The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion I said Kanye West was laughable. He proved me right.

Rapper Kanye West visited President Trump in the Oval Office on Oct. 11 to discuss policing, mental health and manufacturing. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)
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“The idea that he is some kind of ambassador to the African American community is laughable,” I said early Thursday afternoon to veteran journalist and MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell. “He” was MAGA-hat-wearing music mogul Kanye West. Little did I know that a few moments later he would prove me right in spectacular fashion with President Trump in the Oval Office.

Y’all, I’m not kidding when I tell you I thought I was watching a real-life sequel to that mind-bending movie “Inception.” The scene unfolding between the two reality TV stars who continue to lead reality TV existences was like a living reenactment of Winston Churchill’s famed line about Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The rest of the quote says that the key to all that was “Russian national interest.” Or maybe it was just a latter-day minstrel show. Other than providing brain-shrinking distraction, I haven’t a clue whose interests were served by what went down at the Resolute desk in front of Trump and the White House press corps.

Actually, they were there to talk about a presidential pardon for Larry Hoover, the former “chairman” of the Gangster Disciples street gang in Chicago now serving six life sentences in a Colorado supermax prison. He was sent there in 1997 from an Illinois prison (where he was incarcerated for a 1973 murder conviction) after he was found guilty of running a drug ring from prison. But Kanye’s gon’ Kanye. Hoover’s attorney was only able to give a thumbnail of his client’s tale before Yeezy jumped in:

Really, the reason why they imprisoned him, is because he started doing positive for the community. He started showing that he actually had power. That he wasn’t just one of a monolithic voice, that he could wrap people around.
So, there’s theories that — there’s infinite amounts of universe and there’s alternate universe so it’s very important for me to get Hoover out because in an alternate universe, I am him and I have to go and get him free. Because he was doing positive inside Chicago just like I’m moving back to Chicago and it’s not just about, you know, getting on stage and being an entertainer and having a monolithic voice that’s forced to be a specific party, you know, people expect that if you’re black, you have to be Democrat.
Rapper Kanye West visited President Trump in the Oval Office on Oct. 11. The late-night TV hosts had a lot to say about it. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

And West kept spouting off from there, a rhetorical Roman candle spraying nonsense about welfare, his “Make America Great Again” hat, the 13th Amendment, male energy, “Chi-raq,” bipolar disorder, sleep deprivation, “the iPlane One,” Adidas, Foxconn, etc. I’ve listened to his rant twice now and I’ve alternated between being confused, enraged and extremely concerned for West’s mental health.

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Trump, who asked African Americans during the campaign “What the hell do you have to lose?” in voting for him, is very proud of his relationship with West. He thinks of the Oval Office “motherf—-r”-dropper as some sort of emissary from “the blacks.” West’s performance was so shameful that if “Chappelle’s Show” were still on Comedy Central, Kim Kardashian’s husband would be traded away in the “racial draft” right quick.

Trump has not earned the respect of African Americans whom he thinks should love him. He is always insulting black women. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Omarosa have been slammed by the president. He lauded the “very fine people” among the Nazis and white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer in August 2017. And remember his denunciation of  “shithole” countries? He wasn’t talking about Norway, that’s for sure.

West’s antics before a smiling Trump are all the more galling because the president of the United States should have better things to do. He could have assured the nation that his administration was on top of things in the Florida panhandle after Hurricane Michael tore through it. He could have been hunkered down with his economic advisers over the free-falling stock market. He could have been working the phones to demand answers about the frightening disappearance of my colleague Jamal Khashoggi. He could have spoken out publicly in defense of freedom of the press.

That’s what a normal president would do. But we don’t have that.

What we got from West’s West Wing performance was just another show of disrespect from the president of the United States. A spectacle that further degraded the Oval Office. And further confirmation that we have a moral void of a president who is all too happy to preside over the moral rot eating away at the stature and prestige of the United States and the institutions that have made it great.

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Read more:

Eugene Robinson: Taylor, Kanye and the bad blood of politics

Alyssa Rosenberg: The saddest part of Kanye West’s visit with President Trump

Daina Ramey Berry: Kanye West’s teachable moment — for everyone

Dana Milbank: The latest example of a Trump adviser going bananas

Catherine Rampell: Donald/Kanye 2020? Trump kicks off an era of rich vanity candidates.