Former President Barack Obama will get $400,000 — equal to his annual presidential salary — to deliver a one-hour speech at a September health care conference sponsored by Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street investment bank.
We all expect former presidents to cash in after leaving office, but this move is raising salient questions about hypocrisy because the former president, in particular, and the Democratic Party’s progressive base, in general, have routinely demonized the nation’s “top 1 percent” and Wall Street bankers as “fat cats.”
The New York Times attempts to split the baby with a story under the headline “Obama Balances Civic-Minded Side With the Lure of a $400,000 Speech.”
“Mr. Obama’s spokesman defended the former president’s coming speech, saying Mr. Obama decided to give it because health care changes were important to him,” the Times reported. “The spokesman, Eric Schultz, noted that Cantor Fitzgerald is a Wall Street firm but pointed out in a statement that as a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama raised money from Wall Street and went on to aggressively regulate it.
“Mr. Obama will spend most of his post-presidency, Mr. Schultz said, ‘training and elevating a new generation of political leaders in America.'”
The Los Angeles Times was a little less kind with “$400,000 for an Obama speech: Tacky but not corrupt.”
“Now Obama, the epitome of good taste when he was president, has signaled that he too is ready to begin cashing in,” the Los Angeles newspaper says. “That may not be corrupt or a threat to honest government, but it strikes us as tacky – tackier somehow than accepting a lucrative contract to write a book, though that also amounts to capitalizing on public service. But our revulsion isn’t moral; it’s aesthetic.”
The Hill, was covers the politics of Congress, made no bones about its criticism with “Obama’s speech proves hypocrisy of Democrat’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric.”
“Now, only months after he’s left the White House, Obama is set to receive $400,000 from those very same fat cats for a one-hour speech at a conference put on by the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald,” The Hill says. “That’s nearly 10 times more than the average U.S. yearly salary, just for one speech. It’s also double the amount that the Clinton’s infamously charge for similar speeches.
“Of course, Obama is a private citizen now and can do whatever he pleases to earn income; but the massive payment is the height of hypocrisy since Obama utilized anti-Wall Street remarks to propel himself into the White House. He had no problem trashing fat cat bankers when it was politically convenient; and now he has no problem accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from those same bankers when it’s financially convenient.”
Fox Business makes no bones about where it stands with “Obama’s $400,000 Cantor Speech Makes Him Wall Street’s Newest Fat Cat.”
“During a 2009 interview with CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ Obama famously said, ‘I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,’ and gave a series of speeches during his two terms in office demanding accountability from banks, which he characterized as the main culprits of the 2008 financial crisis,” Fox Business says.
“But even worse for the banks were his actions as president. His championing of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law squeezed bank profits, and forced firms like Goldman Sachs to drop once-lucrative business lines. The Obama Justice Department didn’t indict a single bank for financial crisis related frauds, but it did rack up billions of dollars in penalties against players like JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, for alleged abuses.”
Obama has every right to give speeches to whomever he chooses at the going market rate. But, there is no way to pretend that taking this kind of money from people that he and his party paint as evil is anything but hypocritical.