FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN FICKLE TRUMP --- It’s the really big question in Washington, which goes to show how pathetic things can get here: Did John Bolton resign, or was he fired? President Donald Trump and his now former national ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. FICKLE TRUMP
  2. TRUMP AND WWE
  3. SHARPIES AND DULLARDS
  4. ANDROIDS RULE
  5. TRUMP HOTEL HUSTLE AND THE POPE
  6. More Recent Articles

FICKLE TRUMP

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

FICKLE TRUMP
---
It’s the really big question in Washington, which goes to show how pathetic things can get here: Did John Bolton resign, or was he fired? President Donald Trump and his now former national security adviser disagree about that, much as they disagreed about everything else. It was not exactly a marriage made in heaven.
To call Bolton “abrasive” is definitely an understatement. “Caustic” is more like it. Since he became the administration’s third national security adviser, he had rubbed nearly everybody in the White House the wrong way. That would include, more and more, the Trumpster, who claims to enjoy vigorous internal debate but really prefers sycophancy.
It’s tempting to call John Bolton a warmonger, although Bolton would insist he’s really a “peace through strength” kinda guy. On the other hand, Donald Trump fancies himself as a master deal-maker, who can work his magic to turn enemies into partners in ending dangerous hostilities. Never mind that he has bungled each and every initiative so far. The latest one -- opposed by Bolton, of course -- would have brought representatives of the Taliban to Camp David, for not only a successful Afghanistan deal, but one with the kind of whiz-bang showbiz touches that Trump prefers.

 

For those who shuddered at the idea of photo-ops showing terrorist Taliban extremists at Camp David, they were at odds with cheerleading Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ever the Trump toady, telling Fox News that the U.S. must deal with “lots of bad folks.”
The problem is that POTUS seems to prefer bad folks. He treats democratic allies like dirt while warming up to a whole roster of despots. Where do we start? He’s in “love” with Kim Jong Un and has a bromance with Vladimir Putin. Saudi Arabia’s leaders? Soul mates. Same feelings for Egyptian dictator Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The list goes on and on: Rodrigo Duterte, who champions extrajudicial killings of accused drug dealers? He and Trump have a “great relationship.”
The only absolute ruler who has a complicated relationship with The Donald is China’s Xi Jinping. That’s because the American president is trying to use intimidation to force a trade deal on President Xi sooner rather than later. Throughout history, the Chinese have chosen later. Much later. They have the largest population in the world, the second-largest economy and a history of extreme patience.
Patience is not a Donald Trump strong suit, so he’s tried to use tariffs to force his will on Beijing. The only ones who are wavering are American companies and farmers. They are in an uproar not only because of the fiscal disruptions -- which, by the way, don’t help when it comes to the fragile U.S. economy -- but also because of all the uncertainty thanks to Donald Trump’s constant vacillation. He’s from the “always keep them guessing” school of deal-making. Although cognitive dissonance is a valid negotiating tactic, there comes a time when two sides must trust each other in order to reach a final bargain -- and live up to it. That’s been a problem in private life, where Donald Trump would constantly stiff those with whom he did business, and it’s certainly a problem in his governance, or lack thereof. He simply can’t be pinned down during negotiations, even after he’s settled.
Again, flexibility is one thing -- it’s vital to compromise. but capriciousness is another matter entirely. Trump is notorious for reversing course based on his last conversation, or based on the last TV show he watched on Fox. It means that every policy decision that Congress must make, whether it’s spending or gun control, whatever, can always be disrupted at the last minute.
So John Bolton, whether he resigned or was fired, can thank his lucky stars he got out. Now he can go back to Fox News and right-wing think tank heaven and criticize to his heart’s content. Second-guessing is always better anyway. Certainly in Washington.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

TRUMP AND WWE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

TRUMP AND WWE
---
It’s a good thing that President Donald Trump has spent time with WrestleMania. He obviously used that experience to finally muscle his way into the main event, when he had been body-slammed aside by the real reality of the devastation from Hurricane Dorian. Yes, I know “muscle” is probably not the first word you’d use when you think of the Trumpster, but there will be no fat-shaming here. Let’s leave that to him.
It clearly occurred to a few people in the White House, including the big guy, that during the network evening newscasts in the early coverage of storm, a broadcast or two went by where Trump was not mentioned once, when the consequences of Dorian were obviously too severe and compelling to spend time on political trivialities.
Obviously, POTUS and his enablers couldn’t have that, so that’s when he summoned the lessons he’d learned from his WWE encounters and applied them to the meteorology ring (actually it’s called a “cone” in the always-serious climate-biz, as in a “cone of uncertainty”; nevertheless, in his case “WWE” stands for “Wacky Weather Entertainment”).

