FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN “GIMME A BREAK!” NO. Back in the ’90s, President Bill Clinton was enmeshed in various petty scandals from his days as governor of Arkansas. Thanks to his smooth-talking ways, people back home even came ...
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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. “GIMME A BREAK!” NO.
  2. A PROMISING START
  3. TRUMP IS DUMPED
  4. WHERE ARE THEY?
  5. DON TRUMP’S EXILE
  6. More Recent Articles

“GIMME A BREAK!” NO.

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

“GIMME A BREAK!” NO.

Back in the ’90s, President Bill Clinton was enmeshed in various petty scandals from his days as governor of Arkansas. Thanks to his smooth-talking ways, people back home even came up with the nickname “Slick Willy.”
Midway through his term as the nation’s chief executive, Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives after 40 years of being in the minority. They were led by Newt Gingrich as speaker. Gingrich was a charismatic (in an annoying kind of way) demagogue — a true model later for Donald Trump.
For reasons that would bore you, back then I was a member of the CNN teams covering both Gingrich and Clinton. I also hosted a Saturday morning show where the audience was invited to call or email their harsh opinions or comments about my reporting, and then I’d respond.
It’s too bad we had such low ratings (I always wanted to start off by saying, “I’d like to welcome my dozens of viewers around the world”). Those who did tune in and those who did express their views were strongly divided between Clinton and Gingrich fans. It was tough to be both. The only thing they could agree on is that I was a scumbag low-life. I viewed that as vindication. Among the first characteristics of good journalism is to be obnoxiously skeptical. The newsmakers are advocates, who, honorably, at best, present a one-sided story that needs to be validly challenged. As someone covering both sides, I personified the role of equal opportunity jerk.
That doesn’t mean a false equivalence. “Fair” coverage of an inept, bigoted, constantly lying, easily duped, demagogic president like Donald Trump needs to factor in all those negatives in the name of accuracy. When Trump got away with deflecting all the truthful stories by dismissing them as “fake news,” describing those of us in honest media (as opposed to the sycophant media) as “enemies of the people,” that was crazy.
Now that Trump has been replaced by Joe Biden, someone who is “normal” and demonstrably not a looney tune, he needs to be welcomed and treated with respectful but incredulous reporting.
The journalistic skepticism must not be tamped down for Joe Biden. The Trumpster was a disaster as president, one who went to every means to crush democracy in order to stay in the White House, including inciting a deadly riot at the Capitol.


Biden’s motives are not so sinister, but he tries to put the best face on selling his version of the ways he will clean up the destruction left by Trump, including devastation from the pandemic.
One of President Biden’s most effective ways to sell his side, so far, is by employing an unusual but effective technique. He UNDERsells his promises. For instance, he has pledged to increase the pathetically low rollout of vaccine distribution by “at least 100 million covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days” of his term.
As dramatic as that sounds, it turns out the guarantee was more than easy to keep. In fact, it has already been beaten.
Early on though, an impertinent reporter had the audacity to shout a question about that, and new President Biden snapped, “Gimme a break, c’mon man.”
Maybe POTUS suffered from a lack of sleep. The inauguration was a long slog after all. And maybe signing that pile of executive orders caused carpal tunnel. And maybe he was starting to believe that following Donald Trump was all he needed to do to avoid pesky questions.
“Gimme a break”? No way, Mr. President. Our four-word response is “Get used to it.” We will look for holes in everything you say or policy you present, putting into context every valid point of view from the opposition. Among journalists, the best ones are everybody’s opposition.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

