FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN FAIR GAME FOUL GAME --- Let’s give a little credit to President Donald Trump: He’s not a plagiarizer. His wife has been known to lift a few passages, but that’s not his thing. Actually, Twitter has ...

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"Franken Sense" - 5 new articles

  1. FAIR GAME FOUL GAME
  2. "I" WORDS
  3. NEWSBIZ AND SHOWBIZ
  4. SAME DISTRACTIONS, DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS
  5. SEASONS GREETINGS NEVER
  6. More Recent Articles

FAIR GAME FOUL GAME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

FAIR GAME FOUL GAME
---
Let’s give a little credit to President Donald Trump: He’s not a plagiarizer. His wife has been known to lift a few passages, but that’s not his thing.
Actually, Twitter has retweeting, so plagiarism is not necessary. You can steal ideas without raising a sweat. Sometimes Trump’s most despicable stuff comes from others, like the doctored picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer photoshopped in a hijab and turban standing before a morphed Iranian flag. In this case, the Trumpster was borrowing the work from one of his Islamophobe supporters, but it could just as easily have been from one of his white supremacy backers.
Actually, when it comes to white supremacy, you don’t have to be an “Ever Trumper,” nor even a fan of his. Look no further than the Oscar nominees if you want to see a left-leaning group that’s almost lily white. Or look at the most recent political debate, which by the way was the Democratic presidential debate, you know the Democratic organization, that sanctimoniously bills itself as the party of diversity. The Democrats managed to stage a debate that looked like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Is there not anyone of color who can capture America’s interest, or is America’s interest overridden by bigotry, some of it subtle?

Maybe that’s why I watched “Jeopardy!” instead of the debate. Oh wait, that was also a competition for the “Greatest of All Time” champion among three guys who were of the Caucasian persuasion. At least that show, while not colorful, was way more entertaining. The only fireworks that happened during the Dem debate happened afterward. It's fair to say that the Democrats have a big problem. Unless they can come up with a compelling candidate, they too will be in jeopardy, and maybe we all will be when Donald Trump wins the next election and rules the world as he sees fit. That is, unless he divvies it up with his authoritarian buddies.
Whether he and they act on their outrageous, hateful and dangerous calculations or follow their mindless impulses -- which is mostthe time -- they are backed by desperate sycophants who eagerly get away with rationalizing his comments and actions, often in irrational ways. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has emerged as Donald Trump’s chief groupie, a regular Trumphead, is always there to justify whatever his buddy does. President Trump’s entire coterie of hired hands is also always at the ready to explain away his latest nastiness or verbal blunder.
It used to be that Kellyanne Conway was the ‘splainer in chief, with her “alternative facts” construct going down in history. But now the anti-press secretary Stephanie Grisham is emerging. After her boss retweeted the doctored picture of Schumer and Pelosi in turban and hijab, she explained on Fox News, “I think the president was making a point that the Democrats hate him so much that they are willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.”
The demagoguery was a response to questions about the timing of Trump’s order to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was responsible for decades of attacks that left hundreds of Americans dead. Even though Trump’s critics made it a point to describe Soleimani as a despicable guy, they skeptically asked, “Why now?” what with the Trumpster being impeached. The answers changed with every utterance by POTUS and his potettes. He and his sycophantic chorus attacked his adversaries as un-American for daring to challenge him. One of his zealots, Rep. Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia, even accused Democrats of being “in love with terrorists.”
Now the president’s adversaries have navigated the twists and turns of the Capitol and walked the impeachment charges over from the House side to the Senate chamber for trial. Neverthesss, the intrigue will soon be over and Trump will almost certainly stay on as president, through the election. And beyond, unless Democrats can choose a candidate who can counter Trump and his fresh material, which is always a surprise.

