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 calls for mutual respect from Black Lives Matter and police

By: Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

President Obama

President Barack Obama

 

MADRID Spain — The Black Lives Matter movement that’s arisen in response to police shootings of black men is part of a long line of protest movements that have transformed America for the better, President Obama said Sunday, defending the protests amid renewed tensions over race and policing across the country. But he also acknowledged that those debates are often “messy and controversial,” and urged protesters to “maintain a respectful, thoughtful tone” after a week of deadly shootings — both of African-American men by police and of police officers by a Dallas gunman.
Obama cut short his four-day trip to Europe and instead will go to Dallas Tuesday to speak an an interfaith prayer service, the White House announced Sunday. He’ll also devote most of the week working on police issues, aides said.
Obama has spoken about the events of last week four times in the last three days, even as he’s juggled an important foreign trip with NATO allies in Warsaw and Spanish leaders in Madrid. But Sunday’s comments were focused on the social media-fueled protest movement that has has brought national attention to the issue of police shootings.
And they came the day after DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, was arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge. That’s where police shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in an incident caught on video and widely shared on social media last Tuesday — the first of three incidents that brought issues of race and policing exploding back into the headlines.
On CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist” and that police feel it “puts a target on their back.” “They sing rap songs about killing police officers and they talk about killing police officers and they yell it out at their rallies and the police officers hear it,” Giuliani said
Obama condemned the more extreme voices, while defending the movement as a whole. “In a movement like Black Lives Matter there are always going to be folks who say things that are stupid or imprudent or over generalized or harsh,” Obama said after meeting with acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause,” Obama said, calling violence against police a “reprehensible” crime that needs to be prosecuted. “But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people … if the rhetoric does not recognize that, then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.”
Even before a sniper killed five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Obama has gone out of his way to acknowledge both the evidence of bias in policing and the difficult and dangerous job that police officers have. “There are legitimate issues that have been raised,” he said. “And there is data and evidence to back up the concerns that are being expressed.”
Obama praised the Dallas police department and its chief, David Brown. “That’s part of why it’s so tragic that those officers were targeted in Dallas, a place that is because of its transparency and training and openness and engagement has drastically brought down the number of police shootings.”
Just as protesters need to be respectful of police, the law enforcement     community needs to listen the frustrations of people in minority communities, Obama said, and “Not just dismiss these protests and these complaints as political correctness or as politics or attacks on police.”.

Obama laces into Trump for whipping up terrorism fears

By NICK GASS

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama ripped into Donald Trump on Tuesday for criticizing him for not using the phrase “radical Islam” and for renewing his proposed Muslim ban, warning about the danger that the presumptive Republican nominee would pose as president.

Should the United States “fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush” and “imply that we are at war with an entire religion,” Obama said after a meeting with his National Security Council at the Treasury Department, “then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.”

Even as partisans argue over terminology, “that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs,” he said.

“We are seeing how dangerous this kind of mind-set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us,” Obama said. “We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee of the United States, the Republican nominee to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America.”

The meeting at the Treasury Department, the latest in a series of administration briefings on the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, was planned long before the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday that killed 49 and wounded 53. The killers who perpetrated the attacks in Orlando and at Fort Hood in Texas, as well as one of the two shooters in the San Bernardino massacre, were U.S. citizens, Obama noted.

“Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? We’ve heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this? That’s not the America we want,” Obama said. “It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals.”

Trump’s rhetoric will make the U.S. less safe, Obama continued, saying it would fuel terrorists’ notion that the West “hates Muslims” and would make Muslims in the country and around the world “feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the values that America stands for.”

“We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history,” Obama said. “This is a country founded on basic freedom including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.”

“The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great,” Obama said. “The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won, and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.”

At no point in the execution of its strategy against the Islamic State, which claimed credit for the Orlando attack, has the government been hamstrung by the name it has called the enemy, Obama said.

“Not once has an adviser said, ‘Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,’ not once,” he remarked. “So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come to a surprise of the thousands of terrorists we have taken out on our battlefield.”

People who have been working on fighting terrorist groups in the U.S. “know full well who the enemy is,” Obama said.