A PROMISING START

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

A PROMISING START

Joe Biden begins his term as the 46th president of the United States with a notable accomplishment: He has personally met every single person in the country. Or it seems like he has. The least valuable possession that anyone could have is a picture with Joe, because nearly everyone has at least one. I use his first name because it seems only natural, and it’s going to be difficult to call him “Mr. President” as he stops impromptu, causing his phalanx of Secret Service agents to collide because he can’t resist a conversation and a selfie.
This is the man who urged American “folks” to “start afresh” after his predecessor (I’ve decided not to name him; we need a break) talked of “American carnage” as he described the nation in his inaugural address four years ago, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Starting afresh is easy to say, but the devil is in the details. In fact, the devil has fled the scene and absconded to his Mar-a-Lago headquarters. Now, one might think that West Palm is not your idea of Hades, with its golf courses, but the previous POTUS faces a future of meeting with his attorneys to fend off a seemingly infinite number of legal actions that are piled up with his name as defendant. And if you don’t think endlessly meeting with a bunch of lawyers ain’t hell, you have never received an itemized account of billable hours.
Of course, the lawyers face their own anguish too, trying to collect the money that he invariably stiffs them on, along with everyone else with whom he does business.

Meanwhile, back in The Swamp, protected by thousands of police and armed soldiers, Joe — excuse me, Mr. President — is guaranteed a bit of a honeymoon. He can spend several days just cleaning up the obvious garbage that has been left behind by you-know-who. It’s a massive pile of rubbish, complete with a writer’s cramp worth of executive orders that need his signature. This includes reversing policies inspired by cruel xenophobia that defined the past four years, tax breaks for the wealthy and deregulation to enrich them too. There is joining the world in fighting off calamitous climate change before the entire planet is consumed — in fact, joining the world in general — repairing alliances and rejecting tyranny.
Speaking of repairing, he is going to have to pretend he likes journalists or at least can tolerate skeptical news coverage, as opposed to treating media as “the enemy of the people.” That should be easy, considering how Biden used to hang out and schmooze with reporters every chance he got. Actually, Vice President Kamala Harris did too. We’ll see how long it takes for all that glad-handing to turn into a fist.
And the new Biden administration has made some grandiose promises about defeating the coronavirus pandemic and its economic wreckage, beyond acknowledging them, as his prior job holder refused to do. A moving tribute to the 400,000 Americans who died is one thing, but moving on to snuffing out Covid is an imperative.
Also imperative is making good on the inequities that have plagued the United States since before our beginning, when our colonists brought the first people of color here in chains. The promise made in the Declaration of Independence was a big lie “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ...”
The time for patience is over. First we need to destroy the vicious white supremacist militias, then we need to attack the vestiges of polite racism. Or Joe Biden’s presidency with its pledge that “We can deliver racial justice” will be just another empty promise and our last chance to survive as a nation.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

TRUMP IS DUMPED

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

TRUMP IS DUMPED

It’s ludicrous that some of the white supremacists who participated in the Capitol riot are actually disowning Donald Trump, even though he made their bigotry fashionable again, at least among the tens of millions in his base. In their view, Trump became a traitor when he yielded to pressure from the few remaining sane members of his shrunken staff and called off the same riotous mob he had incited with a video “plea” to “go home.”
Even though he added “we love you” and “you’re very special,” it was not enough to placate some of the supremacist seditionists (SS) who have now added their hero to their snit list with charges that he threw them under the bus. “Get out of our way,” said one. “We don’t follow you.”
One can argue that these freaks from the fringe are just giving Donald Trump the Trump treatment. The Trumpster made a habit of tossing his most ardent supporters into the dumpster whenever it suited his whims. Even Mike Pence, who spent an entire four years toadying up to him, got trashed because at the last minute, Pence wouldn’t break the law for him.
But Donald Trump made the white supremacists what they are today: a genuine threat to the United States of America. Where before they crawled along the secret sewers of super patriot intolerance, they now march with their heads high, beneath their “Proud Boy” and “Boogaloo” banners, like so many divisions of the Trump Army. Trump, as president, allowed them to wear their bigotry proudly. “I was a racist before racism was cool” was their spirited cry. Still, they are turning on the guy who encouraged them now that he is retreating with his tail between his legs.
Some of them, those who even bother debating with their critics, use the “What about ...?” argument — as in, what about the leftist extremists who also use violence and attack police and innocent businesses in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Before we go any further down this false equivalence path, let’s stipulate that all violence is bad. Having said that, let’s go back to the root causes of racial prejudice.
White people brought Black people to America as shackled captives. White people built their country using slave labor and fought a war to keep the slave system. White people forced Black people to endure discrimination under Jim Crow and only grudgingly are giving it up; our society is still riddled with discrimination, including a huge disparity in the use of deadly police force against people of color.


