FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019 CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236 BOB FRANKEN FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 17, 2017 BY BOB FRANKEN How much do you tip the spy? You’ve got to ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP THE SPY?
  2. THE SUPREME GAMES
  3. BRASHMAN'S EGO
  4. MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"
  5. THE PRESIDENT TRUMP WAGER
  6. More Recent Articles

HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP THE SPY?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 17, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
How much do you tip the spy?
You’ve got to eat at the terrace dining room at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Not only does it have a wine menu, a food menu and a dessert menu, but you also can get a Situation Room menu. On a Saturday night, the resort’s restaurant was offering up Korean selections, North Korean actually, options that President Donald Trump was pondering after he and his dinner guest, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, learned that Kim Jong-un had just fired off a missile test.
That’s extremely spicy fare, burning hot and a threat to the planet and certainly to Japan. In the old days (meaning, a month ago), the president and his national-security advisers would convene to discuss reactions far away from any prying eyes and ears, in super-secret facilities. There would be consultations with other world leaders like Abe, only they would take place over secure phone lines, their confidentiality protected by the latest high-tech scrambling.
That was then. Whatever his many faults, apparently this president believes in open government, really open government, where nothing is too classified to let it all hang out. Either that or you can chalk it up as another fault, and decide that Donald Trump is one super-careless president. At his bizarro prejss conference, Trump described his new administration as a “well-oiled machine.”

 

They were apparently well-fed as they confronted a major crisiS at the restaurant while the world watched. There they were, Abe and his aides huddled around a computer to get the latest intelligence. Trump was engrossed in a telephone conversation. Meanwhile, the other diners were witnessing everything up close, even taking pictures. The membership fee is really steep, but apparently along with the club facilities and golf course priveleges, Mar-a-Lago members get access to the nation’s secrets.
It was quite a show. One can only assume that nothing takes these heads of state away from their supper. Only after they were done did they retire to another room — not for cocktails, but for a news conference.
Among those who were in the Trump entourage was Michael Flynn, who was the president’s national-security adviser at the time. Now he has been fired, not for his conversation with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington in which he discussed sanctions against Russia imposed by then President Barack Obama, and not for possibly breaking the law by doing so, but for lying about it. If you believe Vice President Mike Pence, Flynn categorically denied to Pence that sanctions had been discussed at all with Russia’s ambassador. Pence then went on national television and stated emphatically that there had been no conversations about sanctions.
It’s not nice to embarrass the vice president. When it came out that Flynn and the ambassador had in fact talked at length about sanctions, and that Flynn had not told the truth about it, he was toast.
One has to wonder why his falsehoods are any worse than all the other ones from President Trump — there are so many of them that his chief dissemblers sometimes can’t get their stories straight. In the case of Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer had to go out and make sure the world knew that Flynn was in deep doo-doo after Kellyanne Conway had told the TV audiences that Flynn had the “full confidence” of the president. In Kellyanne’s case, she’s gotten such a bad reputation of being out of the loop that some of the cable news networks won’t book her anymore. And understand, the cable news networks will book just about anyone. Did I mention that I’m on a lot? I rest my case.
As for Flynn, we probably don’t need to worry about him. With his various Russian connections, he probably can get a new job in the Kremlin. If not, he can always get a job at the Mar-a-Lago terrace lounge. As careless as President Trump’s people were with highly classified material there, maybe Flynn can work for both a Moscow restaurant and the one at Trump’s resort. He could be a double waiter.

