We return with another of the better episodes for the Strike Force Five podcast – which is saying a lot because I thought all 12 episodes were wonderful, at times hilarious.
As I mentioned before, during the Writers Guild strike, the five hosts of talk shows – Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver – teamed up to do a weekly podcast. The point was to raise money for the staff.
This is Episode 7, and they make a slight change for it, inviting a guest to participate. And that guest is Jon Stewart. And he’s terrifically funny here…as are they all. Last week, I posted one of the rare and short videos they've posted from the podcast. It was wonderful -- and this is that on steroids.
What stands out from the podcasts is how much the hosts seem to truly like and respect the others – though being comedians have no trouble ridiculing the others, at times mercilessly, including relentlessly bringing up past derision from previous weeks, not letting foolish misdeeds be forgotten.
A few things to mention so that when they’re brought up in the episode, they make sense.
One is that in an earlier show, Jimmy Fallon talked about bringing food to bed, something the others found outlandish and relentlessly ridiculed him about it. It became a common joke on the series, and it’s brought up here again.
Another is that they also bring up again (as they did often) the truly horrible -- yet wildly funny – episode that Fallon hosted, when he tried to make his turn a Newlywed Game-type event, but it went very, very, very...very... hilariously wrong. (f you missed it, it's posted here.)
Third is that Ryan Reynolds is one of the few sponsors for the podcast (to help raise money) and does truly funny ads for his companies Mint Mobile and Aviator Gin.
And finally, for the first podcast Jimmy Kimmel found an explosion sound that he would play every time the show’s name got mentioned. He continued this for several shows until it became a matter of debate. Some of the hosts absolutely hated it, the others preferred it in moderation.
I can’t embed the podcast, which was done for Spotify, but here’s a link to the episode on the Strike Force Five website.
It was one thing when the FBI arrested Alexander Smirnov for lying and obstruction, since he was the Republican Party’s star witness in its “impeachment investigation” of President Biden. This was devastating news for the GOP which had been relying so heavily on Smirnov, from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on down to Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Oversight Committee through to Fox host Sean Hannity who has done 85 segments on Smirnov and delivered 28 monologues about him, and so many other Republicans.
Then yesterday, the government released a court filing on its indictment which states they have evidence that Smirnov not only lied and fabricated a bribery scheme between the President and his son, but far, far worse had "high-level contacts with Russian intelligence operatives."
And this is who the ace GOP has been relying on and trusting as their star witness. An asset of Russian intelligence delivering misinformation to bring down the U.S. President. The Russian expression for such unwitting conspirators is “Useful idiots.”
It should not come as a shock. Trump made his position clear in a 2018 press conference in Helsinki with Russian despot Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, when he said he trusted Putin more than all U.S. intelligence services. And given how slavishly acquiescent Republicans have become in caving to Everything Trump, it only follows that they would unquestioningly believe the word of someone who, it turns out, was passing along disinformation from "high-level contacts with Russian intelligence operatives."
This, of course, isn’t the only such disaster for Republicans in their faux-effort to “investigate” President Biden in order to impeach him for no reason. Just last year, another supposed major witness not only disappeared before he was supposed to testify under oath, but he was later found to be an agent for China.
It’s easy to see why Republicans in Congress (and from them, their base) believe lies fed to them by high-level Russian intelligence operatives and agents of China. It’s because they want it to be true. And after wanting it to be true for so long, they eventually have gotten to the point where they need it to be true, but their political futures and the 2024 election depend on it.
And so, they put aside all sense of rationality, decency, responsibility and honor, and just blindly accepted lies so devastating that they could help undermine the government, and – leading to Trump – democracy.
But then, this is the party that enabled the Jan. 6 Insurrection to overthrow the government and democracy, so this all follows.
It’s the sort of driven, willful blindness that got Rudy Giuliani to destroy the lives of two innocent women, that ended up costing him $146 million in a lawsuit.
