Friday Talking Points -- It's Raining Shoes!

07/14/2017 09:05 pm ET

In normal political crises, everyone waits for "the other shoe to drop." The Russia/Trump scandal was upgraded earlier this year (by Senator John McCain) to "a centipede, because there are so many shoes left to drop." We thought that was rather clever, at the time. But we've now entered a whole new realm of scandal -- one where it is simply raining shoes down from the sky. Americans can barely go outside before they are clobbered by a falling workboot. Somebody needs to design a much stronger umbrella to protect public safety, and quick!

The most amazing thing about this deluge of footwear is that so many of them have fallen from just one meeting. Donald Trump Junior met with two questionable Russians he thought would be giving him (and Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner) official Russian governmental dirt on Hillary Clinton. He says no such dirt was actually handed over, but at this point there is simply no reason any sane person would believe anything Junior says about this meeting, because he has given so many shifting explanations -- from the initial misleading statement through his most recent -- that newspapers not only have been writing "Timeline Of Don Jr.'s Changing Story" articles, but they've now started updating them almost daily, through the necessity of keeping up. They've even had time to throw in some scathing humor, at this point (such as this Washington Post Junior's timeline article that helpfully gives equivalent statements from Danny Ocean of Ocean's Eleven). At this point, if Junior tried to admit he'd set up the meeting in an attempt to see if a Russian billionaire would adopt him and Ivanka, it wouldn't surprise us in the least. Which is also why more people should be taking Trump's insistence that no dirt was dished during the meeting with a very large grain of salt.

Today's revelation concerns yet another Russkie in the meeting, a man Senator Charles Grassley asked about months ago (in a letter to Homeland Security), because the man: "has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and apparently has ties to Russian intelligence." So at least some Republicans still care about such things, we suppose. Then there's Joe Scarborough, who is so fed up he's officially left the party. Plenty of other Republicans are still cheerfully dancing out under the rain of shoes, though.

In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, it was said over and over again that the voters "didn't want a dynasty" in the White House. This was when Hillary Clinton was supposed to face Jeb Bush in the general election (ah, such simple, uncomplicated times!), and creating a political dynasty was supposedly distasteful. So what do we have now? A self-contained dynasty in the White House, which is closer to a reality television show named something like Dynasty Follies. But we've covered the whole shoestorm (so to speak) down in the talking points, so we'll quickly run through the other news of the week while setting Junior's bombshells aside for the moment.

In other Trump-related news (to use a downright dynastic phrase), the Congressional Budget Office delivered some very sad news to the White House. It seems that Trump's budget proposal will not cause economic growth to magically rise to four percent... or even three percent... but even if enacted the economy will continue chugging along at 1.9 percent growth (as it has been doing for years). Sad! Oh, and instead of ending with a surplus of $60 billion, it instead will finish up with a deficit of $720 billion. That's a whopping $800-billion rounding error, folks! SO SAD!

Donald Trump, after his meeting last week with Vladimir Putin, had a downright bizarre suggestion: create a joint U.S.-Russian "cyber unit" to fix the whole hacking problem. This was roundly ridiculed, by his own fellow Republicans no less. Lindsey Graham: "It is not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close." John McCain: "I'm sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he is the doing the hacking." Trump was forced to quickly back away from the idea that he had proposed: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happened. It can't." Um, then why did you bring it up in the first place?

Trump's personal lawyer is apparently close to a complete breakdown. Hey, who can really blame the guy, right? He got a snarky email from a complete stranger, and then went on an unhinged rant filled with profanity (it began with a two-word response that began with an "F" and ended with a "you"). This went on to include borderline threats such as: "You are fucking with me now. Let's see who you are. Watch your back, bitch," and: "I already know where you live, I'm on you. You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise. Bro." This is the personal criminal lawyer for the president of the United States, folks, who apparently had just gotten clonked on the head by a wooden-soled platform shoe. Or something.

