Kanye West talks the talk in the Oval Office
To use the vernacular of the inner cities, Kanye West talked some real sh*t during his Oval Office meeting with President Trump. He was joined by an icon of the Black community, football legend and actor Jim Brown. But it was West’s show from start to finish.
The meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office was a press availability prior to a private luncheon. Scores of reporters, photographers and videographers gathered in a four-person deep arch around the presidential desk. That alone was yet another example of Trump’s giving the press accessibility to meetings and discussions unlike any President since television was invented.
West’s celebrity – and his historic willingness to buck Black orthodoxy – resulted in the session that was broadcast live on both CNN and MSNBC. There sat West directly across the desk from the President of the United States – a President all those more interviewed Black Democrats despise. West was wearing the iconic “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap.
Sensing a dramatic moment, I grabbed for the pen and the notepad.
Trump opened with rather perfunctory remarks, expressing is long and close friendship with the civil rights leaders – and yes, I do consider West and Brown to be working to advance civil rights. At one point, Trump asked West how he liked being in the Oval Office. No surprises. West loved being there.
But … But … At one point West took off like a skyrocket on Independence Day. He did what rappers do best. He rapped. West said his MAGA cap made him feel like a superman – his favorite superhero.
West saw no reason that Blacks should feel obligated to vote for Democrats. He made a pretty good case that the Blacks — trapped and impoverished in those Democrat -controlled segregated inner cities — have not gotten a lot of good results from their loyalty to the Democratic Party. He did not plead for more welfare – like all Black Democrats do – but for jobs by creating industry in those high-unemployment Black communities. He railed against the break up of the Black families that have left millions of kids without a father-figure, male role models. Apparently, West has not bought into the “toxic male gene” theory of the radical feminists.
West opened with praise of Trump for his initiative with North Korea. “On day one you solved one of the biggest troubles.” Okay, “solved” is a bit generous, but he made a good point.
West took up the cause of the Second Amendment by saying, “”Illegal guns is the problem, not legal guns. We have the right to bear arms.””
When West appeared on Saturday Night Live wearing a MAGA cap, he said the staff tried to scare him into not wearing it. He went on to criticize the show for its portrayal of Trump.
After his appearance on SNL, a lot of the folks associated with the show were upset by West’s pro-Trump “rant” at the conclusion of that episode. (Hmmmm. I am trying to think of a time that the Hollywood set got upset over those ubiquitous anti-Trump rants at every awards program).
West took particular sharp aim at his hometown of Chicago – referring to it by Hollywood producer Spike Lee’s movie title “Chi-Raq.” While West did not oppose the kneeling during the National Anthem, he suggested that counter demonstrations by players would be appropriate.
West brought up his one-time diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. It was a misdiagnosis due to sleep deprivation, he said. That did not sink in with the Trump-hating press as you will read below.
As I saw the event unfolding, I imagined a lot of out-takes appearing in Republican political advertisements. Here was a very famous and therefore powerful figure pushing back on all the false political stereotypes that are currently the mainstays of the so-called dialogue on race.
When Trump jokingly said he did not mean to put West “on the spot,” West responded that he was happy to be on the spot. And to prove it, West got up, walked around the desk and gave Trump a “yuge” hug – setting off a cacophony of shutter clicks.
Trump then called an end to the Oval Office gathering, noting that he and his guests would be heading into that private luncheon.
Then came the CNN and MSNBC analyses. As expected, they did not share my view of the event. Recognizing – as they always do – that only a very small fraction of Americans will have actually seen the meeting, they took advantage to spin their biased interpretations that will be played over-and-over for the next 48 hours in the most condemnatory manner possible.
CNN brought in American Urban Radio Networks’s April Ryan in for their analysis. If you follow her reporting, you could have scripted her response. She said what we saw was Kanye West “in the raw” – whatever that meant. She claimed that, contrary to West’s comments, Blacks are moving away from Trump.
Ryan’s throw-away line also runs contrary to both anecdotal and statistical data. I recall an interview with a young Black man protesting against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, saying that people “should not assume that the Black communities are ‘No Trump Zones.’” Trumps vote in the Black community was a tad higher than Romney.
Despite West’s denial of ever having Bipolar Disorder, Ryan shamelessly alluded to West’s mental condition as an explanation for his behavior. She missed no point that could be spun to the negative — even criticizing his attire and some of his bleeped language as being disrespectful in the setting of the Oval Office. (Allow me to digress. If you follow the behavior of the press corps in the Oval Office, you would see what disrespect really looks like).
One of CNN’s premier propagandists, Gloria Borger did not spin her interpretations. She invented them. She said that she was “stunned” by West’s performance and that Trump was obviously “uncomfortable” with what was described as West’s monologue. Borger assured the audience that Trump “did not expect this performance.” The President may not have expected it, but he seemed to be enjoying it so much that one might suspect it was scripted. The fact that Trump never interrupted is strong evidence that he was loving it. Borger had to dig deep in the bag of bias to come up with her interpretation.
Flipping over to MSNBC which featured the Velshi & Ruhle program. Ali Velshi seemed seriously stunned — dumbfounded. The normally rapid-mouthed commentator spent most of the time in dazed silence as Stephanie Ruhle took on the moderating job.
Ruhle could not resist bringing up a pet false narrative to declare that West’s bringing up Chicago was Trump’s way of getting back at President Obama through his hometown. Wait a moment, while I ponder that. Wasn’t it West who was talking in detail about HIS hometown of Chicago? Oh well. Spin is just spin.
Their insider outside contributor was Almiche Alcindor of the Public Broadcasting System. She did not hold back. She accused West of engaging in negative stereotypes of the black community. I thought that was the currency of people like David Duke. And what precisely were those “negative Stereotypes?” Fatherless families? High crime rates? Welfare dependency? Poor quality education? No jobs? These have all been established by endless studies resulting in real statistics.
Assuming much too much, Alcindor reported that people – like all of us — are “appalled” by West’s behavior. In her own version of “dog whistling” – a term I actually hate – Alcindor several times described West’s behavior as “bizarre” in what seemed to me to be an allusion to his disputed Bipolar Disorder. There goes that old left-wing narrative again — that if you disagree with them, you have a mental problem
Like April Ryan on CNN, Alcindor also claimed that West will not help Trump with Black voters. It seemed more like wishful thinking than serious analysis. She even presumed to claim that it would not even help with conservative Black Republicans. To that, I say au contraire.
Ruhle criticized the absence of any discussion about criminal justice and prison reform. She might have a point if the meeting had ended with the press availability in the Oval Office, but there was that private luncheon in which anything could be discussed. It was all on the agenda.
As they came to the end of the segment – deciding that the devastation in Mexico Beach, Florida might be a bit newsworthy – Velshi was able to at least suggest that it all needed more analysis – obviously more than he could muster up in the moment. He left off saying that it was all “weird.” I suppose in the world of Velshi & Ruhle, seeing a black celebrity seeming to favor Republicans over Democrats and actually praising Trump is – well — weird. I can only say to them, it may not be as weird as you think to the folks in fly-over America.
Perhaps I should close as Trump and West closed. The President said “”I tell you what, that was pretty impressive. That was quite something.”” “”It was from the soul. I just channeled it,”” West responded.