POLITICS

Obama spokesman defends $400,000 Wall Street-backed speech

Melina Druga
Author
Melina Druga
Obama spokesman defends $400,000 Wall Street-backed speech

Recently, former President Barack Obama accepted a $400,000 speaking fee to appear at Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s healthcare conference in September as one of the keynote speakers. The same week, Obama announced he received a check for the same amount for a 90-minute interview by cable network A&E Networks before an audience of advertisers.

Cantor Fitzgerald is an inter-deal broker which, according to a Fox Business report, is waiting to coordinate with Obama before making an announcement.

Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said the former president will be accepting occasional speaking engagements while he works on a book. Obama implemented “the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR,” Schultz said.

Sharp criticism for accepting fee

Critics have seized on the news, including members of his own party.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told CNN, “I just think it is distasteful — not a good idea that he did that.” He later told CBS he felt the president’s move was unfortunate.

In an interview with a SiriusXM radio political show, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said she was troubled.

Meanwhile, Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, told Fox: “Is there an irony here because he spoke incessantly about the income gap and is now earning from those same people he criticized? Yes it is,” said. 

“Should we expect it? Yes, we should because all former presidents do this. He went on the attack against Wall Street and now he’s being fed by those same people he called ‘fat cats’. It’s more hypocritical than ironic.”

Pattern of behavior

Other critics are quick to point out that Obama’s plans really shouldn’t be that surprising at all. When he was in office, Obama did not prosecute any Wall Street banks responsible for the 2008 Global Recession. A promise to spend $100 billion to help struggling families avert foreclosure went unfulfilled.

This unfulfilled promise troubled many Obama voters and turned them into Donald Trump supporters in 2016. The shift was small in some areas but still, nevertheless, significant.

Easing the pressure

Obama could take the pressure off himself, supporters say, by promising to release the text of the speech after it is given; the move wouldn’t it wouldn’t seem like he is hiding anything.

Releasing a statement before the event also might go a long way to silence critics.

Political commentator Chris Weigant suggests the statement should say: “Some have criticized me for accepting an invitation to speak to a group of Wall Street bankers. Much like those who wanted to bar Ann Coulter from speaking to students at Berkeley, though, their thinking seems to be that each speaker must always be a perfect ideological match with the audience he or she is speaking to. I reject such thinking, because if we only preach to the choir, how is anyone going to ever change anyone else’s mind? I will speak to whomever I choose, but I will not adjust or compromise my principles when doing so.”

In Obama’s first 100 days out of office, he revealed designs for a $500 million Presidential library, he’ll collect a cool $65 million from Random House to publish his memoirs in advance, he got $800,000 in speaking fees, and he will receive $207,000 a year from an annual taxpayer-funded pension for life. 

Not bad.

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