February 11, 2016

NOT SO SUPER BOWL

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 9, 2016
NOT SO SUPER BOWL
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Marco Rubio held a Super Bowl watching event on Sunday night. He’s a huge football fan, even married a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. He must have sympathized with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was brutalized by the Denver Broncos in the pocket all night long, much like Rubio in his “bubble” the night before.
Chris Christie, who is as nuanced as a linebacker, had actually been battering Rubio for days. Ever since Marco came out of Iowa smelling like an establishment rose, Christie has been heaping the stink on him, targeting his youthful cuteness and the way he clings tightly to his carefully crafted script like it’s a security blanket.
On the cuteness point, let’s face it, Marco looks like a lot of local news anchormen, although I hasten to point out that the ABC anchors at the debate did a terrific job.
How’s that for a double digression? In case you don’t remember, the discussion involved Christie (who definitely doesn’t look like an anchorman) ridiculing Rubio as a “boy in the bubble.” Unfortunately for Rubio, he came across as a bubblehead on debate night by referring not once, not twice, but four times to the same talking points, apparently to deflect the oft-repeated criticism that he’s so inexperienced he’s little more than “another Barack Obama.” In Republican circles that may be the most horrible insult, unless, perhaps, you call someone “a Muslim immigrant abortionist.”
Another digression. Rubio and his handlers had crafted a strange response: “Obama knows exactly what he’s doing.” They seemed to mean that Satan -- excuse me, President Barack Obama -- at his tender age had managed to inflict plenty of damage on the United States. Rubio considered it a killer response, and maybe it would have been once, but when His Cuteness kept saying it verbatim throughout the evening, people snickered, even booed. Chris Christie drove a truck through the opening, calling it “the 25-second memorized speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.”
Rubio was rattled. And no wonder: He had a Dan Quayle moment. For those not past puberty, Dan Quayle was the vice president and then presidential candidate who popularized the expression “deer in the headlights look.” Quayle famously had his face rubbed in it during a debate.

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February 8, 2016

GET OVER IT!

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 5, 2016
GET OVER IT!
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Hillary Clinton can duke it out when she needs to. Or duchess it out. That was on display during the most recent Democratic debate when she confronted Bernie Sanders’ persistent charges that she is tainted by her financial ties to Wall Street and the political “establishment.” His accusation, she spit out, was “a very artful smear.” “Smear” is one of the most brutal pejoratives in the campaign game.
With Martin O’Malley no longer cluttering the stage, it was just Bernie and Hillary, mano a womano. And she played the female card: “Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”
More power to her. However, less of it to her defenders, who are offensive when they say that her gender somehow shields her from the brutal grinder that anyone must go through while running for the most powerful office in the world.
Regular readers might be aware that I like to quote the journalists’ cliché “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” In other words, be skeptical of the claims from anyone you’re covering. That certainly must include the first mother, who has a strong chance to be America’s first woman president.
That should seem obvious, but there’s a crescendo growing from Hillary Clinton supporters, mostly her female supporters, that she is getting unfair treatment, particularly from male critics and reporters, being subjected to a double standard. Allow me to speak as just one person who has covered the Clintons for a long time: That is a crock.

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February 1, 2016

A LOUSY CHOICE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 29, 2016
A LOUSY CHOICE
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
Who can possibly govern a country where the name “United States” is an illusion? There is little united about us, not when it comes to politics. In both parties, we have candidate lineups that make the WWE look authentic by comparison, except that the wrestlers are not as weird as the candidates.
How else should we describe the bizarros in that latest tag-team match, otherwise known as the Republican debate? Actually, the star of that circus was the clown who didn’t show up. Donald Trump, the modern reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, turned the latest show on earth into a three-ring spectacle. We had what we like to call the undercard, featuring the candidates whose ratings barely are above asterisk. Then there was what was supposed to be the main event, except that it became just another undercard when Trump trumped all the players simply by staying away.
What a strategy! Let’s face it: The Donald is not The Debater. He doesn’t do all that well when facts and policy are involved. He’s not a substance kinda guy. But he is an amazing self-promoter, and he doesn’t need or want any other guys around the spotlight. He demands the stage for himself. When he does share it, it’s with someone who makes him look sane by comparison. Are you feeling used, Sarah Palin? Although come to think of it, maybe she’s using the Trumpster.
People, this is a GOP freak show. Trump rules the midway, and he overshadows the others, who range from smarmy buffoons to religious fanatics, outright liars to one or two who barely have a pulse. Several are all of the above. It’s the stuff of parodies. We all know how “Saturday Night Live” is having a continuous field day, but what’s really strange is that Tina Fey can’t match the real thing. The fact that Sarah Palin is still a star among hard-line conservatives means that on the right a lot of people are just not right, as in not all there. Or they’re consumed by hatred and fed up with being even slightly rational.

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January 12, 2016

STATE OF DISUNION

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 12, 2016
STATE OF DISUNION
BY BOB FRANKEN
---
This is President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union message. Personally, I would have preferred that last year was his last.
Every January, POTUS traipses up to Capitol Hill, and we are treated to a country-come-to-town bit of pageantry. Those in his audience feign interest in a speech they’ve seen in advance, trying to stay awake in case they’re on camera, and wonder when they should applaud. The gamesmanship begins even before the game begins. Some of the members are so desperate for publicity that they stake out aisle seats hours beforehand to try to get seen in the TV coverage giving the equivalent of a high-five as the big guy heads to the front.
Sharing the podium with Vice President Joe Biden this time is a new speaker, Paul Ryan. We can assume he’ll have no problems with his intro: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.” Applause, applause.
Then the speech, complete with the human props each president puts in the balcony, and this year, the empty seat representing all of the victims of American gun violence. As insane as this country’s attachment to personal weaponry is and as perverse as it is that our politicians are the enablers of the arms merchants, the empty chair has become an empty symbol. It’s been done. In fact, all it does is rile up the opposition. Ted Cruz, for instance, suggests it should represent babies killed in abortions. It’s become a cliché that really just demonstrates that our government is largely dysfunctional, which is precisely the opposite of the impression the State of the Union address is trying to convey.
But hey, it’s his last one, and wouldn’t it be great if he cut the pretense and said something like this: “Members of Congress, you disgust me. For my entire presidency you have thwarted progress at almost every turn. You are so beholden to special interests, or so afraid of them, that the United States is a lesser country, and any improvements have come about not because of you, but in spite of you. A lot has been said about my lack of enthusiasm for spending time with you. Well, no wonder. Did I mention you disgust me? But still, I’m going to make one more stab at laying out a minimal agenda to help our nation avoid becoming a backwater.”


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