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Kanye West may Save Obama’s Presidency

(With apologies to Taylor Swift)

Kanye West may save Obama’s presidency. When President Obama said “He’s a jackass.”, the President confirmed a simple truth about civic virtue that transcended most political boundaries.

Importantly, he did so authentically. His statement was not the product of intense focus group distillation.

The comment leaked (hmm) and it met with significant approval. Unsurprisingly, given President Obama’s historic fall from favorability grace, the video was “released” by CNN.

In the video, the President is charming just being himself. His charm is but a bonus, however, because the People’s approval was based on his bare words.

Mr. West’s act could save Obama’s presidency, if “President Obama” recognizes the simple truth of why his comment worked. The people who voted for him did so because he promised to speak the truth and he promised to act on the truth. His statement both spoke and performatively acted on the truth of Mr. West’s behavior.  The People approved.

It’s remarkable that Obama has not realized the power of being honest, given that the promise of honesty carried him to power. Heck, he even disarmed the faux race angle of the incident, which delivers on the post-racial promise (that others made for him).

So, if President Obama realizes that being honest and keeping his promises (general as they were) will give him the best chance of having a second term, then perhaps he’ll adopt doing so as an election strategy. If he does, then his presidency will be historically important because he will be an example of how people benefit by doing the right thing.

UPDATE: Many of you think my modest proposal is not too swift. That is not a bad outcome.

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111 Responses

  1. I actually agree. If Barack can just realize that honesty is really the main thing the American people are asking of him at this point, I think it could take him far. Maybe not as far as save his presidency, but it would definitely help.

    Enjoyed my visit!


    • R,

      Please come again.


    • I don’t. I didn’t find him authentic. I got the same feeling I usually get from him–he is haughty, confident that everyone in the room will laugh at his joke, and calls himself “the president” in the third person, like royalty. He is always holding court.

      And Rick: you can’t teach someone to have character. It’s earned. If he knew how to be honest, he would have been already.

      • No offense Steve, just my take.

        • fif,

          No offense taken, whatsoever.


          • I have to agree with fif. I’ve just watched the video three times in a row, and there’s something about the way that he says immediately afterwards, “Now this, I’m assuming this–now, I’m assuming all this stuff–come on guys. Cut the president some slack.” The whole that strikes me as completely rehearsed and disingenuous. I think Obama was advised to make such an off-the-cuff quote, with full awareness that the quote would be leaked.

            I acknowledge that I have a predisposition to finding Obama inauthentic, but I recommend watching the video one more time. Does it really still feel authentic to you? Especially after Obama’s misstep on the Gates v. cop controversy, making such a comment seems like such a no-brainer to me; I certainly would have advised him to do just that if I were David Axelrod.

          • The whole that = The whole thing

          • I,

            We’re allowed to disagree. I thnk he got to comfy and spoke his mind and then thought, Oh sh&t.

            I’ve broken Rule #1 with the press and I backpedalled the same way.


          • …this was staged. Obama is so guarded and scripted, and CNN would not be the network leaking something that could be perceived as negative towards the president.

            Fake…and kanye west sucks.

          • Maybe–but it wasn’t what he said but rather his delivery and his body language that made me feel he was being inauthentic. But as I said earlier, I have an admitted predisposition to viewing Obama as inauthentic. But perhaps, just perhaps, the fact that you had a similar backpedaling moment to what Obama–either authentically or inauthentically–presented in the video makes you predisposed to feel he’s being genuine here. It’s just something to consider.

            I do agree with with tdraicer and RalphB below that if his Kanye West comment could salvage his presidency, we really are too shallow a country to exist any more. I know that you didn’t actually suggest as much, but it is depressing to me that we live in such a celebrity-obsessed culture. And clearly Obama would never have won the presidency if we didn’t.

          • I should have addressed my comment above to Steve. It always gets tricky when we move beyond “reply” mode.

            But, as you can guess, I agree with destardi.

          • I,

            GW’s presidency appeared to be wallowing until 9/11.

            Obama’s presidency is floundering, albeit his circumstance is pretty darn tough. I was thinking he might learn from something that went right for him, if he saw it in the right way.


      • fif,

        I don’t he’s going to be “taught” not to lie, he’s simply going to “become” more honest. I don’t think much of him either, but I’ve got to give him credit that he’s great at faking people out.


        • That’s what I mean though: narcissists are incapable of “learning.” It’s complicated, psychologically, but they are not introspective. They do not take lessons in, analyze them, integrate them, and then change. It’s all about manipulation and survival 24/7.

    • Unfortunately, given his history, he will be brutally honest: “I really don’t give a $hit about you little people, but I sure LOVE me some money-giving people!!!”

