Saturday, July 20, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He sort of tried to do his job, because Kanye asked him to, which may have been a bad idea.

American rap artist A$AP Rocky has spent the last few weeks in a Swedish jail, awaiting charges for assault after he allegedly got into a fight with a concertgoer on June 30. Mega-celebrities Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West have been lobbying to have him released.

Today, Trump jumped in front of the spotlight on Rocky. In a tweet that name-dropped Kanye, Trump said he had called the Prime Minister of Sweden to "personally vouch for his bail."

It's more or less unprecedented for presidents to ask foreign heads of state for personal favors, for the obvious diplomatic awkwardness it causes. It's even weirder for a president to brag about doing so in public. But there's a more basic problem: Sweden doesn't have bail.

This is not the first time Trump has personally intervened—or at least said that he did—in the plight of African-Americans jailed overseas. When three college basketball players were arrested in China for shoplifting, and later released after intervention by the State Department, Trump gloated that they would have to "say thank you President Trump" for their freedom. Trump then got into a messy Twitter fight with the father of one of the accused students, when the father pointed out that Trump himself hadn't actually done anything—something Trump was still fuming about over a year later.

Rocky's advocates have made the surprising claim that he is being mistreated in his Swedish prison. They have said that he was denied food, given inadequate bedding, and forced to drink dirty water in a facility that smelled "like a toilet." 

Why does this matter?

  • It's bad if the president only tries to help people if they're friends with one of his supporters.
  • Past a certain point, needing attention and praise is pathological.