Until Kanye West visited the White House, I didn’t think it was possible to feel great sympathy for Donald Trump.
I was wrong.
Watching him slouched behind his desk in the Oval Office on Thursday — hands clasped, eyes glazed over — as Kanye rambled on and on AND ON in a disjointed soliloquy that sounded like a 40,000-word fortune-cookie message, it was impossible not to feel sorry for the U.S. president.
This was not a lunch summit. It was a buffet of cray-cray.
Ever been to a house party where the host suddenly forces you to watch a ridiculously dull slide show from a recent European vacation — “that’s us on the bus on our way to a gift shop outside the Eiffel Tower” — or exclaims it’s time to play Pictionary? That was Trump’s expression. It looked like he was trying to guess the doodles Kanye’s words were sketching in another dimension.
Hey, Ye, is that a unicorn eating the face of a baby alpaca?
Is that the moon dry-humping Antarctica?
Mr. West arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with his beloved “Make America Great Again” cap, a numbskull accessory that, he says, makes him “feel like Superman.” But instead of flying or bending steel with his bare hands, it seems the hat has given him the superpower of not making a lick of sense.
“So there’s theories that there’s infinite amounts of universe,” said West, early on, as Trump sat with the stone-faced regret of a third grader in detention. “And there’s alternate universe.”
Trump looked vaguely alarmed, as if he was listening to a hobo outside an Olive Garden turn an innocuous riff on bread sticks into a rant about a demonic trap door in the ozone layer that is stealing souls.
For the next 10 minutes, West segued from presidential pardons to mental health care to domestic manufacturing to replacing Air Force One with a fictional, hydrogen-powered “iPlane” — he even whipped out his phone and accidentally revealed his “000000” password while showing off a prototype illustration swiped from a graduate student thesis without credit — and poor Trump just listened.
This may be the longest he’s gone in silence since Melania called, yelling about Stormy Daniels. This may be one blast of celebrity love he will live to regret.
Just based on the increasingly frozen expressions of Ivanka and Jared Kushner, you can imagine the mixed feelings Trump’s inner circle must now have about Kanye: “Mr. President, it’s great an A-list star is finally endorsing you. But, sir, he keeps referring to you as ‘bro’ and just admitted he can’t count backwards. Also, we caught him in the hallway berating a painting of Abraham Lincoln.”
“We have a good — and the thing is, let’s stop worrying about the future,” said West at one point, as onlookers glanced around for the fire exit. “All we really have is today. We just have today — over and over and over again, the eternal return.”
Trump nodded with palpable uncertainty.
“And one of the things we got to set is Ford to have the highest design — the dopest cars, the most amazing. I don’t really say ‘dope,’ ” said West. “I don’t say negative words and try to flip them. We just say positive, lovely, divine universal words. So the flyest, freshest, most amazing car.”
Trump now looked like he was watching a Bollywood flick without subtitles.
“I don’t answer questions in simple sound bites,” West scoffed, when a reporter asked about Trump’s alleged racism. “You are tasting a fine wine. It has multiple notes to it. You better play 4D chess with me like it’s Minority Report.”
Yes. Or Tiddlywinks like it’s Dumb and Dumber.
What becomes of this Trump-West bromance remains to be seen.
But this much is clear: Trump has never come across as sweeter, kinder, more patient and, yes, profoundly sympathetic. I can tell you right now, as West questioned the space-time continuum or called for an end to all incarceration, a little voice inside Trump’s head kept whispering, “Wow, this guy is a total whack job.”
But he just smiled and nodded, even when Kanye was waving his arms like a bank robber in a foreign country, even when Kanye leaped out of his chair and gave him a bear hug that got dangerously close to presidential molestation.
Whatever you think of Donald Trump, Thursday was a stark reminder that things could be much, much worse for America. Trump may be a polarizing narcissist prone to gibberish and bravado.
But he’s got nothing on Kanye West.
Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon