Well, if there's one thing a president—or a presidential candidate—needs to get used to, it's criticism. And not just the "your last album kinda sucked" type of criticism. More like criticisms that include the words, "suspicious," "vulgar," "non-presence," "obscene" and "opportunist."
Enter Sean Penn. And former Fugee bandmate Pras. And, we're guessing, many more to come.
Wyclef Jean may only be one day into his campaign for Haiti's presidential race, but already his detractors are out in full force, matching him PR blitz for PR blitz in an effort to underscore his perceived lack of qualifications for the position, as well as publicly call out his motives for running in the first place.
Yeah, this is gonna get ugly.
Penn has been the most vocal of the challengers, taking to the CNN airwaves yesterday to air his considerable grievances with Jean.
"The last thing in the world that Haiti needs—and I'm not accusing Wyclef Jean of being an opportunist, I don't know the man," he said. How's that for an opening gambit?
Penn also questioned Jean's motives for running for office, speculating that corporate interests that are "enamored" of the singer have pushed him into campaigning with promises of support—in the form of underpaid yet much-needed jobs in the country—which shields their own opportunism.
"Right now, I worry that this is a campaign that is more about a vision of flying around the world talking to people, it's certainly not about the youth drafting him," Penn said. "I would be quite sure that this was an influence of corporations here in the United States and private individuals that may well have capitalized on his will to see himself flying around the world doing that."
As a result, Penn wants the media to keep an extra close eye on his campaign donors.
"This is somebody who's going to receive an enormous amount of his support, if he continues this campaign, from the United States. I have to say, I'm very suspicious of it, simply because he, as an ambassador-at-large, has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he has been a non-presence."
Well, except for when he was a very, very big presence indeed.
"I want to see someone who's really, really willing to sacrifice for their country and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that, in context, I felt, a very obscene demonstration."
And while he's careful to note that he has nothing personal against Wyclef, he's just as careful to explain that one of the reasons for that is that he's spent the past few months in Haiti—and Jean, for all his posturing, apparently hasn't.
"One of the reasons I don't know much about Wyclef Jean is I haven't seen or heard anything in these last six months that I've been in Haiti. I think he's an important voice, I hope he doesn't sacrifice that voice by taking the eye off the very devastating realities off the ground and the very different strategic future it's got in putting itself back together."
Penn also called for a much more thorough investigation into Jean's finances in the wake of mounting reports earlier this year that he diverted $400,000 of relief money from his Yéle Haiti foundation to his own personal account. Jean denied the accusations in a flood of tears earlier this year.
"That has to be looked into," Penn said. Also worth looking into? The Smoking Gun's report this week that the IRS filed three tax liens totaling $2.1 million against him for unpaid taxes.
Wyclef's answer so far? "There is no situation of Wyclef Jean that we will ignore," the third-person-loving star told CNN. "We respect the IRS very much.
With that kind of non-answer answer, he may be cut out for politics, after all.
As for Pras, Jean's former bandmate, he was slightly less damning in his dissention from Wyclef's campaign, but no less a non-supporter. In a simple statement released yesterday, Pras announced that he was supporting Jean's competition instead.
"I endorse Michel Martell as the next president of Haiti because he is the most competent candidate for the job."
Oh, well. There's still a chance he can secure that Lauryn Hill swing vote.