My Thoughts on Obama’s Planned Fall Speech

Barack Obama, fall speech, Wall Street, Write Anything Wednesday
President Barack Obama went to the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. with his daughters, Sasha and Malia, on November 29, 2014 to promote Small Business Saturday. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

This past week, it was revealed that former President Barack Obama signed a contract to speak at the Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s planned health care summit. According to the terms of the contract, Obama could back out if there are any scheduling conflicts or any other concerns. If Obama does give a speech, he will receive $400,000.

That announcement was soon met with some grumbling on the left, notably from two highly regarded U.S. senators.

On Thursday, April 27, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stopped by the SiriusXM Radio show Alter Family Politics. When asked about Barack Obama’s Wall Street speaking fee, Warren didn’t elaborate on the matter directly. But she said she was “troubled” about the announcement and concerned about larger issue of money in politics.

The influence of dollars on this place is what scares me. I think it ultimately threatens democracy.

On Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), spoke with CNN’s Suzanne Malveax. During the interview, he was asked about the speech and he said this:

I just think it does not look good. I just think it is distasteful — not a good idea that he did that.

Look, Barack Obama is a friend of mine, and I think he and his family represented us for eight years with dignity and intelligence. But I think at a time when we have so much income and wealth inequality … I think it just does not look good.

It’s not a good idea, and I’m sorry President Obama made that choice.

The criticism of Obama, especially from Sanders, was met with ire from the left.


What I Have Heard

There is a contingent of Democrats — and Democratic sympathizers, even from other countries — who see nothing wrong with Obama making a Wall Street speech. Most argue he is now a private citizen and can thus make speeches anywhere he wants. To them, he deserves it and how dare anyone question him.

He was a good president! Can’t he and his wife catch a break!!??? Oh my God!! YOU GUYS ARE HATERS!!!

Also:

There is a racial component at play here. I have seen some people, including The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, ask, “Why should the first black president be the first president not to take that money?”

Noah also said, “F*ck that and f*ck you.” Yes, he did.

Why can’t you people just let the black dude get his money?!! He earned it after all the crap he took for 8 friggin’ years! Oh my God! OH MY GOD! YOU GUYS ARE HATERS!!!

Um, BTW, you don’t have to worry about the Obamas starving any time soon. Barack and Michelle Obama signed book deals with Penguin Random House worth as much as $65 million around late February/early March. They will donate much of the proceeds to charity, but they gon’ be alright, y’all.


What I Think About Obama’s Planned Fall Speech

I’ll give it to you straight.

I voted for Obama and I think he did some good things while he was in office. Here are a few things to mention:

  • For one thing, I support the Lily Ledbetter Act.
  • While the Affordable Care Act isn’t the best bill, it is certainly better than the system we had before.
  • I’m glad he came around to supporting gay marriage, although then-Vice President Biden forced his hand a bit.
  • I was so glad to see him support net neutrality.
  • I wholeheartedly supported his decision to pardon or commute the sentences of non-violent drug offenders.
  • And I liked Obama’s decision to utilize the Justice Department to investigate police departments. It was a start to the systemic problems with American law enforcement. It’s a shame Jeff Sessions is now there mucking things up.

There are many other good things Obama did, particularly in terms of regulations, but …

Having said all that, I can still criticize a number of Obama’s decisions. I do not like the fact that he is giving this speech, so I feel criticism of Obama’s decision is fair.

GASP!!


Why I Think the Criticism Is Fair

I want to look at this from a practical standpoint, while trying to be as objective as possible.

For starters, Senators Sanders and Warren have some credibility here. There were asked, and they gave their honest opinion of the news. These two have consistently talked about financial issues and against Wall Street bankers and money in politics and they are currently the two most popular active politicians in the country. Their words carry weight.

Also, it is fair to consider Obama’s donor base and what influence it might have had on him.

From Warren’s Perspective

Warren is responsible for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was created as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. Warren fought tooth and nail to get that bureau created and it is the most effective part of that bill.

Even before she became a United States Senator, Warren consistently talked about money in politics. Her “You Didn’t Build That” speech, which talked about fairness in taxation, was “borrowed” numerous times by Obama.

