November 12, 2017

OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

OFF-PITCH MUSIC MAN

Those familiar with the Broadway classic “The Music Man” doubtless enjoy one of the showstoppers that combines “Ya Got Trouble.” They’re performed by the character Professor Harold Hill. He’s really a flimflammer trying to sell band instruments to the rubes in a fictitious small town, River City, Iowa. He claims that they will rescue the local boys from a life of sin, billiard playing and overall trouble -- “with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for ‘pool.’”
What our politicians sell here in Potomac River City is a much bigger hustle than that. It’s ongoing. The “T” in this version could rhyme with “C” for “con artist,” or simply “Trump” -- same thing. It certainly could rhyme with “V,” for “Virginia,” “E” for “elections” or “ D” for the Democrats, who kicked the GOP’s “B,” and I don’t have to tell you what that stands for.
What was at the “PP,” for “polling places,” is that Trumpism might be in “trouble,” which starts, as we said, with “T” and rhymes with “DDD,” which stands for “deep doo-doo.” In Virginia it was also “G” for “Gillespie” -- Ed Gillespie, the establishment Republican who tossed his scruples into the pile of expedient hate in a transparent effort to appeal to the big “B”: bigotry. He slithered down Trump’s path by running ads that were blatantly anti-Hispanic. That also rhymed with “T” for “trouble” by rhyming with “D” for “disgraceful” and “C” for “cynical.” For good measure (bad measure actually) he added spots that emphasized his support for keeping Confederate statues up, in a state that considers the murderous right-wing extremist violence in Charlottesville a raw wound. And of course he tried to exploit antagonism toward athletes who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He lost, and deserved to. Then to rub a little salt in Gillespie’s wound, Trump tweeted from Asia that “Ed Gillespie worked hard, but did not embrace me or what I stand for.”

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October 31, 2017

A MANAFORT CAVE?

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 231
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 31, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

A MANAFORT CAVE?

It’s a cliché in the legal world: A prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. That is, of course, because the standards for bringing charges are relatively low -- “probable cause” that a crime has been committed, as opposed to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” hurdle that comes before a defendant is convicted in a trial.
In addition, usually only the district attorney or the state attorney (or whatever they call the prosecutor) can offer evidence to the citizen grand jurors. Defense lawyers are almost never allowed to refute the allegations or to provide any explanation. Grand juries date back to British Common Law, which means they have existed for about 800 years. You now have more information about grand juries than you ever had any interest in knowing.
The point is, prosecutors have a ton of power, and special counsels are super-duper prosecutors (is my terminology too legalistic?). Robert Mueller is one of those, and now he’s made his first ham sandwiches. They are big ones: Paul Manafort, a former Donald Trump campaign manager, along with Manafort aide Rick Gates. Their 12-count indictment includes serious felony charges: money laundering, tax evasion, failure to register as a foreign agent and conspiracy against the United States while working on behalf of Ukrainians with close ties to Moscow. It’s heavy stuff (more legal terminology). By the way, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos also pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Yes, it’s a crime to lie to FBI agents, which only enhances the government’s power in criminal matters. At some point we can have a discussion about whether our belief that Americans are “innocent until proven guilty” is all that valid, but let’s not stray from the point of all this.
Ultimately, the guy who was not indicted today is a certain president of the United States. Mueller was appointed to determine whether there was criminal collusion with Vladimir Putin’s agents by Donald Trump or his campaign underlings to swing the election Trump’s way. Mueller’s mandate, as is the case with all independent counsels, extends to any crimes that are uncovered during the investigation. Hence these formal accusations against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. I’m sorry to lapse into more lawyerly language, but they could be in a heap of trouble.

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October 24, 2017

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 24, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

THE ARKANSAS SCHTICK
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders is from Arkansas, and she frequently likes to spout regional sayings when she deflects tough questions about her boss. President Donald Trump is about as un-Arkansas as any person can be, but that doesn’t stop Sarah from employing the faux folksiness that she heard in her childhood to evade the truth about his latest outrage. She learned it from a distance, from the governor’s mansion, when her father was the state's chief executive, but she still has the affectation down pat.
So it was when she was defending factual inaccuracies in White House chief of staff John Kelly’s takedown of Rep. Frederica Wilson. The Democrat Wilson has become a “rock star,” to use her own words, ever since she harshly criticized President Trump’s botched consolation call to the wife of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. Sgt. Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger. Rep. Wilson, who was listening in, along with Johnson’s family members, described Trump as insensitive during the brief conversation. When Kelly decided to respond and defend his boss, he went after Rep. Wilson. In the process of slamming her, he accused Wilson of falsely claiming credit for arranging the federal funding needed to build a new Miami FBI field office during the building’s dedication in 2015. However, a videotape of her speech showed that she did no such thing. Faced with that evidence, Huckabee-Sanders tried to gloss over Kelly’s inaccuracy in Trumpian fashion: She went on the attack against Rep. Wilson and her history of wearing distinctive -- no, make that outlandish -- hats.
We don’t know whether Sarah needed to consult her book of quaint farmer put-downs, but she was ready with one, declaring that Wilson was “all hat and no cattle.” For those city folks who have no earthly idea what she was saying, it means Wilson is all show and no substance.

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October 10, 2017

OF STORMS AND MORONS

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, OCT. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
OF STORMS AND MORONS
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “moron,” but we are the real morons -- certainly those in Washington, D.C., who allow Trump to so easily mess with our minds.
He’s at it again by calling in media types for a photo op at a White House dinner he was hosting for his seniormost generals and their spouses. It looked purely social, just a group picture for souvenirs. That is, until the Trumpster threw out this little bit of provocation: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
Whoa! What did he mean by “the storm”?
Good journalists that the White House pool reporters are, they asked that very question. Repeatedly. And repeatedly he refused to explain himself, brushing off requests for an explanation with a cagey “You’ll see.”
When the commander in chief starts talking about a “storm” in a room full of generals, “You’ll see” is just not going to cut it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson whose job it is to keep White House correspondents in the dark, was her usual helpful self, which is to say not helpful at all. Of course, that led to the obvious question: Was the chief executive simply messing with the press? “I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” she said, which means he definitely was messing with the press.
He’s been known to do that. In fact, it’s nonstop. He’s made “Fake news” his contemptuous go-to dismissal of any story that doesn’t praise him to the high heavens. He also runs a never-ending guerrilla campaign against the media. His latest Twitter onslaught to leave us ink-stained wretches all atwitter, to say nothing of the hair-sprayed wretches on TV, was his tweet “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up -- FAKE!”
Of course, that would be seriously unconstitutional. Presumably Trump is familiar with the Constitution, but it doesn’t matter. His base probably isn’t. Besides, Senate Intel is a bit preoccupied right now, investigating whether Trump and/or his campaign sold out the country’s election to Russian comrade Vladimir Putin.

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