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

    

THE SUPREME GAMES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 3, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE SUPREME GAMES
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Back when I was going through my CNN phase, I was covering a major espionage case. The counterintelligence peeps were holding their alleged spy in a secret location. On a day when he was due for a hearing, I had found out where he was being held: a jail in a rural Maryland county not far from Washington, D.C. We decided to pull a fast one and shoot some video of him that we otherwise would not get.
“You stay here, while I look around,” I said to my camera crew in a hushed voice. Then, doing my best imitation of Inspector Clouseau, I skulked around the property to determine the best spot to tape the deputies and agents as they took the accused to their vehicle for the ride to his Washington court hearing. I was chortling away about how surprised they’d be. My reverie was interrupted when I heard a voice: “Hey.” It was a deputy from the jail. “I think you should know you’ve set off about a dozen sensors.”
Happily, they got a good laugh out of it and took pity on me, showing us a vantage point where we could get the money shot. Score one for the klutzo reporter.
I hate to admit it, but the klutzo president was able to pull a fast one way better than I did. True, the first days of the Trump administration have been a total train wreck -- or a plane wreck in the case of the immigration blockade. (I don’t want to call it a “ban,” because press secretary Sean Spicer argues that it is not a “ban,” even though his boss, President Donald Trump, calls it one.)

But let's ignore for the moment, the hard-right orientation of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and admit that Trump managed to put on a glitzy show with an announcement that was relatively sane-looking. More to the point, he pulled off an elaborate deceptive smooth move to hide the identity of his final pick and keep away reporters, aka “dishonest media,” who were camped out at the homes of the four perceived finalists. In Boulder, Colorado -- where Gorsuch lives as possibly the only conservative in the Boulder area -- he and his wife, Louise, were instructed to walk over to a neighbor’s house. There they met up with White House operatives, snuck into vehicles and were driven over back roads to a government plane waiting at a private airport. Then it was on to Washington, not to be seen by outsiders until they stepped through the doorway as part of the Donald Trump show on prime-time network TV.
POTUS was delighted at the game: “So, was that a surprise?” Trump exclaimed, “Was it?” Well, not really. He had promised he’d come up with a learned right-winger to replace “the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Even the most solemn moments for Donald Trump sound like a lounge act. But Gorsuch was the evening’s featured performer. He’s perhaps even more reactionary than Scalia, but he’s smooth as silk. For ultraconservatives, he hits all the right notes.
The Democrats are providing a lot of dissonance, of course. That’s partially because of the legal philosophies Gorsuch espouses. They despise them, but perhaps more than that, they bitterly resent the Republicans’ stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland. There are strong indications that they’ll filibuster Gorsuch just for spite. It would take 60 votes to stop that.
President Trump insists that if it happens, the majority Republicans should change Senate rules so that Supreme Court nominees require only a simple majority approval, the so-called nuclear option. Trump has never been a nuance kinda guy. In fairness, when the Democrats ran things, they got rid of the 60-vote rule for all White House appointments but Supreme Court justices. No matter how weighty the responsibility, someone, maybe everyone, will set off nasty alarms. Effective government is imprisoned by nasty partisanship.

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

    

BRASHMAN'S EGO

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 27, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

BRASHMAN'S EGO
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How is it that one of the most powerful men on the planet has such a weak or, as the professionals say, “fragile” ego? Psychobabblers speculate that low self-esteem can drive an individual to achieve great heights as a way to show the world, and himself, that he’s not as worthless as he thinks he is in his heart of hearts. It also can motivate someone to act in bizarre ways just to get attention and to deflect for another instant one’s intense self-doubt. If he’s in a position to influence people’s lives, he’s not only self-destructive; he can cause a lot of misery.
You know where I’m going with this: straight to Donald Trump. Even becoming president of the United States and being the constant center of attention while doing all that cool chief-executive stuff that presidents get to do doesn’t seem to fill his egotistical black hole. So he can be counted on to nurse his wounds by hiding them behind repeated grandiose claims that he would have won the popular vote were it not for the millions of people who fraudulently cast ballots against him. Never mind that the evidence is overwhelmingly against that; he’s doubling down by saying he’ll commission some sort of investigation. Of course, there’s that self-demeaning bitter battle with “dishonest media” over the size of his inaugural crowd. It’s a constant embarrassment to those around him, but he just won’t let it go.
The list goes on and on: He can’t stop himself from picking fights over past grudges and slights. It’s easy to conclude, frankly, that the leader of the free world has mental problems. But perhaps it’s more insidious than that. Maybe he and his aides are putting out this outlandish pettiness to mask the substantive steps he’s taking to abandon all civility and to dismantle the federal government’s ability to protect its citizens. Where do we start? His executive orders aim to gut regulation enforcement, sabotage health care, withdraw from or reshape trade deals, build that ridiculous wall, yada, yada, yada.
Except these are not yada, yada, yadas. Each time these major attacks on the nation’s structures or international structures occurs, the president becomes a petty Twitter tyrant, tweeting something so ridiculous that it takes the focus off the poorly thought-out, destructive actions he’s taking. So maybe he’s not such a nutcase at all. Maybe he and his posse are just master media manipulators.