Suddenly, there he was, a part of the narrative, sucker-punching the media (including me) to force himself into the reporting. All he had to do, as you are painfully aware, is to mistakenly declare that Dorian could clobber Alabama, long after he had been briefed that Alabama wasn’t in the danger cone. That set off an immediate announcement from the National Weather Service branch in Birmingham that the state will “not see any impact from Dorian.”
The dreary story from then on involved Sharpie pens used to draw phony drawings on official maps, and accusations that those of us in “fake news” media were making too much of his mistake (guilty). Most of all, it involved Donald Trump, which meant the story has gone way longer than its shelf life.
Playing the injured party, as always, he and reportedly his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose domain includes weather, formed a tag team to arm-twist the top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into offering a phony correction to the criticism from its Birmingham subsidiary days earlier: “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.” What NOAA seemed to be timidly saying is that the earliest forecasts from days prior had included Alabama, back in the days where the uncertainty cone probably extended to Seattle (that’s a joke, folks, admittedly a feeble one). The message was that Trump was right, all along. All those Sharpie one-liners were wasted.
Well, not wasted entirely. The Trump campaign sees a fundraising opportunity and is now offering for sale a souvenir marker. It’s not clear if it’s a real Sharpie, but it is embossed with Donald Trump’s signature -- in gold ink, no less. It’s yours for a mere $15. By the way, this is not a joke.
So Hurricane Donald has done it again. He has managed to take the ongoing story of Dorian -- the devastation, the heroic rescue efforts and most of all the victims -- and turn himself into the victim. Once again, it’s all about him.
Now word leaks out that the other WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, has requested that the president of the United States appear on “SmackDown Live” when it debuts next month on Fox (where else?).
Trump has apparently rejected the idea, even though it would be a guaranteed attention-getter.
He should know that, since his long self-service resume includes an outlandish “SmackDown” gig back in 2007. Perhaps he’s worried that the Democrats would demand equal time, although they have their own wrestling match going on. Their program, by the way, is called “Debates.”
More probably, he was advised that it would be too undignified for him. That would be a first. Or too strenuous. He’s shown with his Sharpie choke hold maneuver that he can force attention on himself whenever he wants.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



    

SHARPIES AND DULLARDS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

SHARPIES AND DULLARDS
---
Weather forecasting really has come a long way, as evidenced by the days and weeks of advance notice we get in our part of the world when disturbances that may become massively dangerous hurricanes form far, far away off the coast of Africa. But, as Hurricane Dorian demonstrates, the science has a long way to go.
Precisely how close to home a catastrophic storm is going to hit and indeed, just how devastating it’s going to be are truly speculative. Just look at the “spaghetti models” of various meteorological organizations that struggle to pinpoint the path any given storm will take and where it will land. Consider too the wide-ranging “cone of uncertainty” that accompanies any prognostication. Nevertheless, I am amazed at the relative accuracy of the forecasters, on camera and behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, there is always the hustler who will exploit his “cone of unreality.” Donald Trump, who long ago severed his relationship with the truth -- a kind of “Trexit” -- is fouling the turbulent air with his in-expertness, while trying to create a phony image of his being in charge of Dorian operations. As is so often the case, he couldn’t hide his lack of comprehension. That was made crystal clear in a tweet where he declared that the roster of states that might be hit included Alabama.
Understandably, that scared the bejabbers out of those residing in Alabama. Never mind that it was false. The National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly put out its own tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”
Even though he demanded that their bosses in Washington tried to say that their earliest spaghetti strands did include Alabama, before they went away long before the hurricane arrived, it was another case where POTUS was simply wrong by the time he paid his usual inattention to the situation. But the Trumpster, in an effort to avoid having his ignorance found out, tried to bluster his way past his hurricane misstatement. He even displayed a map in the Oval Office showing the original cone of uncertainty projection from the National Hurricane Center. It still didn’t cover Alabama, except that someone had taken a Sharpie and had drawn an extension of the cone that now included the state. It was so obviously phony that Trump mumbled, “I don’t know” when asked who had drawn the Sharpie add-on. Obviously, not someone who was very sharp.

