Bob Franken

PRESIDENTIAL PRESS CHARADE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PRESIDENTIAL PRESS CHARADE

It’s better than nothing, but the fact that President Joe Biden is holding his first news conference of his presidency after two months is no big deal, other than for the White House reporters who get to show off asking their adversarial questions. But more importantly, they’ll get to strut their stuff as being way high up on the journalism food chain. It’s sort of like going to the correspondents’ dinner … only better.
The truth is, this glamorous life at the top is lived in the bowels of the Executive Mansion, which is where those screams of outrage at this secular blasphemy are coming from right now, but there I’ve gone and said it.
By the rules of any self-respecting news conference (or press conference, as the print people prefer), an accredited member of the gang gets to drop his bombshell in two parts, a question and a follow up (this is flexible, but that’s the way it usually is). President Whatch-a-ma-doodle deflects the first, similarly obfuscates the second and then tries not to smirk as he moves on to someone else.
By the way, he has a sheet of everybody’s name and where he or she is seated so he can flatter you by appearing to know you. I know this because I was startled the first time the president of the United States called on me by name, when I knew full well he had no earthly idea what I was even doing there.
I should also note here that he has been fully prepped — it’s not that a reporter has to submit any lines of inquiry, it’s just that it’s usually obvious what they will be. So it becomes a test of whether President Whatch-a-ma-doodle can follow the script.
If it’s President Joe Biden, there’s a decent chance he’ll flub his lines. Every media organization will have a gaffe patrol set up, so pundits arranged in a row for their inane commentary afterward, can gloat at POTUS’ mistakes. Similarly, the entire White House staff will have a cringe patrol established, ready to fan out and explain why it was no big deal. Joe Biden, after all these years, has never gotten ad-libbing figured out.
One difference between President Biden and Donald Trump (you remember him, the predecessor?) is that Biden says stupid stuff unintentionally. Trump could also blurt out the most outrageous material out of ignorance — like asking whether COVID could be cured by injecting disinfectant into the body — or because he wanted to appeal to his cadre of bigot voters.

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HOW BAD?

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
 BY BOB FRANKEN

HOW BAD?

One of my favorite recurring TV gags comes from “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” It always cracked me up when Carson would be talking about such and such and so-and-so, and would say something like, “You wouldn’t believe how bad it was!” His faithful straight man Ed McMahon could always be counted on to ask, “How bad was it?” Carson would invariably respond with something monumentally silly, like “It was so bad that Ed Sullivan tried to smile and he threw up.”
Stupid, I know, but then I’ve always had a low threshold for humor. I’ve also never had an original thought in my life, so out of desperation I’ll go with that one.
Straight man: How bad is the trouble that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in?
Comedian: It’s so bad — he’s in such deep doo doo — that when he was asked whether he’d resign, he retorted, “People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.”
It must have galled the Democratic Cuomo to no end that he was stealing the Republicans’ “cancel culture” as his justification to stay on. (Although I, too, plagiarized George H.W. Bush’s “deep doo doo”). But then that splashing sound you hear is Cuomo’s fellow party members jumping off the USS Andy, sinking because it is being weighed down by all the women charging him with sexual harassment or worse.
Among those going overboard are the state’s two U.S. senators. Chuck Schumer is the Senate majority leader (barely) and Kirsten Gillibrand is best known for knifing Sen. Al Franken in the back, causing him to resign for his own sexual harassment issues way before he should have. Oh, did I mention that Al and I are distant cousins? Is it obvious when I’m discussing Gillibrand?
Here’s another for you:
Straight man: How bad off is Donald Trump without Twitter?
Comedian: He’s so bad off that he tried to horn in on Joe Biden’s first victory.

