December 11, 2018

THE CARLSON-CRONKITE DISS-CONNECTION

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, DEC. 11, 2018

THE CARLSON-CRONKITE DISS-CONNECTION
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Tucker Carlson is no Walter Cronkite. That is not to disparage Tucker. Truth be known, he's a longtime friend of mine, even though we disagree on pretty much everything, which is not uncommon in our business.
For starters, he laughs at my immature jokes, so what's not to like about him, except for his harsh -- and in my view, grossly misguided -- opinions about the issues of the day? But why would I even bring up a comparison with Cronkite? Glad you asked. Here's why:
Back in February 1968 (good grief, that was more than 50 years ago!), in the days when CBS, NBC and to a lesser degree ABC -- just three networks -- had a monopoly on all of U.S. television news' world and national coverage, Cronkite sat at the top of the heap. He was known during that era as the "Most Trusted Man in America," or "Uncle Walter"...regarded as a straight-shooting anchorman in a time of intense turmoil roiling the United States.
The Vietnam War, among other primal issues, significantly and violently split this country. History has shown that was for good reason; deceit at the highest levels had turned the region into a deadly lie, with more than 58,000 U.S. military deaths and millions more killed overall on both sides. Walter Cronkite decided to venture out from his studio and report on the ground, just as he had as a young reporter pup in World War II. He was appalled at what he (and his cameras) saw, particularly appalled at the fraudulent drumbeats of optimism from military and civilian leaders at the top echelons. Cronkite came back to America to report on the dreary reality and closed his program with a blunt contradiction of those who predicted ultimate victory:
"[I]t seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate ... [I]t is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
In other words, let's pack it up as a lost cause and bring our troops home.
First and foremost, it was a crushing repudiation of President Lyndon Johnson, who symbolized the war effort. And here is the point (finally): Johnson told aides, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

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December 8, 2018

SWAMP LAWS

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, DEC. 7, 2018

SWAMP LAWS

What’s interestiIng about Washington is how the first rule for its leaders has always been to make sure they don’t have to follow many rules. Members of Congress have their “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution, which ends up meaning that no matter how they slander someone during their official proceedings, they won’t be held legally accountable. Presidents can’t be criminally prosecuted while in office without first being impeached and removed. What would normally be called “bribes” are “campaign contributions” in this world. The normal standards don’t apply here as long as the powers that be stick in their privileged positions.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of commandments that must not be violated, at any cost. First and foremost is “Thou shalt not get caught.” That one is obvious: Perps can get away with anything unless it’s found out. There’s also the law that applies to everyone — the Law of Gravity: What (or actually, who) goes up always comes down. What’s unique about Washington is that some fall faster than others.
For example, Donald Trump has flown above behavior that would normally cause anyone else to crash and burn. But now there are indications that the accumulated weight of his conduct might begin to drag even him down. Yes, we have heard that one before, but this time even this demagogic Houdini might not be able to escape. There are glimmers of activity from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation suggesting that Mueller is compiling a bill of goods against Mr. Trump, who will now have to pay the full price.

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December 4, 2018

THE FAKE POTPOURRI

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, DEC. 4, 2018

THE FAKE POTPOURRI
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The word "potpourri" has a few definitions, but for a columnist it means writing about a bunch of unrelated stuff because he's too lazy to come up with an overarching theme. Instead, he'll take a superficial look at several developments. I have long experience doing that because of my career in TV news, where the marching orders were to "Get out there and scratch the surface!"
What better frivolous way to begin this potpourri than with that fist bump, or whatever it was, at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin? They have a lot in common, those two. First, they're both from murderers' row. Second, they each have a huge amount of influence over Donald Trump.
While their hand slaps are not up to end-zone-celebration quality, the leaders are doing quite well at playing the American president, even though Trump is pretending his nose is currently out of joint with Putin. He insists it's all about Russia's belligerent behavior against Ukraine, including the shipboard capture of several sailors and boats ramming, but many suspect that it might have more to do not with collisions but with collusion.
Back home, as the Trumpster is painfully aware, special counsel Robert Mueller seems to be tightening the vise on Trump's, uh, whatevers. The Mueller investigation is obviously well on its way to unraveling what appear to be boldfaced lies from Trump and his henchpeople about his motivations for allowing Vlad to have his way with him. The last thing the American president needs right now is a photo op of his way being had by the Russian president. Instead, they had to suffice with one or two furtive conversations, none of the typical one-on-ones, at least within earshot. They had to resort to whispering sweet nothings to each other without the world hearing them.

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December 1, 2018

THE CLICHE TABLE

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, NOV. 30, 2018

THE CLICHE TABLE
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There should be a Cliche Hall of Fame to honor the trite phrases and overused metaphors that have stood the test of time. There certainly would be a political wing, complete with a statue that has running water coming from somewhere, depicting a hack streaming hackneyed expressions nonstop. It would need to be located in Washington, with our constant gush of banalities.
The best cliches are all-purpose, like something or other not being "off the table." Anyone can use it and everyone here does. President Donald Trump spouts it frequently. In fact, he told The New York Post that a pardon for Paul Manafort is ... wait for it ... "not off the table." Could that be a signal to Manafort -- who faces a ton of time behind bars and who just might have the goods on alleged Trump campaign collusion with the Russians -- that he doesn't have to sweat whatever that big bad witch hunter Robert Mueller does to him? Could "not off the table" also be a trial balloon, a way of softening up America for a pardon when it comes? Is "trial balloon" another cliche?

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