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

    

"I" WORDS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

“I” WORDS
---
Let’s deal with the letter “I.” No, it’s not because we are run by a bunch of self-involved leaders, including the narcissist in chief, President Donald Trump. It’s because, for whatever reason, much of our news right now involves “I” words.
Where do we begin? How about with IMPEACHMENT, which is back to dominating the news cycle now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stopped IMPEDING the transfer of the articles of Trump’s impeachment to the Senate for reasons that were never clear, no matter how many times she explained them.
Perhaps it’s because the Senate majority leader looks ready to blatantly ignore the oath of IMPARTIALITY that members take before they hold a trial to determine whether the Trump presidency would be INTERRUPTED for good. And yes, I will freely admit that this will quickly become a stretch, but onward and downward.
Where was I? The impeachment narrative was overtaken by the IRAN one, which is fair, given that for reasons only he or his accomplices know, Trump decided to take us to the brink of war by assassinating one of Tehran’s really bad actors, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of proxy forces that have been responsible for killing hundreds of Americans. But Soleimani had been in that murderous role for decades. Why did Trump order his obliteration by drone now? Was it by sheer coincidence that impeachment was about to rear its ugly head or, as the Don Trump and his henchmen claimed, was he bypassing the legal requirements to notify Congress and taking this country into an all-out military confrontation because of an exception when there is an IMMINENT danger to America or Americans. Yeah, that’s the word they came up with ... Soleimani presented an IMMINENT danger. What it was, the Trump mob failed to make clear, either in subsequent congressional briefings or in various public pronouncements. As for the Don himself, his descriptions of the threats spiral with his every telling. His latest version is that unless the Iranian general had been taken out now, an INCREASING number of U.S. embassies would have been attacked. And we should take him at his word, because we all know how INVIOLABLE his word is.

Happily, after much chest-beating, the Iranians seemingly decided to let things cool off to allow a return from the precipice to the normal ILL WILL. They did fire off a few face-saving rockets at bases in IRAQ where U.S. troops were stationed, but they also did everything but take out TV spots to announce their plans. They probably would have done that had Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer not bought out all the ad space. The warning gave Americans a chance to head for the safety of bunkers, so the missiles hit without casualties, and without real INCIDENT.
By the way, we don’t know how Vladimir Putin INTERCEDED. Obviously, he’s usually an ally of the mullahs and just as obviously an ally of Donald Trump, so perhaps he did get INVOLVED.
And now it’s back on the impeachment I-WAY, which, among other things, will INTERRUPT our focus on the real work of our political leaders, which is the “E” word, as in getting “elected.” Actually, come to think of it, the “I” words and the “E” word are both part of what has become our dysfunctional democracy, defined these days by little more than the IMPOLITE names that our leaders call one another. There is little that the various sides can agree on in this day and age of social media superficiality, which spreads division at lightning speed. Perhaps, in the case of Iran, a decision was made in Tehran that overt hostilities are not necessary; they can just sit back and watch the United States IMPLODE.
All that remains for us to see I to I on is that my word game has gotten really tiresome.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distri

    

NEWSBIZ AND SHOWBIZ

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

 

NEWSBIZ AND SHOWBIZ
---
Pardon my sharing a personal preference, but I don’t give a rat’s patootie about the opinions of some showbiz notables because, notwithstanding their star power, they usually don’t really know what they’re talking about. I also hate to interview other journalists, often for the same reason.
Once, I was covering a political story and a prominent actress who happened to be nearby decided that she would love to express her opinion, ON TV, and expected me to jump at the chance because she was a celeb. So she sent some lackey over to request that I put her on right away. When I politely declined, he, in effect, escalated that to a demand. I still refused, admittedly a little less politely, and he called somebody he knew at CNN, where I was working at the time, who leaned on the newscast producer to order me to just do the blankety-blank interview. Even less politely, I still said no. I believe the producer solved the dilemma by having the anchor person do it. He did; I didn’t; and after the actress contributed nothing whatsoever to the story, she glared at me as she flounced off to her next ego trip.
By the same token, I try to avoid covering congressional hearings where the sponsors of some issue recruit an actor or actress to represent their cause as a way to suck in coverage, paying the performer to memorize lines like they’re playing a part.
I hasten to point out that this not universally true. Many entertainment types really do know their subject and dedicate lots of genuine hard work on its behalf; Audrey Hepburn, Danny Glover and Robert Redford come to mind. But many others are just naive news groupies or publicity hounds.

