Video of Obama chumping down Kanye

Look for the president should benefit from his off-record, on-video remark.

Published September 17, 2009 1:20PM (EDT)

Here it is: The president's off-record but caught-on-tape "jackass" comment about Kanye. First watch the clip--it is short and enjoyable, so maybe watch it a coupla times--before reading the rest of this post.

This is going to provide a nice political windfall for Obama.

For starters, it's clear that this was not a staged political moment. Notice how, almost immediately, with his hand-to-neck gesture, Obama is clarifying with the production crew that the comment was off-the-record. He then implores them to "cut the president some slack." He realizes that the camera is rolling and knows that, even though the formal interview has yet to start, anything caught on tape always has a chance of getting out. (Remember those precious moments in Farhenheit 911 showing Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfwowitz being groomed before TV appearances?) His reaction confirms the sincerity of the remark.

And then there's the genuine nature of the comment itself: Obama spoke like a lot of Americans would at the water cooler or over a beer at happy hour. "What a jackass"--simple, pithy, accurate. It was real, visceral and dashed off with a smile. This was not Bill Clinton's shrewd, if contrived "Sister Souljah" moment designed to garner white supporter by dissing a black rapper. Al Gore would likely have dissertated.

And, oh, how fortunate for Obama that it did leak, right?

The remark is going to make it at least a little bit harder for those complaining that Obama is some rabid race warrior trying to impose a New Black Order on the country. For if the president were some militant black movement leader trying to oppress White America, he wouldn't lash out at one of his own soldiers.

As for African Americans, sure, I suppose there will be a few who might take offense. But my suspicion is that most African Americans, including those who enjoy West's music, probably agree that West is a self-absorbed jerk who can't control himself--a jackass, that is.

One final, ironic note: On the campaign trail last year, the Obama advance team regularly played a mix of songs for the crowd while they waited (often for hours) for the Democratic nominee to arrive. One of the regulars in that mix?

My favorite Kanye song, "Touch the Sky," which, in my opinion, has a better music video than either Beyonce's or Taylor Swift's.

By Salon Staff

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