At the end of July, President Obama participated, for some reason, in a “Kindle Singles Interview,” a new interview series for Amazon.com’s e-reader. In the course of discussing the need for increasing government involvement in our lives, lamenting the increasing polarization of American politics (which he personally has exacerbated beyond measure), and whining about increasing Republican resistance to his disastrous agenda, Obama also commented dismissively on the cultural impact of super-rich celebrities – among them the famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian. Kim’s mama bear Kris Jenner responded by publicly calling him out for his hypocritical and anti-capitalist jab.
So what? Why is a little spat between the President and a reality TV maven important? Because when a celebrity as widely known as Jenner not only doesn’t slavishly heap adulation on Obama, but actually challenges and chides him on her talk show, the cultural impact is potentially huge, and that trickles down to the political. She reaches a wide swath of low-information voters who otherwise might not follow politics at all, or ever hear any criticism of the President in the left-leaning cultural realm. The fact that Jenner’s audience cheered in support of her defense of her daughter against Obama is revealing and significant.
Things began when Obama, reflecting on how his own childhood differed from the world his children face, 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 [her rapper fiancé] Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success.”
In one sense, he’s not wrong about the culturally degrading impact of contemporary shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians, the wildly successful reality TV series that chronicles the mind-numbingly petty and uninteresting existence of young, beautiful people living in a bubble of impossible wealth (exactly the kind of bubble that wealthy socialist actor Matt Damon attacks in his new sci-fi movie Elysium, but I digress). The hoi polloi have always envied and idolized the rich and famous, but today’s ubiquitous entertainment media have instilled a warped, shallow, celebrity-obsessed perspective into the consciousness of young people everywhere, many of whom now fantasize about living large like “Kimye.”
However, that having been said, if any of those young people work hard to achieve that level of financial success, they have every right to live any way they choose and spend their money as they see fit.
That wasn’t all. “I bet the President has some friends with 10,000-square-foot houses,” she continued, “and he probably wouldn’t mind going over there when asking them to have a party for campaigning for dollars to run for president.” Exactly. Jenner still wasn’t done: “I find it so odd that he’s picking on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Well, Kanye West, first of all, doesn't go on vacation. Ever.”
That’s debatable, but in any case, her point was well-taken – it’s hypocritical for Obama, who has turned vacationing into practically a second career, to dismiss Kardashian and West as lazy. “And Kim Kardashian,” Jenner went on, “is the hardest-working young lady in the world. She never sleeps, she never stops, she never slows down and works so hard for what she’s got.”
Jenner also defended her family’s reality TV show for employing hundreds of workers. In rebuttal, Obama might tell her, “You didn’t build that” empire. But they did. Say what you want about the Kardashians, and I’ve been critical of them here on FrontPage Mag on more than one occasion, but they have spun gold out of TV shows, perfumes, magazine covers, personal appearances, and clothing lines. Talentless? Perhaps, but not lazy. Kim didn’t get to be worth $40 million by sitting on her famous behind gorging on Cheetos and Big Gulps around the clock.
Yes, the family started out light-years ahead of the rest of us, thanks to a massive trust fund bequeathed by Jenner’s deceased husband, OJ Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian, not to mention the fact that her current husband, ex-Olympian Bruce, brought yachtloads of his own money into the mix. But they didn’t coast on that money; regardless of how talented they may or may not be, the family worked hard to built an empire on top of that foundation. Not coal miner hard, but hard.
By contrast, Obama, who had every single success in his life handed to him by forces paving his way first into Harvard, then the Senate, then the Presidency; who now spends taxpayer money on himself and his family as extravagantly as any Sun King; and who hangs with obscenely wealthy celebrity friends like Jay-Z and Beyoncé (combined worth $1 billion), has the nerve to complain that young fans shouldn’t aspire to his or the Kardashians’ lifestyle.
Why not? What right does the President, or anyone else, have to tell Americans what the limits of their dreams and aspirations should be, or to claim that they didn’t build it themselves? That’s quite simply un-American.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 8/15/13)