhile, it’s just another Trump outrage wasted on Democrats, who are doing all they can to fritter away their advantages, taking shots at each other instead of the daily blasphemies that define Donald Trump. Bill Barr continues to be a team player, in spite of his little pretend tantrum, which Trump either chose to ignore or more probably had a hand in planning.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

THE STACKED DECK

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

THE STACKED DECK

Overused but shameless cliche alert: In the political campaign schedule, Nevada is next, and for a few Democratic candidates, they will have to play their cards right.
Joe Biden, for instance, must prove that Nevada and South Carolina, which are not lily white like the first states were, are more like his natural stomping grounds. He also has to prove he has any stomp left, not only because he’s perceived as a befuddled old man, an impression he’s left on too many, but that he has yet to shed the verbal befuddlement that has plagued him for decades. If he doesn’t recover credibility after drubbings in Iowa and New Hampshire, his contributors will conclude that he and they are just spinning their wheels and will place their bets on someone else.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has to keep his momentum going not only because of the growing resistance from the rich and powerful who take his brand of democratic socialism as a threat to their cushy privilege, but also from big “D” Democrats who believe that Donald Trump would chew him up and spit him out in the general election with a campaign that presented Sanders as a threat to the free enterprise system — the kind, for instance. hat has brought Trump profits from sales of MAGA hats.
Elizabeth Warren has much the same problem, and she’s already dropping like a stone. Both of them are being threatened by the centrists in this elimination race, which has thus far not eliminated all that many hopefuls.
Pete Buttigieg is presenting himself as the candidate of the future, which is appropriate since he doesn’t have all that much past ... or experience. He’s 38 years old — just three years past the Constitutional minimum for president, which was written when life spans were way shorter. His entire political experience has been as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, population a little over a hundred thousand. There he compiled a mixed record, particularly in his dealings with minorities. That continues to be an issue for him. Besides being mayor, he lost one statewide election. That’s it. But he’s viewed as the fresh face that impresses those who cover this game, particularly the fresh faced reporters.

His experience, or lack thereof, has been a constant theme for Amy Klobuchar, the 59-year-old senator from Minnesota, who has been around the track a little more, and got great traction in New Hampshire after a strong debate performance (much of it at Buttigieg’s expense) and a surprise third place finish. Her brand of self-deprecating humor and overall affability seems to have caught on. And her job will be to show that she’s not just a flash in the pan.
That affability persona had suffered a real hit at the start of her campaign, when word leaked out that she was difficult to work for, exceedingly difficult. She’s had to make the long slog back from that setback, helped by the slow realization that as a woman she probably suffers from society’s double standard. A male boss might be described with the “D” word for “demanding.” A female would be tagged with the “B” word, and let’s just not say what that means.
The truth is we don’t know how America will deal with matters sexual, whether it’s with a woman as the Democratic candidate, or whether it’s Buttigieg, who is gay.
Nor do we know whether Michael Bloomberg can buy the nomination. Even with his fortune spent on TV ads, he hasn’t been able to escape accusations that he had racist policies and is closely aligned with his fellow rich guys.
Will we end up with an ugly battle between two rich guys from New York? Battles between New Yorkers are always ugly. Particularly when one of them is named Donald Trump. Democrats now have to gamble that whichever one emerges from their mess will be exciting enough to rally those who insist they desperately want to replace President Trump. First they have to prove they are a party playing with a full deck.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

