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Elite Liberals Need A Higher Standard

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Lloyd Blankfein, left, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, is greeted by Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State, for a panel discussion, "Equality for Girls and Women: 2034 Instead of 2134?" at the Clinton Global Initiative, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Lloyd Blankfein, left, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, is greeted by Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State, for a panel discussion, “Equality for Girls and Women: 2034 Instead of 2134?” at the Clinton Global Initiative, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This is an excellent point:

Former President Barack Obama’s decision to accept a $400,000 fee to speak at a health care conference organized by the bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald is easily understood. That’s so much cash, for so little work, that it would be extraordinarily difficult for anyone to turn it down. And the precedent established by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to say nothing of former Federal Reserve Chairs Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan and a slew of other high-ranking former officials, is that there is nothing wrong with taking the money.

Indeed, to not take the money might be a problem for someone in Obama’s position. It would set a precedent.

Obama would be suggesting that for an economically comfortable high-ranking former government official to be out there doing paid speaking gigs would be corrupt, sleazy, or both. He’d be looking down his nose at the other corrupt, sleazy former high-ranking government officials and making enemies.

Which is exactly why he should have turned down the gig.

The election in France earlier this week shows that the triumph of populist demagogues is far from inevitable. But to beat it, mainstream politicians and institutions need to shape up — not just with better policies, but with the kind of self-sacrificing spirit and moral leadership that successful movements require.

Someone in Obama’s position can’t really rely on a “hate the game, not the players” defense with respect to America’s underachieving and overcompensated elites showering many times the country’s median income on each other to deliver platitudes, because he can work to discredit the game.

I’m not sure I buy Matt’s subsequent argument that Clinton’s buckraking was crucial to her being unable to translate Obama’s popularity into an Electoral College win. The media did not press the issue during the general — although it’s a much more legitimate line of attack on Clinton than her email server management — not least because many elite journos are either on the speaking fee gravy train or hope to be. But who knows in an election this close, and more to the point no matter how politically damaging it is it’s just wrong. In a time in which ordinary workers have faced austerity for a long time, already-rich people showering each other with huge sums of money to deliver speeches to captive audiences, put their names on college syllabi, etc. is gross. Obama is in a position to set a new precedent for liberal elites, and he should.

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  • sleepyirv

    I said this in an earlier thread, but at the VERY LEAST Obama should forgo his pension. Truman, who hardly entered the White House on firm financial footing, refused to get involved in grubby little payouts like this, requiring the establishment of the Presidential pension in the first place. There is no reason for Obama to take an extra $200,000 a year when he can essentially get paid double that for two hours of work.

    • Scott Lemieux

      He should keep the pension and forego the cartel-paid six-figure speaking fees.

      • Denverite

        Or donate them to a non-affiliated charity.

        • Warren Terra

          There are a number of things he could do to limit the damage: he could release transcripts, or better yet transcripts and video; he could use the podium to discomfit his audience; he could donate the money. Realistically, though, the first of those is the most we can hope for, and it’s really not enough. He’s not going to lacerate his audience, because that’s not at all who he is, and while donating the fee might be nice, the fee is the only reason he’s even there.

          • D.N. Nation

            He’s not going to lacerate his audience, because that’s not at all who he is

            We’ll see. Obama has on some occasion told his audience to eat a shit sandwich. One of those prayer breakfast meetings comes to mind.

          • Denverite

            I actually don’t care so much about transparency because he’s never going to run for anything again. I don’t really care at this point what his views on bond trading regulation are, and he certainly isn’t in a position to promise anything. This isn’t Clinton in 2012-2014. It really is just a question of the propriety of Obama cashing in.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Right. Transparency isn’t the issue. The issue is that elites giving each other six-figure no-work paydays is disgusting.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                Yes, but it’s amazing how much angry pushback there is against this thought from good liberals on Dahlia Lithwick’s fb thread sharing this Yglesias piece.

                Apparently people only criticize Clinton and Obama for taking these fees because they’re not white men.

                • efgoldman

                  Apparently people only criticize Clinton and Obama for taking these fees because they’re not white men.

                  And, funny, the only people who criticized HRC (and are dumping on Obama) are Berniebots and some Democrats.

              • free_fries_

                What do we think Cantor Fitzgerald will do with this money otherwise? Is it better if it stays in their coffers to be paid out as executive bonuses as opposed to Obama using it to fund his future projects? He is only in his mid-50s. He probably doesn’t even know what he wants to do with the rest of his life in terms of work. I really don’t see him turning into a man of leisure.

                • sharonT

                  We could tax it.

            • Joe_JP

              to run for anything again

              Holder is reportedly working on getting Democrats elected. Gather Obama will have some role too. His connections are not totally unimportant. The transparency also sets a precedent that would put pressure on such groups to do so as a rule. It isn’t just about him.

            • Robespierre

              While I don’t believe Obama to be personally up for sale, delayed payoff after leaving office is very much a problem if we want to avoid corruption, in he same way that revolving doors between public office and private employment are.

              • Lurking Canadian

                This. I honestly feel as if I am being gaslighted on this issue. I can’t wrap my head around the notion that there is no cause for concern when publicly regulated industries are allowed to give giant bags of money to public figures in broad daylight. People really don’t see where there’s a potential problem there?

                If I may argue by analogy (always a bad idea), consider NCAA sports rules. I will stipulate first that the rule about not paying athletes is a monstrosity. But, if you are going to have that rule, then you must also have the rule that athletes can’t work off campus, otherwise somebody will invent the no-show job and use “sales jobs” at Big Jim’s Used Cars to funnel money from the booster club to the athlete.

                The fact you can find cases of genuinely honest and hard-working student-athletes who just want to put in their ten hours at Subway so they’ll have enough money to take their girlfriends to the Malt Shoppe on Saturday night is not relevant.

                • Buckeye623

                  It’s not that the optics are bad that’s the issue.. rather, the issue is that Obama is [and always has been] the guy who doesn’t see anything wrong with taking the money.

                  Obama supports all the bad things that this thread is correctly identifying.. he would “step up” only if he identified that this was wrong.

          • efgoldman

            There are a number of things he could do to limit the damage

            There is no “damage” to “limit”.

      • DrDick

        Exactly.

      • cleek

        counterpoint: he should do whatever the fuck he wants to do with his time, and if people want to pay for his time then good for him.

        • Exactly. Lots of people in this thread are far too eager to spend other people’s money.

          Obama is a private citizen who is never going to run for office again. The idea that how much he gets paid and for what is anyone’s business, at a moment when there’s a literal kleptocracy running the country, is simply laughable.

          • Dilan Esper

            A lot of liberals and leftists disagree with you, and it’s worth setting forth an additional reason beyond the good ones Scott articulates.

            That additional reason is this: it’s actually not an excuse for morally questionable conduct that the system permits it. Think about the argument that people make about bank prosecutions in 2008– an argument I don’t necessarily agree with, but let’s assume it is true. Assume that the stuff the banks did before 2008 was not illegal. Now, does that make what they did right? They are a private bank, just trying to make money, maximize value for their shareholders, create a surplus to pay their employees, etc. Right?

            A lot of us feel that systematic inequality, and especially people being paid a ton of money for nothing or for perceived influence, is wrong. Not moral. I.e., we don’t simply think that this is a bad thing because it has bad effects on society, we think it’s entirely wrong for people to be paid a ton of money for doing no work because of who they are and who their connections are.

            So anyone who takes this money makes a moral choice. You can turn it down and still give the speech. You can donate it all to charity and still give the speech. You can take only a reasonable hourly wage (say, what a top flight lawyer in Washington bills, $1000 an hour plus expenses) and turn down the rest.

            Taking the money is participating in an immoral, unjust system where if you are one of the favored few you make shitloads of money for doing nothing.

            It’s not the biggest thing in the world– and indeed, I still admire Obama a great deal even though he is doing the wrong thing here– but it’s not simply a “private matter” either.

            • efgoldman

              My granddaughter is going to be a very old lady waiting for the inevitable socialist paradise.

              Where did the formatting buttons go all of a sudden?

              • Dilan Esper

                That’s the fallacy of the excluded middle.

                The fact that true equality on this score is impossible doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands and do nothing rather than try to push for people to behave more ethically.

                • efgoldman

                  try to push for people to behave more ethically.

                  Which people? NBA stars? Baseball players? Wildly successful pop musicians?

                  We can have bread and circuses while waiting for our great socialist paradise.

          • Joe_JP

            It isn’t up there on my concerns, but Obama apparently wants to use the rest of his life in part to promote the public good. Him doing certain things, including aiding and abetting the big money complex like this, in various respects can hurt it.

            He can do whatever he wants. Jimmy Carter didn’t have to spend time building houses or anything either. Appreciate he did though.

            ETA: I speak broadly, not just this one instance, since the “who the fuck cares” sentiment is broadly put.

            • I honestly don’t see how accepting speaking fees hurts Obama’s ability to do good. Especially since, again, doing good in this context will mean doing so purely as a private citizen.

              Hell, Bill Clinton has been doing lobbying work for energy companies, and he’s an elder statesman of the Democratic party who campaigned for both Obama and Hillary. Why would Obama doing something that is inarguably less shady destroy his political capital, unless the chattering classes are determined to accomplish that anyway?

              • Scott Lemieux

                This only works if Clinton was an effective spokesman, which is…questionable.

                • EliHawk

                  Huh? He was by far the most effective spokesman of the 2012 campaign, both with his boffo convention speech and actually cutting a bunch of testimonial ads for Obama.

              • Joe_JP

                hurts Obama’s ability to do good

                People are concerned with overall power of elites here. Certain practices. Obama is aiding and abetting that overall tainted system. This is a certain fashion harms the overall good. Such appears to be the argument.

                “how much he gets paid and for what is anyone’s business”

                At the very least, I would gather some sort of limit to this “who cares” principle would arise. Let’s say if the source of money is really horrible, some might reasonably care about him taking money / giving the bad actors a sense of legitimacy.

          • pseudalicious

            Does your preferred vision of the world have rich people in it? Mine doesn’t.

            • In this hypothetical vision of the world where there are no rich people, that I will never see in my lifetime, why are we starting with Barack Obama, self-made black man who spent his entire adult life in public service?

              • SV

                It’s a mystery.

              • pseudalicious

                Well, yeah, I agree with you on that point. That said, I think it’s also that Obama’s brand is being squeaky clean* (which, I get it, why did that have to be his brand specifically, etc.).

                *so maybe people expect more of him for that reason. But yeah, what you’re saying was gnawing at me, I admit.

            • efgoldman

              Does your preferred vision of the world have rich people in it? Mine doesn’t.

              Are you still looking for the commune you left behind in the 60s, or are you ready to grow up?

      • Matt_L

        yes, exactly.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I’d much, much rather Obama take his pension than take $400,000 speaking fees from corporate health care conferences.

      • Warren Terra

        Yeah, that idea was precisely backwards.

        We could argue that his pension ($200K/year, plus some staff support) is too small, but the answer would be to boost it.

        Also, he has a book advance that’s big enough it really ought to buy his purchasable time, and prevent him from renting out his time as a speaker in instances where he’s only there for the money.

        • djw

          We could argue that his pension ($200K/year, plus some staff support) is too small, but the answer would be to boost it.

          The thing is there are a bunch of relatively easy ways for Obama to make obscene amounts of money that no one would particularly object to.

          • Mellano

            He’s said in at least one interview I heard that in another life he would have liked to spend his days running a business (IIRC context suggested some kind of tech company).

            I’d be fine with him serving on boards of companies or even working at some VC, like Gore did. Hell, a basic investment banking role, pitching clients and using his connections to set up deals, would be less unseemly than delivering a one-off speech for $100 per word, or whatever it works out to.

          • free_fries_

            Beyond book advances, what are some unobjectionable ways he can make these obscene amounts of money?

            • Spider-Dan

              Apparently, he should go join Wall Street and become an investment banker (as per above). That would be… less objectionable than just taking their money?

    • Brett

      I’ll third disagreement with this. We should be encouraging them to take the pension and avoid speaking fees from unsavory providers.

      There’s no excuse for it other than greed here, since Obama not only has the pension and good health care, but he’s also got an eight-figure amount for his next book.

      • pseudalicious

        The only thing I can think of is that he prpbably wants to send his daughters to insanely expensive schools. But is any school going to turn away a President’s kid? Wouldn’t you just let them go for free because Child of Former President?

    • aaronl

      Given the amount of the pension, and the amount that the President is apt to earn over the next couple of decades, foregoing the pension would be a symbolic gesture that would not harm him. But I’m not sure what its larger significance would be — it won’t change anybody’s mind about anything.

      The problem with applying the sort of purity test suggested in this thread is that it’s always possible to be more pure. If we say that $400,000 for a speech is “too much”, what amount is not “too much”? $200,000? $50,000? $10,000? “Pay my travel costs, hotel costs and meals”? “I’ll do it for free and pay my own expenses”? And let’s be honest about the Hillary-bashers — if she had given her speeches for free and paid her own expenses, they would be squawking about how that “proved” her “corruption” because she wouldn’t give speeches for free unless she was somehow getting something in return. Heck, even if she paid for the privilege of speaking, that would be evidence of “corruption”.

      Maybe the President could start a foundation devoted to advancing the public interest. No, wait, if he has rich people on his board of director, advising his organization, or contributing funds, somebody is going to contend that as “proof” that his organization is corrupt or working against the public interest.

      Seriously — are we going to simply criticize “liberal elites” for getting compensated like the celebrities that they are, no matter what they do or say, or are we going to articulate a reasonable standard so that they can receive compensation for their future work and activities without being attacked on that basis? The former is really easy to do; but the circular firing squad that would rather lose an election than win with a candidate that they perceive as flawed (i.e., any human being on the ticket) seems unlikely to ever agree to a standard that a political figure could meet.

      There’s a reason Bernie Sanders is playing hide-the-ball with his own financial information. He knows that even he can’t pass the purity tests.

      • Matt_L

        its not a “purity test” to ask someone who claims the mantel of reformer to forego what is clearly a spate of make work for a ridiculous payout.

        If Obama wants to cash in, fine, but I am under no obligation to take his gestures towards reform or change seriously. I am seriously tired of being ruled by rich people. I don’t care if they have my best interests at heart, no matter what action they take the result is the same, heads they win tales I lose.

        • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

          I missed Obama claiming the mantel of reformer; I’d call him an incrementalist who’s trying to improve the existing system, not replace it. (And maybe that fits your definition of “reformer”, but it’s not mine.)