Trump himself may be close to losing it... or, perhaps, he's just being Donald Trump again. His plans for a southern border wall keep growing by leaps and bounds, of course making it bigger, more beautiful, and more tremendous with each passing idea. Here's Trump on his wall plans this week:

Mr. Trump said he had not been joking when he said recently that a wall on the Mexican border would pay for itself... [and said] the wall would have to be transparent, using an offbeat example to explain why. "When they throw large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don't see them -- they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It's over," he said. "As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall."

So -- you decide: is that "as crazy as it sounds," or is it just Trump being Trump? Or is there really a discernable difference, at this point?

Of course, the other big political news of the week was the belated unveiling of McConnellcare 2.0, which was just as bad as the first version (to absolutely nobody's surprise). It may be doomed to failure next week, as support within the GOP ranks has already quickly crumbled. Actually, it crumbled even before it was announced, as Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy were undercutting Mitch McConnell's big announcement on another cable TV channel ten minutes before the big reveal. How embarrassing!

McConnell is now desperately pleading with Republicans the media routinely labels "moderates" (they're not), offering up sweet deals to fence-sitters such as Lisa Murkowski. As Bloomberg reported:

Call it the Polar Payoff. Changes made to the Republican legislation to repeal large parts of Obamacare would send hundreds of millions of extra federal dollars to Alaska, whose Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has been holding off from giving her much-needed vote to the bill. Under formulas in the revised legislation, only Alaska appears to qualify for the extra money.

That's the best you can come up with? Instead of Polar Payoff, how about "Klondike Kickback"? Seems to roll off the tongue a bit easier, y'know? In any case, the Washington Post has a handy "whip count" page where you can see the status of all Republican senators on the bill -- the nays, the ayes, and the fence-sitters. One assumes it will be updated continuously for the next week or so.

Two footnotes before we end on a handful of amusing stories, just to lighten everyone's day. First, Hawai'i won a court decision which weakens Trump's travel ban (by allowing in grandparents and other family members Trump wanted to exclude). And the Iraqi military has successfully taken back Mosul, after a nine-month fight that started late last year. Raqqa is still being fought over, but the battle for Mosul was victorious.

OK, as promised, here are some amusing news items in case you missed them. Trump's election commission dutifully released all of the public comments it has been getting, as required by law. As the Washington Post reports: "Of more than 112 pages of comments, just two are positive; the rest range from sincere advice to colorful, obscenity-laced trolling." Note that you can read that either way -- there were only two pages of positive comments, or there were only two positive comments in 112 pages.

A big iceberg broke off in Antarctica this week. How big? Depends on where you are. In the U.S., it was "as big as Delaware." Here's a fun tongue-in-cheek list of how news headlines described it elsewhere, which started with what you'd expect: "(Europe) An Iceberg Twice the Size of Luxembourg Breaks Off of Antarctica," but quickly gets a lot funnier:

(Portland, Ore.) A Physical Manifestation of White Entitlement Breaks Off of Antarctica (New York City) An Iceberg with Unfortunately No Vacant Apartments Breaks Off of Antarctica (Russia) Iceberg Is Big Like Bear, but Also Weak and Breaks Like American Political System

Speaking of amusing headlines, Politico missed an easy one this week, in a story on how the House dress code might soon change:

Speaker Paul Ryan has asked a top House chamber official to "modernize" the Speaker's Lobby dress code after being pummeled in the media for a long-held rule that women must cover their shoulders in a hallway outside the House floor.

Really, how hard is it to come up with something like: "The Right To Bare Arms"? Seems pretty obvious, at least to us.

And finally, news is that Kid Rock is serious about running for the Senate. This might just (oh, please, please, please...!) set up a primary fight within the GOP in Michigan. After all, who could resist a political race between Kid Rock and the other rock star reportedly interested in the race? If it came down to a ballot choice of Ted Nugent versus Kid Rock, which one would you vote for? In the age of Trump, this might (oh, please, please, PLEASE!) actually come to pass. Wango Tango!