“So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows,” Obama said, in a not-so-veiled reference to Trump. “They knew who the nature of the enemy is. So there is no magic to the phrase of ‘radical Islam.’ It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.”

Obama also called for restrictions on guns to prevent homegrown extremism.

“Here at home, if we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from homegrown extremists, the kind of tragedy that occurred at San Bernardino and now occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that,” Obama said. “We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.”

Obama continued, “There are common-sense steps that could reduce gun violence and the lethality of somebody intending to do somebody harm. We should give [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have. People with possible ties to terrorism who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually, be tough on terrorism and stop making it [as] easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons,” Obama said.

“Reinstate the assault-weapons ban; make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us,” he said. “Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military — despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

The fight against the Islamic State is “firing on all cylinders” overseas, Obama said, while urging more to be done to prevent homegrown extremism with increased restrictions on weapons.

As a result of administration efforts, including 13,000 airstrikes from the United States and its coalition partners, Obama said ISIS is “under more pressure than ever” in both Iraq and Syria, noting the losses of more than 120 of the group’s leaders and commanders.

Obama urges rejection of violence at campaign rallies

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and GARDINER
HARRIS, NY Times

Obama gives speech

President Obama delivers remarks on campaign

WASHINGTON — President Obama said on Tuesday that the violent scenes playing out at rallies for Donald J. Trump threatened to tarnish “the American brand,” and he called on politicians in both parties to reject them. Speaking at the Capitol for the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon with lawmakers, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Trump by name, but he criticized the protesters who have interrupted the candidate’s campaign events and the violent response from Mr. Trump’s supporters.
Violence has broken out at Trump rallies in Chicago, North Carolina and Ohio as protesters increasingly seek to disrupt the events.
On Friday, Mr. Trump canceled a rally in Chicago, sending thousands of people home, after his supporters clashed with protesters at an arena there.
Mr. Obama said the actions of both sides damaged American politics and the nation’s reputation around the world. Politicians should think of the effect their language has on children who are watching, he said.
“We should not have to explain to them this darker side” of the political system, Mr. Obama said as lawmakers — including the leaders of the Republican Party — sat nearby.
The audience remained hushed for Mr. Obama’s remarks, listening as the president turned to address the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who was the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012.
Mr. Obama told Mr. Ryan that he disagreed with him on most policy issues. “But I don’t have a bad thing to say about you as a man,” he said. Mr. Ryan nodded in agreement as Mr. Obama continued. “I know you want what’s best for America,” the president said.
Mr. Obama’s comments about the rallies echoed remarks he has made repeatedly about Mr. Trump, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, in the last several weeks. On Friday, Mr. Obama mocked him during remarks at a Democratic fund-raiser in Austin, Tex., criticizing Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.
“We’ve got a debate inside the other party that is fantasy and schoolyard taunts and selling stuff like it’s the Home Shopping Network,” Mr. Obama said, referring to a news conference in which Mr. Trump showed off an array of products bearing his name.
The president said Republicans should not be surprised by the language Mr. Trump and some of his rivals were using in an effort to win the nomination.
“They can’t be surprised,” Mr. Obama said, “when somebody suddenly looks and says: ‘You know what? I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil.’ ”
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama had decided to criticize Mr. Trump during the annual Capitol Hill celebration of Irish heritage because the camaraderie and fellowship at the event “is in stark contrast to the kind of vulgarity we see on the campaign trail.”
Mr. Earnest noted that the event celebrated immigration, an issue that has become politically toxic among Republican presidential candidates.
“After all, Irish immigrants have thrived in America,” Mr. Earnest said. Borrowing part of Mr. Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again,” he added: “The president has long believed that’s an important part of what makes America great.”
Mr. Earnest said Mr. Obama was likely to speak again about divisive campaign language.
“I think the president is concerned about the corrosive impact of the tone of the political debate,” Mr. Earnest said.
Responding to a statement by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, urging Mr. Trump to condemn violence regardless of its cause, Mr. Earnest said Republican leaders should not condemn Mr. Trump’s divisive statements while also supporting his bid for the presidency.