Bob Franken




They’re called “lower thirds” or “chyrons.” Whichever term you use, they’re the television news version of bumper stickers, the sometimes-accurate digit reduction of stories to little word spurts. By comparison, tweets are weighty stuff.
But hey, I’m a TV twinkie, meaning an airhead, and my chyron, in this case, would be “Vlad Must Be Glad.” “Vlad” being Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who doesn’t even bother anymore to hide his chortling at his betting on the right guy to be U.S. president. “Right” for Russia, that is; totally wrong for the United States.
Setting aside any evidence of collusion, no matter what Bob Mueller said, Putin was not only able to manipulate the American election in 2016 — just ask every intelligence agency — but his “useful idiots” in the Republican Party are now defending their Great Leader (President Donald Trump) by spreading the thoroughly fraudulent smokescreen that it was really Ukraine that was acting on behalf of Hillary Clinton to sway the voting her way.
In other words, the KGB spymaster has been successful in obscuring his actions by coming up with a counternarrative. It’s an old espionage deception, but the Trumpster and his jesters have spread it around to their unwitting millions of followers. Come to think of it, they count on the fact that few of their followers are witting, except for their superrich puppeteers who have gotten even richer now that Trump is in charge.

Don’t be fooled by Putin’s stone face. He’s actually quite the comedian. Look no further than his comment recently at a Moscow forum: “No one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.” As for 2020, “I’ll tell you a secret: Yes, we’ll definitely do it,” Putin stage whispered, “Just don’t tell anyone.”
Still, he’s no match for Donnie, who seems hellbent on making the U.S. a laughingstock. The latest came from London and the NATO meeting where world leaders were mocking him, unaware that their remarks were being captured on an open mic and video. But all their fun masks Putin’s serious purpose, which is to undermine NATO. After all, it was founded as an organization to stop the expansion of the Soviet Union. In Donald Trump, Putin has a disrupter who has shredded the alliance from the get-go.
That’s when he is on the road. Back at home, Trump spends all of his time dividing the nation, with Putin’s help. Or is it the other way around? Whichever, the American version of the Duma is barely functioning. Whether Congress is able to perform one of its few constitutional duties — fund the government — is always dicey. The paralysis is exacerbated now by another constitutional function: impeachment.
The Democrats have dropped that nuclear bomb either because they will do anything they can to overturn the will of the people in the past election, in the Republican version, or in the Democrats’ one because Donald Trump as president has blatantly tried to sabotage the balance of power that is vital to this grand experiment on the part of the founders. According to those law professors who bored us with their appearance before House Judiciary Committee, the designers of this republic were deathly afraid of an autocrat. So they wove together three equal branches to prevent some president from happening along and becoming an emperor.
The balance is always precarious, and now we have Donald Trump, who just tries to obliterate the overlap and take all power to himself so he can do whatever he wants. Vladimir Putin is his role model, particularly since Trump has clearly done Putin’s handiwork and weakened America. When all is finally said and done, impeachment is about his fitness for the office, or as the television news chyron might read: “Impeachment: America’s Last Gasp.” Unfortunately, we might be seeing it on Russian TV.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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