Obama Gives Kanye Political Advice

by April Siese

President Obama opened for Kanye West on Saturday, speaking at a DNC fundraiser in San Francisco. The commander in chief kicked off the event by delivering a speech in which he called for stricter gun control laws while also noting the progress he's made since taking office in 2008 on important issues such as healthcare reform and unemployment. Perhaps the most surprising subject the president tackled was West's plans to run for the highest office in the land himself in 2020. Obama gave Kanye political advice that was incredibly lighthearted.

West announced that he intends to run for president in 2020 during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. The rapper received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, a lifetime achievement accolade for those whose music videos consistently push the boundaries of the medium. "It's not about me," West said during his acceptance speech. "It's about ideas. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could've guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president." The declaration was met with support from the DNC. The organization tweeted that it was happy to see him running, though as of this writing West has yet to declare which party he'd be running under.

West's experience as a recording artist and occasional reality TV show guest proved to be useful fodder for Obama, who made three humorous points about the rapper's presidential ambitions Saturday night. The president said:

First of all you’ve got to spend a lot of time dealing with some strange characters who behave like they’re on a reality TV show. So you’ve got to be cool with that. Second important tip: saying you have a 'beautiful, dark twisted fantasy'... that’s what’s known as 'off message' in politics. You can’t say something like that. A lot of people have lost their congressional seats saying stuff like that. And number three: Do you really think this country is going to elect a black guy from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name to be president of the United States? That’s crazy. That's cray!
Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

This marks a major shift in Obama's opinion of West, whom he'd previously called a jackass over the rapper's behavior at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. "I thought that was really inappropriate. You know it was like she's getting an award ... What's he doing up there? He's a jackass," Obama said in an interview with CNBC. West had interrupted Taylor Swift onstage just as she was about to deliver an acceptance speech for winning the Best Female Video award. The two have since made amends and slowly but surely it appears that so have West and the president. It's taken years for Obama to speak more kindly about his fellow Chicagoan, however.

He called West a jackass again in a 2012 interview with The Atlantic. "He is a jackass, but he’s talented," Obama said when asked whether he prefers West or Jay Z. The president's pick was West's Watch the Throne counterpart Jay Z. But a year later, Obama praised West's talent and called his music "outstanding" in a brief People Magazine interview.

Conversely, Kanye has offered little in terms of a response to Obama's previous insults. In a recent video interview with In Camera, West was surprisingly quiet about the president, though he did say that he'd been eyeing the Oval Office for a good half a decade. If a friendship ever blossoms between the rapper and the president, perhaps Obama can serve on West's cabinet. At the least, he's already laying the groundwork to become Kanye's advisor.