February 17, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 16, 2018

MODERN DUCK AND COVER
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The “duck and cover” drills in our nation’s schools from the 1950s and ’60s, captured in the rudimentary videos of that generation, are now quaint images. They were supposed to help protect students and teachers from a nuclear attack, a futile exercise indeed. As the Cold War waned (if it really did), those regular civil defense run-throughs ran out.
They’ve been replaced in many schools by a different kind of drill: In modern times, the repetitious routine now include what to do in case of a fire, but, ominously, ways to respond to an attack from a mass murderer with deadly weapons. More often than not, the arsenal will include an AR-15-stylesemi-automatic rifle, which is legal. Instead of the Soviet Union or China, now the enemy is us.
In the United States of America, most anybody can obtain these armaments, which have no purpose other than to kill people. They are readily available even to those who are later described as “weird” or “troubled,” as the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was. Nikolas Cruz had been expelled from the huge but highly regarded Douglas High after repeated confrontations. He was a classic loner and such a troublemaker that he had been reported to the authorities, including the FBI, which was a waste of time, as it turns out.
Such details are somewhat different each time, but the outline is the same. Someone disturbed with a grievance decides to avenge it by slaughtering innocents. It’s all too familiar because it happens over and over again in the U.S.; each time it does, we recoil in horror, as we should, and the politicians react with “thoughts and prayers” statements, and then do nothing. That is because they cower before the fearsome enablers of human-caused catastrophes, the National Rifle Association.

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February 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 13, 2018

SHE SAID, HE SAID
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There are so many problems in making a charge of sexual misbehavior and even more starkly when it comes to accusations of domestic abuse. Not the least of this is when Person No. 1 (usually, but not always, a woman) points the finger at Person No. 2 (usually, but not always, a man). When the man denies the allegations, we often are left with uncertainty over which one to believe. That’s exactly what the administration faced with two key people on the president’s staff -- Rob Porter, the man who handled all the presidential paperwork and the most classified material, along with speechwriter David Sorensen. Both were accused by various ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse; both adamantly reject the charges. We are left with the classic “she said, he said” situation.
Unfortunately, it’s what their bosses, particularly chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn, did NOT say that is the problem here. Each should have said, “No way,” as in there’s no way the men should have such critical roles until they could dispose of these matters that are so severe that they were denied full-fledged security clearances, as they nevertheless dealt with state secrets. Both Kelly and McGahn were well-aware. The FBI, which conducts the investigations, made sure they knew. But, for whatever reason, they decided to bring these guys on even with these serious questions about their past.
They’d still be there, except media reports suddenly blew up in their faces. Porter and then Sorensen quickly resigned. There wasn’t even a whimper about “fake news.” There was, however, a discernible roar about the way Kelly, in particular, handled it. Even after the stories spread, he lauded Porter: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” The moment a picture was subsequently published showing one of the exes with a black eye, Kelly, the war-hero-turned-Trump-tough-guy, went into full CYA mode. First, he expressed “shock,” then he tried to revise history by saying he had acted immediately.

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February 11, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 9, 2018

REIGN ON MY PARADE

You know, there is such negativity out there. All President Donald Trump did was order his Pentagon higher-ups to put together a massive parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the critics began their sniping. The Washington Post, which broke the story, reported that POTUS watched the Bastille Day parade in Paris last July and envisioned a huge military spectacle here, “bigly” even, one that would show off America’s military might on the next Veterans Day. Some ridiculed the idea that he presumably would be standing on a big reviewing stand as the parade passed by, with most of the attention focused on ... well ... him. He’d be above the fray. Except that he is the fray. But never mind that: He’s commander in chief, so the generals simply saluted smartly and said, “Yes, Sir!”
There has been no shortage of snarky comments since the Post article came out: Such displays of armed forces and their weaponry might be good for France, which, after all, is always trying to let the world know of its glory, past and present, real or imagined. The grumbling here is that the United States doesn’t need such an extravaganza, that it’s beneath the dignity of the planet’s majorest superpower. Besides, not counting France, that kind of thing is really more common in autocracies, big and small. Russia puts on a splendid one. And so does North Korea, which just did one to mark the start of the Winter Olympics. Philadelphia did another to mark the Eagles’ Super Bowl win, but that featured just a few busloads of players ... and huge crowds ... way bigger than showed up for the Trump inauguration. Just sayin’.
But that was then. This is now, and wouldn’t all that naysaying energy be put to better use trying to make it work? I mean really, isn’t it time to be positive? Never mind that Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11, five days after Election Day this year. Easy-beezy. Surely there’s an executive order for that, moving it to the Sunday before, just in case this really was a political stunt. Of course, the very thought of that would be soooooo cynical.

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February 6, 2018

FAKE NUNES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 6, 2018

FAKE NUNES
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I covered Capitol Hill during my CNN phase, which was quite a while ago, but to this day, I have friends who are veteran members of Congress and, more importantly, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. These are Washington “friends,” which is to say that when I’m reporting on them, they’re often adversaries. In return, they don’t give me any sort of favored treatment, particularly those on the two intelligence committees. Any conversation about the super-classified material they routinely see as they conduct their oversight of various national security operations is strictly off-limits. Since the committees were formed in the 1970s, their tradition has been proudly nonpartisan for obvious reasons, relative sanctuaries of harmony in the dissonant screech of politics.
Until now.
On the Senate side, that still seems to be the approach, but certainly not at House Intelligence, which is chaired by Republican Devin Nunes. As Donald Trump’s hand puppet, Nunes has thrown out any pretense of collaboration. He has repeatedly tried to muddy the waters of an investigation into Donald Trump’s murky relationship with the Russian government and into whether Vladimir Putin colluded with Trump and/or associates to influence the precious election for the president of the United States. That investigation is being conducted, of course, by special counsel Robert Mueller. Now Nunes, or his staff, has released a memo that attempts to selectively contrive a case that all the Russia probes are somehow tainted by partisanship. He did so over the strenuous objections of the FBI and Justice Department that it gives away secrets. It was released to much fanfare, but frankly, it divulged nothing of consequence, unless you count revealing the desperation that Trump and his cohorts (accomplices) might be feeling as Mueller starts tightening the vise.

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