Donald Trump occupies the White House because he played those of us in newsbiz while his opponent frittered her claim to history away in the fog of boredom. So what we see here is either someone who is crazy as a loon or someone who is presiding over an administration that constantly outmaneuvers the best efforts of journalists to challenge him. It should be noted that these are not mutually exclusive. Maybe he is diabolically that clever, even while he constantly battles with his emotional demons. He certainly wouldn’t be the first one in history.
The only hope might be that the United States of America was not set up to be governed by one man who could snap his fingers and get things done. He usually has to get things past Congress. That being said, “political courage” is a huge oxymoron. The members of Congress, even President Trump’s fellow Republicans, have their fingers in the air always testing the winds, which might start to shift as the damage from his decisions and impulsive actions become more obvious. He also will have to deal with an emboldened opposition, which has its collective finger in the air, too.
So eventually, this may come crashing down on Fragile Donald. Eventually. Maybe before he does real harm. Until then, he gives new meaning to the cliché that the inmates are running the asylum.

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

    

MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"

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

MA'AM'SPLAINING "RESISTANCE"
---
Millions of American are disgusted with where their country is right now. They believe that the inauguration tradition, with all its heavily scripted high grandeur, installed a repulsive, hateful lowlife as president of the United States. For them, their hastily arranged Women’s March on Washington was awe-inspiring. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Washington to register their defiant disgust, and more than a million hit the streets worldwide, jamming up several cities.
Here in D.C., it obviously jammed all the circuits in the president’s brain. He tried to ignore the crowds and the fact that their protest was bigger than the piddly turnout of those who assembled for his swearing-in. But in the end, he went haywire about journalists he describes as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” for reporting the obvious fact that the turnout for his inauguration festivities the day before stacked up poorly with previous inaugurations. That was ascertained by side-by-side photo comparisons. A variety of factors led to estimates that about a quarter-million attended his ceremonies. But he insisted that he’d drawn over a million and a half. As for the media who dared to report otherwise, he promised that “they’re going to pay a big price.” He was indulging his petulance, by the way, at CIA headquarters, speaking in front of the solemn wall memorializing the anonymous operatives who died in the line of duty.
Back at the White House, he unleashed his pugnacious press secretary Sean Spicer to accuse news organizations of intentionally lowballing. Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway then astounded almost everyone by defending Spicer’s blatant fabrications. She came up with the outlandish term “alternative facts” to describe outright lies. Meanwhile, Spicer was threatening “to hold the press accountable” for daring to report alternatives to his “alternative facts.”

Outside on the streets, the massive turnout of individuals with all their different priorities had one stated common purpose: resistance. The universal theme was that the Trump administration must be stopped before its disruption of civilized decency can take root.
The crowds included a high percentage of male supporters, but this was put together and led by women. So, beyond just Trump, it was a dramatic repudiation of history’s tortured repression of females. A rallying cry that Hillary Clinton was not able to manage. Still, no matter how well-intentioned, many of us men still find old habits hard to break. We justifiably hear a lot these days about “mansplaining,” where a man seems to find it necessary to clarify what a woman has just said. Or what we think she said. It’s offensive, plain and simple. Condescension at its worst. I thought of it as Michael Moore was addressing the crowd, until Ashley Judd grabbed his microphone and began her passionate remarks.
Allow me some wordplay. I need to ask a few questions that instead need some ma’amsplaining:
Question No. 1: When you say “resist,” what do you mean? Is this just some one-off massive catharsis? Can it be sustained? If Trump follows through on some of his promises -- for instance, sending armed units to remove Mexicans, as Judd warned in her “Nasty” speech -- are you willing to physically prevent his forces from taking them away? Resistance can be dangerous.
Furthermore, while greater numbers of Americans marked their ballots for Hillary Clinton, millions voted for Trump. They can be expected to resist the resistance. What about the chance that this will turn violent? What about this mass outpouring? Can it be sustained, particularly if it drives Trump berserk and he makes life treacherous for his opponents?
The huge turnout at the Women’s March was a huge morale boost for all the Americans on the side of the divide that looks so bleak now that Donald Trump is president. Trump’s first Twitter reaction to the outpouring was a derisive “Why didn’t these people vote?” He has a point there. But now, they must show that they’ve learned that lesson, will they get involved to the extent necessary? If they don’t, they will have some real explaining to do.