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PRESIDENTIAL CLICHES

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PRESIDENTIAL CLICHES

How is the first hundred days of a presidency like Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s is a Hallmark concoction; the first hundred days is a news concoction — a reason for papers, magazines, broadcasters, narrowcasters, social media and anti-social media to ramp up entire sections of their papers and fill the screen with graphics and analyses that have catchy titles like “Biden His Time — 100 Days.”
It’s arbitrary, particularly since, to quote then Vice President Joe Biden whispering in President Barack Obama’s ear as he signed health care reform into law, a “big f***ing deal” has taken place in half that time. At 50-ish days, the Biden team has successfully passed through Congress a nearly $2 trillion pandemic rescue plan called, cleverly enough, the American Rescue Plan, with almost no Republican support.
Expect a nonstop victory lap. In fact, it has already started. The legislation became law a day early when the legal scutwork went faster than expected, so President Biden signed it right away. “We want to move as fast as possible,” said chief of staff Ron Klain.
Then it was on to the nationwide TV speech in prime time. Was it gloating when he promised to have enough vaccine available for every arm in America by May 1? Not IN everybody’s arm, that will take a lot of time. But still, by July 4 we should be on our way, said the president, to “not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.” The keyword here is “begin.”
That was not to say that they skipped the White House celebration with every Democrat in the world present. That may be a slight exaggeration, but the way it laid out, after the bill was signed, it got not one, not two, but three televised news hits. That was not counting the Sunday talk shows and, the following week, a bunch of as many photogenic events across the country as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris can cram in before people get tired of hearing about COVID relief.
Lost in all this is the fact that the key vaccines had been developed under a remarkable “Operation Warp Speed,” which was approved and pushed by the administration of President Donald Trump. He may have foolishly bungled the rest of his response, but Warp Speed was a Donald Trump production.
Still, Republicans are busy changing the subject, talking about anything but the highly popular pandemic package.

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CANCEL THE GOOD OLD DAYS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

CANCEL THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Welcome back to the good old days of legislative compromise, where there were arguable, principled and partisan differences between two sides of an issue. A case in point is the Democrats’ version of pandemic aid in a wretched economy. It would shower financial aid on so many millions of desperate, unemployed Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus.
Republicans argue that its largesse would also dribble over to the not-so-desperate to the extent that it would break the federal bank.
Then there are the absurd, mindless matters so favored by media organizations with a point of view. Those have been literally market tested and are less news stories and more audience builders that hosts on the far right and far left can caterwaul to death.
Such an example is the so-called cancel culture, usually presented in simple-minded tidbits, but part of a highly complex overlap of free speech, racial prejudice, sexual prejudice, resentment, resentment at the resentment and false equivalency.
Donald Trump was a master at exploiting these matters, deriding the pressure to remove Confederate leaders and other figures now associated with racism or worse, from schools, military bases and monuments. For his audience of “patriots” it was vilifying this country’s history. He handily ignored such consequential topics like Jim Crow and, more fundamentally, that great blot on the United States, slavery. And all the offshoots that remain to this day.
But the term “cancel culture,” which is complicated itself, basically began as canceling an appearance of someone who is prominent due to his or her objectionable point of view. Those public speaking events frequently were scheduled at a college or university, which are supposed to be about exposure to ideas. At those same citadels of higher education we witnessed the establishment of “safe houses,” where delicate little flower students were allowed to avoid emotional damage by being in a hermetically sealed environment.

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C’MON CUOMO

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

C’MON CUOMO

For those of us in Media World, panic-stricken that we would turn into dust without Donald Trump, particularly since Joe Biden is boring us to death, not to worry. There is always someone in public life to entertain us with cheesy sex.
What’s the difference between the pervy lounge lizard whose idea of a seductive come-on line is: “Hi, baby. What’s your sign?” and the governor of the fourth most populous state? The answer is not much. Both make most women feel uncomfortable at being treated like a hooker.
It is downright smarmy when that governor, Andrew Cuomo, asks a 25-year-old subordinate if she’d ever been with an older man, meaning if she’d ever gone to bed with a guy 40 years her senior, like Cuomo is. Given the fact that he’s the boss, the explanation that he was just being “playful” doesn’t cut it, particularly when he has a long-established reputation for mistreating his staff.
How is it that when a female bigwig runs roughshod over her little-wigs, it’s a fatal blow to her ambitions? I’m thinking of Amy Klobuchar, whose presidential candidacy was blown out of the water when word seeped out that she was tough on those under her command, as opposed to Andrew Cuomo the bully.
Bully boy Cuomo is making himself scarce right now, except to appear and insist that he’s not going to resign. It ain’t going to happen, he says, and he’s given a reasonable chance of weathering his storms.

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