BREAKING NEWS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

BREAKING NEWS

I’ve ranted about the expression “Breaking News!” before. But like any issue I confront, it only gets worse. So it is with this one. Nowadays, all the networks, without exception, open each and every newscast with that worn-out expression. Obviously, the anchormen and -women have been ordered to start with their robust “BREAKING NEWS” declaration as a way of contriving drama and immediacy, even if the top story happened hours ago. It’s the handiwork of the marketing consultants who rule TV reporting, hucksters whose job it is to improve ratings by trivializing journalism. Donald Trump has made the accusation of “fake news” his way of attacking any story that displeases him. He’s probably wasting his time, because the consultants have already turned it into junk news.
Sooner or later, one of the network bosses will realize that the phrase “breaking news” will have gotten stale or even moldy. Look for them to come up with embellishments, like the sound of china shattering, or even a new cliche. How about “OMG-WTF!”?
You must admit, that one has a certain ring to it, definitely with the younger generation of viewers whom the broadcast bosses are desperately seeking. The pursuit is a waste of time, since most of them are not paying attention because they’re too busy trying to find love.
The only defense of the oldie-but-goodie hype is that “Breaking News” isn’t hype at all. Much of the news these days is about a country breaking up, fracturing even before the leadership of President Donald Trump, just as surely as a great glacier is that began long ago because of the climate change that Trump and all the other deniers insist isn’t happening. They continue with policies that accelerate the demise of planet Earth, as opposed to saving the world by using human ingenuity. Ingenuity is costlier and harder work than the few wealthy, selfish rulers of the energy interests want to expend. In Donald Trump they have a pliable dupe, one who has become convinced that the increased intensity of forest fires and evidence of flooding to come are all a “hoax,” or whatever other word he uses to dismiss any truth he faces.
Cooperating with both the breakup of the country, and for that matter all countries, are the members of an inept opposition, meaning the Democrats. Their hearts may be in the right place about the vital issues of the day, but their minds are not when it comes to countering the corrupt regime in power. Democrats waver between sputtering in outrage and becoming a laughingstock as they go through the motions of putting together a ticket to try to depose Trump.

They are no match for a president who, like the news consultants, has no regard for the nation they all pretend to be concerned about. In the case of the consultants, they couldn’t care less whether they sabotage the pipeline of information that allows citizens of a country to make smart decisions before they vote on which direction their society will take.
All the ratings gimmickry replaces solid reporting of important stories and leaves us all vulnerable to the misinformation. That in turn burns unrestrained through social media like the fires consuming our brush and trees. These nihilists have no scruples, and they are all able to thrive because the population is poorly informed, a citizenry that doesn’t believe it’s worth the effort.
The biggest problem for those who want to replace Donald Trump is an intensity gap. His millions of supporters are passionate about their grievances and have a leader who knows how to exploit them. The opposition seems intent on sapping the passion out of their natural followers. If they largely stay home on Election Day — and well they might — Donald Trump will have a clear path to finishing the job of breaking up the nation in his next term.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

IOWA EYESORE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

IOWA EYESORE
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Who needs Russia, North Korea, Iran or any other members of the Hacksis of Evil to sabotage our elections? We’ve got Iowa. We don’t need the Republican Party to suppress the vote of Democrats; the Democrats are able to do the dirty work without any outside assistance, thank you very much. At least the ones in Iowa.
But let’s give debit where debit is due: The party, which seems hellbent on forfeiting another election to Donald Trump, came up with a really creative way to embarrass itself. It’s creative and oh so modern. The untested smartphone app they foolishly relied on to quickly calculate the results of their caucuses crashed and burned, a fiasco that left them with tech on their face. Instead of providing momentum to the various candidates to spin the count in ways that were favorable to them, they were sent packing to New Hampshire with their Iowa puffery deflated.
We didn’t need this reminder that Iowa is a dopey place to start a presidential campaign, with its largely rural, 90% white population that in no way reflects the demographics of the United States. The only thing dopier is that the second state, New Hampshire, is even whiter.
Who had any earthly idea that Iowa would dominate the news past the Monday night caucuses? The way it usually works is we all strike the set and suddenly head off, never to visit the state again for three years or so, until we once again start to focus on the next presidential election. But this time, to put it in newscast terms, the Des Moines Debacle was a lead story far beyond its shelf life.