The problem is that when the charlatans attach themselves to a crisis, bad things can happen. To be bipartisan, it was not just the Republican standard-bearer who was guilty. Marianne Williamson -- a peripheral Democratic presidential candidate, after a long career as a self-help guru -- put out her own tweet to celebrate the fact that the catastrophic hurricane turned slightly north, thereby avoiding a calamitous direct hit on Florida. She attributed that to: “a creative use of the power of the mind. Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation ...” After much ridicule, she deleted the tweet, forgetting that Twitter is forever.
Such distracting clutter can get in the way of the complex evacuations and logistical operations that are necessary to cope with natural disasters. It begs the question of how dangerous it is to elect an UNnatural disaster to a position of powerful leadership.
That’s been amply demonstrated by the presidency of Donald “Sharpie” Trump, who takes us from one crisis to another with his combination of ineptitude and demagoguery. He is already blaming the “Fake News” media for questioning his scribbled cover-up. You can bet that his gullible millions of followers will stand with him.
We’re also witnessing a storm across the Atlantic, in the DisUnited Kingdom: the Brexit debacle being played out by Boris Johnson, the current prime minister. As you probably know, Johnson is a soul mate of Donald Trump. Separated at birth. They both lie whenever they feel like it, and are similar in so many other ways, right down to the hair. One difference might be that Trump is more harebrained, as evidenced by the dullard handling of his Sharpie.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

ANDROIDS RULE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

ANDROIDS RULE

I have gotten to the point that every time my cellphone blasts its generic ringtone, I assume it’s a robocall. My algorithm favorites are the recorded voices that start out saying, “Can you hear me?” and then pause a few seconds before continuing with their pitch. I’ve taken to filling that brief void with a Bronx cheer or some other obnoxious sound. Then I hang up.
Unfortunately, it is not foolproof. Sometimes, when I check for messages or run into a friend, he or she might say, “I tried to call you, but all I got was you making bad-taste sounds.” Worse is when it’s a business call or a medical provider.
That is just one illustration of the perils of advancing technologies. Artificial intelligence has taken the inefficient human beings almost entirely out of telephoning, except that it also enables nefarious humans to come up with new and different scams to steal our money; for instance, scaring the daylights out of vulnerable, trusting marks who believe that the Social Security or IRS calls they get are truly official demands for payment -- or prison. Ironically, progress has equaled a step or steps backward.
So it is with anti-social media. Our gadgetry has enabled us to communicate with each other in all parts of the world. The problem is that we usually find that what is communicated is repugnant, or outright lies. A case in point is virtually everything a certain president of the United States shares with us in tweets. What’s even worse than that pollution is the genuine phoniness. Now it comes out that the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has been hacked, and for a while his account was spewing out racist mini messages and bomb threats on his monster creation. At least, he claims he was hacked.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if that same certain president, at some point, insists that he was hacked, which would be plausible because it would explain the stream of ridiculous and obnoxious content sent out in his name. The only other explanations would be ignorance, hate, lying or outright insanity.