  2. Your argument would be stronger if Obama made the statement publicly and not asked for it to be kept OTR

    • Only about half of the snippet is really charming. The rest does show his condescending side. I liked him for about 10 seconds but by the time the clip finished, so was I.

      • I thought it was condescending as well. Hell, even calling Taylor Swift “a nice enough person” annoyed me–that’s not only a condescendingly back-handed compliment, but it almost suggests to that Obama, like Kanye, questions whether Ms. Swift was talented enough to deserve the award.

  3. So which is the honesty: “jackass” or “acted stupidly”–it would appear “jackass” was spontaneous and “acted stupidly” was prepared text.

    That is what makes Obama reprehensible to me–we don’t know what “truly honest” is with him, because we have never seen it and he really doesn’t have it in him to show it.

    • Here’s a key question – would Obama have said the same thing if he was meeting with Kanye West fans?

      I doubt it.

      • NO!

      • myiq,

        Is that counterfactual important, if we are talking about a strategy for 2012, especially given Kanye’s apologies?


        • It’s important if we’re talking about honesty and authenticity.

          Obama is as phony as a three-dollar bill.

          (But he fakes sincerity very well)

          • Yeah, I’m sure Obama really does believe Kanye acted like a jackass, but I’m equally sure he’d praise his action to the skies if he thought there was something in it for him.

          • myiq,

            Aristotle says that we learn to be moral by being moral. Ethics, in this sense, is learned in the same way that a trade is learned.


          • Obama should have learned his trade before he applied for the job.

          • Aristotle was thinking of the young, not middle aged men.

          • RB,

            As per below, do you believe in redemption or existential choices?

            Can difficult circumstances transform one’s character, positively or negatively? I think the kitchen’s starting to get pretty hot right now. Will he learn how to stand the heat?


          • He hasn’tr sinned against the body politic, so comparing him to Paul doesn’t really work. The problem is not Obama’s rhetoric but his policies.

            In politics, a month is a lifetime so who knows where he’ll be in 2012. The one sure thing is that changing his speech patterns won’t help. He would have to change most of his policy positions to be what people thought they elected and that’s not going to happen.

            Obama and the Democratic party are too bought and paid for to give it all up now. Who knows maybe massive spending on campaign commercials can pull it out for them in 2010, in which case, they’ll never change.

          • RB,

            Yes. The walk is the most important aspect of changing direction.

            An about face would literally be about face, in the virtue sense of the term.


        • Not only is Obama phony here, but he’s saying something that everybody has already said. When Michael Jackson died, first Obama or Axelrahm or whoever had Gibbs out there saying something, then people got mad, then Obama finally said something himself. Can’t Obama say something first, something on his own?

    • jenn,

      I think it was real. I understand why others might not.

      “Acted stupidly” didn’t go so well.

      I also think he needs to change what he’s doing, if he wants a second term, and that the approval he received for this simple statement of fact is a clue about what could work for him.


      • Will he start calling health insurance companies “crooks?”

        Or will he stick to being honest in reference to entertainers?

        • myiq,

          I think that saying the structure has been inefficient and that it’s outcomes have been immoral will do. He doesn’t need to slag the medical community to show how private health insurance is an example of market failure. Overly paid CEOs are much better targets for vilification than Kanye. Even then, he can nail their acts to using a bad structure.


      • In the long run people will remember the “acted stupidly” instead of the “jackass”. One reason, the opposition is much better at keeping things like that front and center, and “jackass” was directed at one of his supporters, which means the story needs to die a quick death. For Obama he needs to milk it, but he won’t. Something tells me, a surrogate contacted Kanye and apologized.

        • jenn,

          I don’t think the issue needs to be played. I think it’s a window of opportunity.

          Because Kanye apologized, it probably is becoming non-issuent.


  4. Obama is up to speed on Kanye’s latest stupidity but if you ask him the details of the healthcare bill he’s trying to pass, he still couldn’t tell ya.

    • Wonk the Vote – Touche on that one my friend!

    • Exactly.

      Sorry, Steven, but I disagree. I see the whole thing as another sorry indication of the sad state of affairs right now – Kanye’s stupidity, the question being asked of the O, O’s answer, the positive reaction by the public to O’s comment – and the fact we’re still talking about it.

  5. If we have reached the point where somebody’s political calculus is elevated because he makes a popular off the cuff remark calling a jerk the jackass he was, then we are beyond help as a nation. Obots may be that dumb and their faith may be restored in The One and they can keep on believing in unicorns and ponies but I don’t think the rest of us are that stupid. I know I am not. I just pinched myself to make sure.