I also should mention -- since, by now you’re desperate to know my opinions -- that I get bored with award shows: the Academy Awards, Emmys, Grammys, SAGs, you name it. Once you get past the opening monologue, they go downhill really fast, particularly when the winner offers a sanctimonious lecture about a glaring societal shortcoming that he or she has latched on to, because it’s the thing to do.
That’s why I so enjoy Ricky Gervais’ opening monologues at the Golden Globe presentations. Gervais takes no prisoners, and this year drew blood with his lines about those who forget that they’re just pieces of fluff:
Following up a remark about American-owned sweatshops in China, he said: “Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean -- unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?
“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.”
Unfortunately, many of the recipients ignored him, and once they thanked family and the “little people,” they veered into statements about whatever their handlers told them they should be passionate about, or act like it. Quite frankly, their concerns are mostly lefty because that’s what gets applause, and performers are motivated by a frantic need for approval, just like a certain president, who shall remain nameless.
One plausible explanation for right wingers winning so many verbal fights, even when their arguments are so idiotic, is that they honed their debating skills in college, when they were the only conservatives on campus and took on liberals made flabby by their sheer numbers. Plus, reactionaries have no scruples, which takes you a long way. Just ask that same nameless president.
I leave you with the words of Gervais again: “So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God ...” and then he went on to use an obscenity, because that’s what he does.
Putting it a little less crudely: We don’t care what you think.

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

    

SAME DISTRACTIONS, DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SAME DISTRACTIONS, DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS
---
The president is smack-dab in the middle of impeachment politics. Suddenly, he directs a bold but perilous military action. His defenders vehemently argue that petty politics is getting in the way of his exercising his hugely important duties as commander in chief.
By now, you are probably aware that Donald Trump, the 45th president, has ordered a fiery drone attack that assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force. For decades Soleimani was the coordinator for Tehran’s proxies and had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. While he was a hero in Iran, he was a terrorist in U.S. eyes. Trump and the top officials of his administration have vague answers to the question “Why now?”
Also by now, you are aware of the eerie similarities to 22 years ago, when POTUS 42, Bill Clinton, ordered an airstrike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The questions about motivation were the same, the answers also unsatisfactory, leaving suspicions then and now that they were really nothing more than cynical misuses of power during his own impeachment troubles. Skeptics say they were efforts to conjure up massively dangerous distractions by chief executives with a survival instinct that borders on narcissism.

President Clinton beat the impeachment rap. President Trump almost certainly will, but will still have to deal with a hostile response from the Iranian government that certainly will be brutal, if for no other reason than their need to save face. We just don’t know what form it will take, but it would appear that the Soleimani attack was a major escalation in the confrontation between Iran and “Great Satan” America, one that has the scary potential to escalate further into all-out war.
Although both of the two main actors have significant problems with impulse control, there are some obvious differences. Bill Clinton was and is well known for his ability to “compartmentalize,” to set aside in his mind one major problem and turn his full attention to another. In the case of Donald Trump, many question whether he possesses any compartments or much of a mind at all. He has an amazing ability to ignore questions of right and wrong. So he can, without conscience, whip up a frenzy in his millions of followers whenever he wants, taking advantage of their hatreds, grievances and fears.
Both presidents had and have in common one important factor: their ability to take advantage of a weak opposition. In Clinton’s day, he had Newt Gingrich and his motley band. Gingrich, in particular, mainly succeeded in antagonizing millions of voters with his arrogance and overblown sense that he was really, really smart. Bill Clinton was really, really much smarter. But both have prospered in their political afterlife. They do know how to play the game.
So does Donald Trump. Intellect is not his strong suit, but he is awesomely street smart, managing to avoid financial disaster throughout his business life by relying on an incredible knack for self-promotion. That same amazing ability catapulted him to the presidency, although he did benefit from an ill-suited opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Trump share one other characteristic that sets them aside from Hillary. Where she, as a candidate, was feckless, both of them have been reckless.
In President Clinton’s case, he had done it before. A few months back, he had also ordered a questionable military attack. As Monica Lewinsky, principal figure in his impeachment, appeared a second day before a grand jury investigating him and accusations growing out of their White House escapades, he launched missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan, taking attention away from Lewinsky.
Many skeptics had their suspicions about his explanations, as many do with this president, and we can only wonder whether the inevitable Iranian retaliation for the Soleimani assassination will continue to provide Donald Trump with an impeachment distraction -- just like it did for Bill Clinton back in the day. Who says Trump doesn’t learn from history?