          • One of the literal definitions of “reformer” is “a person who makes changes to something in order to improve it”, which seems like a perfect description of Obama’s approach to politics to me. That is, for example, a pretty clear description of the ACA: it was a reformist approach rather than an attempt at a complete overhaul of the healthcare system.

            I’m not saying Obama’s approach is necessarily correct, but he’s clearly not a radical and has never claimed to be one.

        • aaronl

          Of course it’s a purnity test. And the fact that you’re making sweeping proclamations about what it means for a former politician to earn more money for some random act than you, personally, deem to be appropriate simply reinforces that fact.

      • I sort of agree with both arguments to a certain extent. The system that enables people to cash in on public service is fucked up and bullshit. The fact that it exists is a major part of the reason shit in general is fucked up and bullshit, and people who want to reform things probably shouldn’t be participating in it.

        I suspect the argument above that Obama is one of the few people on the planet who could take a payment like this and not be affected by it is probably more or less correct: he already believes what he believes and being paid for giving speeches isn’t likely to change his thoughts on that.

        But most people aren’t that incorruptible. Obama’s decision to collect money from speaking isn’t exactly sending a great message. It doesn’t particularly change my opinion of him; he’s always believed in working within the system to change it. But the fact that he’s collecting speakers’ fees is sort of normalising their existence.

        At the same time, I also sympathise with the argument that he’s a self-made black man and maybe he shouldn’t be the primary target of criticism like this. And I’m not sure how much influence Obama simply refusing to collect said fees would actually have on the existence of the system. It’s like climate change: driving a Prius or a Tesla isn’t going to stop it. It’s a nice thing to do, but the systematic damage to our environment is so overwhelming that one individual’s choice of car isn’t going to make a major difference. The problem is with the entire system creating it.

        If I were in his shoes, I suspect my impulse would be to collect the fees, then tell off the financial sector (or whomever else) and donate all the proceeds to a charitable cause that specifically opposes the financial industry. But that’s not who he is. He’s a reformer; he’s not a radical. And that’s why he got elected president and I didn’t. And while telling off the room would certainly have a strong symbolic power for us, it wouldn’t be likely to convince anyone in it, and it wouldn’t dismantle the system that creates these fees either. He may think that trying to persuade them to improve their behaviour through rational argument is better than simply telling them off, and I don’t even know that he’s wrong there. (Also, if he did what I would’ve done, it probably would’ve been the only such fee he’d ever have collected.)

        So in short, I’m kind of just in the middle about this. I don’t think it’s great, and obviously, I’d be happier if Obama were working to end the whole system that results in these fees in the first place. But, again, that’s not who he is. I think we should be directing more of our criticism at the existence of this system in the first place rather than specifically criticising one person for participating in it. The biggest criticism I’d be willing to level at Obama specifically is I’d vastly prefer for him to donate money from corporate speaking fees to charity. Other than that, I can’t say it’s my place to tell Obama what to do with his time.

        • Thank you. I share your mixed feelings here.

        • aaronl

          No doubt, there are a lot of problems with our present politcal and celebrity cultures, and money serves to highlight the distortions. But we don’t make things better by forming a circular firing squad.

          As I previously indicated, there’s no clear measure by which to set the bar, and some (such as many Hillary bashers) will level the same criticism no matter what the level of compensation. If criticisms of this sort are inevitable, the consequence will be that nobody pays attention. Is there any sort of objective measure or standard that can be created and applied?

    • efgoldman

      Yeah, says Yglesias, who was born rich and could afford to be a shitty blogger for years, often telling poor and middle class people how to live and how to see their neighborhoods.

      As I also wrote in the previous thread, this is all 10000% bullshit. Money has no morals, it is fungible. Some people (athletes, actors, pop singers, politicians not in office, CEOs…) who SOME OTHER people think are not deserving because they do the “wrong kind” of work, get lots of money because a third group of people think they are worth it. That’s the way the world works.

      When we reach the socialist paradise, maybe everybody will be limited to the same, say, $259/week. But probably not.

      As Bill James wrote in the 1980s [paraphrasing]: If we as a society really prioritized teachers, nurses, or cancer researchers above athletes, their relative pay would reflect it. Or, as Babe Ruth allegedly said “I had a better year than the president.”

      • econoclast

        Yglesias was a good blogger, way back when.

  • Denverite

    I’m not sure I buy Matt’s subsequent argument that Clinton’s buckraking was crucial to her being unable to translate Obama’s popularity into an Electoral College win.

    I absolutely think that Clinton’s post-SoS/pre-campaign speechifying was a large driver in why a lot of partisan Democrats were lukewarm about her campaign, even after the primaries. It was the most recent exhibit in the whole “Clinton does something legal, ethically sketchy, and politically toxic” saga that has surrounded her for decades.

    • sleepyirv

      I believer Sanders perfectly read the mood of the party by going the “Wall Street speeches, not emails” route on attacking Hillary. Though apparently the mainstream media would have been more warm to his candidacy if he stuck to her damn emails.

      • nemdam

        Considering Bernie’s support didn’t improve after he went with this attack, the evidence point to the fact that no one cared. The issues is largely a Rorschach test.

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          I’m not so sure. The Goldman Sachs line was one of his big applause lines in his speeches.

          Maybe it didn’t earn him many converts, but it did rile up his base.

          At the very least, it probably helped keep the donations flowing. And those donations were what enabled him to keep his campaign going for months despite the contest being essentially over on March 15.

          • He also got big applause from the line that no one cared about Clinton’s damn emails. Sadly, it wound up not being true. In fact, they wound up being the only thing a lot of people cared about.

      • WinningerR

        If it was all about optics, transparency, avoiding the appearance of impropriety, and the like, why was everybody more concerned about Hillary’s speaking fees than Bernie’s refusal to release his tax returns?

    • addicted44

      Sure.

      But if it wasn’t for the speeches, it would be something else. It doesn’t matter. The Republicans made hay out of “emails” and “Benghazi”, and they have enough sway (with the help of a compliant, transcription only media) that even liberal Dems were concerned that there was “something” corrupt about Hillary, even though if you asked them to pinpoint something there was nothing.

      • Denverite

        even though if you asked them to pinpoint something there was nothing.

        Er…

        She took tens of millions of dollars to give speeches to big financial and commercial companies and interest groups knowing full well that she was going to be running for president within 24 months. That may not be “corrupt,” but it certainly was ethically questionable. At a bare minimum, she gave the impression to those companies and interest groups that they could buy influence. The best case is that she was cheating them and they were paying for nothing.

        I personally think the email crap was ethically sketchy — mostly because I don’t believe for a second that she just didn’t want the inconvenience of carrying two mobile devices; she wanted to have complete control of her official and non-official email correspondence for FOIA purposes, and then got burned — but that’s certainly a minority view on here.

        • Boots Day

          No, there’s nothing corrupt or ethically questionable or dodgy in any way about this. There is no interpretation of this in which Clinton was telling Goldman Sachs or Obama was telling this health care conference that they were buying influence – they were paying to listen to her, not the other way around. If you think these Wall Street people are uniquely evil, then having America’s leading progressives explain more liberal positions to them should be seen as a good thing.

          This whole “scandal” baffles me. It is not unlike the press in the email and Clinton Foundation “scandals” trying desperately to find some “troubling questions” to grab onto. But there’s nothing there.

          • DrDick

            Your faith in humanity is quite touching. Totally insane, but touching. The people paying for these speeches absolutely expect it to influence the people they are paying. This is not to say this is overt bribery, just an effort to make the recipient think better of them.

            • Boots Day

              No, they don’t. They expect to get the frisson of being in the same room as somebody they’ve seen on TV for the past two decades.

              • Lost Left Coaster

                What are you basing that on?

                • EliHawk

                  The fact that nobody’s looking for favors from Iron Man yet they pay Robert Downey Jr. to show up all the same?

              • veleda_k

                I made a much longer comment below, but I suspect that many people truly don’t want to believe this. Corruption is less disturbing than our celebrity culture.

              • Mr. Rogers

                Exactly. As was noted during the 2016 campaign, Secretary Clinton’s speaking fees equaled that of Guy Fieri. Unless you can come up with an argument as to what influence the conferences who hired him expected to exert, and what they expected to get in return (a promise to NOT cook for them?) the idea that hiring speakers is done only for influence is bizarre.

                Organizations spend large amounts of money to hear famous people speak. Former secretaries of state and first ladies are famous. This is not a conspiracy.

                Neil Gamian has a nice piece on his website about what it takes to hire him to speak, and in part the high cost is because he doesn’t want speaking to be his day job, but he wants to do it occasionally, and when he does it he wants to do it well. So he sets a price point that makes sure it only happens occasionally, and compensates him for doing it well. Why this can be true for a SF/F author but not a former first lady is, again, bizarre.

                • veleda_k

                  This is not a conspiracy.

                  Ah, but what if you hired Hillary Clinton to speak about the time she murdered Vince Foster? Then would it be a conspiracy?

                • petesh

                  (a promise to NOT cook for them?)
                  Nice! And of course Obama is promising not to raise their taxes ever again.

                • efgoldman

                  Organizations spend large amounts of money to hear famous people speak. Former secretaries of state and first ladies are famous. This is not a conspiracy.

                  One year, Enormous Brokerage & Mutual Funds LLC hired Boston Garden for our company meeting and brought in Dave Cowens (Celtics and NBA HOFer) to speak. What did they hope to get out of it? That Cowens would recommend us for the NBAs pension administrator?
                  Or maybe it was just some executive’s idea for the meeting to be more interesting than when the senior VPs droned on and on…..

                • Phil Perspective

                  Do you know what the difference(s) between a politician, or former politician, and a glorified cook are?

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                little of both, probably. There really isn’t any reason to think the people of Goldman Sachs *can’t* be a little star-struck by a possible future President *and* that they hope to be remembered by said future President in various ways down the road

                • Lost Left Coaster

                  Right. There’s a weird false binary being pushed here, as if having a celebrity speaker precludes also trying to curry favour with said speaker.

                • DrDick

                  Pretty much and I am a bit dubious about Clinton being as much of a celebrity hire as Fieri (who has no other qualifications)

                • ForkyMcSpoon

                  While Clinton isn’t merely a celebrity, I’d say it’s also true that she is clearly more desirable than Fieri just on the merits of her “celebrity”.

                  Combined with her political influence, you’d think she’d command a far higher price than Fieri…

                • Clinton is probably the most famous woman in politics. The idea that she’s not as big a draw as a speaker Guy Fieri is just baffling. Indeed, she’s probably a much bigger one.

                  e: I may have misinterpreted some of the comments above the first time I read them. Not sure now.

              • Robespierre

                lol

            • veleda_k

              Honestly, I think this is about your faith in humanity. You see a corporation paying a public figure millions of dollars, and you think that it must be nefarious, it must be corruption. What’s the other explanation, that our society’s concept of celebrity is so morally empty that it’s truly unremarkable for a sufficiently famous person to be paid millions of dollars for a few hours work?

              Well, yeah.

              This is normal, almost de rigour. The speaking fee would be interchangeable if it were Hillary Clinton or an Olympian. I know it ain’t pretty, but celebrity capitalism usually isn’t.

              Sure, she should have refused for optics sake. (Though she’s not the first to make paid speeches then run for president, so this is still Clinton Derangement Syndrome at the very least in part.) You can even argue that she should have refused for moral reason, like Lemieux is arguing for Obama. But she wasn’t bought, if only because this isn’t how people get bought. This is simply how they get rewarded for being famous.

              • Rob in CT

                What’s the other explanation, that our society’s concept of celebrity is so morally empty that it’s truly unremarkable for a sufficiently famous person to be paid millions of dollars for a few hours work?

                Well, yeah.

                And lots of people hate that. So prominent liberal politicians (and I include exPOTUS Obama here because he’s still a pretty high-profile Democrat and he intends to do political work of a sort in the future) should be aware that highlighting this bit of icky celebrity capitalism, as you put it, can be damaging.

                I don’t care if Conservatives do it – in fact, I hope they do – and we can rip them for it.

                • veleda_k

                  Sure, but “Clinton shouldn’t have done that because it’s ethically wrong to profit so much off of so little work, and our side tends to disapprove of that” is an entirely different argument than, “Wall Street must have bought Hillary Clinton.”

                • mpavilion

                  Rip them for it how, and to what effect? It’s only seen as an ethical lapse when Democrats do it, apparently.

          • Lost Left Coaster

            If you think these Wall Street people are uniquely evil, then having America’s leading progressives explain more liberal positions to them should be seen as a good thing.

            What direction was the money moving in during this transaction?

            I don’t want to contribute to the “Hillary was horrendously corrupt” story line, because I don’t think she was exceptional, and she obviously doesn’t register on the same scale as Trump by a long shot. But I do not see how major financial firms putting money directly in a major politician’s pocket could be seen as so benign. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter what Clinton said at the speeches. The transaction of money is the part that matters.

            With Obama, since he’s retired from public service, it’s not exactly the same thing. But people who still have public office ahead of them should be really wary of padding their bank accounts in this manner.

            • DrDick

              Exactly, though I agree with Scott that the optics are still bad for Obama.

          • gccolby

            There is no interpretation of this in which Clinton was telling Goldman Sachs or Obama was telling this health care conference that they were buying influence – they were paying to listen to her, not the other way around.

            The idea that these speaking fees constitute quid-pro-quo influence peddling is naive and honestly a bit silly, but also widely believed. Part of doing politics is dealing with the reality of how people see you. Besides, the Elite Welfare Speeaking Circuit is gross, and constantly surrounding yourself only with very rich people and their ideas absolutely will tilt your worldview and your ideas about what constitutes good policy. That’s the real problem hanging out only in elite political or economic circles, and yes, Bernie Sanders has this problem too even though he isn’t on the Wall Street speaking circuit. But he’s been able to short-circuit the perception of being on the take.

            • Boots Day

              Right, the only “scandal” here involves the perception that leading Democratic politicians have sold out to Wall Street, the dreaded “appearance of impropriety,” whether that has any basis in truth or not. I don’t see how it benefits Democrats to buy into that notion.

            • Rob in CT

              This.

            • mpavilion

              How does one speech, or even dozens over time, lead to the appearance of “constantly surrounding yourself only with very rich people and their ideas”? There are a lot of hours in a year.