It’s the sort of mindset that’s gotten Trump to be impeached twice and indicted four times with 91 counts, thinking that the law and decency and reality don’t pertain to him. A jury verdict that he was liable for the equivalence of rape and defamation, and a $453 million conviction for fraud – so far – have told him to the contrary.
Trump, the man who only last week that if he is re-elected, he’d tell Russia that they could do “whatever the hell you want” to our allies. And Republicans in Congress pretty much shrugged “okay.”
Because that’s who the Republican Party is today. A party of Useful Idiots whose star witnesses are an indicted liar who had "high-level contacts with Russian intelligence operatives” and an agent of China.
And all the while, Useful Idiot Trump cries out that he’s the victim, that all the investigations of him are just political vindictiveness and witch hunts. As he tries desperately and sickeningly in the same whining breath to paint himself as a martyr just like the dead Alexei Navalny, murdered by Trump's handler Putin. All the while echoing the words of Hitler.
Though I’m sure it all sounds better in the original Russian.
But not much better.
This is 22-minute collection of highlights from the BAFTA Awards on Sunday. It has a bunch of fun moments, topped by the opening five-minute sketch with host David Tennant and others (of whom I'll reserve mention for the fun of discovery). As well as a lovely, emotional surprise in the presentation of Best Picture. There's also a three-minute song which is a bit of a production number, though easy to scroll past if that's more to one's taste.
As most people have grasped by now, Trump has been complaining about all the cases against him – from the House impeachments, the Special Counsel investigation, and state and local lawsuits. He’s given a great many reasons, whatever happens to be handy at the time – I didn’t know that woman, I had a right to steal the classified government documents, no one takes the loan form seriously, I paid back that the money I got deceptively, and others. Claiming that he has absolute immunity is another one high on the list, although that’s plummeted ever since a federal appeals court ruled unanimously that the only thing “absolute” about his insistence was that it had absolutely no merit.
Overriding all his arguments, however, is his thesis is that every one of these lawsuits is just political and a witch hunt, that Democrats are only going after him because he’s their leading opponent, because he’s done nothing wrong.
One thing recently occurred to me, though and got me scratching my head about this claim. I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me before, in this specific and particular way, but that's the way it seems to go sometimes. Things stare you in the face and are obvious -- and even get referenced -- but just not the right way without the light shining on them as it should. So, you move a few steps over and go...ahhh, okay, there is the picture.
It’s that in Trump making this his banner to ride under – that he’s a victim because all investigations against him are political and witch hunts because he’s the leading political opponent – he overlooks a significant reality. And it's that --
President Biden is being investigated for impeachment by the House Oversight Committee. And President Biden was investigated by a Special Counsel for taking classified government documents. And President Biden, through any connections to his son Hunter, has been investigated by the Department of Justice for two years. And also, just to toss in another reality, President Biden -- being, y'know, president -- is the leading opponent of Republicans.
In other words, Trump is not only not even remotely alone in being investigated, but it’s really pretty much the exact same thing.
Though, going a step further, there is, admittedly, one difference.
On the one hand, Trump so far has been found liable by a jury for the equivalence of rape, and found guilty of defamation, twice. And been convicted of business fraud and had a judgement against him of $453 million including interest. And has his charity foundation sued and shut down for a “shocking pattern of illegality.” While on the other hand, the House Oversight Committee has found zero evidence against President Biden, and its major witness disappeared and was later discovered to be an agent for China, after which the committee’s star witness was arrested by the FBI for lying and obstruction. And the Special Counsel investigating classified documents said that there was no evidence President Biden committed a crime. And the other Special Counsel has only charged Hunter Biden (over personal gun and tax issues totally unrelated to bribery claims) and has not found anything at all to charge President Biden with.
So, it seems that not only is Trump not alone in the slightest with being investigated, but when it comes to facing purely political lawsuits and witch hunts – President Joe Biden has an overwhelmingly more substantial case to make than Trump…who has no case.
