What was that?
“The idea that he is some kind of ambassador to the African-American community is laughable,” I said early Thursday afternoon to veteran journalist and MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell. “He” was MAGA-hat-wearing music mogul Kanye West. Little did I know that a few moments later he would prove me right.
The scene unfolding between the two reality TV stars who continue to lead reality TV existences was like a living re-enactment of Winston Churchill’s famed line about Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Or maybe it was just a latter-day minstrel show. Other than providing brain-shrinking distraction, I haven’t a clue whose interests were served by what went down at the Resolute desk in front of Trump and the White House press corps.
Actually, they were there to talk about a presidential pardon for Larry Hoover, the former “chairman” of the Gangster Disciples street gang in Chicago now serving six life sentences in a Colorado supermax prison. He was sent there in 1997 from an Illinois prison (where he was incarcerated for a 1973 murder conviction) after he was found guilty of running a drug ring from prison. But Kanye’s gon’ Kanye. Hoover’s attorney was able to give only a thumbnail of his client’s tale before Yeezy jumped in:
“Really, the reason why they imprisoned him is because he started doing positive for the community. He started showing that he actually had power. That he wasn’t just one of a monolithic voice, that he could wrap people around.
“So, there’s theories that—there’s infinite amounts of universe and there’s alternate universe so it’s very important for me to get Hoover out because in an alternate universe, I am him and I have to go and get him free. Because he was doing positive inside Chicago just like I’m moving back to Chicago and it’s not just about, you know, getting on stage and being an entertainer and having a monolithic voice that’s forced to be a specific party, you know, people expect that if you’re black, you have to be Democrat.”
And West kept spouting off from there, a rhetorical Roman candle spraying nonsense about welfare, his “Make America Great Again” hat, the 13th Amendment, male energy, “Chi-raq,” bipolar disorder, sleep deprivation, “the iPlane One,” Adidas, Foxconn, etc.
West’s antics before a smiling Trump are all the more galling because the president of the United States should have better things to do. He could have assured the nation that his administration was on top of things in the Florida panhandle after Hurricane Michael tore through it. He could have been hunkered down with his economic advisers over the free-falling stock market. He could have been working the phones to demand answers about the frightening disappearance of my colleague Jamal Khashoggi.