Obama’s latest gift to his detractors: a $400,000 Wall Street speaking gig

By Shawn Langlois, Marketwatch

Former President Barack ObamaFormer President Barack Obama

Barack Obama once told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he didn’t “run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.” Of course, he didn’t say anything about them helping him out.
So yes, after a political career often spent unloading on banking industry “fat cats” for their profit lust and splashy lifestyle, Obama has agreed to a $400,000 speaking engagement on healthcare policies at bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald, according to Fox Business.
In other words, one day of inspirational words and fist bumps with some of Wall Street’s finest will net the former president what it took him an entire year to earn while calling shots at the White House.
The big payout would also put his price at double the average amount commanded by Bill and Hillary Clinton on the circuit, where the duo cashed in on more than $150 million over the years, according to CNN numbers crunched last year.
The fact that Obama, like so many presidents and politicians before him, is chasing Wall Street cake shouldn’t come as a surprise. The amount, however, is rather eye-popping. Add this to their $60-million book deal — a whopping four times Bill Clinton’s post-presidency offer — and the Obamas should get by just fine in their retirement years.
A pair of popular Democratic Party senators took shots at former president Barack Obama‘s $400,000 speaking fee for a future Wall Street event, a rate that equaled his yearly presidential salary. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders shared their opinions about the fee with the media, although other Democrats and liberals have taken similar speaking engagements in times past.
In speaking with SiriusXM’s Alter Family Politics show, Sen. Warren of Massachusetts didn’t mince words in answering Andy Cohen‘s inquiry about the fee. “I was troubled by that,” said Warren, writes Yahoo News. “One of the things I talk about in the book [the recently-published This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class] is the influence of money. I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington. And that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington.”
While Warren’s point that Wall Street’s influence on politics is troublesome, Obama is not in a position to run for office nor has made it known he has any aims to lobby to sitting politicians on behalf of the finance world.
Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis spoke with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also levied his criticism. “I think it’s unfortunate. President Obama is now a private citizen and he can do anything he wants to but I think it’s unfortunate,” said Sanders, while adding the word “unfortunate” a third time in his reply to Dennis..
The Democratic Party and liberals, in general, have turned a critical eye towards Wall Street. Yet the practice of former government leaders and officials using their expertise to earn money in the speaking arena is not new. Former president Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have all taken high-paying speaker fees in varying intervals.
Also in place are lobbying bans that Obama himself instituted while in office that would hinder former employees to address government officials on behalf of Wall Street and other special interests.
To be sure, senators Warren and Sanders have long-standing issues with Wall Street’s political influence and have said in previous times they felt Obama took it easy on financial institutions while shunning middle-class concerns. Obama has yet to respond to the criticism.

Obama offers optimism — and warnings – in farewell address

 

By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer

 president-barack-obama

 President Barack Obama

 

Chicago (CNN) Popular but politically humbled, President Barack Obama said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, declaring during his farewell address that he hasn’t abandoned his vision of progressive change but warning that it now comes with a new set of caveats.

His voice at moments catching with emotion, Obama recounted a presidency that saw setbacks as well as successes. Admitting candidly that political discourse has soured under his watch, Obama demanded that Americans renew efforts at reconciliation.

“Democracy does not require uniformity,” Obama said. “Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”

In a concession that, for now, his brand of progressive politics is stalled in Washington, Obama admitted “for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”

He implored his backers to be vigilant in protecting basic American values he warned could come under siege. “Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,” he said. “So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”

And he warned against turning inward, telling Democrats that only by involving themselves in a real political discourse could they hope to renew the hopeful vision he brought to the White House eight years ago. “After eight years as your President, I still believe that,” he went on. “And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.”

 

Obama’s speech is the capstone of a months-long farewell tour, manifested in extended magazine interviews, lengthy television sit-downs, and the White House’s own efforts to document the President’s waning administration. Through it all, Obama has sought to highlight the achievements of his presidency using statistics showing the country better off now than eight years ago.

 

As he spoke before a rowdy crowd of supporters, Obama was interrupted often with screams of “I Love you Obama.” When a protester holding a “Pardon All of Us” sign, chants of “four more years” drowned out the shouts.

Obama sought to corral his crowd, listing the accomplishments of the last eight years ranging from health care to marriage equality, all while insisting that his work isn’t finished.

He recognized his successor Donald Trump, saying he was committed to a peaceful transition of power. But he warned that going forward Democrats shouldn’t fall in line with their commander-in-chief.

Obama, who has addressed race with varying degrees of force during his time in office, used his farewell to insist Americans work harder to understand each other’s struggles. After presiding over eight years that saw race relations enter a fraught new era, Obama demanded that differences be identified and reconciled.

“Brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce” in the years ahead, Obama proclaimed, calling for better rules that will help the children of immigrants succeed.

He warned that “laws alone won’t be enough” in resolving persistent differences between Americans. “Hearts must change,” he said. He called on African-Americans and minorities to view with empathy “the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.”

And he urged whites to regard the protests of minorities as a fight “not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.”

“Regardless of the station we occupy, we have to try harder,” Obama said. “To start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”

In coming to Chicago, Obama hoped to capitalize on a well of goodwill that’s expanded in the final year of his tenure. He discarded the staid Oval Office or East Room for his last formal set of remarks, choosing instead the city where his political rise began and where he declared victory in 2008 and 2012.

Inside a vast convention hall packed with more than 20,000 of his most ardent supporters and former staffers, the mood was wistful. Ahead of his address, aides described the normally unsentimental commander in chief as nostalgic.

Over the past several weeks, Obama has offered a rational view of Trump’s election and rarely let on to any apprehension about his future as an ex-president.

First lady Michelle Obama has articulated a more candid view in a scaled-back version of her own farewell. She sat for an hour-long interview with Oprah Winfrey, frankly admitting that Democrats were now “feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And she became emotional during her final set of formal remarks at the White House Friday, her voice quaking and eyes welling with tears as she told a crowd of educators: “I hope I made you proud.”

During his speech Tuesday, Obama voice quaked when describing his wife’s service. “You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor,” he said. “You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.”

The President had been planning his speech for months, aides said, formulating the broad themes while on vacation over the holidays in Hawaii and developing drafts starting last week.

He told aides months ago that he preferred to deliver his farewell address in his hometown, a first for a departing President. George W. Bush, unpopular and facing a financial crisis, delivered his final prime-time address in the White House East Room to a crowd of 200 supporters and aides.

Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all used the Oval Office — a setting Obama has long spurned for formal remarks. George H.W. Bush traveled outside of Washington to West Point for a departing address after failing to secure a second term, though he didn’t actually bill it as a farewell.

The tradition extends back to George Washington, who issued warnings against unchecked power and partisan entrenchment in a written address to the nation in 1796.