April 26, 2017

THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM

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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017
THE HUNDRED DAY SHAM
BOB FRANKEN

Those who worry that they are closed-minded because they can’t conceive of agreeing with anything Donald Trump says or does can stop beating up on themselves--along with him. He’s finally come up with something sensible, calling the intense focus on any president’s first 100 days in office a “ridiculous standard.” It is ridiculous, largely media hype, a contrived way to judge how a new administration is doing.
For the record, Trump is doing a miserable job. He’s a reverse King Midas. Everything he touches is tarnished, and it’s not even gold to begin with, except maybe fool’s gold. Still, the hundred-day marker means very little. The first one that means anything politically comes 650-plus days in, on Nov. 6, 2018.
That would be the day of the midterm elections in the United States, when Americans choose a full House of Representatives, 435 seats, and a third of the Senate, 34 this time around. Right now, both are in GOP hands, and Democrats have a steep uphill battle to gain control of either. But they are hoping mightily that Trump will have made such a mess of things that they will overcome the odds against them, and crawl over the rubble of his mistakes to somehow take back Capitol Hill, or at least half of it.
There are several problems with that strategy, of course. First of all, Democrats have this bad habit of beating themselves -- they are usually their own worst enemies. Exhibit A would be their most recent presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton should have scampered to victory, far outdistancing the buffoon running against her. Instead, she hung a “kick me” sign on herself and stood there while Donald Trump did just that. That was after Trump had done everything he could to divide his party.
But the Democrats, who specialize in party division, came up with antagonisms of their own. Suddenly, it was Bernie Sanders and the Sandernistas fighting Hillary Clinton and the Clintonistas. The infighting overwhelmed the outfighting, sapping the strength and enthusiasm of Democrats, who often were more intent on settling grudges than doing in Donald Trump. Instead of riding the Clinton coattails, Democratic candidates for Congress tripped on them. And they have an innate ability to do so again in the midterms.

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April 13, 2017

AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS

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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2017

AWFUL QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS
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We don’t know if President Donald Trump was purely motivated to fire cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield. Was he genuinely horrified by the nerve-gas attack on a rebel-held town ordered by dictator Bashar Assad? His strongest critics insist that Trump saw the revulsion at the deaths of the innocents, including children, really and cynically as an opportunity to boost his approval ratings, which have spiraled ever downward during the constant embarrassments that have defined the earliest days of his administration. There is no way to know.
He wouldn’t be the first president whose commander in chief actions raised that same woeful question. In August 1998, Bill Clinton ordered a missile attack of his own, against the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum, Sudan. He contended that it supplied chemical weapons to al-Qaida, although there has never been any actual proof of that, to this day. What is a fact is that it took place on the day that Monica Lewinsky was scheduled to testify before a grand jury in connection with, well, you know. Suddenly, the intense news focus shifted from a Washington courthouse to across the world.
I know this because, during my CNN phase, I covered the various Clinton scandals and was set for another day of live shots, tons of them, to service all the news networks in the Turner Broadcasting empire. Then came word from the White House of the rain of missiles on Khartoum, and suddenly I had nothing to do. No live shots for me. I couldn’t buy airtime. More than once I’ve quoted a colleague who observed, “We (the news networks) can only overcover one story at a time.” It was all Khartoum, all the time.
To this day, we don’t have any idea how the Monica factor influenced the Clinton calculations, any more than we do about Trump’s incentives. As a distraction, it ultimately didn’t work; four months later, President Bill Clinton was impeached. As for President Donald Trump, the early positive responses literally gushed. Suddenly, the pundits couldn’t be ecstatic enough about how Trump had been soooooo commander in chiefish, even the ones who had just moments before described him as soooooo buffoonish.

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April 2, 2017

AMERICA'S PASTIMES

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

AMERICA'S PASTIMES
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What a relief: President Donald Trump will not be throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals’ opening-day ballgame. I should say what a relief pitcher, because now the Nats will have to find someone else to give a ceremonial start to the season -- which will only end when they’ve won the Beltway World Series, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games (who you calling a Beltway “homer”?).
The Nationals have a standing offer to presidents to heave the first ball, but the White House declined, saying POTUS had a “scheduling conflict,” which is another way of saying Trump and his handlers realized that he would be booed out of the stadium. Besides, with that weak pitch he gave Republicans before their health care plan loss, he had to realize that he’d probably fall short of the plate. Apparently he doesn’t have the strong-arm he might have had in the past.
It’s a pity, because the tradition dates back to 1910, when William Howard Taft did the honors. One might think Trump’s people could have at least offered up one of their own as a substitute, but that’s not as easy as it would seem. Let’s say they chose Steve Bannon, Trump’s incendiary chief strategist (and, some believe, the real president). The problem is that Bannon only throws bombshells. If he had his way, he’d simply trash the place, or at least upend the infield.
Sean Spicer would angrily throw a beanball at the batter and then pull out a weapon, which he’d fire at the press box. Kellyanne Conway would insist it was only an “alternative pitch.”
Meanwhile, Ivanka would want to stay behind to run her profitable private businesses from her White House offices. Her husband, Jared, had already set up shop there so he could take on the government functions in his portfolio, which includes everything.
If the Nationals decided to go to Capitol Hill, they might seek out House Speaker Paul Ryan. Since he’s so adept at speaking from both sides of his mouth, perhaps he can throw a ball with each arm at the same time. But alas, Ryan was not available, because no one could explain what was in it for him. As for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, he was too busy batting away any threats to his patron Donald Trump, particularly the accusations of coordinating the election campaign with Russia.

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March 29, 2017

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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FOR ELEASE TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN

CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH
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Let’s dispense with the sanctimony and admit it: Most of us really enjoy piling on. I know I do. There are few things more exhilarating than participating in mass malice. Rarely do we get such an obvious opportunity for schadenfreude than the Trump-Ryan health care debacle. Maybe Donald Trump should have his ghostwriter create a new book: “The Thwart of the Deal.”
And while we are being brutally honest (or is it honestly brutal?), let’s acknowledge that such cheap shots like that are the best shots. They’re certainly no cheaper than all the promises Trump made while campaigning -- like his repeated pledge to dismantle Obamacare “first thing.” He denies saying that, but he did. It was a regular dose of the snake oil he sold, lapped up by millions of rubes who elected him president. He obviously was pandering to those right-wingers who still foam at the mouth at anything Obama.
In office, Trump realized how serpentine the issue is, exclaiming last month that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well, I don’t know how to break it to you Mr. President, but a lot of people knew. It’s just that some demagogues carelessly peddle the idea that they have simple solutions to impossibly complex problems.
That also would explain why Trump and his merry gang of misfits so badly botched their anti-Muslim immigration blockade. They haven’t even gotten to walling off Mexico yet.
Instead of “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump’s motto should be: “Used to be I couldn’t spell ‘president.’ Now I are one.” He’s like that country bumpkin Gomer Pyle (do a web search, kiddies) who would be awestruck and exclaim “Gawwww-leeeee.” Except Gomer Trump is a city bumpkin who tries to cover up his ineptitude with nastiness, usually unleashed on Twitter.

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