NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Grilling Nothing Burgers

If you have an appetite for news, you know what’s on the menu this month: Nothing burgers.

They’re sizzling hot this summer. Cooked up in the realm of casual excuses, the nothing burger has been on the lips of Republican apologists ever since journalists began salivating over tantalizing whiffs of the meatiest political scandal since Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon.

Hungry newshounds have been doggedly sniffing out the juicy evidence for more than a year now. They’re drooling over hints, and now much more, that the current occupants of the White House have a distinctly Russian flavor. As they turn up the heat, the evidence that started out rare is headed for well-done.

“Nothing burger” — that’s how the president’s defenders are dismissing growing evidence the Family Trump and their sycophants welcomed covert digital assistance from Russia to score their jaw-dropping victory. When Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was grilled about what Donald Trump Jr. had been cooking up with the Russians, he proclaimed it “a big nothing burger.”

Shades of “where’s the beef”! Not since Fritz Mondale’s run back in 1984 have we heard ground meat (or the absence thereof) served up so often in prime-time news. Back then, a classic Wendy’s TV commercial supplied what became the catchphrase of the campaign when a tiny female curmudgeon stared at an oversized but barren bun, demanding to know where the meaty part of her lunch had gone.

The phrase “nothing burger,” though — oddly girlish and coy — required some tracking down. Was it Valley Girl dialect from the 1980s? A remnant of stylish jabber from the TV comedy “Sex and the City”? It sounds familiar … but where did it come from?

Nothing burgers, it turns out, had lurked on the back burner for 65 years when Kellyanne and Reince and their troop of defenders served it up in its current context. Hollywood’s pioneering movie critic and gossip columnist Louella Parsons tossed it off in 1952, describing a minor performance in the sense of “much ado about nothing.” She was inspired, perhaps, by one of the hot trends of her day. California was falling in love with beef on a bun as the fabled McDonald brothers launched their burger chain with golden arches right in her backyard.

Helen Gurley Brown, though, deserves co-credit. You remember her, don’t you … the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, flagship voice of the female sexual revolution? Helen made the catchphrase her own. It first appeared in her book “Sex and the Single Girl,” a tome that shook the civilized world, just a little, back in the swingin’ Sixties. She tossed it in into her sassy magazine columns, too, along with the other term she coined, “mouseburger.” Both were handy to disparage all that was bland and unremarkable, be it too-innocuous accessories or a too-submissive outlook.

Like other terms that explode as sassy slang, then inch toward respectability, nothing burgers have crept into the English language’s chaotic, messy cupboard. They’ve even breached the ramparts of the sober, noble Oxford Dictionary with an official definition: “something that is or turns out to be insignificant or lacking in substance.”

Proper English or not, Reince may still rue the day he added nothing burgers to the menu, as grilling over the Russian scandal drags his team over the coals. But then again, they sound like just the thing when you’re going to have to eat your words.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Alternative Facts

With all the news over the weekend, it is odd, that The Forum, the largest newspaper in North Dakota, paid no attention (at least through Monday) to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, when she said a lie is “an alternative fact.”

She was, of course, referring to the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd and disputed the estimates published in the media. The fact that the respected Reuters news agency that took the photo showing a clearly smaller crowd validated its photographer’s work didn’t faze her. After being caught in a lie about it being the largest crowd ever, she simply stated that the administration’s numbers were “alternative facts.”

When spokesman Conway was cross-examined by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, she went so far as to threaten the media. Then our new president went to the CIA on Monday, stood in front of the Wall of Fallen Heroes and gave it scant attention as he proceeded to brag about the largest inauguration crowd in history (false, not even in the top five) and accuse the media of broadcasting false reports on the crowd size.

Not to be outdone, the Heinrich Himmler (Reichsfuhrer of the Schutzstaffel and a leading member of the Nazi Party of Nazi Germany) wannabe, press secretary Sean Spicer, jumped in to defend the new administration’s lies. (By the way, google Himmler’s picture and note the hair.) Spicer held what he called a “press conference” to lecture the media on what bad people they are. He repeated the crowd-size lie, then goose-stepped off the stage without answering one question.

Conway and Spicer are supposed to be conduits of news from President Trump to the media and the public. It’s clear that “actual facts” aren’t going to get in their way.

In the future, as students of all ages take their exams, they can now apparently assume that, according to the Spicer-Conway-Trump theory, any answer is acceptable, and hence no one can fail. The fact is, however, that we all fail if we let that nonsense occur. Truth and facts do matter!

Donald J. Trump promised on numerous occasions that he would release his tax returns, as all previous presidents have done. Now that he’s been elected, he is relying on his “alternative facts” because now he refuses to release them.

Not to worry. One way or another, those tax returns will be released. The American Civil Liberties Union on Jan. 19 filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act .

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has brought a federal lawsuit to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments. The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York. The foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibits Trump from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress.

The libel and sexual assault lawsuits will continue. You can be assured more suits will follow.

Talk about the man Trump admires most, Vladimir Putin! Our president asked for, but did not receive, a display of tanks, rocket launchers and other weapons of war to be in his parade. He seems to be too uninformed to know that the United States of America does not need to parade its military to impress anyone. That’s what the Russians and Chinese and various tinhorn dictators do … and now El Presidente wants to echo them?

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Why didn’t the Forum publish the actual numbers on the Fargo Women’s March?

There were 35,000 local residents who participated. Oops, sorry! That was using the Trump administration’s “alternative facts” tool. Actually, The Forum reported 1,000, and the actual count was estimated at between 2,500 and 3,000. That was one large crowd.

I was honored to participate in the March. Organizer Maren Day Woods of the new Revland Art Gallery did a terrific job. She initially expected 200 to 250. The crowd size Saturday both shocked and pleased her.

Nearly a dozen local speakers took to the podium and voiced their concerns about their stations in life and the prospect that their rights might be taken away. Males, females, children, people of all colors, people of all faiths, people of all genders — all came out to show solidarity in wanting the United States to remain the country of freedom and compassion that it is.

Some say that was an anti-Trump rally. I prefer to call it a human rights rally under the caption Women’s Rights March and a call-to-honor rally. I saw many Trump supporters involved in that crowd. Methinks his post-election comments caused many of his supporters to pause and wonder, “What the hell did I do?” The crowd was happy and respectful, and it accomplished its purpose as participants chanted, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” What a great feeling to be involved!

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I saw some pretty nasty letters to the editor of our daily newspaper criticizing columnist Mike McFeely for his story on one of The Forum’s favorite politicians, Al Carlson. Online, it was headlined “Ancient, Out-of-Touch White Man in N.D. Gives Worst MLK Day Speech in History.” Mike was spot on. He tells it like he sees it.

His fellow columnist Rob Port is another matter. He says Obama was the worst president in his lifetime. I have fungus under my elderly toenails older than that young man! His parting shot at a real president who had absolutely no scandals in his administration was just lousy. He, like his bosses (not including Jack Zaleski, who is the best of the best), forgets that Mitch McConnell said he’d oppose anything President Obama wanted on the night he was inaugurated … and he and his damned cronies honored that pledge. The party now in control of Congress forgot that they represent the people, not the party.

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OK, if I see one more Viagra ad on TV, I’m going to … do something! Not sure what. The ad says if one has an erection lasting for four hours to call your doctor. Had that happened to me, I wouldn’t have called a doctor. I’d have called a press conference. Amen.

MIKE BRUE: Just The Facts, M’am