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

    

SEASONS GREETINGS NEVER

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

SEASONS GREETINGS NEVER
---
With the multitude of holiday celebrations and hopes for a new year and the new decade, we have also been forced to realize that evil is still festering. The horror of anti-Semitism is on the increase in the United States and around the world. Here it resulted in a series of attacks against Jews this Hanukkah season. Our politicians universally condemn these manifestations of hatred, of course, but at best they do little to combat them and at worst they contribute to an atmosphere where reasoned behavior and opinions have no place. And now it’s time to go from bad to worse.
2020 is a leap year, so named because we are leaping into the sewage of a presidential campaign. This year, it gets even more deranged, with a mob of candidates in the Democratic Party primaries pretending that they actually enjoy traipsing around the frozen tundras of Iowa and New Hampshire. They’re seeking the momentum that has escaped them in their endless debates.
As for the Republican mob, it is controlled by Don Trump. You now have an entire party dedicated to kissing his ring -- or kissing, what’s the word the Don used -- “whatever”?

Even with the primaries, the main event as the year starts out will be the impeachment trial in the Senate, which could theoretically result in President Trump’s removal from office. It could, but it won’t, because the entire process is controlled by the Republican majority in the Senate. Did I mention their kissing preferences? Mitch McConnell, the crafty majority leader, has made no bones about his willingness to give up any pretense of impartiality as a senator and any pretense of self-respect by turning things over to the defendant Trump’s lawyers. “We all know how this is going to end,” he said on Fox News (where else?).
At the moment, he is fending off Democrats who claim to want witnesses to testify during the “trial” about the president’s alleged offenses, as opposed to the GOP preference to get this embarrassment over with in a hurry. These are witnesses who refused to testify during the House investigation because their leader, the president, ordered them not to.
But the flaw in the Democrats’ strategy is that they would have to agree to make available their own witnesses, like Joe Biden. Trump is accused of abusing his office by recruiting the government of Ukraine to assist in an effort to discredit Biden, who is a candidate for president.
Uncle Joe is not covering himself in glory here. During a weekend of tripping over his own words again, he first insisted that he would not comply with a Senate subpoena. Then he tried to clarify as horrified aides realized the optics were terrible, considering Trump’s articles of impeachment included obstruction of Congress because he had rejected subpoenas. So, after a couple of days, No-Malarkey Biden had reversed course and told a town hall that of course he would comply with “any subpoena that was sent to me.” I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that it’s good to clear up that one.
Congress, with its governing responsibilities, will assume its accustomed role as a backdrop while the political season sucks up all the attention. Because sucking up all the attention is what Donald Trump does, but also because most of the members in the House of Representatives and most of the senators are desperately trying to save their jobs.
All of this will be sorted out on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. If it goes smoothly, if the country is able to fend off voting sabotage by the Russians or other malefactors and voter suppression efforts by the Republicans, we will have chosen our leadership till the next time around. Either way, we’ll be left with little hope of tamping down the hateful passions that threaten to consume our society.

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

    

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