              • gccolby

                I often don’t do a great job expressing myself and should work harder to get my point across. But it is hard sometimes not to feel like I’m being willfully misread. Breaking down Hillary Clinton’s time in a pie chart with slices for “hanging out with very rich people who pay six figures for said privilege,” “sleep,” and “other,” isn’t how actual humans look at this stuff and indeed isn’t how it actually works. Hillary Clinton is very rich. She also is in elite political and social circles thanks both to having been a major figure in national politics and to her philanthropy work. Let me clear: I’m fine with that. But compounding all that by taking six-figure speaking fees for a couple hours of work, from people who have a major rooting interest in the output of your work in government, isn’t a good look! It looks sleazy to many people, and for reasons that have been well-elucidated by Scott, Yglesas, and many others really IS kind of sleazy. At the very least, it’s in rhetorical tension with the Democratic party’s platform on inequality and financial regulation.

                I’m astonished that anyone here disputes that that tension exists! I understand the frustration with how Clinton was dragged through the mud on allegations of corruption, because I share it. The point isn’t that Both Sides Do It but Clinton Is Worse. The point is that there is both an optics and a moral argument to refrain from these activities. That Obama’s $400k fee is peanuts compared to his book advance only drives the point further home.

          • Phil Perspective

            I can tell you’ve never read either of Obama’s two books. He admitted in one of them that the more time he spent with the elites, the more he fell in line with their worldview. Don’t believe me. Read the books for yourself.

            • Dilan Esper

              As someone said above, there’s a weird binary here.

              There’s literally all sorts of ways that this sort of thing can benefit the people paying for the speeches that go far beyond an explicit quid pro quo.

        • catclub

          At a bare minimum, she gave the impression to those companies and interest groups that they could buy influence. The best case is that she was cheating them and they were paying for nothing.

          The usual Clinton Double standard. LBJ was celebrated for just this.

          If you can’t take their money, drink their liquor, steal their women and vote against them, what is the point of being a politician?

          • DrDick

            But Clinton did not vote against them, and that is the whole point here.

            • catclub

              I am sure glad we never gave her a chance to vote against them, after 2012, by voting in uncorruptible Donald Trump, in a fit of pique.

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              She didn’t exactly vote for every deregulation bill. Her record was significantly softer on Wall Street than Sanders, but it was not champion of Wall Street either. It was justifiable to be skeptical of her WS record in the primaries, but I don’t think the speeches should really have been a big factor in evaluating that.

              Of note is that she increased her support for regulation in 2007 when she was preparing to run for president. I suspect she would have been tougher on Wall Street than her senate record indicates, because she can read the mood of the party. And unlike Obama, she would not have received much benefit of the doubt due to fawning enthusiasm. I don’t think she could’ve gotten away with appointing a Geithner or Summers as Obama did.

              • Right. The fact that she’s shifted left with the political mood of the country was certainly a pretty big tell, the same way it’s a tell that Gillibrand shifted left when she became a senator after representing one of NY’s more conservative districts. People have criticised Clinton for doing this, but in fact, it’s exactly what politicians in representative democracies are supposed to do. That is the entire purpose of representative democracy: it’s right there in the name. But Clinton was dismissed for this as though it signified insincerity or ambition. Because apparently a politician can’t sincerely change her stances, and we can’t have ambition in a politician; that would be unseemly. (Not every criticism of Clinton for this was explicitly misogynistic, but it was hard not reading many of them as implicitly so.)

                Anyway, yes, even if we assume Clinton’s stances in the Senate would have matched her actions as president, there’s no good reason whatsoever to believe she would’ve rubber-stamped everything Wall Street wanted. She isn’t as hostile to the financial sector as Sanders is, but she’s hardly an uncritical ally either.

        • nemdam

          Or they were buying what these organizations are always buying which the candidate’s celebrity. And if they want to buy a politician’s influence, paying for speeches is hardly the only way to do so. So even if she gave no speeches, the people that want to say she is corrupt would just point to her campaign contributions.

          And if Hillary used a private email server to avoid FOIA, she is flat out stupid. Given that the emails she was sending and receiving were to and from other State employees, there would be another copy on the other end and her emails would still be in the public record and subject to FOIA.

          • Denverite

            And if Hillary used a private email server to avoid FOIA, she is flat out stupid. Given that the emails she was sending and receiving were to and from other State employees, there would be another copy on the other end and her emails would still be in the public record and subject to FOIA.

            I’ve never really bought this at all. First, as a threshold issue, this only works if the recipient is at State. That automatically excludes any number of emails going to non-State recipients.

            More to the point, though, the fact that an email exists in someone’s mailbox or sent mail doesn’t mean that it’s findable in a standard search. Every organizational email search that I’ve been involved with basically uses text searches over particular email addresses/accounts. They don’t search every email address in the organization. This includes searches resulting from FOIA-like (but not FOIA) requests. Maybe the feds are different in search methodology, but without access to Clinton’s email address/account, in my experience, there would be no way to come close to getting everything for something like “all Clinton emails involving Syria.”

            • nemdam

              I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure they retrieved basically all of her emails to and from state.gov addresses. I don’t know how many employees they would have to search, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the FBI would have to resources to search the emails of everyone that there’s even a possibility that they exchanged an email with Hillary. And Hillary would have to expect that any FOIA request would be pursued to the maximum extent given who she is.

              I mean, it’s possible Hillary did this to avoid FOIA, but if she did she is really dumb. But Hillary is not a dumb person. It’s why I buy the convenience excuse. It seems extremely plausible that a 60 year old woman wouldn’t want to mess around with multiple devices. So she asked her advisors if there was a way to only use one device, and they found a way.

            • As far as I know, not only were all emails to State served on their servers, but all emails to any government department were stored on their servers and would all be accessible by FOIA. I don’t know exactly how many of her emails would’ve been to government departments, but given that she worked for the government, I’d think it would’ve had to be well over half of them. In short, it would be a really, really foolish decision to use a private email server with the explicit intention of avoiding transparency, and it doesn’t fit with what we know about Clinton.

              And yes, as far as I know, they’ve all been FOIA’d by now, because Judicial Watch are relentless assholes.

      • Crusty

        The speeches fit the narrative that had developed since ’92, fair or not, i.e., making money from office, whitewater, cattle futures, etc.

        • petesh

          Earlier: Reagan got a million bucks in 1989 for speaking in Japan.

          • gratuitous

            Oh, not $1 million, $2 million. And here’s an early entry into the “poor libtards and snowflakes” genre of conservatrolling:

            http://articles.latimes.com/1989-11-04/business/fi-149_1_appreciation-rights

            • petesh

              I sit corrected, and that link is right on point.

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              We’re required morally to seek out $2m speaking fees?

              Probably safe to assume that’s a Randroid.

          • liberal

            There were claims that the Japanese weren’t all that impressed with Reagan, and began to get confused as to why folks in the US thought he was (nominally) a Great Communicator.

            In some Chomsky speech I attended decades ago, he said that’s because they didn’t understand “the mysterious Occidental mind.”

      • humanoid.panda

        But if it wasn’t for the speeches, it would be something else. It doesn’t matter. The Republicans made hay out of “emails” and “Benghazi”, and they have enough sway (with the help of a compliant, transcription only media) that even liberal Dems were concerned that there was “something” corrupt about Hillary, even though if you asked them to pinpoint something there was nothing.

        That’s not quite true. Partisan Democrats or even mushi independents did not buy into the Benghazi stuff, to cite one east example.

        To listen to some people here it sounds as though every Democrat comes to the finishing line all surrounded by scandal and very unpopular. But in fact, what happened to HRC was unprecedented. Now, a lot of this is about misogyny, and the Clinton rules. But she helped, and the Wall Street speeches are an excellent example of how she helped .

        • DrDick

          Exactly, but I got yelled at for saying that during the primary.

          • humanoid.panda

            To be fair, during the primary I thought by August, these will bygones, and that the people who really care about this stuff AND open to voting Dem will come aboard. That didn’t happen, due to a variety of factors (the Russian leaks were probably decisive here..)

          • Dilan Esper

            Honestly, there’s a Hillary Admiration Syndrome that is kind of the flip of the Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

            The way HAS works is that people have extremely legitimate reasons to admire HRC. For starters, she’s the first female major party nominee for President and the first woman to get reasonably close to the Presidency.

            And beyond that, there’s a ton of people who feel she got a raw deal in the culture wars of the 1990’s and have had her back ever since then, who admire her various accomplishments in government, etc. She has her fans, which is totally fine.

            But a result of that is that the real HRC fans just can’t stand it when flaws are pointed out. They want to believe that the only reason anyone could ever possibly not like their hero is because of sexism, Republican attacks, the media, etc. And the thing is, they are totally right about the effects of sexism, Republican attacks, the media, etc. She has been unfairly victimized by all those things, and it’s terrible.

            But the thing is, unfair victimization does not preclude fair victimization. And there’s plenty of things she has done over the years that have hurt herself, that weren’t products of sexism, Republicans, and the media. For instance, an obvious example is the Iraq War vote. And I think the speeches are another obvious example. We can debate others, such as the e-mails.

            And it’s also true that sexism, Republicans, and the media sometimes served to increase the impact of those real errors, making them worse than they are or applying double standards to her. So that complicates things further.

            But nonetheless, it’s possible to have HAS and not recognize that at least with some of these things, there’s a “there” there and that HRC had some real weaknesses as a politician and government official.

            • Denverite

              Also don’t forget the flat-out going racist during the 2008 primary. When Clinton said that she should be the nominee because she could carry the white working class voters, that was racist (in addition to being now tragically hilarious). When she told Bill Richardson not to endorse Obama because he can’t win because he’s black, that was racist.

              In many ways, the Bernie Bros were just following the model set by the PUMAs back in 2008.

              • ForkyMcSpoon

                When Clinton said that she should be the nominee because she could carry the white working class voters, that was racist (in addition to being now tragically hilarious).

                Hilarious for multiple reasons: she didn’t do well with them in the general* and because Bernie Sanders supporters used precisely the same argument for making him the nominee.

                *To be fair to her, there was a real shift in that group between 2008 and 2016 that’s not just about her. Clinton vs. McCain 2008 would not have played out the same way.

            • liberal

              Great comment.

              For instance, an obvious example is the Iraq War vote.

              Yeah, well, I agree, but according to Aimai, that vote somehow didn’t matter.

              • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

                I can defend her vote on the basis of which state she was representing as Senator.

                I’m more bothered by her apparent failure to learn from the Libya fiasco, based on her recent support of bombing Syria. I know there are counter-examples such as Rwanda and Bosnia, but applying military force from the outside is problematic at best.

        • ColBatGuano

          To listen to some people here it sounds as though every Democrat comes to the finishing line all surrounded by scandal and very unpopular.

          Al Gore was a liar who claimed he invented the internet. Michael Dukakis was going to let all the black rapists out of prison. John Kerry was a coward who didn’t deserve his Purple Heart. Barack Obama wasn’t even born in this country.

          • humanoid.panda

            All these men had net positive favorability. And only Gore lost (kinda sorta) an election which the fundamentals said he should win.

            • econoclast

              Clinton lost an election that fundamentals said she should lose.

    • kped

      And that also explains why those same Democrats are against Chelsea Clinton, who has made hundreds of millions from her speeches too

      • liberal

        Yeah, who could be against Chelsea? What’s wrong with nepotism? What’s wrong with familial connections to banksters? What’s wrong with attempting to shout-down speakers against the impending criminal invasion of Iraq?

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          I’m not a Chelsea fan. But I also don’t think about her that much.

          Chelsea would not be the first politician’s kid to run for office, yet we don’t see the same obsessiveness regarding other children of politicians. And that goes for the ones who’ve actually run for office! Chelsea’s being obsessed over despite never running for anything!

          Like, could you at least wait for her to announce her candidacy for office? Is the idea that if you don’t shit all over her right now, nobody will be able to stop her in the weeks or months after she announces? And once she gets in office, she will be able to promote perfidious neoliberalism unimpeded, using the Clinton name to avoid any accountability or pushback?

          Like, what is the point of this?

          • Q.E.Dumbass

            The point, dear Mr. McSpoon, is that the Clinton Women are b!tches. I know that’s not a very PC thing to say about women, but it’s true about the Clintons. Anything and everything they do is tainted by the fact that they’re b!tches. And it doesn’t matter at all that there’s no evidence the Clintons are considering office in the near future, because they will only stop being b!tches – or rather, their b!tchiness will only not matter – if Hillary, Chelsea, and any female grandchildren renounce all worldly possessions and take a vow of eremitism in perpetuity. And don’t you dare say that indicates any problem with females women, because I know the Repukes are far worse.

            Seriously, this is keeping in line with “liberal’s” increasingly-incoherent anti-Clinton hysteria, and in terms of nominally-coded misogyny this barely beats “Southern NY Democrats are why the left will ALWAYS LOSE and Gillibrand is their puppet” in terms of quarter-assed fig leafs. Also note that he’s the ONLY person on this thread to take the “what about Chelsea” bait — it’s so obviously a path to immediately discrediting oneself that even consistent anti-Clintonites Dilan and MDrew had the good sense to pass it up, and yet lib here just couldn’t help himself to indulge that! It’s not even fair to call it bait; it’s more of a spring-loaded iron maiden, really. 10:1 says he’s singing the praises of Cuomo or Booker by 2019.

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              Please, call me Forky. Mr. McSpoon was my father.

          • veleda_k

            Well, when one’s politics rely on obsessive hatred of THE ENEMY, one doesn’t want to give up one’s targets.

    • efgoldman

      a lot of partisan Democrats were lukewarm about her campaign

      No. Berniebots and some people who were Democrats long enough to take that ballot in the primaries. “Most” partisan Democrats (3 million+ more) voted for HRC, and gladly so.

  • D.N. Nation

    If Obama wants to separate MOUs from their money, that’s his right, though I’d rather he donate the payment to charity. Specifically one they’d hate.

    • +1

    • catclub

      though I’d rather he donate the payment to charity

      I’d rather he fart rainbow unicorns. It is his and he earned it for taking 8 years of crap from the world.

      If any Democrat has to be a saint, that is useless self-limiting of our side.

      • D.N. Nation

        You do have to admit that “I’d rather” is as benign as it can be. I’m not calling for the man’s head, declaring his presidency a failure, immediately donning a hairshirt and joining the DemSoc, etc.

        • catclub

          you are correct. very benign. It is the first time I have over-reacted to blog post.

      • so-in-so

        Especially while his replacement puts the same group – in charge of the government!

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        Obama’s job was certainly more stressful than most, but plenty of people have been through 8 years or more of awful shit.

        I don’t see why he’s “earned” the right to make millions of dollars per year for little work. I certainly don’t begrudge him a comfortable retirement, but this goes quite a bit beyond that.

        I don’t think that anyone “deserves” to get paid $400k for a few hours work.

