The convergence of politics and entertainment was in evidence again last week when President Obama took a shot at the excessive lifestyles of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West -- and Kim’s mother, Kris Jenner, shot back.
In bygone days when Hollywood and Washington, D.C., were firmly planted on two separate coasts, presidents of the United States positioned themselves well above mere entertainers.
Now, that has changed. Presidents appear on late-night talk shows, comedians testify before Congress, popular politicians adopt the style of celebrities and Hollywood luminaries bankroll the Democratic Party.
It is also a marker of our era that Obama delivered his broadside, not to the L.A. Times, the Washington Post or NBC News, but to something called Kindle Singles. In an interview, the president talked about the American Dream and how it is being distorted by the ultra-conspicuous consumption of the rich and famous. When he was a kid, children were not as aware of how the top 1% lived, he said, and so, for his generation, success was not defined by purely material measures.
“We weren't exposed to things we didn't have in the same way kids these days are,” the president said. “There was not that window into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success."
Arguably, Obama was just picking Kardashian and West as random examples and not meaning it personally (although the president in the past has very intentionally singled out West as a “jackass”).
But Jenner interpreted his comments as a direct attack. The mama bear of the Kardashian clan, the woman who turned the lives of her children into a reality show dedicated to the flamboyant display of all that money can buy, seized the opportunity to criticize Obama on “Kris,” her E! Channel talk show.
Jenner said the president seems perfectly comfortable hanging out with rich celebrities in their ostentatious homes when he is raising millions of dollars for his campaigns, so she found it odd that he would accuse her daughter and rapper boyfriend of “influencing a generation of youngsters to be obsessed with wealth and celebrity.”
After five years in office, Obama thought he had it tough dealing with obstructionist Republicans and tea party militants.
Now, he’s got a new set of enemies who not only have super-sized mansions and vast wardrobes, but also have their own TV shows: the Kardashians.