SAN FRANCISCO — President Obama came here to raise money for Democrats, but he also had a little unsolicited advice for a high-profile presidential aspirant who was in attendance.
“You may have heard that Kanye is thinking about running for speaker of the House,” Obama joked. “It couldn’t get any stranger.”
Obama shared the Warfield Theater stage with Kanye West, who recently used an acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards to suggest that he was mulling a run for president in 2020 — a moment parodied on the cover of the New Yorker.
“In case Kanye is serious about this whole POTUS thing, or as Kanye calls it, ‘peezy,’ ” Obama said he had a little hard-won wisdom to share.
“You got to deal with strange characters who behave as if they are on a reality TV show,” Obama said, a reference to West’s marriage to Kim Kardashian, a reality television star.
“Saying you have a beautiful dark twisted fantasy, that’s what’s known as off-message in politics,” Obama counseled, referring to the title of one of West’s albums.
And then, to the cheers of a rowdy crowd of about 1,300, Obama asked: “Do you really think this country is going to elect a black guy from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name to be president of the U.S.?
“We’ll see what Kanye has to say when he gets out here,” Obama said.
Should West win the nomination in 2020, it’s not clear whether he will have Obama’s backing. The performer and the president have had some bristly moments over the course of Obama’s presidency, starting in 2009 when West famously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards to say that the award should have gone to Beyoncé.
“Why would he do that?” John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times asked as they were setting up for an interview in 2009.
“He’s a jackass,” said Obama, who then suggested that his remarks were off the record. “Cut the president some slack.”
Earlier this year during a lecture at Oxford University, West suggested Obama sometimes calls him at home.
This time, Obama was more gracious in responding.
“Look, I love his music,” Obama said, smiling, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” “He’s incredibly creative. I don’t think I’ve got his home number.”
After joking about West on Saturday, Obama then launched into his prepared remarks, which included a spirited defense of his record and a fair amount of barbs aimed at Republicans. One target was Republican skepticism on climate change. “It’d be funny if it wasn’t this big existential problem,” he said of the Republican doubts.
The president drew the loudest applause when he turned serious and raised his voice and called for gun-control legislation. “We’ve got to make a different choice,” he said. “We’ve got to make a different choice.”