Yet somehow the news story for the past two years – perhaps because Trump yells and whines daily, while President Biden quietly does his job – is Trump’s unsupported and self-persecuted cries of being investigated alone. With no balanced perspective of the reality. Which is a shameful waste of reality.
Because in the end, it turns out that there are political investigations and witch hunts to find non-existent crimes against a leading presidential candidate. It’s just that they aren’t directed at Trump.
Right before Jon Stewart came back to host The Daily Show on Mondays, he made a return visit to Stephen Colbert.
My favorite story right now is not the $453 million judgement against Trump for business fraud, but that he is selling $400 sneakers. It's high on the list of the stupidest things a presidential candidate can do.
After all, for starters, I'm not sure what adviser suggested Trump go to ‘Sneaker Con,’ but if two words individually describe him perfectly, those are high on the list. Sneaker. Con.
But there’s so much more -- the concept of hawking sneakers just screams out "Cheap!!" I know that some athletic shoes are incredibly expensive. But first, those come from major shoe brands with high reputations and lines endorsed by experienced athletes, like most prominently Air Jordans. While these come from...well, god-knows what company -- or where -- endorsed by a guy who got out of Vietnam for having bone spurs. Who sits in a golf cart to drive him around the course. And second, those popular ones are "athletic shoes" or "basketball shoes," which carry a bit of cachet. These from Trump are hardly competing with Dr. Martens, let alone Jimmy Choo. They're being sold specifically as "sneakers," which is more likely to conjure up images of Keds. Or perhaps Dr. Scholl's.
If anything shines a light on huckster and desperate for a presidential candidate, pushing Trump Sneakers on his gullible base is it.
And the video that's making its way around social media of Trump hawking his wares at "Sneaker Con" (again, I can't tell you how much I love that perfect name) makes him look like he's a traveling peddler come to town on his rounds. It makes you wonder what's next? Perhaps a late-night infomercial, or maybe a guest spot on the Home Shopping Network. "We've only got 90 seconds to go, folks, before these babies sell out."
And that's another thing. There are notices on social media about how the the initial supply of the $400 sneakers have "SOLD OUT!" First of all, who knows if they actually sold out? Second, who knows how few pairs of sneaker were even made available to sell initially. [UPDATE: Thanks to Don Friedman who points out that the product disclaimer states there will only be a paltry 1,000 sneakers in the initial limited edition!) Third, the issue isn't whether they actually "sold out," but that a presidential candidate is hawking sneakers. And fourth, man, is "sold out" a terrible image for Trump -- a man who recently admitted on TV to selling his services to China!! "SOLD OUT" is as bad as him being at "Sneaker Con."
And the important, as well as funny, thing is, it almost doesn't matter if people buy them or not. That's because the optics of a man running for president hawking sneakers -- and showing up at "Sneaker Con" (which can't be said enough) -- are dismal. It's like, how soon will he be pushing a line of kitchen knives or perhaps a TrumpPillow?
By the way, it's not just going to an event called "Sneaker Con" that is so clueless, but did you catch the official name of the gaudy, gold-colored upper-end $400 models mentioned in the photo above? They're called the "Never Surrender High-Tops." This from a guy who literally surrendered four times to court officials last year, each time he was indicted.
Further, while there is no evidence where these sneakers are made, which also means that -- for all we know -- they were not made in the U.S.A. Indeed, for all we know they were made in China. Maybe not. But the point is that putting out this product without making clear where they are made only serves to foolishly invite such valid suspicions. All the more so since Trump himself has publicly said, as noted, that he has been paid millions to provide "services" to China. In fact, in a famous video from when he appeared on the old Late Night with David Letterman, after initially slamming China, his clothing line was shown to be made in Bangladesh... and China.
Even more hilarious is that it appears to be that the sneakers aren't even made yet! The product's disclaimer says that they're not expected to be shipped for at least five months!