        But I see exorbitant speaking fees as more of a symptom than a cause of our woes. If they were willing to throw away $200k on Guy fucking Fieri, it’s more about those corporations and executives having more money than they could possibly ever need.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Obama controls a scarce and valuable good: speeches from a top-level celebrity who’s smart and has unique experiences. He can either:

      1.Not give speeches
      2.charge something reasonable and give more speeches than he’d like to
      3.charge something reasonable and be picky about who he gives speeches to… but then his reasonable speaking fee of 30K or whatever would be coming out of the good work the organization was doing otherwise
      4.charge nothing and be picky about who he gives speeches to
      5.charge what the market will bear at the number of speeches he wants to give
      6.Combine 4 and 5; that is, charge what the market will bear for a fraction of his speeches, and give the rest of them for free
      7. Some other combination of the above.

      I think that 6 would be the ideal solution, really. In other words, for every speech he gives to bankers, he should give three at some good cause events. Then he can keep the money or give it to charity as he chooses.

      And if he goes to the good cause org and says “you get one speech from me”, he lets them resell it as they choose. If they want to sell it for the highest price they can get, or if they want to make sure it’s about their cause, or whatever.

      I realize that this is the “regulated capitalism” answer that satisfies basically nobody, just as regulated capitalism itself often seems less satisfying than simplistic answers like communism or libertarianism or socialism or whatever. But too bad.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        Right. If stupid corporations are willing to throw away $400k for an hour of platitudes, I say take them for all they’re worth – if that money is going to a worthy cause.

        But keeping Obama in obscene luxury is not a worthy cause.

  • I agree with this sentiment, but something about the optics of a white liberal like Yglesias telling the first black president what to do with his post-presidency just bugs me. Obama was quite successful in spite of overwhelming opposition, and delivered a lot of wins for liberals and progressives. Was he perfect? No. But dear god quit telling him to be.

    • SatanicPanic

      +1

    • Scott Lemieux

      This isn’t just about Obama, and nobody’s saying it makes him a bad president.

      • I know, I know. But you’ve spent a lot of time arguing that the 2016 election doesn’t really prove a lot about what Clinton (or Obama) did wrong, it was more about fundamentals (Republicans voted for Republican candidates). And I agree with your arguments! So why it is Obama who has to make this change?

        I’m really grousing about two different things:

        1) I don’t like the elite* pundits holding black people — even a former president! — to a standard of conduct not used for anyone else, for reasons that I hope are obvious;

        2) I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the idea that liberals should avoid this racket (and it is a racket) at all costs. The horrible consequences of the 2016 election are going to take a lot of money to undo. Where does that money come from? On our side, we don’t have an army of billionaires with endless supply of cash to fund our candidates and think tanks and ideas and messaging. What we do have is celebrity that can be converted into money. So I like SatanicPanic’s and others’ suggestion, that Obama take the money and apply it to charities or political causes like voting rights.

        But if Obama wants to take this money and build the Fortress of Solitude, who am I to argue? He made a positive mark on the country and on the world, and it is not incumbent upon him to do anything else. We need to collectively pick up the ball and advance it ourselves.

        *As Murc points out below, calling Yglesias “white” may be problematic. But if he doesn’t qualify as an elite pundit, I’ll eat my hat.

    • Rob in CT

      I mean, I get this, but Yglesias’ argument is that this is a key part of beating back the right-wing “populist” wave that seems to be happening throughout the West. In my view, it’s all hands on deck here (obviously, that was my view already, going into the election, but it’s even more true now). Obama knows this – hence his desire to work in voting rights & getting the Yout involved in politics.

      I come down on Matt’s side of this debate. As much as we mock reporting that blathers about “optics” and suchlike, appearances matter. This country elected a know-nothing conman in part because the Right was able to successfully paint Hillary Clinton as corrupt (Comey included in “the Right”).

      • SatanicPanic

        This country elected a know-nothing conman in part because the Right was able to successfully paint Hillary Clinton as corrupt

        But then doesn’t the question become how did Trump avoid that label, despite decades of publicly available evidence that the man is, in fact, corrupt?

        • NewishLawyer

          Well he didn’t avoid the label for at least 68 million people who avoided voting for him and voted for HRC.

          I suspect that Trump avoided the label because he went big and it has always been part of his business persona and there are a lot of people out there who are basically dicks and would like to screw over people like Trump screwed over contractors.

          • gccolby

            I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who sees people bragging about how they used their Manly Super Bargaining Skills to screw that dude out of the market value on that used TV they had posted on Craigslist. To his fans (who are, as noted, not even the full set of the 46% minority who voted for him), that’s part of the appeal. It’s aspirational. There’s absolutely a masculine fantasy of being a great negotiator who “wins” every negotiation by screwing the other guy.

            • NewishLawyer

              Right, we live in a world of low-time scammers and hustlers and grifters? Why should we expect that people don’t want to be like Trump and scam big time?

              • humanoid.panda

                Ironically, I could imagine Bill Clinton disarming the issue with a simple “I took their money, and now I intend to tax and regulate them. The can sue me” or some such. This is where the elusive political talent comes in..

                • As Jesse Unruh said, “If you can’t take their money, drink their booze, screw their women, and look them in the eye and vote against them, you don’t belong here.”

        • catclub

          But then doesn’t the question become how did Trump avoid that label, despite decades of publicly available evidence that the man is, in fact, corrupt?

          Exactly. Whatever double standard is necessary to apply to the Democrats.

        • humanoid.panda

          He didn’t. He just basked in it and promised hat he will use his scamming skills on everyone else in behalf of his voters.

          It’s really important to remember that – of course I am corrupt but Inamnhinest about it and will share spoils is a key element of modern right wing populism

        • Rob in CT

          He didn’t really avoid that label. The damaging bit was the false equivalence – oh, both of them are icky but… when there is actually a huge difference between Clinton’s behavior and his.

          As we’ve discussed over and over, Clinton’s defeat was so narrow that there are a long list of things that plausibly swung the election.

          To me, a key factor in not only this election but prior ones is the idea that everything is bullshit, there are no facts, etc. Everything is corrupt. It’s all rigged, and not only that, but there’s no fixing it via normal means. That last bit is key. Shit *is* often rigged badly. But unless we want our whole system to break down (and I know some do), we have to be able to convince people that reform can happen via normal means, not via “only I can fix it, believe me, believe me” from a demagogue.

          • SatanicPanic

            I feel like the media hammered Clinton for it a lot harder than him though. And I get that we’re trying to show that government can work for the people, etc., but I don’t know if we have the same hate the elites fervor that the right does. maybe the Bernie people do, but overall, don’t know.

            • humanoid.panda

              To me, a key factor in not only this election but prior ones is the idea that everything is bullshit, there are no facts, etc. Everything is corrupt. It’s all rigged, and not only that, but there’s no fixing it via normal means.

              Interestingly, this is exactly Putin’s line for two decades now: life is a battle of wolves, and the people of Russia need the wolf with the sharpest teeth to guard their well-being.

              • Rob in CT

                Right, and I honestly find the amount success it’s had to be terrifying.

            • Rob in CT

              They did. He got tons of negative coverage – which he earned and then some – but it was all over the place, whereas with Hillary there were really only a couple of things and the press came back to them over and over and over and over…

              And I get that we’re trying to show that government can work for the people, etc., but I don’t know if we have the same hate the elites fervor that the right does. maybe the Bernie people do, but overall, don’t know.

              My argument is actually partly about blunting hatred for elites. For there will *always* be elites. But not all elites are the same. The idea that they are is toxic.

              • A lot of the media’s coverage of Trump seems to have been interpreted as his being rude, crude, unfiltered, outrageous, etc., which really only served to endear him to disaffected voters. I certainly remember a lot of reactions to him being along the lines of “what? he said THAT?” Even the “pussy tape” was frequently reported as containing “lewd remarks” as opposed to “boasting about how his fame allows him to force himself on women”.

        • Phil Perspective

          Trump didn’t avoid it. He basically stated that he was too rich to be bought. He’s full of shit obviously but he addressed it.

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          He didn’t exactly avoid that label.

          The issue was that enough people were convinced that Hillary was just as or more corrupt and chose to vote for Trump or a third party as a result, and the Goldman Sachs speeches didn’t help. (Other people, of course, were aware that Trump is more corrupt but viewed that as an acceptable tradeoff to get a SCOTUS seat and/or tax cuts.)

          The media was responsible for the false equivalency. You don’t need to tell Scott that that’s a far bigger problem than whether Obama takes some speaking fees.

          That doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to think Obama shouldn’t take those speaking fees.

      • ASV

        I have yet to see any evidence that the “populist” wave has anything to do with attitudes towards bankers, other than (((bankers))). Trump has staffed his entire administration, to the extent that he has staffed it, with Goldman Sachs alums; his “populist” supporters have not been moved by this. There is an argument to be made that this pushes some people to disengage, but that’s different than saying it’s positively contributing to rising fascism.

        • Rob in CT

          I don’t think the wave is based on hate of bankers – it’s anti-immigration mostly.

          But this doesn’t help us defeat the wave, which is imperative.

          • humanoid.panda

            I have yet to see any evidence that the “populist” wave has anything to do with attitudes towards bankers, other than (((bankers))). Trump has staffed his entire administration, to the extent that he has staffed it, with Goldman Sachs alums; his “populist” supporters have not been moved by this. There is an argument to be made that this pushes some people to disengage, but that’s different than saying it’s positively contributing to rising fascism.

            1. The wave started after the crisis, so even if it usually diverted towards other targets, hatred of the “system” is crucial to it.
            2. It’s not true that hatred of bankers is irrelevant to Trump- he bashed both Hillary and Ted Cruz about being owned by Wall Street+ kept talking about he doesn’t need any stinking donors. It was dishonest BS, but people hearing it didn’t know about it.
            3. Something like 50% of Americans can barely name a Supreme Court justice. I suspect that the number of people who can’t name any Trump nominee either than Spicer, Bannon, and maybe Sessions, is higher than that.
            4. Most importantly, I think: there were many ingredients to the witches’ brew that gave us the November catastrophe. Dissension with Democratic ranks, closely realted to the Wall Street issue, was a one of them. So, true that very few Bernie supporters who decided HRC was a Wall Street shill went for Trump. But a lot stayed home, or voted but didn’t donate or volunteer, or went third party or write in. These people are the lowest hanging fruit in terms of winning next time- and the party needs to think about how to do effective outreach to these people.

        • catclub

          his “populist” supporters have not been moved by this

          Zero surprise at the lack of outrage.

          Authoritarian followers. I read the book and now it jumps out everywhere.

          • humanoid.panda

            This is not meant at you, but what makes me wonder about these things is how Americano-centric they seem to be. Here, liberals and open minded people tend to be on the left, and authoritarians tend to be on the right, so they have their personality types model. But how can they account for the fact that historically, authoritarianism is at least as likely on the left as on the right?

            • gccolby

              how can they account for the fact that historically, authoritarianism is at least as likely on the left as on the right?

              I think it’s pretty clear that some people on the left do harbor authoritarian sympathies, but the far left is so politically marginal in the USA that there’s no real opportunity to build a constituency around those views.

            • liberal

              I’ve wondered similar things. My answer is that, in terms of numbers, there are far, far more right-wing extremists in the US now than there are left-wing extremists.

              • It’s not about extremism. Anarchism is about as far left as you can get and it’s the intrinsic opposite of authoritarianism.

                I do, however, suspect that the nature of the Democratic Party simply isn’t compatible with the worldviews of authoritarians. I addressed this in another comment in an earlier thread that no one probably read because it’s already pretty old. I’m on my phone right now and don’t feel like going to the work of copying & pasting or finding a link, but if someone wants, I can do so later.

                • Right, so the comment I was referring to re: the Democratic Party’s resistance to authoritarianism was here. Reading that single comment may not make its contents comprehensible; I also refer to arguments I’d made in comments above it in the thread, but I believe using two links now puts you in moderation, and it should be easy to find the previous comments yourself. If you have anything to write in response to this, you should probably write it here, since the relevant post is no longer on the front page and I may not even remember to check it again.

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  Ironically enough, I recall this particular commenter constantly complaining about how Bernie was robbed of the nomination by the party elites backing Clinton and yet saying that they should’ve actively forced her out of the running because of “loser stink,” which makes no sense outside of an authoritarian frame of logic. He also has a history of bad-faith preaching-to-the-choir and treating substantive disagreements with him as evidence of an LGM/Democratic hive minds. I appreciate your taking the time to answer (as well as the answer itself), but keep in mind the original question is an quivalent”asking for a friend.”

                • Thanks for the heads-up. I do sometimes think it’s worth engaging people who don’t seem to be dealing in good faith, though, because even if they don’t learn anything from the exchange, others might.

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  Well the statement itself isn’t bad faith so much as it is motivated reasoning (of which it’s an unambiguous example).

    • D.N. Nation

      I’m with you to a point, but there’s a difference between complaining about Obama, say, enjoying a sweet vacation with famous people, or enriching himself in general….and getting exorbitant speaking fees from rent-seekers.

    • Lord Jesus Perm

      No more calls. We have a winner.

    • Murc

      I agree with this sentiment, but something about the optics of a white liberal like Yglesias telling the first black president what to do with his post-presidency just bugs me.

      You are wrong as a matter of fact: Matthew Yglesias is Hispanic and also, I believe, Jewish.

      • medrawt

        Matt is 3/4 Jewish, I believe of Eastern European extraction, and 1/4 Cuban. This does not mean he isn’t white, in the sense that both his Jewish and Cuban ancestry are Caucasian (based on taking a look at both him and his 1/2 Cuban father). It may mean that he’s not white in the “whiteness is so culturally contingent and variable over time that people who are visually indistinguishable from poncy white Englishmen might or might not count as white” sense, depending on how the wind is blowing.

        • Phil Perspective

          Matt is 3/4 Jewish, I believe of Eastern European extraction, and 1/4 Cuban.

          I thought it was Portuguese, so Western Europe.

          • medrawt

            If Yglesias has somehow failed to mention being Portuguese in the entire time I’ve been reading his various blogs, I’ll be angry (being 3/4 Portuguese myself), but I don’t think so. Helpfully, his family has multiple people who rate Wikipedia entries:

            His paternal grandfather was born in Tampa of “Cuban and Spanish” ancestry – the Spanish being apparently Galician, which is what you might have thought of, and so he’s technically 1/8 Cuban instead of 1/4 as I said.

            Both his maternal grandmother and his maternal family (the Joskows) appear to be of Polish ancestry.

            • Both his maternal grandmother and his maternal family (the Joskows) appear to be of Polish ancestry

              which could, if that Polish ancestry is played just right, mean that he’s 7/8 Galician!