Debbie Wasserman Schultz deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week, for introducing a snarky big of legislation. Here's the story:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)... proposed an amendment targeting [Jared] Kushner during a House Appropriations Committee markup session Thursday. It was voted down, 22-30, along party lines. The measure would have barred the government from issuing or maintaining a security clearance for any White House individual "under a criminal investigation by a Federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government." Wasserman Schultz also attempted to introduce an amendment that would bar the government from issuing or maintaining a security clearance for White House staff who "deliberately fail" to disclose meetings with foreign nationals. It was voted down by the same margin.

But this week we have to give a collective Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to everyone who has made their voice heard on the McConnellcare bills (both versions, 1.0 and 2.0). This means everyone who wrote, emailed, called, or even "town-halled" their representatives in the Senate -- and especially Democrats from red states who made their views known to Republican senators. Keeping this pressure up is a large reason why there are now so many reluctant Republicans.

Of special note are the ones who protested in person, either in Washington or in their senator's local offices across the country. This is grassroots at its best, folks. Republicans are getting educated that healthcare is not some meaningless campaign slogan useful for whipping up the voters, it is an actual life-or-death matter for millions of citizens. Putting faces to this concept was a crucial thing to do, and the protesters have admirably done so for weeks now.

So, for everyone from the people in wheelchairs who got arrested for civil disobedience in Washington to the stressed-out worker who took the time to call up their senator's office -- this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is for you. And for what we believe is the first time, we are pro-actively awarding it to anyone who lets their voice be heard in the upcoming days and weeks as well -- because now is the most crucial time to keep the pressure on these senators as high as possible.

[If you'd like to contact your senator to add your voice to the rising chorus, please start at the Senate's "how to contact" page for information on how to do so -- they do listen, so this is important!]

Well, he might have slipped the legal hook, but we're still going to continue shaming him every time his name hits the news.

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had his corruption conviction overturned this week, due to an earlier Supreme Court decision which radically redefined such corruption so tightly that you pretty much have to take a bribe in the courtroom, in full view of the judge to get convicted, anymore.

Because of this legal precedent, Sliver has slipped off the hook. But that doesn't make what he did any less disappointing (and even that's being charitable). So while he avoids paying for his crimes in court, we'd like to hand him another MDDOTW (his fourth, so far), just to remind him this is far from any sort of vindication.

[Sheldon Silver is no longer in public office, so we cannot provide contact information for him, sorry.]

Volume 445 (7/14/17)

We do realize there is a critical battle going on in the Senate over healthcare, but so far Democrats have been doing a pretty good job of getting the public on their side of that argument. The GOP "repeal-and-replace Obamacare" bill is the most-hated piece of legislation pretty much since pollsters began asking people about such issues. The pressure is on, and Democrats should keep it up, but there really won't be any good specific talking points until the C.B.O. report comes out next week.

So instead, we're just going all-in on the collusion thing. As James Carville once said: "When your political opponent is drowning, throw him an anchor." Blub blub blub....

It's raining shoes!

Two notes for this one (and for our article's subtitle today): first, the obvious nod to The Weather Girls ("It's Raining Men") and the 1980s. But more importantly, we cannot claim originality for the "raining shoes" phrase, as we saw it in one of the many articles we read this week, down in the comments section. However, we failed to link to it at the time, so at this point we have no idea who should get the proper credit for coming up with such a brilliant metaphor. But we certainly can't claim the phrase as our own. Just wanted to be fully transparent, as they say.

"Instead of waiting for another shoe to drop, the Russia scandal is now raining shoes down from the sky on a regular basis. Call it cloudy with an excellent chance of wingtips. People have all but given up saying: 'Well, that's certainly the most damning evidence of collusion I've heard yet,' because they all know that another shoe will soon fall that ups the ante yet again. Every one of these falling shoes, if you pick them up and flip them over, has Cyrillic characters on the sole. Except for the ones with the Trump brand on them, of course. Robert Mueller's office now ought to have a shoe collection to rival the closet of Imelda Marcos."

Hey, Rocky!

...Watch Trump attempt once again to pull a rabbit from this hat! Seriously, we all better start binge-watching some old Rocky And Bullwinkle episodes.