  6. myiq,

    Going public didn’t work to well in the Cambridge incident. 😉

    Rule #1 For things to be off the record, it must be agreed upon prior to the comment.

    I think the comment was spontaneous and the tweet decision was post facto. I doubt it had anything to do with the WH. Rather, I think it emerged for good reasons, which are contained in the video.


  7. I think you’re being overoptimistic. 🙂 Obama’s political success has always been based on dealing in down-and-dirty Chicago sleaze while blathering about hope and change. And watching while his scaryass followers make a mockery of civic virtue with aggressive tactics, all while feeling justified in acting wrongly in the service of such a righteous cause. It’s diminishing returns at this point to actually become an agent of hope and change because he’s alienated too many would be believers with the sleaze, at this point the only thing that works for sure is the nastiness, the rest is too speculative.

    • s,

      Paul who was Saul received revelation on the road to Damascus. Do the majority of Americans believe in redemption?

      One does not need to be a Christian to believe in the possibility of an existential choice, even if one thinks, “L’enfer. C’est les autres.” 😉


      • Yes, but doesn’t redemption have to be earned?

        • S,

          Yes, it must be earned. I’m speaking of a way that he might start to earn it.

          I’m suggesting that he might connect doing the right thing with gaining electoral support because his fall in favorability has occurred because he is not delivering to his base. Further, simply being honest can gain him popularity in an electorate that is upset with both parties.


          • Why does anyone think that backtrack really gives a damn if he is popular with his base. He was selected and is in it only for the bennies.
            If he continues to rob the American people blind and give the money to the corporations that selected him they can always fix another election and give him 4 more years to steal.
            It is an illusion that the people matter to him. It keeps the masses from rising up and throwing the rascals out.



          • According to the CNN/Huffpo narrative, Obama is already recovering thanks to The Greatest Speech Eva. People like Obama, they really do, they just don’t like his policies.

          • He might, but experience tells us the opposite. If his career proves anything, it’s that he can pretty much get away with anything. He’s been in tough spots before, and the tried and true path for victory has always been to take the low road. Doing op research on ways to destroy any potential opponent and finding new caucus fraud strategies Is far easier than catering to his base, especially since he seems to despise them so.

    • bingo!

  8. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/09/16/entertainment/e110319D01.DTL&feed=rss.news

    I guess West will be screaming again and the racist cry will get louder and backtrack will have to make a speech.



  9. I have no idea what Mr. West said, nor do I care, but somehow I think it will take more than Obama calling him a name, deserved or not, to salvage his presidency.

    • If not, we are too shallow a country to exist any longer.

    • tdr,

      It’s not about the name. It’s about speaking and acting honestly.

      The name is a tree. The action symbolizes a grove. The president representing the nation is the forest.


  10. I don’t think the key to Obama’s presidency is for him to take temperature and just tell us what we want to hear. That is all he ever does already, off the cuff, on the cuff, whatever.

    Wasn’t that what Obama was supposed to be the opposite of? Wasn’t that the pitch anyway? He was supposed to be a new kind of politician, not poll-tested, dare to say the unpopular thing if he believed it’s the right thing… that was what go the left to go ga-ga over him, the hype about his 2002 anti-stupid war speech (the one that Axelrod recreated in his editing room)?

    • WtV,

      Democracies are feedback loops.

      His presidency is in trouble. How can it hurt him to try and do what he said would?


      • I guess I just see it as more feel good politics for him to regurgitate what has already been said the past few days, about a celebrity asshat du jour no less. I’d rather hear more candor from him on his policies.

        • WtV,

          Your interpretation is entirely reasonable, as is your desire for a good governance.

          I thought it would be fun to post this thought experiment, as a means of giving people a way to get at what matters to them in a president.

          My sense is that people want the good acts they receive to be driven by good intentions. Earlier today, someone told me that he thought people preferred to be lied to. I don’t get that sense from our group.

          Good night.

    • It’s like a warp of Bill Murray’s Groundhog day meets this guy’s (below) version of Opposite Day except we’re the ones who keep waking up to the same thing every day.

  11. I keep seeing headlines saying Obama is “steering clear” of the r@ce remarks made by Carter. I’m sorry, but I don’t think for one moment that Carter said those things without the blessing and encouragement of the DNC and the White House. So Carter throws out the “r@ce baiter” charges and Obama looks like the reasonable one for “steering clear” of them.

    • That’s the Obama way, stay “Above the fray” while his surrogates play the race card for him.

    • Maybe Carter’s remarks were staged. But I participated in several DC protests against Bush and the Iraq War and the signs were tame compared to the signs carried in the 9/12 protest last weekend.