              • medrawt

                That Eastern Europe features both a Galicia and (even more anciently) an Iberia always trips me up when I come across their mention.

        • SatanicPanic

          I’m of a similar background to Matt and have to say there’s only so far I would go with “I’m a person of color!” I’m not Jewish though, so I can’t comment on what rules are at play there.

      • Fair enough. Still, projecting standards of conduct onto black people is an old problem. And IMO, Clinton’s speaking fees became an issue only because she is a woman.

        To be clear, I don’t like that Wall Street pays out this money, and I think it’s unsavory that politicians take it. But like athletes’ or movie stars’ salaries, it’s not something I lose sleep over.

        • Murc

          Still, projecting standards of conduct onto black people is an old problem.

          Projecting different and racially biased standards onto them is, yes. This does not mean one cannot judge a black persons conduct, ever, in any situation.

          • Sure – I hope that would go without saying. But the way racism (and sexism) has worked historically is that expectations are always twice as high for someone other than the white dude to get equal credit. My OP was only trying to make this point.

      • Ronan

        Leaving aside Yglesias’s race, the question is is Yglesias consistent on this? Is it plausible that he’s picking on Obama (consciously or unconsciously)for racial reasons, or more likely that he objects to the practice(for political or moral reasons).
        This really doesnt have to turn into a question of looking into Yglelsias’s racist soul, we can just look at his professional output and at the actual argument he makes.

    • I’ll start taking this criticism seriously the day I see it leveled at a national-level white male politician, and not a minute sooner. The fact that speaking fees suddenly became a problem for Clinton, and now for Obama, when (for example) Bill Clinton has been raking them in for decades (not to mention lobbying fees), speaks volumes.

    • Dilan Esper

      I agree with this sentiment, but something about the optics of a white liberal like Yglesias telling the first black president what to do with his post-presidency just bugs me.

      I mean, I understand this on an intellectual level, but it seems to me that Yglesias is holding Obama to the exact same standard that he would apply to a white Democrat, and further that Obama is, at this point, a very privileged man and therefore the arguments that one might make about, say, a professional athlete who makes a boatload of money don’t apply here.

  • SatanicPanic

    I disagree, but then I distrust personal activism. This strikes me as not that different than asking him to go vegan.

    • Rob in CT

      Well, there’s personal activism by some random middle class schmoe and then there are the very public activities of the 44th President of the USA.

      • SatanicPanic

        Fair point, but it’s not like there are a ton of people out there who could follow his example either. And we just had Donald Trump elected president despite violating nearly every norm we had previously agreed on. The lesson I took was that any norm not written in law isn’t worth much. YMMV.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I see what you’re saying. But I will say this: even if Obama won’t do it, I humbly vow, here and now, that I will boycott $200,000 speaking fees for health care conferences from here on out.

      It will be hard, but I’ll try.

      • catclub

        Let us know when those $200k fees are offered to you and you turn them down.

        • Domino

          Whenever I also have a $65,000,000 advance on a book deal, along with a $200,000 yearly pension, I’ll let you know.

      • veleda_k

        An inspiration to us all.

      • SatanicPanic

        I was doing this before it was cool

        • Lost Left Coaster

          I am also boycotting diamonds. It’s hard, but I haven’t bought any.

          • veleda_k

            You won’t see me on some millionaire’s yacht.

        • ColBatGuano

          I am now ironically accepting them.

    • veleda_k

      This was similar to my first thought, except I do feel conflicted.

      Do I think the celebrity culture speaker gig is wrong? Yeah, I do. I also think meat raised and prepared in feedlots and mega slaughterhouses is wrong. Am I prepared to be personally disappointed in Obama every time he eats a burger than wasn’t grass fed and free range? Is there a difference in these two things?

      • I wouldn’t mind (certainly, not so much) if what the celebrity culture speaker gig entailed was, in fact, just delivering a speech, and perhaps taking questions. But of course the major part of any such event is schmoozing between the celebrity and the audience. That’s almost surely fine at a college, where the audience is (mostly) students or even faculty of some renown (but mostly not themselves “celebrities”)! Maya Angelou got $40,000 for a reading a few decades ago at my Small Private Research University of last employment, about $100 per audience member, and I didn’t kvetch (much). Her post-reading schmoozing was in no danger of corrupting her in any way.

        But when the entire audience is composed of very wealthy Goldmen, I say there is a danger of genteel corruption during the schmoozing process—namely, the normalization in the mind of the speaker of malefactors of great wealth. Why, they’re just people like me! I can be like them!! We’ll probably run into each other at Martha’s Vineyard sometime!!!

      • SatanicPanic

        I think the speaker circuit it kind of gross and could be persuaded to support a “speaker circuit tax” if such a thing were possible, just like I could be persuaded to support a special tax on beef, because beef is bad for the planet. Will I stop eating burgers? No, not really. But I also don’t eat them that often. Who knows, I can’t get all judge-y.

  • There is a not insignificant portion of the electorate who feel that the Democratic Party is the same as the Republicans on this front, and the optics of this are only going to reinforce this.

    I know this is both-siderism and all that, but most people only know what they see. And what they see is a president who arguably went very soft on the bigwigs during the financial meltdown turning around and cashing in as soon as he leaves office.

    • LeeEsq

      These people always imagine that once upon a time the Democratic Party had a Clause IV in its platform when the Democratic Party always saw itself as a free market capitalist party.

      • Linnaeus

        It’s true that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party, but there is also some internal tension deriving from the fact that the party encompasses a number of constituencies that have tended to get the short end of the stick in our capitalist economy. If you’re on the left side of the political spectrum and you want to effect political change to deal with the problems of capitalism, you really don’t have anywhere else to go.

    • cleek

      …but most people only know what they see. And what they see is…

      [citation required]

    • Spider-Dan

      It is difficult for me to emphasize this enough:

      The only people who care are liberals.

      It’s not “both-siderism.” In practice, you are simply bashing Democrats just to bash them, whereas there is no discussion taking place in the Republican Party about the evils of taking money to give speeches to corporations. There just isn’t.

      Trump bashing Hillary for taking Wall Street money is literally no different than the same “Whatever Obama’s for, we are against” routine that the GOP replayed during the entire Obama administration: it is cynical and meaningless. Conservatives DO NOT CARE about Wall Street speeches.

      • gccolby

        This is an argument FOR liberals to be more careful about who they take big paid speaking gigs from, not against! “People don’t care if Republicans do it, therefore fuck it,” isn’t an argument, it’s petulance.

        This isn’t just about complaining that the world is unfair, though it is partly that. It’s also important to understand that politicians and parties are in part judged by how they are positioned on the issues they care most about. Democrats are trusted more on the economy and to help the little guy, so yeah, this behavior plays worse from them. Refraining from flagrant buckraking would gain credibility with both left-liberals AND the squishy middle. It guarantees nothing, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. And it would be more morally upstanding, besides. We’re not talking about election fundraising, here. We’re talking about personal pay.

        humanoid.panda said this well elsewhere in the thread (and it’s also a criticism Yglesias made during the campaign): despite claims that any Democrat would’ve come to Election Day under a storm cloud of manufactured controversy and corruption claims, the situation was unique. And while the genesis of most of that controversy was bullshit and egregiously unfair, Clinton could have responded to the target on her back by acting scrupulously to avoid activities that would make her an easier target. She did not. “Fuck it, people are going to hate on me anyway,” seems to have been her attitude. And while that might be personally satisfying for her, it’s not good politicking even if the criticisms are unfair. I happened to like Clinton as a candidate, a lot. She has many good qualities and accomplishments. This was not of them. Who knows if it was decisive or not, but I think it’s crazy not to acknowledge that taking six-figure speaking gigs from Goldman-Sachs looks bad when you want to make your case, at least in part, on inequality.

        • Spider-Dan

          So doing the same thing that dozens upon dozens of other DC politicians (and almost every major-party general election candidate in recent history) did – give speeches for lots of money to rich people – was “putting a target on her back.”

          Your premise seems to be that if only Hillary hadn’t done [x], she would have been left alone. This premise does not work when [x] stretches to infinity. Of particular note: ALL (and I do mean literally ALL) of the specific examples of [x] cited in 2016 are things that are utterly commonplace among recent politicians, and passed WITHOUT INCIDENT for them.

          Supporting the Iraq War?
          Voting for the 1994 crime bill?
          Accepting money from Wall Street?
          Allowing a U.S. embassy to be attacked?
          Using private e-mail instead of your gov’t accounts?

          To paraphrase Scott, everyone does it, but Hillary is worse.

          • gccolby

            As I said, this seems to boil down to “the scrutiny is unfair.” Yeah. It is. But there are better and worse ways to respond to it. It’s a tough old world out there. Complaining that it’s tough and then tying one arm behind your back is foolish.

            And I’m sorry, but no – giving paid speeches to Goldman-Sachs less than two years before you run for President of the United Fucking States isn’t just a normal thing that every Democratic politician does. As Yglesias has pointed out (don’t remember if it was on Twitter or in the piece), Clinton taking the Goldman-Sachs gigs was seen as evidence she didn’t plan to run. Cause it’s a pointlessly dumb thing to do.

            • Q.E.Dumbass

              Which makes it particularly ironic that nobody really gave much of a shit about it in the primaries. This is a perfect scandal for the media to chickenfuck to death, and they couldn’t even get that right.

            • Spider-Dan

              So then: taking $675,000 in Wall Street money for speeches is suspicious, not to mention dumb. But when Obama took $17.3 million from Wall Street in 2008, well, that’s just politics, baby! (And remember: the fact that she was being PAID to speak to them is key, because the money means They Bought Her.)

              Once again: it was just fine until Hillary did it. Then it was an unconscionable gaffe.

              • Q.E.Dumbass

                Context is different, though, in that the money was for a campaign and not for personal gain*. And credit where credit is due, back when he had most of his marbles Taibbi consistently gave both sides flack for this in ’08.

                *Saying this as someone who’s somewhat positive on Hillary and voted for her in the primary.

                • Spider-Dan

                  Not sure if, by “both sides,” you mean “Obama and Hillary” or “Dem and GOP,” but the outcome is essentially what I originally described: (center-)left voters are regaled with tut-tutting about how the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans (or if during the primary: both candidates terribly flawed), while the right sees nothing of consequence.

              • gccolby

                So then: taking $675,000 in Wall Street money for speeches is suspicious, not to mention dumb. But when Obama took $17.3 million from Wall Street in 2008, well, that’s just politics, baby! (And remember: the fact that she was being PAID to speak to them is key, because the money means They Bought Her.)

                Once again: it was just fine until Hillary did it. Then it was an unconscionable gaffe.

                My jaw is on the floor, because the difference in context between being personally paid by a single company to speak at a pair of private events and an accumulation of campaign donations from a large number of individuals associated with the finance industry seems quite clear to me. We’re not saying these are the same thing because they’re not.

                • Spider-Dan

                  I see we’ve entered the “Well, Colin Powell had a private e-mail account, but Hillary had a private e-mail server” phase of the discussion.

                  Isn’t THE ENTIRE POINT that Hillary is bought and paid for by Wall Street? How does accepting much, much less money for some speeches somehow mean that she is owned As Much Or More by Wall Street? Obama accepted more than five times as much campaign money from them as Hillary did!

                  This is straight up Clinton Rules nonsense. We are to believe that taking money from Wall Street means that they own you, except if you take 20x as much but it’s for your political campaign. Or something.

                • veleda_k

                  If the concern being bought by Wall Street, how does the difference matter? I actually thought that it was already accepted that major campaign donations imply an investment in the candidate. That doesn’t mean the candidate is definitely bought, but, well, isn’t that one of the problems campaign finance reform is supposed to address?

            • As Yglesias has pointed out (don’t remember if it was on Twitter or in the piece), Clinton taking the Goldman-Sachs gigs was seen as evidence she didn’t plan to run. Cause it’s a pointlessly dumb thing to do.

              Although to be fair, if she had just released the damn transcripts back in the primary, there would have been a big to do about it, then everyone would have gotten over it.

              • Also to be fair, if she had released the transcripts, people would have seized on anodyne bullshit as though it made her the second coming of Fidel Castro, as indeed they ultimately tried to do (though I don’t think they succeeded at that very much), and also, they were demanding a level of transparency from her that they never demanded from other people (even St. Bernie, who as far as I’m aware still hasn’t released his tax returns). Also they would’ve just immediately moved onto some other bullshit, which ultimately turned out to be the email server (another case of anodyne bullshit being seized upon and turned into a scandal).

                That said, maybe if the attacks on the speeches had been gotten out of the way during the primary it wouldn’t have mattered as much, though. I don’t know if anyone can say that for sure, though. After an election as bizarre as 2016 I don’t think I trust anyone to run counterfactuals where evidence is as thin as it is here. Without hard data to back up an assertion like this (for instance, Comey’s impact on the outcome is about as close to proved as is possible for such as statement due to early election returns and the like), I’m not sure it’s possible to say.

                • veleda_k

                  I supported Clinton not releasing the content of the speeches due to the fact that it was part of Sanders’ double standards game. Clinton released her tax returns, like normal. Sanders refused to release his. After he was pressured, he declared that he would release his tax returns (an expected part of running for president) if Clinton released the transcripts of her speeches. The unfairness of this should be obvious. I’m not in Hillary Clinton’s head, but I can believe she wouldn’t want to dance to her opponent’s tune, especially when there was no guarantee he wouldn’t just shift the goal posts again.

                  Now, maybe it would have indeed been better in the long run. But at the time, I can see why it made sense not to do it.

              • Spider-Dan

                Do you mean in the same way that they “got over” the e-mails between July and October, or in a different way than that?

  • addicted44

    Obama’s popularity?

    Obama only became popular once the RW media started shifting its hatred towards Clinton, instead of Obama, and the best the Repubs could do was Donald Trump.

    • lahtiji

      Shifting?

      • Alex.S

        In 2012, the “smart” centrist pundit was proposing that Hillary Clinton should run instead of Obama, because her approval rating of 60%+ was so much higher.

  • aturner339

    So I doubt the country that elected a 70 year old Trust Fund Baby who face in in the dictionary next to “conspicuous consumption” because it hates corny capitalism. I don’t really see the practical political argument here and the moral imperative is hazy at best. Can we list what sectors of the economy ex president can take money from?

    • Owlbear1

      All former Democratic officeholders are suppose join a University and draft deep thinking poetry on the state of humanity.