Oh, and once they are finally manufactured and show up (assuming they do), the disclaimer also states that product images “are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product.” So, who knows what you might get for your $400. Not to mention that the disclaimer also states, "We are not liable for any delays in shipment."
Now imagine that when the sneakers are finally released in five months or perhaps eight months or longer that there's a problem with the product or that people are unhappy with how they actually look, and feel conned. If that happens...it will come during the presidential election. But far worse, if the sneakers don't show up at all, and people feel conned, feel cheated by the company (which they won't see as "the company," but rather as cheated by Trump), that would be horrific coming during the height of the presidential election. No matter how clearly he insists it was stated in fine print that the company, that he Trump is "not liable for any delays." So, for Trump to have taken the risk for something this utterly stupid and meaningless...when the goal is to be election president of the United States!! ...that is just lunatic. On so many levels.
And most notable is that, once the sneakers do arrive (assuming that even occurs, at least before the election), the red soles may well be a trademark infringement of the very expensive Christian Louboutin shoes! And lest one think such an action is unlikely, this CNN article from last November about the company notes, "Louboutin has engaged in multiple complex trademark infringement court cases around the world."
But it's so much more hilarious, lunatic and unnecessarily risky than all this.
After all, the money that people spend to buy these sneakers is money they won’t be given to Republican candidates! That's $400 a pop for the "top of the line" sneakers, but even $200 for the Trump starter sneakers. But it's even funnier than that -- after all, this is clearly just a licensing deal for Trump, he isn't going into the cobbler business and is not manufacturing the sneakers himself. That means 80% of the money that MAGOPs are spending on the sneakers is going to the sneaker company -- not to Republican candidates. Not even to Trump!
There's a hilarious video from "Sneaker Con" of a guy so-proudly holding a pair of the $400 sneakers that Trump autographed which he won at an auction for a mere $9,000. I have this vision of the conversation when "the winner" got home.
"Honey, look at what I got!"
"Oh, God, get those things out of my house. I don't want something you rummaged out of the trash."
"No, I bought them. They were $9,000."
"Are you insane?? I'm...I'm so angry I can't even..."
"Trump signed them."
"So, you mean they're marked up and can't be returned?? Can you get our money back? Our money. Ours. We have bills."
"They're a collector's item."
"The only thing that junk will collect is dust. Who scammed you?"
"I got them at 'Sneaker Con.'"
"Of course you did. 'Sneaker Con'?!! Sneaker. Con. That didn't give you a hint?!"
Oh, and it's worth noting something else that's too perfect for this $9,000 winning bid of this grift. The guy who bought them is Roman Sharf, CEO of Luxury Bazaar, who was born in Russia. (Yes, really. Though he lives in Philadelphia now.) And had been a Vice President of -- wait for it... -- Deutsche Bank! The bank that was fined $186 million last year for improper money-laundering controls. And which loaned Trump hundreds of millions of dollars which was at the heart of Trump's fraud suit for which he was just convicted and fined $453 million including interest. (Yes, really.)
Between this and Trump hawking sneakers at "Sneaker Con," which won't be available for at least five months (if ever?), it doesn't get much more hilariously perfect than that.
Given that buildings are removing their "Trump" signs, and there is no Trump Steaks, no Trump Ice water, no Trump Vodka, no Trump: the Game, no Trump Airlines, no Trump Casinos, no Trump University, no Trump Charity Foundation (and perhaps soon, no Trump Organization), it would seem that Sneaker Trumps may soon follow.
What a truly dismal product to buy. What a truly dismal product for a presidential candidate to hawk. What a truly dismal place to introduce them -- Sneaker Con.
But what a perfect way to encapsulate Trump.
Trump: the Sneaker, brought to you at Sneaker Con.
The only thing that could probably ever be even more ideal is if he brings out a line of lollipops.
At Sucker Con.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor