Was ‘dragon en­ergy’ fit for the Oval O∞ce? It de­pends on who’s sit­ting in it.

The Washington Post - - POLITICS & THE NATION - anne.gearan@wash­post.com feli­cia.son­mez@wash­post.com Robert Costa con­trib­uted to this re­port. ANNE GEARAN AND FELI­CIA SON­MEZ

For more than 10 min­utes Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Trump was struck nearly speech­less as rap­per, ac­tivist, en­tre­pre­neur and MAGA-hat wear­ing, Trum­plov­ing, dragon-en­ergy-ex­ud­ing Kanye West held forth in an Oval Of­fice so­lil­o­quy that in­cluded an f-bomb, ref­er­ences to male gen­i­talia and a pres­i­den­tial hug that looked more like a maul­ing.

West, slouched in a chair fac­ing the pres­i­dent, called him­self a “crazy mother-(ex­ple­tive)” and rued the “bull(ex­ple­tive)” the pres­i­dent en­dures. He called the 72-yearold pres­i­dent “bro.” He wore no tie and he kept the red hat on through­out.

The of­fice is no stranger to blue lan­guage — cue the Richard Nixon tapes — but West’s of­ten in­co­her­ent per­for­mance oc­curred be­fore re­porters and cam­eras. Repub­li­cans have long groused that former Demo­cratic pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton dis­re­spected the Oval Of­fice with pizza par­ties and his dal­liance with Mon­ica Lewin­sky, and com­plained that former Demo­cratic pres­i­dent Barack Obama was pho­tographed with his feet up on the desk and didn’t al­ways wear a coat and tie like his pre­de­ces­sor, Ge­orge W. Bush.

But per­haps it was only Repub­li­can Trump, with his re­al­ity-show sen­si­bil­ity and taste for drama, who could have unleashed Kanye West — who now asks to be called just Ye — on the prim con­fines of the Oval Of­fice.

“I don’t an­swer ques­tions in sim­ple sound bites. You are tast­ing a fine wine that has mul­ti­ple notes to it,” West told a re­porter who asked a fol­low-up ques­tion on crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, the sup­posed topic of West’s in­vi­ta­tion to a White House lunch.

“You bet­ter play 4-D chess with me like it’s ‘Mi­nor­ity Re­port,’ be­cause it ain’t that sim­ple. It’s com­plex.”

The per­for­mance be­came a must-see video, in­clud­ing for Repub­li­cans.

“Re­al­ity meets re­al­ity tele­vi­sion,” Sen. Jeff Flake (RAriz.) said as he stared, rapt, at a video re­play of West in the Oval Of­fice.

West said his 2016 bipo­lar di­ag­no­sis was in­cor­rect — he is sleep-deprived in­stead — and said Trump had given him a “Su­per­man cape” of em­pow­er­ment for good. There was also a lot of stuff that made less sense than that.

“The thing is, let’s stop wor­ry­ing about the fu­ture. All we have is to­day. We just have to­day. Over and over and over again, the eter­nal re­turns, the hero’s jour­ney,” West said. “Trump is on his hero’s jour­ney.”

Schol­ars of the pres­i­dency were not amused.

Kate An­der­sen Brower said West’s wife showed more rev­er­ence for the space when she met with Trump there ear­lier this year.

“When Kim Kar­dashian vis­ited Pres­i­dent Trump, she took a very solemn photo with him., and it was a somber oc­ca­sion — she was try­ing to get a woman out of prison — whereas this seemed more like a pub­lic­ity stunt where it was more about Kanye West,” said Brower, who has writ­ten books about the White House staff, first ladies and vice pres­i­dents. “I think it cheap­ens the pres­i­dency.”

The clos­est re­cent ana­logue to Thurs­day’s en­counter was the sur­real 1970 Oval Of­fice meet­ing be­tween Nixon and Elvis Pres­ley, Brower said. While that meet­ing was not car­ried live on TV and so­cial me­dia in the same way that Thurs­day’s was, it prob­a­bly would have mea­sured up in terms of ab­sur­dity: Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal ac­counts, the King showed off his po­lice badge col­lec­tion, at­tempted to give Nixon a pis­tol, asked for a fed­eral nar­cotics badge and then gave the pres­i­dent a hug.

Tim Naf­tali, a pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian at New York Univer­sity, said Trump’s meet­ing with West un­der­scored that, as with other as­pects of his pres­i­dency, Trump has cho­sen to make the Oval Of­fice an ac­ces­sory to his per­son­al­ity.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has ef­fec­tively turned the Oval Of­fice into ‘ Trump Space.’ It’s a per­for­mance space now,” said Naf­tali, who pre­vi­ously served as direc­tor of the Richard Nixon Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum.

In the past, some Repub­li­cans have up­braided Demo­cratic pres­i­dents for far less con­tro­ver­sial be­hav­ior in the pres­i­den­tial of­fice.

That some of those same crit­ics were silent on Thurs­day’s over-the-top Trump-West meet­ing sug­gests those con­cerns were mo­ti­vated more by par­ti­san­ship than by pro­to­col, Naf­tali said.

“It turns out that many of Pres­i­dent Obama’s crit­ics were look­ing for rea­sons to crit­i­cize him. They were not crit­i­ciz­ing him be­cause they had a par­tic­u­lar view of deco­rum in the Oval Of­fice,” he said.

Trump at times looked amused, bored or slightly hor­ri­fied as his sec­ond meet­ing with West, and the first at the White House, went wildly off course.

Pres­i­den­tial daugh­ter Ivanka Trump sat silently to one side as West held forth; son-in-law Jared Kush­ner’s thin smile grew thin­ner and then dis­ap­peared al­to­gether the longer it went on.

Trump had teased re­porters ear­lier that his lunch in­vi­ta­tion to West would pro­vide “a lit­tle fun,” but West’s stream-of­con­scious­ness mono­logue seemed to stun and per­haps an­noy the pres­i­dent.

“I tell you what, that was pretty im­pres­sive,” Trump said, when West was more or less done. “That was quite some­thing.”

Al­though Trump said West “can speak for me any­time he wants,” he looked more than ready to end the episode.

“Let me ask you this ques­tion,” Trump said in a level voice. “You’re in the Oval Of­fice, how does it feel to be in the Oval Of­fice?”

“Oh, it is good en­ergy in this,” West replied, per­haps in­vok­ing his claim, be­fore the meet­ing, that he and Trump un­der­stand one an­other be­cause they both pos­sess some­thing he called “dragon en­ergy.”

“Is it good en­ergy? Yeah?” Trump said.

“It’s good,” said his guest.

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