Odd lunch ex­ploits celebrity

Kanye’s re­marks shine light on men­tal health

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By KIM­BERLY ATKINS — kim­berly.atkins@boston­her­ald.com

WASH­ING­TON — As for­eign and do­mes­tic emer­gen­cies de­manded Pres­i­dent Trump’s at­ten­tion — from the cat­a­strophic af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael and to the grow­ing ev­i­dence that Saudi Ara­bia was be­hind the bru­tal mur­der of Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist Ja­mal Khashoggi — Trump in­stead gave the mic to a celebrity sup­porter.

In the process, he shined a light on an is­sue that this ad­min­is­tra­tion and ev­ery ad­min­is­tra­tion has done too lit­tle about: men­tal health.

Trump was sched­uled to have a work­ing lunch with rap­per Kanye West, among oth­ers, to dis­cuss crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and vi­o­lence in Chicago, West’s home­town. It was not billed as a me­dia event. But with West — wear­ing a red “Make Amer­ica Great Again” cap — seated in the Oval Of­fice be­fore the lunch, Trump in­vited the me­dia in.

The rea­son was un­clear. Trump has a pen­chant for us­ing his hand­ful of black celebrity sup­port­ers to dis­miss crit­i­cisms that he fans flames of racism for his own po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit — re­call his state­ments about “very fine peo­ple on both sides” of last year’s deadly white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Va., and his re­ported pro­fane de­scrip­tion of African na­tions.

So there was Ye, prais­ing the pres­i­dent for ev­ery­thing from his sum­mit with North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un (“You stopped the war!,” West de­clared) to the “male en­ergy” of Trump’s MAGA slo­gan.

He was also dis­play­ing what clearly seemed to be a manic episode in a more than 10-minute rant in front of jour­nal­ists and a pres­i­dent who rarely is ren­dered speech­less, but in this in­stance, was.

Trump and ev­ery­one in the White House should have re­al­ized putting some­one who has long dis­played er­ratic be­hav­ior on cam­era was a bad idea.

I do not be­lieve that jour­nal­ists or politi­cians should make men­tal health di­ag­noses. But

West him­self said that his di­ag­no­sis was made by a pro­fes­sional.

“I was di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der,” West said in the mid­dle of his so­lil­o­quy that of­ten was too in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to ex­plain.

At that mo­ment, the im­promptu press con­fer­ence should have ended, de­spite West’s claim to have been mis­di­ag­nosed. No po­lit­i­cal mo­ment is worth the ex­ploita­tion of some­one in need of help.

But the power of celebrity and al­ter­na­tive facts proved too ir­re­sistible, so West was al­lowed to re­cite false­hoods, like his claim that “wel­fare is the rea­son a lot of black peo­ple end up be­ing Democrats.” This is a dog whis­tle that facts be­lie: a larger per­cent­age of black peo­ple live in sub­urbs than any­where else, and that vast ma­jor­ity are over the poverty line.

But again, West is not the one to blame here. It’s a celebrity-ob­sessed White House that seeks to pro­mote praise and adu­la­tion at all costs. And when it comes to men­tal health, the costs can be steep.

AP PHO­TOS

I DON’T LOVE IT: Rap­per Kanye West, wear­ing a MAGA hat, meets with Pres­i­dent Trump yes­ter­day. West, be­low, shows Trump a pho­to­graph of a hy­dro­gen plane and sits with former foot­ball player Jim Brown, bot­tom.

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