      Vows of poverty and chastity are also encouraged so Republicans have to make up absolute lies about them instead of pointing out how their wealth is proof it’s okay to steal from the poor.

  • nemdam

    We’re still pretending to care about this? Who gives a shit if a President makes some money off his name after he’s out of office? The argument seems to be if you make money then you can’t be a strong liberal which is ridiculous. And as we’ve seen with the most successful right wing populists (Trump, Farage, and Le Pen), they are all rich with extensive connections to the elites and the people liberals supposedly are turning off by giving speeches vote for them anyway. And besides, it’s hardly uncommon for a rich person to be a strong liberal.

    To me, this is only slightly less ridiculous than attacking Obama for vacationing with Richard Branson.

    • Scott Lemieux

      The argument seems to be if you make money then you can’t be a strong liberal which is ridiculous.

      Is anyone criticizing Obama’s book deal? There’s a big difference between making money for doing actual work and the captive audience speaking fee grift.

      • Crusty

        I see your point in that the book deal is a basic money in exchange for a product type of thing, and the speaking fee grift is just that. But its also similar to the book deal in that people are willing to pay money to hear what he says, whether in book form or private corporate meeting form.

        Notably, I think W didn’t do this, despite having previously expressed a desire to cash in and replenish the old coffers. But I’m not sure anyone wanted to hear what he had to say, so in that sense, Obama has earned this.

      • nemdam

        Not doing paid speeches is leaving a lot of easy money on the table.

        Limiting the money a post president can make to books will still leave him with a fine income, but I think it’s silly and arbitrary to limit his money making to books. I mean, what if he gives a paid speech to a book publisher?

      • SIS1

        How is this a grift? Does the speaker set the fees? Or does the organization that want a prestigious speaker determine how much they are willing to offer? If the later, which is what I suspect strongly happens, then calling this a “grift” is silly. If a bunch of rich people get together and want to hear from someone,and they promise a lot of money, then unless the group is inherently objectionable then I fail to see the problem with parting the fools from their money.

        Public speaking is actual work, specially done correctly.

        Why do people keep insisting that public service needs to be the work of ‘angels’? This statement: “self-sacrificing spirit and moral leadership that successful movements require.” is highly dubious to me: what self-sacrifice and moral leadership existed within the unfortunately successful “Tea Party” movement? Or the Brexit movement? Movements succeed based on their ability to organize, create an independent power node, and then utilize that power. Sometimes this “power” is ‘moral’ in nature, often it is not. ‘Progressives’ are foolish in my mind in expecting leaders to be more moral then the rest of us – I mean, this is idiotic! Doesn’t that then mean that very few of us can ever be leaders? How is this not an inherently Aristocratic mindset?

        • kvs

          The speaker is usually contracted through an agency that determines the fee.

        • nemdam

          You are correct about how the speaking circuit works. Organizations offer famous people a sum of money basically for their celebrity. It’s honestly not that much different than when night clubs pay celebrities to show up. It’s an appearance fee.

          I think it’s naive and arbitrary to demand politicians not do this, but to suggest it hurts the left politically is even sillier. The right, establishment or not, is a cesspool of corruption, conflicts of interest and the appearances of such. No one on the right cares. If anyone did care, they would not vote for the right. If you think paid speeches is the line that cedes the moral high ground, then the right will just attack on campaign contributions. The appearance of corruption game is unwinnable.

          • ColBatGuano

            The appearance of corruption game is unwinnable.

            Hmmm, Sanders and his core supporters disagree.

            • nemdam

              Wrong. There’s nothing you can do to appear not corrupt in Sanders eyes except be Bernie Sanders or swear loyalty to him.

              His supporters thought Tom Perez was corrupt.

              And Bernie took money from Hillay’s PAC for his Senate race and raised money from Wall Street for the DSCC. His supporters predictably don’t care.

              • Spider-Dan

                Yes, I think that’s what he meant by disagree. You can win the “appearance of corruption” game by having a loyal base of devoted zealots who will defend anything you do because you did it.

                The only transgression Bernie has ever committed, in their eyes, is when he told them to redirect their devotion to an unworthy harlot in the general election.

        • JonH

          It’d be a grift if Tiffany Trump were speaking to Cantor Fitzgerald for $400,000. She’s a non-entity, and can’t possibly have anything to say that would be worth that kind of money.

          But $400k is what former heads of state, chancellors of the exchequer, etc can make on the speaking circuit, so the number isn’t itself evidence that Obama’s getting paid a sum that is blatantly outside the market norms.

      • Boots Day

        What is that difference?

        • SIS1

          A grift is a confidence game – it presupposes dishonesty and fooling someone. A person pricing their speaking engagements too high might (might) be categorized as trying to fool others. Accepting a voluntarily made offer by someone isn’t the same thing.

      • petesh

        Come on, Scott! Obama is being vastly overpaid for his book deal, even if he reads his own audio book etc etc. The publishers are paying him because they think that many people will buy the book, even though they know damn well that if the book is any good many of the buyers probably won’t read it all. It’s the way of the world — celebrity sells. I can’t bring myself to see much difference from the speechifying, for which people with too much money are going to give a chunk of money that seems huge to me but not them to a celebrity who draws attention to them.

        • Spider-Dan

          How is Obama being “overpaid” for his book deal if he is being paid based on expected sales? That doesn’t make sense.

          • petesh

            He’s got the cash up front

            • Spider-Dan

              So you’re basically saying advances shouldn’t exist, or what exactly?

              • petesh

                If anyone is going to criticize Obama for getting the going rate for a speech, they should more generally be criticizing him for getting the going rate for a celebrity tell-all book (even though his will surely be better than that) and should denounce the culture of celebrity speechifying and bookifying more generally.

                On advances: it’s one thing to advance enough for the scrivener to survive while writing; it’s quite another to advance tens of millions of dollars.

        • gccolby

          Last I heard, residuals for sales of your book weren’t based on whether or not people had read it (I mean, what? This criticism is crazy!). Nor were advances.

          I know that a gazillion dollar advance for a book seems insane, but seeing as that advance is based on projected sales, what’s your proposed remedy? That the publishing companies and execs who weren’t president and didn’t write a book about it keep all the money?

          • petesh

            I have no remedy, I merely think that the statement “There’s a big difference between making money for doing actual work and the captive audience speaking fee grift” falsely distinguishes between different kinds of celebrity cash-in. I am not criticizing Obama for his speaking fees, nor for taking the huge advance; I am criticizing the same system that coughs up both of them.

            If you’re the Colby I think you may be, you’d probably be particularly sympathetic to the argument that, while best-sellers keep publishers going, huge advances limit the access of less profitable authors. As one who has almost recouped his $2500 advance on a ten-year-old book, I confess to taking it personally. But then I also got a grant to write the thing, and my career in general was promoted by its publication. So it goes.

            • gccolby

              If you’re the Colby I think you may be, you’d probably be particularly sympathetic to the argument that, while best-sellers keep publishers going, huge advances limit the access of less profitable authors.

              Now I’m scratching my head trying to think of Petes I know. Forgive me if I’m missing something obvious, but I’m legitimately bad at remembering names. Of course, if you’re thinking of a Colby who’s a published author, it’s not me.

              Anyway, I am sympathetic! But I think accepting money to write a book, despite the deep unfairness of that system, is really different from the public-speaking racket. If you have a book, you sell it, you make piles of money, the author should get their fair share, and it’s not obvious how you fix the fair access issue. Sure, he could just not write the book, but I think there’s legitimate public interest in an ex-president’s recollections or whatever the heck this book will be about. A speech at a private event is a different kettle of fish.

              • petesh

                I was thinking of the past President of the National Writers Union.

                • gccolby

                  Heh, that’s not me. He’s probably much better at this than I am!

              • petesh

                Well, if you ever meet that Colby, give him my regards!

  • Alex.S

    What is the standard? Is it all paid speeches, or only paid speeches made to specific organizations? If it’s specific organizations, who sets the standard and what is covered by the standard (other political donations, personal leadership, trade industry…)?

    Will other individuals be held to this standard, or is it only something Democratic politicians need to be wary of?

    I ask, because setting an undefined higher standard for a group tends to result in people complaining that the group fail to meet an increasingly higher standard.

    • nemdam

      And if the problem is giving paid speeches shows the coziness of the elites and politicians, it doesn’t solve the much larger conflict of interest which is raising money.

      If Obama spent the rest of his life as a recluse and never made a public appearance, you could still credibly say he was too cozy with the elites given how much money he raised from them. This game can’t be won if you are a serious politician. The unremarkable fact is that if you want to do anything meaningful in politics, you have to get buy in from some of the elites.

    • Murc

      What is the standard?

      Don’t take enormous sums of money from vile, destructive people to stand up in front of them and say nice things about them and their enterprise seems like a good start.

      Is it all paid speeches, or only paid speeches made to specific organizations?

      I would think it would be self-evident that it is the latter.

      If it’s specific organizations, who sets the standard

      We all do, collectively, and some people will be correct as to what standard they set and some people will be incorrect, the same as on any other issue.

      Will other individuals be held to this standard, or is it only something Democratic politicians need to be wary of?

      Again, I would assume that the former would go without saying, and also I find this question to be implying bad faith on the part of your interlocutor, and if you’re doing that don’t imply it: make the case openly.

      I ask, because setting an undefined higher standard for a group tends to result in people complaining that the group fail to meet an increasingly higher standard.

      And sometimes those people will be wrong, and sometimes those people will be right. What of it?

      • Owlbear1

        So if he stood up in front of Planned Parenthood, said nice things about them and took the money, that would be fine?

        • Murc

          I would hope Planned Parenthood has better things to do with 400k than blow it on Barack Obama saying a few words, and that if they asked him to address them he would say “I’ll do it gratis if you covered expenses, maybe a modest per diem” or even better, “Maybe Michelle would be more appropriate.”

          But yeah, I could absolutely see that being fine.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          Gee whiz, what do you think?

          Is it really so shocking that a lot of us around here wouldn’t put a corporate health insurance conference on the same plane as Planned Parenthood?

          • JonH

            Health care, not necessarily “corporate health insurance”. Could be pharmaceutical firms. Could be hospitals. Could be biotech startups. Could be medical schools. Who knows?

            • Aaron Morrow

              Who knows?

              Anyone who searches for information on Cantor Fitzgerald.

              I’m pretty sure that a bond firm that controls a venture capital company can be considered “corporate” in the pejorative sense of the word.

          • Owlbear1

            There also seems to be a strong distaste for the amounts of money being paid to deliver the speeches regardless of who is doing the paying.

            • Aaron Morrow

              Since different people have different opinions, please try and be more specific. Marc has been very clear, and I personally would be fine with Obama taking money from, say, a company involved in actually providing healthcare.

  • Chris Mealy

    Isn’t $60 million from his book deal enough fuck you money? Now it just looks like he was nice to bankers as president so he could cash in later (just like every other president). I mean, why does he even want to talk to bankers? Hasn’t he had enough of bankers already? I don’t know, maybe is really is trying to buy an NBA team.

    • cleek

      maybe he thought he had something important to tell the health care conference.

  • NewishLawyer

    I suspect that the reason that a lot of journalists don’t go after this because they are on the speaker circuit and/or want to be on the speaker circuit. There is a good market for doing this. It goes beyond corporate events and is probably very easy work.

    There is a non-profit version of this too. SF has City Arts and Lectures which gets authors, actors, filmmakers, journalists, and politicians, etc to do chats. What does this pay? I have no idea. There is also the 92nd Street Y in NYC and JCCs across the country. I saw Carrie Brownstein interview Kim Gordon at SF’s JCC.

    • Phil Perspective

      There is a non-profit version of this too. SF has City Arts and Lectures which gets authors, actors, filmmakers, journalists, and politicians, etc to do chats. What does this pay? I have no idea. There is also the 92nd Street Y in NYC and JCCs across the country. I saw Carrie Brownstein interview Kim Gordon at SF’s JCC.

      Probably traveling expenses? Maybe $5,000 on top of that?

      • NewishLawyer

        Which isn’t as much but it is still pretty good as a deal.

  • cleek

    fuck this.

    renounce your own worldly possessions if you want, but leave other people out of your bullshit morality play.

    • Boots Day

      +$400,000

    • Murc

      leave other people out of your bullshit morality play.

      This would require renouncing all criticism of any politicians private lives and also abandoning an enormous chunk of the Democratic platform.

      • SIS1

        “This would require renouncing all criticism of any politicians private lives ”

        No it would not! That is an absurdist “slippery slope” argument. Choosing to speak to a group for pay is in no way inherently immoral. Arguing that its immoral to speak to rich people for high pay (as opposed to say, speaking at a college graduation for some pay, not nearly as much) requires one to buy into certain moral assumptions that are obviously not shared by all people who call themselves “progressives”. Arguing against someone’s adultery, or engaging in harassment or abuse privately is something else entirely, and we would definitely be able to criticize people who take this actions.

        Also, which part of the Democratic platform does doing a paid gig invalidate? Will Obama fail to pay the necessary taxes?

        • Murc

          Choosing to speak to a group for pay is in no way inherently immoral.

          It’s a good thing nobody is making that case, then, isn’t it?

          Arguing that its immoral to speak to rich people for high pay

          Nobody is making that argument either.

          requires one to buy into certain moral assumptions that are obviously not shared by all people who call themselves “progressives”.

          Yes? And?

          • cleek

            It’s a good thing nobody is making that case, then, isn’t it?

            lots of people are making that case.

            here’s an example from the OP:

            and more to the point no matter how politically damaging it is it’s just wrong.

            • Murc

              So to prove that people are making the case that it is inherently immoral to speak to a group for pay, you quote… from a post that makes the case that addressing a particular group for pay is wrong.

              Do you have an actual cite that shows someone making the case that accepting any speaking fees to speak to anyone is always wrong?

              • cleek

                that’s a misread on my part.

                but, it might be helpful if you could list the groups for whom a former Democratic President can speak without running afoul of this new standard.

                • Murc

                  I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of every single group in America, and I reject your framing that this standard is “new” in any way. Some of us have been bitching about shit like this for years.

                • cleek

                  yes, many people bitched about it a lot last summer.

                  i remember thinking it was dumb then, too.

          • SIS1

            “Nobody is making that argument either.”

            False, this is exactly what the article quoted by Scott and Scott himself are doing: criticizing speaking in front of an industry conference capable of paying high sums. To quote the article quoted by the OP:

            Indeed, to not take the money might be a problem for someone in Obama’s position. It would set a precedent.

            Obama would be suggesting that for an economically comfortable high-ranking former government official to be out there doing paid speaking gigs would be corrupt, sleazy, or both. He’d be looking down his nose at the other corrupt, sleazy former high-ranking government officials and making enemies.

