November 19 2013

Kanye West: Wait a Minute, Mr. President!

Patrice J. Lee

Do you remember “O-No” our recent pop culture posting about the cooling between the Obamas and Oprah? Well, another celebrity is spilling the beans on his disenchantment with the President. Love him or not, it’s commendable that this half of “Kimye”--who formerly was friendly with the president--is willing to be open. West feels used by the President and has no plans to be his vehicle or punching bag any longer.

The Washington Times reports:

Mr. West, in a radio interview Monday morning, said he feels used by Mr. Obama and he’s not going to think about the president anymore.

“I’m not gonna mention him no more, I’m past that,” Mr. West said of the president on Philadelphia station Hot 107.9. “That’s out my thoughts. That’s lowering my priority of thinking at this point.”

When radio hosts Shamara and Laiya asked Mr. West if he would ever “break bread” with the president, the rapper suggested that Mr. Obama had used him as a foil for political purposes.

“Oh, you talking about how he use to come and visit me and my mama and tell me he’s about to run for president?” Mr. West replied. “I just think that we’re pop icons, and the president likes to use that type of thing just to be down. People was fine with me being everyone’s punching bag for about five years — ‘This is the person we love to hate, so if you want to distract people from everything that’s going on … just say you hate Kanye and there’s going be 30 other people who say they hate Kanye.’ That was kind of my position in culture and he kind of used that too — ‘Oh, he’s a jackass’ — because that’s how the world felt.

“I don’t care if someone’s the president or not,” Mr. West said. “I care about thoughts and how you helping people and what you bring to the world.”

How does the President feel about Kanye? At least twice POTUS has publicly referred to West as a “jackass,” including once in 2009 after Kanye’s infamous interruption of Taylor Swift’s award acceptance speech during the MTV Video Music Award.

Kanye has a legitimate reasoning to feel slighted, but his point that he cares what the President has to offer youth and the world is telling. Perhaps he is seeing that all of the Obama promises of change in government, the economy, society and the world, did not materialize.

To bring this back to a point we made in a previous posting, this Administration has made it a priority to a build bridges from Hollywood to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Obamas have paraded probably hundreds of musicians, actors and sports figures through the White House for their political gain, fundraising goals, and personal pleasure.

Their latest celebrity blitz occurred over the summer as big names including Jennifer Hudson, Amy Poehler, Alicia Keyes, and Kal Penn joined a group of Hollywood writers and producers to get marching orders how to promote ObamaCare. I wonder how many of them wished they skipped that meeting given the beleaguered rollout?

Maintaining celebrity friendships is not a sin.  However, it’s becoming apparent that the White House has been adept at using celebrities, who may have believed that their relationships with the president were deeper. Now Kanye is forced to recognize that the relationship wasn’t all he wanted. It didn’t go beyond the Twitter following and star power the White House could harness for its own purposes.  

This coziness is not too different from when politicians grant access to specific businesses and industries because they stuffed the campaign coffers with cash. It’s what DC-insiders call “pay to play,” but celebrities get very little out of the deal, beyond the glamour of being close to the White House.

Celebrities may be okay with this one-sided relationship, but not so for Oprah or Kanye. The shine from the President has worn off for at least these two celebs (though Oprah did make headlines saying that opposition to President Obama is racially-motivated—but we can chalk that up to Oprah promoting her movie). The promises to usher in hope and change are no different from the promise that “If you like your health care plan you can keep our health care plan.” He talks a good game, but POTUS’ main change these days seems to be in his polling numbers.  

Are Oprah and Kanye anomalies or the start of a celebrity snowball? We’ll see.

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