That was the backdrop for this summer’s protests against law enforcement fatal abuses. The massive demonstrations against the outrageous discrimination were overwhelmingly peaceful and orderly. But yes, some of the demonstrators engaged in unwarranted violence, and again, let’s emphasize that all violence is unwarranted.
But at least their cause is righteous: opposition to the significant vestiges of racism that permeate our society. But, in the case of the white supremacists, they are the extremists who are the advocates of maintaining the racism. They are the ones who stormed the Capitol, along with those who are obsessed with other cultural grievances that caused them to attack democracy itself and now threaten civil war against the United States.
All because a fair election deposed the man who breathed life into their racist delusions. Some of them dream of the helter-skelter of a race war. That’s where Donald Trump’s presidency was leading us and what American citizens rejected. Although, the uncomfortable fact is that more than 70 million people continue to believe that the election is unfair, corrupt, a “steal,” or whatever word their iconic leader wished to call it. That’s who the fascists are now rejecting as too moderate.
The majority choice of Joe Biden promises to be a turn toward more moderation, at least until another authoritarian wannabe comes along.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

WHERE ARE THEY?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

WHERE ARE THEY?

Note that we have not heard from Iran, China, Russia, North Korea or even ISIS. This would be an opportune time for one of these enemies of the United States to launch an attack or do lesser malicious mischief. The U.S. is in a weakened condition with a deranged president who could do such calamitous damage in his remaining days.
Why hasn’t some adversary taken advantage of the fact that Donald Trump is imploding? Is it because he IS imploding? Is it because in Tehran’s case, for instance, noodging the United States of America is no longer such a cheap thrill because the “great Satan” is not so great anymore? Read the tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (who, by the way, has not been banned from Twitter):
“Have you seen the situation in the U.S.? This is their democracy and this is their election fiasco. Today, the U.S. & ‘American values’ are ridiculed even by their friends.”
No, the biggest danger to us these days, as we segue from the disastrous Donald Trump administration to Joe Biden’s, is not foreign but domestic. And America is quivering in fear.
Washington, the center of power in this nation that likes to present itself as “exceptional,” is exceptionally locked down. It’s impossible for residents to get around right now, because thousands of soldiers and police officers are blocking off all access, not only because of threats to D.C., but expanding across this nation of ours. The violent threats of war come from homegrown terrorists, not those from far away.
What is usually a celebration of the peaceful transition of power is anything but now. It’s easy to blame the presidency of Donald Trump, and hopefully he will get the justice he deserves.


Meanwhile, law enforcement is casting a big dragnet for those responsible for the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol building. They could number in the hundreds, those who could easily be charged with murder because people died during their illegal rampage. And what about the members of Congress? What about the accusation made by Democrat Rep. Mikie Sherrill that a few Republican representatives were showing their constituents around the day before the constituents became marauders defiling the hallways of Congress?
And what about those senators, particularly Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who were obviously motivated by dangerous burning ambition? Furthermore, what about the multitudes of GOP House members who succumbed to their worst instincts and ignored sanity to support Trump’s baseless claims that he had been defrauded and followed him right over the cliff?
For that matter, what about their voters back home, who elected them not despite, but because of their fascist views, and in spite of the fact that they were conspiratorial, bigoted nutcases?
Pity Joe Biden. There’s a show business adage that you never follow a good act. Donald Trump was a good act and a bad act. From an entertainment point of view, he was boffo. He keeps us entertained every single day with his sick humor. Blame those of us in the media for having an insatiable appetite for his sewage schtick. And, frankly, we aren’t about to do better.
Joe Biden will have to compete by doing all the recovery. Cleaning up the rubble is pretty boring, particularly because the continuing exploits of the Trumpster will be outlandish enough to overcome the same-old-same-old story of undoing his mess.
Meanwhile, no matter how many perpetrators — from those on high to the low level low-lifes — you punish, there will be others to vent their fury at efforts to restore order. For instance, the minimal, commonsense approaches to controlling the pandemic slam into a misplaced sense of freedom.
That’s why we haven’t been bothered by our rambunctious enemies. Why bother? An early sign of President Biden’s success might be when they start messing with us again.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