This is Warren’s forte and she has been consistent so any criticism or warnings from her in this area should be heeded.

From Sanders’ Perspective

Sanders has also consistently talked about financial/economic fairness for over 30 years. He did so as a mayor in Vermont and he did so as a congressman.

This next clip comes from The Rachel Maddow Show (before she was all about Russia, Russia, Russia).

Now, I know he drew fire from many a Democrat for talking about Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs, but why would he be any different? If he had debated Donald Trump, I’m sure Sanders would have talked directly about all of Trump’s bankruptcies and questioned him about his finances, especially regarding tax returns. That should have been a consistent line of attack from HRC’s camp, but she was somewhat compromised because of the speeches.

As It Pertains to Obama

The issue isn’t just about what we personally think about Obama making this money. However, it speaks to a larger issue of money in politics. I voted for Obama, but I can’t let him off the hook here, especially since I just complained about Republicans being bought off by the telecom industry.

Obama received more money from the financial sector than any American political candidate in history.

  • He received $1,295,955 from individuals at Goldman Sachs lifetime.
  • He received $1,179,123 from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (mostly from individuals) lifetime.
  • He received $1,006,159 from Citigroup Inc. (mostly from individuals) for his entire political career.

He also received a pretty penny from the health sector. He received a total of $1,158,040 from Kaiser Permanente over the course of his career.

Did that affect the way he governed?

Finances

Now, I know Obama’s spokesman, Eric Schultz, defended Obama’s speaking fee and said the former president pushed forward “the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR.” But how were those reforms actually enforced?

When I covered Preet Bharara — the U.S. Attorney from New York who was fired by Trump in March, I found out more about the Obama Justice Department. While Bharara led all U.S. Attorneys in convictions tied to the 2008 financial crisis, he only went after hedge-fund managers much of the time and did not get the big CEO’s who caused the crisis. But he took his orders from higher up not to go after those guys.

Additionally, after the aforementioned Dodd-Frank act was passed, Obama’s administration held up at least 19 provisions. His SEC Chair, Mary Jo White, was excoriated by Senate Democrats but Obama kept her in office. I mean, why else would White hold up those provisions unless she was given the orders to do so? And if she wasn’t given those orders, why did Obama defend her and keep her in her position?

People want to complain about Trump rolling back those rules, but many were never enforced in the first place.

Now, we hear of Obama doing a speech for a bank, and we not supposed to ask questions?

Health Care

Above, I said the ACA was better than we had before, but it was not the best law we could have had. Right now, a fight for better health care is being waged across the country and more people want single payer. Yet when Obama was stumping for health care reform he took the public option off the table and pushed the type of health care exchanges often promoted by Heritage Foundation (at the state level). The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing think tank and some version of that health-care exchange plan was already set up in Massachusetts.

Even before promoting the ACA, Obama said he would include HMO’s in talks for a better health care plan. But many observers felt that was a bad idea. They were right because in 2015, Aetna held the ACA hostage in order to get the Obama administration to approve its merger with Humana. That merger was blocked and Aetna left the exchange, leading to higher premiums late last year.

Honestly, I don’t see Obama using a Republican health care plan if he did not receive campaign funds from the health care industry.


What Really Bothers Me About This Discussion

I think the past election not only created a chasm on the left (which I want to talk about in more detail this month) but it the exposed hypocrisy from some people on both the left and the right. Some people are willing to look over glaring flaws in their candidates as long as there is a D or an R next to their name. When people try to make excuses like that, change the subject, and make counteraccusations it’s called “whataboutery.”

Sadly, I think this thing with Obama is similar, if not the same thing.

We should demand better from our candidates and political parties.

Don’t get me wrong. When I voted for Obama, I felt he was the better candidate and I still do. But what he’s doing right now is a mistake considering how divisive the past election was.

Many voters were angry at Clinton—

No. NO! Don’t you say that. Hillary was perfect! Oh my God! STOP BEING IDEOLOGICALLY PURE, YOU HATER!!!

Many voters were angry at Clinton because they felt she was out of touch with the voters. When they heard about the speeches, and found out some of the things she said, they were even more frustrated. But they were already frustrated because of the 2008 financial crisis.

