That the two most prominent women in the Trump administration should be caught up in a controversy about shoes tells you (if not our new leader) how far we have to go.
In a world threatened by ISIS, in a nation of immigrants wondering who will next be deported, is Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s shoes really worthy of a federal investigation, really enough to hold up her security clearance, really deserving of the millions of words that have been written about it, most of them fairly vicious?
In case you’re not a follower, Nordstrom, the department-store chain known for its great shoe department, announced that it would no longer be carrying Ivanka Trump’s line of shoes because of slow sales. Some people questioned whether it was poor sales or partisan politics that led to the decision. One of them was her father, who took Nordstrom to task in a tweet (what else). And the top woman in the administration, who reportedly was brought on to manage the campaign at Ivanka Trump’s urging, defended her sponsor and her shoes on Fox News.
Asked about the shoes, Conway said that she thought the shoes were stylish and comfortable, that she sometimes wore them herself, and that women should buy them online.
Of this, a federal case is being made. Seriously.
I understand, as every story finds a present or former Hill staffer to point out, that one of the first things you learn when you jump in the so-called swamp is that you are not supposed to use your official position to endorse private interests. What makes this rule so amusing, of course, is that there is nothing wrong with accepting millions of dollars (through the proper committees) from private interests and then doing their bidding in legislation worth far more. We call that “fundraising.” It is actually the first thing you learn when you go to work for an elected official. You can return favors every day of the week when doing official business, so long as you don’t flaunt the fig leaf that one thing has nothing to do with the other. But speaking up for Ivanka Trump’s shoes? Stop the security-clearance process for that woman!
The White House is always a trap for those who enter it for the first time. Remember Hillary Clinton’s dust-up with the travel office, when as first lady she dared to suggest reorganization of the office, which catered to the every need of the press corps. And poor Vince Foster, may he rest in peace, who I think virtually everyone can finally agree was not the victim of some inside conspiracy but of the humiliation that can be heaped on newcomers who do not know how the game is played. Of course, Conway may be new to the White House, but she is an experienced political player: if she could get this man into the White House, she is not going to be stopped in the shoe aisle. Nor should she be. Not over shoes.
Of all the things that people in this administration have said and done, Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s shoes has got to be among the least important and the least deserving of attention, let alone investigation.
I remember the day that we found out that our boss, Geraldine Ferraro, was going to be the Democratic nominee. One of the first things she asked was that Pam go to a particular shoe store in Georgetown to buy her a few pairs of her favorite, most comfortable pumps. Off went Pam. Later, I was repeatedly quizzed by reporters about those first hours, and I always left out the part about the shoes. We were already dealing with so many questions about lipstick and the rest. We knew these types of questions were sexist, but it was 1984, and we thought we were doing pretty well. Thirty years later, and we’re still talking shoes.