The way the week was supposed to play out was that the caucus should have been a distant memory in show producers’ minds. If they took the Mike Pompeo test, and were required to locate Iowa on a map, they would fail miserably.
This was a week that had a State of the Union address the next night, although it appeared to be more like a British soccer match where the players and spectators were all hooligans. Usually State of the Unions are faux dignified affairs, even when it’s Donald Trump delivering the address. Nobody even tried to pretend this time.
The Trumpster brought his usual bag of schticks along, while Democratic members of Congress heckled from the floor. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is decorum personified, tore up her copy of his speech at the end of it, on camera, as Trump was just departing. She was clearly not making confetti to celebrate with him. One can only imagine what she would do next year. Would she display the universal gesture of defiance? The possibilities boggle the mind.
Of course, next year’s State of the Union with President Donald Trump is the Democrats’ nightmares, but they are doing everything in their power, or lack thereof, to make it a reality.
The bomb they dropped to blow up the Trump presidency was a big fat dud. Back to our newscast, after the Democratic majority in the House impeached the president, his acquittal in the Senate turned out to be such a ho hum story, it was consigned to the broadcast’s “in other news” section. What is a story is his vow of revenge against anybody who crossed him. As president of the United States, the Don has the power to inflict pain.
The election is nearly nine months away, which in political time is, uh, nine months. That’s an eternity, but from this early vantage point, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin don’t need to collude. The Democrats are colliding with each other and, as we witnessed in Iowa, they were overwhelmed by even the basics of running a campaign, or for that matter, the basics of running a modern life. Still, they insist they are determined to defeat President Trump, but so far they are only flogging each other, which is a sure way to lose.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

STATE OF THE UNION-MUST SEE TV

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

STATE OF THE UNION IS MUST SEE T
---
"Ho hum. It’s State of the Union night again. I wonder what else is on TV.” My faithful readers, both of them, know that this is my usual attitude about the long-running cliche that is the State of the Union speech, nothing more than a pretense that all is well and that our government is functioning.
But all is not well, and it’s not functioning. Besides, it’s always a ridiculous show, unless you enjoy watching the news networks feature endless blabbering from people like me about how this is really, really important.
This year, however, the ridiculous show is worth watching, as long as you take a bathroom break every time you hear a commentator speaking. This one has it all. Where else could you find a lead character like Donald Trump? With his every whiny word he divides the nation. As always, he will be sharing that talent with those who are crammed onto the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, to say nothing of those who watch at home.
All of this happens just a few hours before Trump is expected to dominate the other side of the Capitol building in the Senate chamber. There Trump the president has been Trump the defendant after being impeached by the House. But he will be acquitted after the charade of a Senate trial due to end in a glorious anticlimax.

But let’s get back to the night before and the pre-speech show, where there will be much SOTU intrigue (that’s State of the Union for those of us who are really hip). Pundits will go wild with their speculation: Will he even mention his impeachment, and if so, will his mouth foam when he does? While he’s speaking, what will people behind him be doing? Vice President Mike Pence will be seen sitting to the rear of Trump for this occasion as presiding officer of the Senate, and we can be sure that he will be swooning. He’s the administration’s leading bower and scraper. The others, the cabinet members and all Republicans, will do their groveling on the floor below.
Back to the dais, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat Party’s Trump heckler in chief, will be doing something to diss him. It’ll be subtle, but unmistakable.
There are various others traditionally present, including the Supreme Court members, wearing their robes. It will be interesting to see if Chief Justice John Roberts joins them. Having been presiding over Trump’s Senate trial, he may be sick of the place.
And then there are the guests. They might steal the show. The president and first lady get to invite 24. The speaker also gets 24, and each member of Congress can bring one. The Trumps could assemble all of his attorneys in tribute to their remarkable job distorting the facts and legal points on his behalf.
And who will invite John Bolton? Adam Schiff? So Bolton can at least witness the spectacle, since he wasn’t allowed to be a witness. How about Lev Parnas, one of two Rudy Giuliani associates under indictment? What’s the protocol for access to the House when wearing an ankle monitor?
What would the reaction be from the president if he saw Parnas during mid-harangue? Could he continue pretending not to recognize him?
What about Giuliani himself? Will he show up as a Trump guest, or would he watch from his usual spot in the lobby bar at the Trump hotel? And will President Trump surprise everyone by announcing that next year he’ll just hold his State of the Union address at the hotel?
Of course, three senators in the audience would like to believe there won’t be a next year. Each one of them is among the crowd who wants his job. They will all be acting like whirling dervishes, putting the best spin possible on their results after the embarrassingly bungled Monday night Iowa caucuses.
Catch the State of the Union if you can. It’s part of the longest running show in America: the never-ending campaign.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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