After those “To Big to Fail” banks were bailed out with taxpayer money, what did they do? All of a sudden, they refused to give loans to people who needed them.

Obama did have a program to save people’s homes, but some still lost their homes when heartless people like Steve “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin defrauded them, yet faced no jail time.

Additionally, Obama has effectively gone back on a statement he made as he was leaving the White House:

Hopefully, you can see this is like a slap in to face to some voters, right?

Furthermore …

Again, I voted for Obama and I would choose Clinton over Trump 10 times out of 10, but I have to say something about the optics. That’s what this is about.

Many Democrats are squabbling over the issue of money in politics. This issue came up again this year, shortly after Tom Perez was chosen as the DNC chair:

After the Democratic National Committee Chair vote, the party’s 442 voting eligible members voted on Resolution 33, which would have banned money from corporate political action committees and would have forbidden “registered, federal corporate lobbyists” for serving as “DNC chair-appointed, at-large members.” The measure, introduced by DNC Vice Chair Christine Pelosi, was soundly defeated.

Don’t you think Republicans would use this against the Democrats in 2018?

Maybe you think that’s not “fair,” but when you under the impression the Republicans were going to play fair? They’re certainly aren’t being fair to Americans with all the legislation they’re working on.

These people stole a Supreme Court pick using BS reasons.

They blocked a seat for the FCC for over two years by treachery. Let’s see a Republican apologist excuse that.

They obstructed Obama for 8 years.

They disrespected him, his wife, and his kids because they were black.

People on the right promoted this birther BS because Obama was black. And that is one major reason I can’t stand Trump. He used this to court a bunch of bigots.

What makes anyone think these people will be “fair” on this speech issue?

Please.

You don’t have to be fully empathetic (which can be tiring and unfulfilling anyway), but think about why this angers some people. Especially think of those who are willing to vote Democratic but are turned off by Wall Street.


Conclusion

Again, this is not about me passing judgment on Obama, but I think it’s fair to hold even the people we admire and vote for accountable. In particular I am talking about the optics of this planned fall speech. While not everyone will be bothered by this, I would like form more people to take the time to figure out who might be and how this can be used politically.

That’s all I’m saying.

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7 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Obama’s Planned Fall Speech

  1. I respectfully disagree with you on this blog.
    Due to the fact that I live in South Florida and every weekend #45 is spending millions of my tax dollars and depleting my Florida retirement fund, I personally don’t give a damn that Obama is getting paid for giving a speech. He’s a private citizen and can do as he pleases.
    How dare anyone complain about the Past President when the CURRENT President is sucking us dry with his expensive tours, costing us millions dayly for his wife to stay in NYC, and spending every weekend at Mara Lago for millions. When he stays down in S. Florida they do not have enough law enforcement in that area and therefore they call in police officers and paramedics from Broward County as well as Palm Beach to watch over him. (I live in Broward county.) If the people here need law enforcement we are shortchanged so the orange guy can go golfing. Since these weekly visits have started, the Florida Senate is trying to restructure the Fl retirement system that I paid into for 40 years and this could leave me without my pension. (They are trying to save money on taxpayers dimes because of Trump.) My pension is how I planned my retirement and I worked over 36 years as a teacher so I could have these funds.

    So pardon me if I don’t care that one of the best Presidents of our time accepts payments for giving speeches once he left office. He is eloquent, intelligent, and the public is entitled to hear him speak and he is entitled to get paid for it. Just like celebrities and football players get paid high prices to perform or show up at functions. Private citizens can do that.

    And how dare Bernie bitch about anything. It was his whining and bitching that messed things up for the Democratic party in the 2016 election. I think the old codger needs to shut his mouth about other people in the party he chose to run for. He has done enough damage in dividing our party which was formerly united.

    Bernie has a right to complain about policies or congressional issues, but seriously, other than that, most of us are sick to death of his incessant bellyaching. ENOUGH already. He has been griping about the same stuff for 40 years.

