In a move that will surely lead to radical changes throughout the American carceral state, businesswoman Kim Kardashian West met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss prison reform, according to the New York Times. Kardashian West was specifically interested in obtaining a pardon for Alice Johnson, a Tennessee woman who has been serving a life sentence since 1996 for a first-time, non-violent drug offense, but according to President Trump, their conversation included broader issues of “prison reform and sentencing.” Getting Alice Johnson out of prison is a noble cause even if larger reforms seem unlikely, and Trump is susceptible to this kind of pitch, so maybe some good will come of this. But in the long term, has anyone ever been glad they lent their celebrity to Donald Trump?
The Kardashian West meeting was a smart move for the Trump administration in two distinct senses. First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a fierce proponent of long sentences for drug-related offenses and made a deal with Jared Kushner to take sentencing reform completely off the table early in the administration, so there wasn’t any real risk for them. Barring another huge shakeup, the president’s discussion with Kardashian West is unlikely to lead to any policy changes that might anger, say, the private prison operators the administration favors. Second, the President of the United States is a social-media obsessed narcissist who is always happy to suggest that celebrities love him. In this case, that meant tweeting a photo that looks like a prop from the most vicious political satire of 2007:
Look how thrilled he is! That picture doesn’t really fit with the ruthlessly-curated public image Kardashian West is known for, which may explain why her own social media feed’s account of the day was photograph-free:
It remains to be seen if Kardashian West, whose rise to fame was fueled by her empowering, feminist public embrace of the trappings of wealth and power, will face any reputational damage from this dispiriting, anti-feminist public embrace of the trappings of wealth and power.