September 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 41st FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
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BOB FRANKEN
FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2018

STINKY CHEESE

The human aguish and cataclysmic damage of devastating storms like Florence, Harvey and Maria are natural disasters that mercifully divert the news emphasis, just for awhile, from the unnatural disaster that is the American political system. I don’t wish to be flippant about tragic and costly storms, particularly since Florence is currently dumping such misery, so I’ll spare you the glib analogies, other than to describe an American society that is being overwhelmed by floods of distrust.
The destruction is not just the result of one man -- that is, the demagogic, grossly incapable Donald Trump. Instead, it’s an accumulation over the decades of amoral self-enrichment by those in power. It has obliterated any sense of community, the belief that we are all in this together. No longer do we trust our institutions or the people in charge of them. That’s fertile ground for someone like Trump, whose election to the highest position in the United States was in large part due to millions of people being so angry at being defrauded that they were willing to take a chance on someone who’s obviously unfit, just to spite the system that, in their minds, had betrayed them.
He has lived down to our worst expectations. He is all toxic rhetoric. You’d think those opposing him would have learned a lesson from how he took advantage of their hubristic paralysis. And some of them have. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson: Some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party, those who don’t even bother to hide their ambition to assume the Oval Office throne, are dimming. They’ve clearly decided to play the same game as he does, or as many others have put it, to “out-Trump Trump.” He’s had much success with his hateful con, so why not come up with their own flim-flams?
Granted, Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” remark was naive, at best. Still, with apologies to Michelle, be prepared to mud wrestle in the pigpen. However, “When they get sleazy, don’t be cheesy.”

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September 15, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

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, SEPT. 14, 2018

THE GERSHWIN CHORTLE

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus,
When he said the world was round.
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother,
When they said that man could fly ...”

Who knew back in 1937, when the Gershwins wrote their song, that 81 years later someone would be singing the same tune? I’ve often suggested that one of the solutions to the federal deficit would be to sell naming rights to government properties. Buildings like the Pentagon could become the Boeing Building. Names of other sites would go to the highest bidder, just like their agencies do.
My dozens of readers have laughed, -- well, most of them really rolled their eyes-- but let’s not quibble. In any case, did you take the idea seriously? Nooooooo. How do you feel about your joshing now that NASA is considering this very idea?
Administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked his advisory council to consider selling ... wait for it ... naming rights. He would slap corporate logos on various launchers, booster rockets and all manner of spacecraft that would soar to the heavens looking like NASCAR racers. Imagine the possibilities: Nike could buy several of them and not only place the famous swoosh on the sides, but maybe also a giant picture of Colin Kaepernick. President Donald Trump would go, uh, ballistic. He’d prefer putting Kaepernick inside one of them, without a spacesuit.

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September 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH

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, SEPT. 11, 2018

LIES AND THE BITTER TRUTH
---
We’ve all heard the description about the stages of deception, attributed separately to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Similarly, I think there are three kinds of politicians: liars, damned liars and contemptible liars. And Donald Trump.
Yes, I know that’s four categories; I lied.
Somewhere between two and three, I’d put Supreme Court nominees who claim that our courts are not hopelessly entangled with politics. He’s hardly unique, but the latest offender is Brett Kavanaugh, involved in the brawl called “advise and consent” (another fraud) while it was going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee preliminary bout. He offered nonstop phony platitudes like: “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
That would be similar to John Roberts’ description of his approach to making rulings when he described himself as “an umpire” and managed to slip-slide through the Senate and be confirmed as chief justice.
So I was particularly intrigued by the weekend op-ed in The Washington Post by Jim Evans, who argued that umpires “have never been robots who simply call balls and strikes. Judges and analysts who describe an umpire’s job in those terms are oversimplifying.” It probably should be noted that Evans was a major league baseball umpire for 28 years. Unlike the New York Times, the Post even identified him.
Getting back on point, and not to get too tangled in legalese, it’s phony-baloney. Both Roberts and Kavanaugh are partisans, as is every member of the Supremes. They are nominated by presidents who are Democrats or Republicans and who expect them to be reliably conservative or liberal. The days of surprises, like Earl Warren or David Souter, are long gone. Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by the Trumpster because he will be expected to rule in ways pleasing to Donald Trump. All the justices are mostly predictable.
Clearly President Trump selected Kavanaugh because of his track record on executive power. He’s given strong indications that POTUS should be walled off from investigations like the Bob Mueller one because he’s just so darned busy. Never mind that Kavanaugh played a major official role in checking into every transgression of President Bill Clinton, including his sexual ones. And never mind that Trump finds all the time he needs for inane and hateful tweets, but he’s too busy for trifles like criminal and civil investigations.

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September 8, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

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, SEPT. 7, 2018

AMERICAN SLAPSTICK

This is one of those “good news, bad news” situations. First, the good news: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has communicated his continuing trust in President Donald Trump to make good on their deal, whatever it is. POTUS reciprocated by going to Twitter to thank Kim for his “unwavering faith.”
Now the bad news: Faith in Trump is wavering big-time in his own administration. If we can’t trust Bob Woodward, who wrote in his new book that Trump’s top aides go to huge lengths to block his craziest decisions, then perhaps we can believe Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, described by The New York Times only as “a senior official in the Trump administration.” With his or her identity shielded, this secret person -- presumably a higher-up somewhere in Trumpland -- has described in a Times op-ed a scary state of chaos, constantly created by the man who is the chief executive, that his top aides try to alleviate by all manner of chicanery, or as the anonymous one put it, “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
Pretty scary, right? But it gets worse:
“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which could start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.” I don’t know what’s more frightening: that they actually considered going that route, or that they decided not to. The guy’s clearly certifiable.
That cloak and dagger opus came right on the heels of excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book released by The Washington Post, where he works, that describes the freak show that is the Trump White House. It’s called “Fear,” and the details certainly are fearsome. They also are strikingly similar to the covert commentary that followed by one day the publication of the Bob Woodward excerpts (let us not forget that the Post and Times are serious competitors).

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