    Elizabeth Warren is entitled to her opinion and while I adore her, I don’t agree with her on this. The difference between Liz and Bernie is that Bernie has made a career attacking everyone and everything under the sun. (I’ve followed his career since the 70’s when he wrote for underground newspapers I subscribed to.) He is career complainer and I have had enough of his bitching. He’s a broken record. I don’t hear him griping about the money wasted on 45 and his visits to Florida every weekend. He is bankrupting my state and taking away the money I worked my entire life for. 400K is what DT spends in an hour on food and clothing. So leave Obama the hell alone.
    The biggest problem with the Democrats is that they are not as united as the GOP and THAT is why we lost the election.
    I do not begrudge Obama at all. He will go down in the history books as one of our finest Presidents. While 45 will go down as the guy who took healthcare away from millions and killed democracy. And Sanders will go down as the man who divided the party and helped prevent one of the most qualified women in history from becoming President. I have taught enough American history lessons to predict what will be written in the new text books.

    Like

    1. That’s not the point. It doesn’t matter much what you or I personally think about the money Obama is making. My point was how this can be used by Republicans in 2018. Will this be used by Republicans in 2018? I think they will use it because they’re trying to keep their seats and gain so more.

      One question I failed to ask as if it will work should they go this route. But another aspect is the Democrats’ counter message. What is it and can they convince more voters to side with them?

      With all due respect, your response illustrates the emotional aspect of the Obama news. Many people on the left take the concern as a personal affront, but it isn’t. I’m trying to be as objective as I can and look at this with as little emotion as I can.
      But I got a bit emotional at the end when talking about how Obama was outright disrespected by his opponents.

      Warren has her eyes on the next election so she is thinking about her opponents’ strategy. And she also thinks about how money in politics is affecting her colleagues on the left and the right.

      The Republicans have this ability of criticizing the Democrats for doing something without acknowledging the Republicans do some of the same things or worse.

      Now, I know how draining he is on your state and it makes my blood boil. He has no regard for the residents and is using Mar-a-Lago as a big photo-op and branding opportunity. It so vain and inconsiderate. It’s also grounds for dismissal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Indeed, I was emotional. But after hearing the House repealed Obamacare today and That if this is passed by the senate I might lose healthcare because I have a few pre existing conditions I was angry before I read your post. You did stay pretty objective. I on the other hand didn’t simply because I’m so tired of the GOP and anyone who is elected to represent the people of this country but doesn’t! And I’m so over all the baloney where the middle class, minorities, seniors, women, the poor get screwed over.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Our only hope right now is the Senate. From early indications, the Senate Republicans do not like this bill.

          But beyond that, we need a Democratic majority by 2019. We can’t have four full years of this. It’s exhausting and dangerous. At least new lawmakers might mitigate the damage from the executive branch.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Howdy Shmaltz!

    I agree that the optics of Obama’s speech is bad, but I don’t think it will be the major cudgel that the GOP brings to the 2018 Congressional elections. In many ways, it is inconsequential and will be lost in the blizzard of bull that issues from the GOP.

    We are witnessing such corruption in DC now that I cannot help but think that anything that doesn’t keep us focused on that is wasted time. We only have so much focus to give. We only have so much energy. We really need to pace ourselves and maintain our outrage.

    When confronted with an invasion by Russia, collusion from the very top of our government, and indifference from Congress, we will need everything we have to resist and set things right.

    Huzzah!
    Jack

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that we need to focus on the most important issues. But the Democrats need to help Americans (and themselves) by making sure everyone stays on message.

      The best tools they have right now are the press and the town hall. They need to put themselves in front of the press and remind everyone what the Republicans are doing to hurt the rest of the country. And when Democrats talk to the people, the lawmakers need to present an agenda Americans can get behind.

      Democrats need to present a vision for American and go beyond the message of “We’re not Trump” or “We’re not the Republicans.” The first was the message we heard last year, but look how it turned out.

      It’s clear most Americans can’t stand Trump, but the Democrats need to expressly say why they are a better option.

      My point is the details of Obama’s speech don’t help, but Democrats can take over the narrative if their vision includes going after offending financial institutions. Americans need loans and debt relief.

      Liked by 1 person

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