DON TRUMP’S EXILE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DON TRUMP’S EXILE

It’s a shame they didn’t name one of the early social media entities Pandora, after the mythological woman who opened the box that released all kinds of trouble on humanity, a shame that the trademark was left for a music and podcast app later.
The Facebooks and Twitters of this world are prime examples of a technology run amok. With the intention of providing a voice to every individual, it quickly became evident that not every individual should have that voice, that our worst instincts will inevitably spread and pollute the planet.
Look no further than Donald Trump, who turned this instrument into a cyber-demagoguery platform and stepped from it all the way to the highest office in the land. He clearly had no concept of how he would use his near omnipotence, other than for feeding his most unhinged narcissism.
But who decides who has access? If the institutional filters for ideas, like the media, have unfairly represented the rich and mighty’s interests and infuriated everyone else, who’s to say that a shameless, ignorant blowhard can’t inspire the “regular folks” with simplistic and hateful promises using these internet soapboxes, particularly if this scaffolding is run by amoral technocrats?
Only after an entire Trump presidential term — as these profiteers lurched from one bad idea to another — have they settled on their latest strategy to police misinformation and try to control the deranged president.
They simply pulled the plug on him ... silenced his voice in the final few days of his lying public presence. Twitter and Facebook chose to shut him down. In the case of unrestrained right wing Parler, Apple, Google and Amazon decreed that such mini sites would not be allowed to peddle their incitement. They’d simply be removed.
Suddenly, the president’s bully pulpit had no bullhorn. His millions of supporters could only claim censorship. Of course it was censorship, opening another Pandora’s box. In their case, they were scrambling to come up with another high-tech way to construct a new misinformation highway.
Of course their militants have another alternative: continued violence. In the few days remaining before Joe Biden’s inauguration, they can regroup and launch their evil, deadly attacks now that they have a martyr to rally around: Donald Trump. But they and he have momentarily lost the element of surprise, which compromises the ability to coordinate their treason.


But there is nothing magical about inauguration day, particularly since it’s less likely that security forces will be as woefully unprepared as they were for the Capitol siege.
No. They can choose to wait and surreptitiously arrange an operation another day. And it’s likely these domestic terrorists will, with Trump as a grievance icon.
Meanwhile, in spite of the argument that this lunatic commander in chief, with his constitutional potential to annihilate everything, needs to be removed immediately, an attempt to close him down before Biden takes over is probably not workable. Instead, neutralize him somehow, and wait until he’s a private citizen, unprotected from prosecution. If he pardons himself, fight it out in the courts.
The sad fact is that whichever legal strategy is chosen for recourse, it will keep him at the top of the news, which is what he craves. Perhaps some bargain with him is possible, where he agrees to make no chief executive decisions for the few days remaining, literally White House arrest. He would also have to accept that he’ll never run for office again and be muzzled. If he violates the artfully drawn deal, the legal system can lower the boom.
It amounts to an exile in Mar-a-Lago, with visits from Rudy Giuliani so they can talk about the good old days of destroying the country. Maybe there could be occasional calls from his comrade Vladimir Putin.
That way Biden and his successors can clean up the rubble and repair the country — in spite of the social media

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

    

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