"At this point, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if I heard breaking news that two other Russians were present in the meeting with Donnie Junior and his brother-in-law -- Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. Other participants in the meeting have now revealed that their only contribution was to insist repeatedly: 'Trumpski must help kill moose and squirrel!' Folks, we've now gone from living through a bad Hollywood movie's plot to living in a surreal cartoon starring a flying squirrel. I guess the only thing left to do is practice your best Boris-and-Natasha accent, so you can yell 'Da, Comrade!' in every Republican congressman's face who still insists there is no collusion to be found."

Not just smoke

Let's all agree where we now are, shall we?

"What astonishes me most is that for possibly the first time ever, the smoking gun was actually freely offered up to the public by a key player. There was a blatant attempt by the Trump campaign -- including two of Trump's relatives and his campaign manager -- to collude with a hostile foreign government to influence an American presidential election. The Washington Post got it right in the title to their editorial: 'The Russia Hacking Story Is No Longer Just Smoke, It's Fire.' No matter how hard the White House tries to insist that it's just a big 'nothingburger,' the truth is there is indeed meat to the story and there has been all along. The only things we don't know at this point are how much collusion there was, and how successful these efforts were. Was this a small campfire? A bonfire? Or a blazing inferno that devoured many square miles of forest? But the whole smoke/fire question has been definitively answered, at this point. Anyone who still denies this has his own pants on fire, to be blunt."

But, officer...

Charles Krauthammer, ultra-conservative commentator, has apparently had enough. He easily won the "best metaphor of the week" contest, hands down:

It's a hell of a defense to say your collusion might be incompetent. If you get a call to go to a certain place in the middle of the night to pick up stolen goods and it turns out the stolen goods don't show up but the cops show up, I think you're going to have a very weak story saying: "Well, I got swindled here."

There's that guy named Boris again...

Even Trey Gowdy is visibly frustrated. The House Oversight Committee he chairs really wanted to spend all their time investigating Democrats, but these hopes have been dashed by the hailstorm of shoes falling from the sky. He had some advice for Team Trump this week, and it seems like he also might have been watching a few moose-and-squirrel cartoons:

If you had a contact with Russia, tell the special counsel about it! Don't wait until the New York Times figures it out! Someone needs to get everyone in a room and say: "From the time you saw Dr. Zhivago until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single contact with Russia."

All kidding aside

On a more serious note, we (once again) don't even have to turn to Democrats for quotes such as the following. This is what Republican ethics lawyer Richard Painter, who used to work in the George W. Bush White House, had to say about Junior's revelations this week:

This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians. We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies.... If this story is true, we'd have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we'd be asking them a lot of questions.... This is unacceptable.... This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.

Spinning in his grave

We saved the most scathing for last. Remember Ronald Reagan? Remember his views towards Russia? It seems many Republicans have forgotten, so here is none other than Ronald Reagan's daughter Patti Davis, doing her best to remind them:

In six short months Donald Trump, the president who doesn't know how to be one, has tipped America off its position as the most powerful country in the world and left us scrambling in the dust, trying to remember who we are and who we are supposed to be on the international stage. David Gergen pointed out how sad and sobering it was to see, at the G-20 summit, that America is no longer the major player. I would add that what is particularly sobering is how quickly power can be dismantled. Our democracy was supposed to be invincible -- that's what many of us had come to believe. But that isn't true. One man, whose arrogance and ego lead him trippingly into chaos of his own making, can turn a shining city on the hill into a shadowy, taudry [sic] replica of itself. Where once we had currency in the world, we are now left holding fool's gold. I would just like to point out that I have never seen a group of people acquainted with so many Russians. I've met two Russian people in my entire life, and one of them was a refrigerator repair man. The fact that every other person the Trumps know is Russian should have tipped us off a year ago that something was amiss. But I digress. The almost Shakespearean irony of Donald Trump as president is that his worst fear -- that of being ridiculed and disregarded -- is precisely what he has created by his own actions. If he was quiet for five minutes he might hear the echo of Putin's laughter carried on the wind across countries and oceans. But Trump's ego is a loud, boisterous thing and will never allow him to hear anything that might cause him to reflect.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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