Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 7:35 AM

Kanye, Trump America’s Most Suitable Heir

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

President Trump billed Kanye’s visit to the White House a week ago today as a summit to discuss urban development, vocational training, black unemployment (notably Colin Kaepernick’s), and criminal justice reform. Unsurprisingly, it was anything but.

Here in essence is what Kanye said during a 10-minute, stream-of-consciousness rant in the Oval Office, which played out like the train wreck every news outlet knew would make for must-see reality-TV:

There was something about putting this [MAGA] hat on that made me feel like Superman. …

Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. He might not have thought he’d have a crazy mother-f***r like me (supporting him).

(CNN, October 11, 2018)

And we thought no black entertainer could ever embarrass our race again the way Sammy Davis Jr. did in August 1972, when he snuggled up to President Richard M. Nixon like a pet dog.

There’s a famous photo of that fateful moment in US history. Most people find the unnatural look of Davis and Nixon’s embrace most telling. For me, though, it’s the natural look of utter despair on the face of the only other black person in the photo. It speaks volumes, especially when contrasted with the forced smile on the face of every white person, including Nixon himself.

Davis spent the rest of his life seeking redemption from black folks for “The Hug” – as The Washington Post headlined a September 2003 retrospective on that seminal moment. But I don’t think the preternaturally self-absorbed Kanye will spend a single day doing so.

Nothing indicates this quite like the way he followed his visit to the White House with – what had all the trappings of – a state visit to Uganda.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian … have been in Uganda since Friday, while West reportedly films a music video. … West grabbed lighthearted headlines by gifting [the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni] a pair of his Yeezy sneakers and referencing Jurassic Park. …

But the celebrity couple came in for rather more serious criticism online for meeting with Museveni, who has been president since 1986 and has recently presided over an authoritarian crackdown against political opposition and homosexuality.

(TIME, October 16, 2018)

Of course, I doubt Kanye even knew Museveni’s name, let alone his abysmal political record, before setting his sights on Uganda. He duly betrayed this fact by spending most of his time regaling Museveni with more stream-of-consciousness blather; this time about how he can help Uganda “be like Wakanda.”

But let’s face it, with Trump publicly declaring his love for a malevolent dictator like Kim Jong Un, how can anyone criticize Kanye for hobnobbing with a relatively benevolent one like Yoweri Museveni?

Besides, Trump or another member of his administration causes national embarrassment or makes America an international laughingstock on a daily basis. This is a defining feature of his black-swan presidency. And, if sensible Americans don’t laugh as the world laughs at them, they’ll cry … and go mad.

Meanwhile, we have all become numb to his norm-busting, eye-rolling antics. But did you ever think you’d see the day when a Saudi crown prince would order a barbaric and brazen hit on a journalist (for The Washington Post no less), and get a president of the United States to serve as his PR flak?

Frankly, I can think of no bigger laughingstock than Trump spinning plainly absurd theories about what happened — all in a banana republic-like effort to cover up that murder. Yet this is the servile role the putative leader of the free world is now playing; and he’s doing so with emperor-wears-no-clothes gusto.

That said, I cannot overstate this point: The joke that is the Trump presidency is on the suckers who voted for him and, alas, the rest of us who have to live through it.

This means having to stomach the joke that is Kanye fraternizing with Trump, which makes his doing so with other heads of state seem perfectly normal.

Mind you, America has a long and commendable history of celebrities using their influence to affect political change. One need only think of entertainers like Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, and Jane Fonda, to name a few.

Therefore, to be fair, Kanye is only doing what celebrities have always done. But there’s no denying the qualitative difference with far too many latter-day celebrities – who are clearly far more interested in burnishing their personal image than in solving political problems.

I began commenting in this vein over a decade ago when Angelina Jolie and Bono were acting the way Kim and Kanye are today. Granted, Jolie and Bono were undoubtedly more informed and seemed more interested in affecting broad and lasting change.

But here is how I decried this trend back then in “Celebrity-Obsessed World Has Made Actors and Rock Stars the Statesmen of Our Time,” May 23, 2005.


It is a sad commentary on the state of world affairs that the political initiatives of a rock star or Hollywood actress are taken more seriously than those of a seasoned statesman. But that is the perverse reality when it comes to the global fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and unconscionable poverty throughout the developing world.

Only this explains the President of Sierra Leone drooling over Angelina Jolie last week as he promised HER immediate action on redressing human rights abuses in his country. This, after rejecting repeated appeals by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to do just that!

Only this explains Western leaders, including US President George W. Bush, fawning over rock star Bono earlier this year as they promised HIM debt relief for African nations. This, after rejecting repeated pleas by President Obasanjo of Nigeria (and even Nelson Mandela) to do just that!

Or, on a more farcical but no less instructive note, only this explains the national crisis now brewing in Israel because the foreign minister’s wife was denied a chance to meet Madonna during her recent visit to the Holy Land.

Alas, worshiping celebrities is not merely the avocation of giddy teenage girls; because world leaders seem equally enthralled by these latter-day performing saints.


Of course, Jolie and Bono were only a foreshadowing of Trump and Kanye. More to the point, our celebrity-obsessed world today is defined by the alarming number of “stupid voters” who want their politicians to thrill, shock, and entertain rather than debate, legislate, and govern.

This is why it is as quaint as it is disingenuous for the White House to insist that, after they left the Oval Office, Kanye challenged Trump on race and other polarizing issues over lunch. Because, if you believe that, you probably believed its spin that, after they left their joint press conference in Helsinki, Trump challenged Putin on cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election over tea.

Besides, everyone knows that, even if Kanye were serious and presented constructive ideas, Trump was just using him as a photo-op prop to trump up his support among black folks. The black pastors he made such a show of hosting months ago to discuss similar issues would readily attest to this.

Nonetheless, apropos of who’s zooming who, I challenge you to name a more suitable heir to Trump’s America than Kanye. And, believe it or not, the only woman who would make a more popular first lady than Kim these days is her little sister Kylie.

But I am hoping against hope that enough voters come to their senses to arrest this trend – of not just celebrating buffoons like Trump and Kanye but electing them to public office. Next month’s midterm elections will be very telling in this respect.

Related commentaries:
Saudi kills Khashoggi
confused Kanye
celebrity-Obsessed world
Helsinki press conf

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