Odd lunch exploits celebrity
Kanye’s remarks shine light on mental health
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.
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.