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

    

THE PRESIDENT TRUMP WAGER

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 20, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
THE PRESIDENT TRUMP WAGER
His “America First, America First, America First” inaugural address is seen by many as divisive, particularly those who are miserable that Donald Trump is actually president of the United States. They continue to look for straws to grasp and might take solace in the Irish bookmaker who is setting the odds that Trump will be impeached within six months at 8-1; it’s 4-1 that he’ll be tossed before his term is done. Of course, the bookie took a bath predicting that Hillary Clinton would win the election, so don’t place your bets with money you can’t afford to lose. But also factor in polls that show President Trump begins with dismal favorability numbers. The CBS News poll places the Trumpster in the dumpster at 32 percent positive. Gallup has him at 40 percent, with 54 percent unfavorable. It’s the first time the incoming president has started in the hole. Even George W. Bush, who won only after being handed a Supreme Court ruling that Democrats insisted was political larceny, entered the White House on the plus side. Trump reacted in his usual way, saying these polls are “rigged.”
If experience is any guide, it’ll be downhill from here. After all, this is an administration that is wasting no time in ruthlessly promising to rip up Obamacare. With all its faults, the Affordable Care Act did insure 20 million more Americans, including millions who had pre-existing conditions. Trump and his fellow Republicans are scrambling to come up with a replacement that doesn’t pull the rug out.

After all, there is a continuing scramble by his enemies and the news organizations that cover him to determine whether the perception of intentional Russian meddling caused him to be elected. And could it be proved that it was the result of coordination between Trump’s people and the Russians? Maybe even Trump himself and his bud, Vladimir Putin? If so, he’d be in a heap of trouble. Those investigations and others looking into his conduct are not going to go away, no matter how hard Trump tries to intimidate.
In fact, at some point, his barrage of abusive tweeting is going to become old. Sooner or later, he’s not going to be able to bluster himself out of some controversy by blaming “dishonest media” or belittling his latest critic or accuser. He has confounded everyone, including me, with his amazing ability to survive one nasty controversy after another. After awhile, though, more and more people are going to be turned off. He has thrived by tapping into the fears and anger of millions, with his often hateful rhetoric and constant impulsiveness. But even his ardent supporters will grow weary of his constant drama.Donald Trump is definitely a drama king -- make that drama president. He can’t change, never mind that he’s a head of state. Perhaps if he surrounded himself with people who were wise to the ways of the world, and the dark arts of politics, his personal faults could get glossed over. Unfortunately, many of those who buzz around him are either unqualified or ideologues whose incompetence or excesses will do him in.
Add to that his refusal to untangle the Gordian knot of his business dealings, and scandal is inevitable.
Not that his opponents haven’t left a mess. They have. The United States of America is seized by financial unfairness. Donald Trump succeeded because he played to the resentments and prejudices of those who believe they’re being had. They are impatient for the man who promised to make things right. He concluded his inaugural address with his signature slogan, “Make America Great Again,” whatever that means.
President Donald Trump obviously possesses tremendous power. If he abuses that power, America will ultimately turn on him. It won’t take long for his supporters to get disgusted and his millions of enemies to pounce. Then we’ll see what the odds are for his finishing out his term.

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

    

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