            • Murc

              False, this is exactly what the article quoted by Scott and Scott himself are doing: criticizing speaking in front of an industry conference capable of paying high sums.

              Which is not remotely the same as “choosing to speak to a group for pay.” And that’s even if I accepted your framing, which I do not.

              • SIS1

                Again, false, under any honest framing of the issue. Are you now using Trumpian frames or something?

                • Murc

                  Again, false, under any honest framing of the issue.

                  No, it is manifestly true; a thing that is not another thing isn’t that thing.

                  I actually backed up my point. You’ve so far made one post with a quote that actually backs me up rather than you, and then another simply calling me wrong with nothing to undergird it.

    • Jewish Steel

      Who will be the first baseball player to refuse free agency, accept the league minimum, and finally rid MLB of the taint of corrupt elitism?!?!

      • efgoldman

        Who will be the first baseball player to refuse free agency

        And who the first platinum-record artist to refuse a tour made up of seven-digit bookings and do it for expenses?

        • Jewish Steel

          By God, I will! (if someone books this tour)

    • DrS

      You know, I didn’t want to renounce my worldly possessions, but this note from my bank said I had to get rid of some.

  • socraticsilence

    I think there’s a pretty big difference between doing this when you’re retired and doing this when you’re about to run for President. At the very least in terms of political judgement.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      well, yeah, but if an example must be set who better than Obama? I mean, I came to really like the guy but if I could have a vote for every time I was told back in ’07-8 how exceptional he was as a person President H Clinton would be naming Supreme Court judges

    • DrDick

      Indeed.

    • catclub

      I think there’s a pretty big difference between doing this when you’re retired and doing this when you’re about to run for President.

      I will wait while you tell me Mitt Romney never gave a speech for money from 2006-2012.

      Clinton Double standard, otherwise.

      • Crusty

        I doubt socraticsilence voted for Mitt Romney.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Right — how many people are here defending Romney?

        • Spider-Dan

          I think the more relevant takeaway is that the only part of the electorate that cares are liberals. So I’d say the only result from this kind of navel gazing is bashing candidates on our side, which a) the media luuuuvvvs and b) has no effect whatsoever on Team Red.

          In short, I view this through the same prism that I view the people who insist that Democrats stop taking campaign donations from corporations*: you are constructing a cross to bear, and the most significant political impact it will ever have is making it harder to win the race.

          *note the very significant difference between unilateral disarmament and campaign finance laws that apply to all candidates

    • kvs

      In terms of political optics, sure. In terms of practical corruption, the issue is the same. The speaker circuit creates an incentive not to run afoul of the moneyed interests today lest they not reward you tomorrow.

  • Happy Jack

    buckraking

    The terms that are used to describe a woman or a black man when they are compensated for their time is interesting.

    • Murc

      You want to accuse some of us of something, do it in clear terms and directly to our faces, rather than dealing in innuendo and implications.

      Like so: You’re at best a puling coward and at worst making arguments in transparent bad faith. See, it’s that easy.

      • Personally I’d prefer some subtlety and understatement in this comment section as opposed to constant macho breast-beating and garment-rending. People bellowing “coward! fool!” at each other over every possible disagreement is what has made literally every leftish blog I’ve read before LGM eventually unreadable. Tastes vary, I suppose.

      • Happy Jack

        You want to accuse some of us

        Us? I must have missed where you used the term. Sorry. I was referring to Yglesias’ use of the term. Plus Scott parroting Yggy.

        But I apologize if “buckraking ” is part of Scott’s lexicon. I might have missed him using that word, with its connotations of nefarious intent, in the past.

        • Murc

          Even if he never used it before today, it would not have been inappropriate in any way for him to have done so, as you so snidely alleged.

          • Happy Jack

            If you look upthread, there’s some examples of Yggy’s previous thoughts on the matter.

            Larry Summers manages to earn fees.
            Mitt Romney collects fees.
            Financial journalists take fees.
            Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are buckraking fees.
            I stand corrected, he’s been consistent over the years. Maybe I’ll have to start calling President Obama a big strapping buckraker.

    • Phil Perspective

      It’s politicians, you jackass. It’s also wrong for Andrew Cuomo to get $750,000 for a book that only sold 2,300 copies. That sure looks like a payoff from Rupert Murdoch, doesn’t it?

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Oh man, how the hell can I hook up one of those book deals.

        • cleek

          1. become famous
          2. write a book

          • Lost Left Coaster

            Right. But most famous people don’t get $750,000 for a book that sells 2,300 copies.

            Maybe, just maybe, the fact that Cuomo is the sitting governor or New York has a tiny bit to do with it.

            • catclub

              At $2300/copy you don’t need to sell very many.

              But I think it was on 2300 copies sold, at maybe $15 margin. Total ?profit? => $45,000

              $45k << $750k

  • The same people in this thread who were calling for Obama to lead the resistance against Trump now think it’s fine and above board for him to take gigantic speaking fees from finance.

    “Donald Trump is corrupt as all fuck and got elected, so Obama can do whatever he wants.”

    • Crusty

      Your use of quotation marks is proper.

      • And mocking paraphrases are in no way a storied LGM tradition.

        • Crusty

          Your use of quotation marks is proper.

          • ColBatGuano

            As is their understanding of the word "paraphrase".

    • JonH

      All I care about is whether Obama supports raising taxes on the wealthy even while he’s pulling in the big bucks.

      • liberal

        Let’s see him advocate for not treating capital gains any differently than other income.

  • jeer9

    Just as people projected onto his ’08 campaign lots of reformist change and high-minded, idealistic policy, so they continue to view BHO and his retirement through the same rose-tinted glasses, expecting more and disappointed that he resembles so many other run-of-the-mill political hacks cashing in on their celebrity.

    And apparently he doesn’t see himself as all that different from them – except that he’ll probably crush that speech in a way that Dubya or Condoleezza Rice can only dream about.

  • humanoid.panda

    Most of the discussion here touched on the ethics of taking money from Wall Street, and the political relevance of this stuff. I think a more fundamental problem is in evidence here: since the 1970s, the ethos of our elites was that “enough is never enough” – you must squeeze every penny the market is willing to provide for you, and if not, you are facing ruin (remember [email protected]# saying he had to take timeout from political life to take of his family?). And if you don’t have enough money- you just go and get favors and gifts from your rich friends, so that you can live like a winner. (Bibi in Israel, Fillon in France, Christie, McDonell the VA gov and many, many others are good examples). Obama, given his aspirations to close that chapter in American history, could have said “I have a pension, millions in the bank already, and my book contract will provide lavish living for Sasha and Malia’s granchildren.”
    But he chose not to, and go down the “grab every dollar to be like you jet set peers.” And that’s deeply dissapointing.

    • Matt_L

      yes, exactly.

      By all means, Obama can cash in, just like everyone else in the elite. But then that just says that he never intended to “close that chapter in American History.” He is just another Gilded Age president.

    • liberal

      Reminds me of Melissa Meyers recent payout.

    • pseudalicious

      Thank you.

  • Lot_49

    Yglesias asks a hypothetical progressive pol who takes big speaking fees, “Did you really think a fracking ban would be bad for the environment, or were you on the take?”

    That’s where this both-sides-do-it argument breaks down. The Poors don’t have lobbyists. Clean air doesn’t have a lobbyist, Earth Justice notwithstanding. The interests of the right have a lot more money to spend on defending their interests.

  • BrownNoddy

    What this really says to me is that Obama wants to be post-political now. Which is his choice and I guess somehow “expected” of ex-presidents. It’s not his job to save us. And it is different from someone preparing to run for president. But I feel it’s a bad look. I get why people would rightly ask why we would impose sky-high standards on Democrats that will never ever be expected of Republicans. But any standing Obama wanted to have in critiquing inequality is devastated by such actions.

    But taking six figures for a speech to Wall Street types is and will remain a bad look for any Democrat. In Obama’s case, the world is his oyster. He will have so many ways to take in so much money, if that is what he desires, that are slightly more seemly than having Wall St. types shower him with money for a couple hours.

    • cleek

      any standing Obama wanted to have in critiquing inequality is devastated by such actions.

      why?

      the fact he gets paid a lot in no way affects his ability to point out that there are millions who aren’t getting paid enough.

      • nemdam

        Look, we all know FDR had no standing to do anything about wealth inequality because he was rich.

        • Phil Perspective

          LOL!! Did Obama say he welcomed Jamie Dimon’s hatred? He did not.

          • nemdam

            But because FDR was rich, he was phony and untrustworthy when he said it. Just like Hillary.

        • cleek

          i broke my arm but there was nobody to help me because none of the doctors had any broken bones of their own.

        • BrownNoddy

          I didn’t write anything about the mere fact of being rich. He’s cashing in on his office. OK. But then added to that, he’s cashing in on it with the people who represent the forces of inequality. He’s doing it in a very visible and easy to understand way. And maybe he’s donating the money to charity, I don’t know. I’m disappointed in him. But it’s less about him than, as the original poster said, party elites.

          I don’t care if Republicans can get away with it. They’re the party of inequality and hand-in-glove with corporate power.

          I don’t care who you are, your time is not genuinely worth six figures and hour, certainly not for reading a speech or shaking hands. That’s what billionaires supposedly “earn.” Our society needs to be able to have that discussion.

          • Morse Code for J

            One answer for that discussion is that you are not the arbiter of what Barack Obama’s time is worth, or how he should spend his time now that he’s out of office.

      • kvs

        Sure, hypocrisy doesn’t invalidate the logic of an argument. But it certainly has the potential to undermine the messenger’s perceived credibility.

        • mpavilion

          Only seems to work against Democrats, then? Republicans are grossly hypocritical and keep getting elected.

          • kvs

            Notably, Republicans don’t keep on getting elected by Democratic voters. The audience matters.

            • mpavilion

              But I thought the critique here is that “independent” voters are going to be turned off by high-minded Dems appearing to be hypocrites, via taking money from (*shudder*) banks… while no one has illusions that the GOP is high-minded, and thus these same “independent” voters don’t expect Republicans to live up to any ideals, and will vote for them freely / on a whim. So it’s a trap only Dems can fall in. Do I have it wrong?

              ETA: if the idea is that actual *Democratic* voters may choose not vote for Dems because Obama made a speech for $$, then we’re deeply and truly fucked.

              • Spider-Dan

                You only have it halfway: both Democratic and Republican supporters will bash Democrats for taking large speaking fees. Neither cares about Republican speakers.

                • This strikes me as essentially correct. IOKIYAR. This is one reason we need to burn down the Beltway media (except WaPo, if they’re considered part of it).

    • JonH

      “But any standing Obama wanted to have in critiquing inequality is devastated by such actions.”

      Similarly, Bruce Hornsby’s hit record “The Way It Is” which touches on inequality is completely devastated because he cashed his royalty checks.

      • BrownNoddy

        Not sure why the distinction is hard to grasp. I didn’t say anything about his book deal, which is the comparison to music royalties.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Jimmy Carter was not a very good president (or a particularly liberal one), but apart from John Quncy Adams (who was a considerably worse president) he has no peer as a great ex-president. I don’t suppose it’s fair to expect others to live up to that standard, but still I’m disappointed that Obama is doing this.

    • liberal

      Yeah, good old JQA was probably the awesome-est ex-prez ever.

  • rea

    In early 1860, Lincoln took a big sum (for the time) to give a speech at the Cooper Union in NYC. He was criticized in the press for this, but nevertheless, made the speech, and subsequently ran for president.

    • cleek

      history’s greatest sell-out

    • sibusisodan

      The Googles tell me that the $200 fee can be valued anywhere from $6k (relative value) through $70k (relative wage) to $800k (relative economic power).

      I think if Obama were to give a non-anodyne speech much of the critique becomes moo.

    • Crusty

      Well, sure, but he was a republican.

  • PJ

    [Not specifically directed towards Scott.]

    Jesus Christ.

    Barack Obama is not your fucking savior. He is not a saint. He is doing what every other major political figure has done for the past few decades in their retirement.

    It’s time to move on.

    Fucking White people and their bullshit double standards. Like, it’s not enough that the guy did his job well, and better than his predecessors. He gotta lead your fucking white “leftist” movement that hates his ass anyway.

    Let him go. It’s not his job to be an example, or to coordinate, especially since so many of you think he did a poor job of it anyway.

    • nemdam

      No, they have St. Bernie the Uncorruptable to lead the white “leftist” movement. Obama just needs to know his place. Hillary and Chelsea too.

      • PJ

        Is Bernie renouncing the profits from his book? He’s a sitting senator after all.

        • nemdam

          His podcast is on iTunes. I guess Bernie supports Apple’s outsourcing and labor practices.

          • lunaticllama

            We’ll never know the truth of the matter, because he hides his tax returns like Trump!

    • Jewish Steel

      I agree with all of this and would ask: Unless you have been personally tempted by generational wealth and heroically refused for the good of the nation, how empty is your finger wagging?

      • BrownNoddy

        He has and will have almost limitless opportunities to cash in. It’s really no sacrifice for him to tactfully decline cash bonanzas to shake some hands and raise the profile of some financiers.

        • Jewish Steel

          This is the man who wrote checks to ailing families while he was in office. Where is that money going to do more good? In the hands of big corporations or Obama’s?

          Plus, if this cockamamie scheme were to somehow catch on you would have wealthy GOP ex-pols and merely well-to-do Dems. Money is power. Why hamstring ourselves?

    • PJ

      BTW this is precisely the kind of thing that “leftists” have been doing to the likes of Deray McKesson and Imani Gandi (and those Safety Pin box women) for a minute.

      Apparently TYT and Glenn Greenwald getting start-up money or Matt Stoller and the Chapo Trap House guys being trust fund babies aren’t in the same boat to be criticized.

      So tired of this shit.

      • Morse Code for J

        Matt Stoller was already rich and therefore incorruptible, much like our current President.

        And an afternoon pitching a start-up to venture capitalists is obviously harder, more honest labor than the same afternoon giving prepared remarks as a former President.

        I hope that cleared things up for you and everyone else.

    • petesh

      Fucking White people and their bullshit double standards. Like, it’s not enough that the guy did his job well, and better than his predecessors. He gotta lead your fucking white “leftist” movement that hates his ass anyway.
      Ouch. Rem acu tetigisti. As an elderly white leftist, I endorse this whole-heartedly.

  • JonH

    Maybe Yglesias should have turned down equity in Vox, lest we doubt his sincerity.