Nevertheless, one former head of state is not hiding behind identity theft. Kim Campbell, who was Canadian prime minister for a short time in the ’90s, tweeted, referring to Hurricane Dorian catastrophically threatening Florida: “I’m rooting for a direct hit on Mar a Lago!”
She apologized quickly and deleted her tweet, but the internet is forever. She’s never been a fan of Donald Trump to begin with, so one has to question the sincerity of her apology. The internet is also brings out our worst instincts, as evidenced by the cyber-debate that raged between those who condemned Campbell and those who loved the idea that Dorian might demolish Mar-a-Lago.
Let’s get a grip. Surely we are better than wishing for the devastation of property, no matter who owns it, with the threat that lives might be lost. Those are really valuable buildings, people. They might be put to much better use than as a haven for the Botox set. The government might commandeer them, for example, to house migrants as their asylum requests are being processed.
I hasten to emphasize that the Dorian/Mar a Lago snarkiness was put out by a FORMER Canadian prime minister. The present one, Justin Trudeau, is far too busy making goo-goo eyes at Melania and Ivanka Trump.
That was a cheap shot. There is little reason to believe that about Trudeau, other than malicious rumors, which in cyberspace are reality. Even if the rumors are totally made up, they are still reality. That’s how it is in the cowardly new world of technology, which is spiraling out of control. I’ll remember that the next time I smart off on a robocall. I should be grateful that someone wants to talk to me, even if it is an automaton.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

TRUMP HOTEL HUSTLE AND THE POPE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE,
BY BOB FRANKEN

TRUMP HOTEL HUSTLE AND THE POPE

True story: I used to live a couple of blocks away from the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States, which is the official name of the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in D.C.
Its proximity had obviously not been a problem -- at least for me. That changed in 2015, when Pope Francis came to tour America and, for the duration of his visit to Washington, stayed at the embassy. Suddenly, the ’hood was swarming with security people: Secret Service; local law enforcement; presumably a contingent of his Swiss Guard, although they were not in uniform. Traffic was blocked on certain streets. The point is that it curtailed our access.
It’s not an unusual problem in the nation’s capital, where residents have to adjust to protection details for those who warrant it. Nevertheless, one day during the pope’s visit, I decided to walk my dog in the woods that ran between my house and the embassy. I figured I’d see how far we could get. Imagine my surprise when there was no perimeter at all. Nothing.
Rather than shoot any video, I took my dog and high-tailed it back. We sought out the first group of people talking into their sleeves that we could find, and I did my duty as a good doobie citizen, informing them that their protective net had an opening. They immediately got on their communication devices, and suddenly the little neighborhood forest was crawling with agents.


I mention this because there is another place surrounded by a residential area packed with homes that might be disrupted by visiting heads of state: the Trump National Doral hotel and golf club, which Trump has recently been ballyhooing as the ideal place for them to gather for next year’s G-7. Granted it’s probably Donald Trump playing his usual distraction game in order to call attention away from his routine outrages, but as always, those of us in and around politics-biz got predictably bent out of shape. Every time he goes outlandish on us, we get sucked in.
The U.S. is up next to host the G-7 meeting (G-8, if Trump and Vladimir Putin get their way), and the president gets to make the arrangements. Donald Trump has been shamelessly promoting Doral. The fact that all those heads of state and their entourages would pay to stay at a Trump property is already causing all of us in in our unreality show to go bananas. (If I’ve offended any bananas reading this, it was unintentional.)
“Ethics issues!” we scream, but POTUS makes it clear he doesn’t give one whit about ethics. Already, news reports have already been published that suggest the Doral might be a bit dingy. The Trumpster has already denied that there are bedbugs there, even though a guest sued about them and got an out-of-court settlement.
Seriously, though: aren’t naysayers tiresome? Rather than complain, they should start planning. First up, they should discuss a staff. The service personnel need to be at their obsequious best. Happily, Donald Trump can choose from the entire Republican Party, the bulk of whose members have had ample experience in being his sycophants. Mike Pence has turned groveling into an art form; so have members of the Trump cabinet ... at least those who remain.
Various members of Congress are already well qualified. Lindsey Graham could be in charge of valet parking, since it rhymes with ballet and he’s danced from criticism of Trump to unflinching loyalty. Actually, since Sen. Graham has played golf with the prez so often, he might fit better as his personal caddy.
As for the neighbors, who obviously can’t be around with so many heads of state, they will be homeless -- in effect, involuntary refugees. There are at least two Trump answers to that problem: build a wall around their neighborhoods, or, even better, they can be held in migrant facilities. Temporarily, of course. Or until Congress intervenes, although the administration has a habit of simply ignoring Congress. So, unlike those of us on my street when the pope came to town, the Doral neighbors don’t have a prayer.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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