      I don’t believe Obama really had much choice in “refuting” Carter. If he hadn’t, rightwingers would have been all over it in a skinny minute – just waiting for Obama to carry the Race Card – followed by 24/7 loops of the primaries where Obama and his bots used the Race Card against the Clintons and others when no racial motives existed.

      Repubs excel in creating distractions and all their faux outrage and hysteria demonstrated last weekend against Obama (socialists don’t bail out corporations!!) – seeks to create so much NOISE that people FORGET Bush was the WORST president ever!

      Of course, Obama has helped create some of the noise himself with confusing and contradictory statements which Repubs have generously magnified.
      And I suppose it’s possible to have 2 worst presidents ever – in succession.

  12. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

    • JL,

      Yes. And sometimes people who are blind from birth get a bump on the noggin and gain sight.

      It’s a funny old world.

      • LOL

        What I find interesting is that it seems Obama didn’t see the thumpin he and Dems were getting all during August.

  13. jn,

    Given Carter’s remarks about Israeli apartheid, I get the sense he’s his own person, but I’m not fully versed in the ways of the White House.


    • Maybe, but pay close attention to WHO was interviewing Jimmy Carter: Brian Williams of NBC.

      A leading question from Brian Williams literally LED Carter to the “racist” accusation.

      And every single MSNBC show has followed up with more interviews with others implying same.

      We saw them do the same to Hillary in the primaries, using Axelrod talking points.

      What on earth makes you think this is not more of same?

  14. All,

    We started the day with Woden the One Eye’s perspective on the news and we finished with Jormungundr, one of Loki’s sons.

    Jormungundr is my avatar. He is a giant serpent who lives beneath the ocean and his coils wind around the world. When he moves, he makes the waves.

    This thought experiment, on how Obama’s presidency might hinge on how he interprets his Kanye West moment, is dedicated to Jormungundr’s father.

    Good night and sweet dreams.


  15. Please say a prayer for my family. My brother died tonight. He lived a troubled and far too short life. He gave generously what he had(and it wasn’t much by a capitalist culture’s estimate)without realizing the value of things like giving of himself without the expectation of something in return. He was a good person with a good heart who never saw his own value. I’m saddened that he could never overcome his demons and hope that if there is peace in another life that he has found it

    RIP Paul Wiencko

    Apr 22 1970 -Sep 16 2009

  16. His “nice enough” comment about Taylor Swift was the same comment he made about Hillary in the campaign. He said this to be disparaging about a woman. That was his message yet again.

    As far as honesty, I’m not sure anyone as dishonest as Obama could ever “learn” to be honest. I don’t think he has it in him.

    I love watching his poll numbers drop. Will be interesting to see how far and how fast. And to think we could have had Hillary!

  17. Maybe Kanye and Taylor Swift can get an invitation to the WH for a make-up session. They could have a tune-up summit.

  18. I don’t know, maybe I have become too cynical/ paranoid for my own good, but everything with BO seems contrived. Sigh.

  19. In other words, just fake being honest. Good advice! reminds me of what a Palin fan was posting: “she just needs to brush up on substance”.
    Or W telling the press that Babbs taught him “to appear humble”
    And speaking of Bush

  20. “Or W telling the press that Babbs taught him “to appear humble”

    LOL I love the Bushes and Bidens of the world who self-reveal unwittingly.

  21. Obama is always at his most natural when sneering at other people, imo. It’s his talent.

    • exactly, or that p*ssy, petulant irritating tone he takes when someone dares to question or challenge him. What strikes me about the video is how haughty he is–surrounded by sycophants, he is used to be doted upon as the court jesters titter (no offense to clowns myiq!).

    • Obama is always at his most natural when sneering at other people, imo. It’s his talent.

      Indded. It’s another way Obama is like Bush 2. Bush the younger never had a problem with the English language when sneering! lol!

  22. I am confused. Was this supposed to be off the record? They why tape it. He doesn’t do anything that isn’t orchestrated! Please don’t tell me that this was staged too!

  23. My take:

    White House polled the blogs. Saw that most everyone thinks West is a jackass.

    Obama knows this and makes an “off the cuff” comment to that effect.

    Press “leaks” the comment … with permission.

    Doesn’t matter though. The tactic was effective and I agree with Steven. This will win Obama a few points in his approval rating.

    Don’t think it will “save his presidency” though.

  24. cough cough b$ll S8it cough

    That was absolutely SET UP and the dupes went along with it!
    And if NOT? He’s more of a punk than I thought! Presidents should NOT EVER relax like that around mere commoners!


    I don’t want my neighbor as pretzeldent
    I want someone with CLASS and INTELLECT and COMMON SENSE! doh

    bambi ain’t it!

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