Bob Franken


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Mike Pence had better watch his back. There may be others in the Trump orbit who are aiming to take over his SSS role. That stands for “Shameless Simpering Sycophancy,” and Pence has excelled as the Don’s best ring-kisser in an administration mob where the key to keeping your job is a willingness to kiss the boss’s whatever, if you get my drift.
It’s Pence’s most important role. In fact, as vice president, it’s really his only role. And he has embraced it. (Can we say “embraced” these days?) Who will ever forget the recent Cabinet speech where he buttered up the Trumpster every 12 seconds? He was “humbled” to work for him; it was a “blessing” to do so. He is the SSS kisser in chief.
Not that he doesn’t have to constantly guard against competition. Steve Miller comes to mind; he’s the White House speechwriter and anti-immigration fanatic who is constantly whispering in the president’s ears and inciting his darkest impulses, which are his only impulses. Another Steve, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, is someone else who has survived by blowing smoke all over POTUS. There are many, many others in the groveler category who keep their jobs that way. Mnuchin’s latest is to refuse to turn over the Trump tax returns, legally demanded by the new Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In effect, he’s saying “so sue me,” which delights the boss man. When the chief says “jump,” they say, “How high?” Perhaps that’s why they call it toadying.

Obviously, that’s what it takes to survive in this White House. Just ask Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security secretary. Oh, make that FORMER DHS secretary. She really tried hard to be a flunky and carry out the big guy’s every whim on immigration, no matter how bizarre, cruel or illegal, but sometimes she’d privately whimper that there were impediments ahead. Inevitably, that was her downfall. Never mind that she sold her soul on his behalf; she tried hard not to be a naysayer, but sometimes she had no alternative and nay would carry the day. So it was goodbye, Kirstjen — in fact, goodbye to almost all of the leadership at DHS. The president is looking for people who are “tougher,” meaning flunkies.
Now, there’s still another individual who is scrambling to do his bidding. The new lickspittle is William Barr, the most recent addition to the Cabinet, as attorney general. He replaced Jeff Sessions, the original AG, who had the temerity to recuse himself from supervision of the investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Sessions suffered all the indignities Donald Trump and “Saturday Night Live” could throw his way, until Trump finally fired him. Barr had a relatively good reputation and managed to survive a Senate nomination process, but since then, he’s covered himself in glory as far as the president is concerned by covering up the damaging information in the now-shut-down special counsel investigation. At least we suspect there’s damaging information. All we’ve gotten so far is a puny four-page letter from Barr to Congress glossing over the Bob Mueller report’s findings and a promise of its delivery when Congress is on Easter break. Did I mention it will be a redacted version, with Barr deciding what will be kept from the public?
Furthermore, he delighted the boss by suggesting that the entire FBI probe into Russian coordination may have involved the Feds “spying” on the Trump campaign. Now, Barr knows full well, that the “s-word,” “spying,” is a button-pusher, and by the way factually inaccurate. But that didn’t stop the president from quickly declaring that all the investigations were nothing less than an attempted “coup.” That will fan the flames of his paranoid base, now won’t it.
The 2020 election is coming up. There is no law that says Mike Pence will be Trump’s running mate. If I were Pence, I’d be very nervous.

(c) 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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