Dinosaurs and cheap shots

At first glance, this should be a huuuuuuge story: Prehistoric animal tracks, a lot of them, were discovered near Washington. On further reflection, though, it’s not all that remarkable. In the 110 million years since they roamed the D.C. suburbs, the dinosaurs have moved just a few miles to the District of Columbia, where they trod every inch of the nation’s capital.

 

Yes, that’s a cheap shot, inspired by the State of the Union spectacle, where our country’s leaders try to hold onto glorious ancient traditions that never really were. President Donald Trump managed to not embarrass himself and the country. He went passive-aggressive as opposed to his usual nasty-aggressive. He did manage to sneak in several cheap shots himself, camouflaged by soaring platitudes about unity and national spirit. He referred to the so-called Dreamers — the 700,000 or so people who were raised in the U.S. after they had been brought here as children by their illegal immigrant parents. There is a struggle to rescue them from deportation threatened by a Trump-created March deadline. Even he insists he’s sympathetic to their plight, but his contribution to the negotiations is an uncompromising bargaining position. In his speech, he took the “Dreamers” and rubbed their noses in his “America First” demagoguery: “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.” Cheap shot alert!

The problem is that the Democrats have no shots. Other than sitting there during the speech stone-faced, or boycotting it altogether, the opposition party doesn’t provide any opposition. Leaders constantly get rolled on the Dreamer issue, even though the polls show strong support for the endangered group. Their first pass at ultimatums resulted in a brief government shutdown, where they quickly got shot down. Actually, they wounded themselves by caving almost immediately. Now another shutdown is looming, and they’re no closer to standing up against the GOP bluster.

As for President Trump, he took full advantage of the expectations game for the State of the Union. All he had to do is stick to the teleprompter and not look like a rabid animal, and he’d be declared a success. He managed to do that.

Of course, his address glossed over the extreme turbulence that his administration produces. His speech was sanitized, with no mention about his cruel rhetoric or obnoxious tweets, certainly no mention of Stormy Daniels and the other women who’ve accused him of sexual impropriety. In fact, first lady Melania Trump was there, ending her boycott of him, or whatever it was. Yes, that’s another cheap shot. Stormy, by the way, squeezed out every moment of her 15 minutes of fame by appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” later that night, and cleverly refused to take ownership of another statement of denial she purportedly issued. It refuted her very own claims that she and Donald Trump had ever gotten it on, but she coyly left a lot of doubt. That means she can continue to demand top dollar as she remains on her stripper tour.

Also stripped from the Trump appearance was any mention of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump and his cohorts illegally colluded with the Putin government in stealing the election. Not once in the speech did he utter the phrase “no collusion,” which is as much a part of his rhetoric as “fake news.” Obviously, we don’t know how the Mueller probe will turn out. Republicans are reduced to putting out phony memos filled with cherry-picked classified material in a desperate attempt to shift blame for whatever Mueller discovers. Maybe, just maybe, President Trump will deliver his address next year before the Duma in Moscow. I freely admit that’s another cheap shot. That is, unless the Democrat dreamers succeed in winning control of Congress and make Donald Trump’s presidency a part of history.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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