  • Bugboy

    Yglesias: “Corruption is the progressive center’s Achilles’ heel”

    Actually, no. The progressive center’s Achilles’ heel is the tendency to endlessly navel gaze about things like the ethics of speaker’s fees, meanwhile GOP and conservatives have zero second thoughts about taking the money.

    If progressives decline to speak, just who is it the world’s going to hear from? Because SOMEONE will take the money.

    In an ideal world, I agree with the sentiment of declining to speak because of the appearance of impropriety. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, we don’t live in an ideal world…

    • JonH

      Take the money, and work to tax the hell out of such earnings.

    • Murc

      The progressive center’s Achilles’ heel is the tendency to endlessly navel gaze about things like the ethics of speaker’s fees, meanwhile GOP and conservatives have zero second thoughts about taking the money.

      This is 100% backwards. The fact that we engage in self-reflection and attempt to determine correct ethics rather than being utterly without moral center is one of our great strengths, not a great weakness.

      If progressives decline to speak, just who is it the world’s going to hear from?

      “The world” is different from “a small subset of the people who tried to destroy it.” Nobody is arguing progressives should not speak to “the world.”

      • Bugboy

        The fact that we engage in self-reflection and attempt to determine correct ethics rather than being utterly without moral center is one of our great strengths, not a great weakness.

        And you think any of that makes any difference to GOP, to conservatives, to the rat bastards that run Wall Street?

        From their point of view, they did anything but destroy “the world”. Because “the world” is their portfolio.

        • Murc

          And you think any of that makes any difference to GOP, to conservatives, to the rat bastards that run Wall Street?

          Why should I give a rats ass what they think except inasmuch as it might give me better insight in how to destroy them?

        • efgoldman

          And you think any of that makes any difference to GOP, to conservatives, to the rat bastards that run Wall Street?

          Or to most Democratic voters, or 99% of voters, at all?
          Spoiler: NO

          That leftier and holier than thou act gets really, really old really, really quickly.

      • MDrew

        The liberal-center’s Achilles heel is its tendency to do basically everything it can get away with while just barely continuing to look like the faction who pays heed to ethical concerns ar at least appearances (and where they do that badly, fail, by focusing on legalistic lines demarcating clear violations that no one really cares about anyway, i.e. the way Clinton defended her speeches – and her emails as well, by the way.)

        The progressive left’s tendency to engage in self-reflection and attempt to determine correct ethics is indeed one of its great strengths, not a great weakness – Murc is almost right there.

    • PJ

      Perhaps progressive leftists should care more about building constituencies and getting candidates in office and policy passed than the purity of their souls.

      • liberal

        Yeah, because it’s not like our closer-to-the-center betters ever have purity tests. Not.

        • PJ

          What is this in reference to, exactly?

          What Internet Thing has recently hurt your feelings?

          • Q.E.Dumbass

            It’s in reference to you (and the LGM commentariat, and Balloon Juice, and probably any campaign he’s ever been involved) not bowing down and kissing his ALL-KNOWING ASS, having long since decided on being a left-wing professional Ted Cruz. The kicker is that nothing he’s said has indicated he’s even particularly left-wing along the lines of Murc, Gregor, DrDick or Cassandra – all of who are capable of disagreeing with the center-left without constantly oozing pretension and contempt.

            • Murc

              The kicker is that nothing he’s said has indicated he’s even particularly left-wing along the lines of Murc, Gregor, DrDick or Cassandra – all of who are capable of disagreeing with the center-left without constantly oozing pretension and contempt.

              To be fair, this statement only works because of the AND gate. I do constantly ooze at least one of those things. :)

            • liberal

              Fuck you, you ignorant preening moron.

              • Q.E.Dumbass

                There you are, demonstrating your trademark intellectual maturity and self-awareness that is the envy of several sixth-graders worldwide.

                ignorant,

                I’ll cop to not being especially versed in a lot of the topics expressed here, but I at least have enough intellectual curiosity entertain opposing viewpoints without dismissing them as evil and/or stupid.

                preening

                “Preening?” Remind me, who exactly spends every Comey thread pretending they were literally the only person who thought the appointment was a stupid idea from the start? Who exactly capes for commenters who don’t progress beyond Twitter-egg level wordsharts? DrDick and CassandraLeo are Marxist and anarchist, respectively, yet they’re respected by the rest of LGM because they (for the most part) don’t spend most of their time here insulting the commentariat for insufficient purity. You are easily the most pretentious asshat on the site. By a goddamn mile.

                moron

                “Moron?” You’re actively spurned defending any argument beyond “REED TEH ARTICKUL I SIGH TED,” which shows you’re either a) a fucking idiot who can’t defend said arguments, or b) totally disinterested in contributing to the discussion in favor of posturing/getting your ass kissed. Or both.

                Go fuck yourself you narcissistic piece of shit purity troll.

  • Crusty

    Is anyone else getting the ad for a conference featuring a talk from Colin Powell?

  • TopsyJane

    The reality is that the Obamas are members in good standing of the international ruling elite and given this and the Branson bromance it looks like they intend to live in a manner to which they hope to become permanently accustomed and pull in the bucks to support it. Surprise, surprise. After all, we’ve been told ever since 2009 that Obama’s just another center-left pol and we never should have expected anything better, no?

    In truth, I’d like to see him set out a new path and I’d be truly impressed if he did. But he never even hinted at being inclined to do that. Quite the opposite:

    Obama would hardly be the first well-known politician to enter the venture capital or private equity market. Al Gore at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is the most notable example, but there are plenty of others — and he could always ask pals like Tim Geithner (Warburg Pincus) or Deval Patrick (Bain Capital) for their thoughts on the matter.

    • cleek

      where do you buy your hairshirts?

      • TopsyJane

        Who said anything about hairshirts? I presume you are hinting at some sort of hypocrisy involved in asking liberal politicians to consider a higher standard and set a better example.

        In any case, if you read my post, I was pointing out that Obama has never had any such higher standards. (Doesn’t mean that I don’t wish he had them, as I also said.)

  • sibusisodan

    Part of the problem here is separating my visceral reaction to Large Amounts Of Money from participation in the speaking circuit.

    If Obama was doing this for expenses is this a large enough problem? For the the equivalent of one days Presidential pay? Or even for one days CEO pay?

    There is an obscenity to paying nine times the average annual US wage for one hour of speech (also some gladhanding before/after). That would pay for the Obama WH speechwriting team for over a year.

    This is conspicuous consumption. It’s a Veblen good. It’s utterly divorced from value. I have no idea how to move the needle on this.

    • Murc

      If Obama was doing this for expenses is this a large enough problem?

      It would be a much different problem; Barack Obama saying kind words to the Masters of the Universe purely out of the goodness of his heart rather than because he’s been paid off is a different beast entirely.

      • MDrew
        • MDrew

          …My question is, even if he decided he wanted to do this, would he even be able to come up with what needs to be said?

          (Would I? I’m not saying I would.)

      • Little Chak

        Barack Obama saying kind words to the Masters of the Universe purely out of the goodness of his heart rather than because he’s been paid off

        So.

        Why is it assumed that this could be the only reason Barack Obama could have for accepting such a speaking gig?

        I really don’t get it.

        What do you presume Obama says in a speaking gig to bankers? “The Republicans are right: regulation of the financial industry is bad. Sorry I had to pretend to care about establishing regulations and protections that would protect the poor and the lower middle-class from predatory behavior, which the right-wing used to launch the Tea Party and to portray me as the Great Redistributor…at least you all were in on the joke and now we can laugh about it?”

        Why assume that the reason he’s there is because he’s decided to be a useless sell-out blowing smoke up their asses in exchange for cash? Does this really seem like something Barack Obama would do? Really?

        • Murc

          Why is it assumed that this could be the only reason Barack Obama could have for accepting such a speaking gig?

          Basic logic?

          If Barack Obama would not otherwise address this group without being paid nearly half a million dollars, he is doing it because he has been paid off. Hell, you can remove “Barack Obama” from that sentence and replace it with “a person.”

          What do you presume Obama says in a speaking gig to bankers?

          I would assume he gets up there and says generically nice things about them and their enterprise. This is usually what paid celebrity speakers do.

          Why assume that the reason he’s there is because he’s decided to be a useless sell-out blowing smoke up their asses in exchange for cash?

          The giant check that, without which, he would not otherwise be there, is a big clue.

          Does this really seem like something Barack Obama would do?

          Evidently yes, because he is doing it.

          • Little Chak

            Basic logic?

            That’s *not* basic logic.

            That’s ascribing a philosophy about politics to Obama that doesn’t fit him. He’s a pragmatist, and has been for quite some time. He doesn’t believe in disengaging with those with whom he disagrees, or in theatrical political flamethrowing.

            If Barack Obama would not otherwise address this group without being paid nearly half a million dollars, he is doing it because he has been paid off. Hell, you can remove “Barack Obama” from that sentence and replace it with “a person.”

            This makes no sense. You are better than this. Obviously, “a person” is too general, because if the speaker already agrees with all of the institution’s political positions, they can’t really be paid off. But I’ll grant that you meant to refer to people who have political disagreements with big banks. Even so: as has been pointed out numerous times in this thread, the fee the financial institution was willing to pay is the going rate for a paid Obama speaking gig. More liberal companies with deep coffers would pay the same rate. He has, and will, take less money, or none, for speaking at public functions with more direct civic value.

            Your job is to make the case that 1) Obama’s political philosophy is wrong: that he should not engage with people he disagrees with politically, and 2) accepting a fee that is his market value speaking fee and what he would command at, say, Google or Facebook, implies a quid pro quo if he has political disagreements with the organization.

            I would assume he gets up there and says generically nice things about them and their enterprise.

            So you believe that 1) Obama is such a whore that he will prostrate himself before Wall Street banks and whisper sweet nothings about deregulation in their ears, tarnishing his legacy, for a measly $400k, when he has a book deal worth $60m and is a former President who will never want for the rest of his life, and whose kids are also set for life; and 2) unlike universities and the like, Wall Street firms — and the people who work for them and would pay to attend a private Obama speech — are so insanely ideologically insecure that when they fork out $400k for a speech by a former President, what they really want is for him to offer up meaningless, insincere platitudes that are obviously incongruous with what he actually believes and how he governed, rather than speak to them honestly.

            Sure. Makes sense.

            This is usually what paid celebrity speakers do.

            Really? Because my experience with the political celebrities who were paid to come to my campus and speak is that they pretty much never came to waste time singing the praises of the university or other sponsors of the event, and instead came to speak about something they cared about. Scoring a big name had everything to do with the prestige of the name and being able to say “this person spoke here” (and selling tickets), and nothing whatsoever to do with getting the speaker to give some pointless, canned speech about the greatness of my alma mater.

            The giant check that, without which, he would not otherwise be there, is a big clue.

            Luckily for us, Obama is not as cynical as you. I like politicians who look for ways to build compromise, plant seeds in the minds of our opponents, and keep lines of communication open. If I wanted war, I’d be buying guns.

            Another thought: So much of the outrage seems to be over the amount of money for “one hour” of work. I find it very hard to believe that there aren’t hours of prep involved in every speech that Obama gives. When you multiply those hours by 150 ($60m / $400k), I bet you wouldn’t be *all* that far off from the amount of time it takes to write a book.

            If you want to criticize Obama for being rich, because you believe no one should be rich, or because you believe he’s overvalued compared to people with similar fortunes, fine. Make that case.

            If you want to criticize Obama for not being a flamethrowing idealist, fine. I don’t understand the point of it, since he’s always been a pragmatist, but okay.

            However: not being a flamethrower does not make him a sell-out. $400k does not buy them anything but the prestige of being able to hear a former President speak — unless a bunch of people on the left choose to view it cynically, decide that Democrats are no different than Republicans, and Republicans get elected.

            And in that case, it doesn’t even buy them what they want, as 57% of the contributions from Cantor Fitzgerald have gone to Democrats since 1990. And yes, those Democrats did tend to be more business-friendly (Schumer and Clinton, primarily); but they went $137k to Clinton versus $8k to Trump in 2016, and Clinton was hardly running on a neoliberal, vulture-capitalism-friendly platform in 2016.

            • This strikes me as essentially correct. The fact that some people assume that everyone has to have an ulterior motive for (a) offering someone a speaking gig or (b) accepting a speaking gig says a lot of things about their view of human nature.

              And it also suggests that they don’t understand Obama’s politics at all. He has, very clearly, always been a pragmatist and a reformer, and he very clearly seems to believe that people generally have good intentions. Perhaps to a fault, I would say; if I were to criticise him for one thing during his presidency above all others, it would be that he far too often assumed good faith from his opponents where none was merited.

              But that simply isn’t who he is. It’s never been who he was. He has always believed in trying to persuade people, even opponents. The fact that some people don’t recognise this is honestly rather baffling to me.

              I don’t particularly like the existence of a system that creates speaking fees this high. But Obama refusing to engage in it wouldn’t have any practical effect whatsoever on its existence. It would just make some liberals feel good.

              Also, in addition to the fact that one has to prepare to give speeches, I would add that we can probably also count one’s life experiences as contributing to the process of having given them. No one would care nearly as much about hearing Obama speak if he hadn’t been the president. You can rarely write or speak as effectively, and can never speak as authoritatively, about experiences you haven’t had as you can about experiences you have.

              There are a tiny handful of people on the planet (what, five others, I think?) who have even remotely similar experiences to Obama’s, and given that he is the first black man ever elected to the office, there are none who have wholly similar ones. Obama’s speeches wouldn’t be of value without his having had that experience, and you can’t simply say he spent five hours writing the speech or whatever and that’s all the work he did for them. His five hours of work wouldn’t mean a damn thing to anyone if he hadn’t been the president.

              I’ve been writing a ton over the past several months. I used to think I’d wasted several years of my life, because I didn’t accomplish much professionally or academically. But writing more has clarified my perspective. I turned out to have spent most of those years I’d “wasted” writing posts for various internet communities. If I had to guess, I’d suspect I probably wrote several thousand words a day.

              It turns out that there was an intrinsic value to that that neither I nor anyone else had seen at the time. I acquired a skill from that time that I had significantly undervalued until I started showing things I’ve been writing recently to others who have known me. And the life experiences I had during that time, while they didn’t give me any professional qualifications that would advance my career in any meaningful way, also served as unusual experiences that give me a perspective many other people don’t have, because I was dealing with a disorder that not many people have and whose sufferers don’t always learn to communicate clearly with the outside world, even verbally. Many people who get the diagnosis simply shut down and don’t even leave the house, because they are hopeless, and they think there is no way they will ever be able to function in society. There aren’t many public examples of having this disorder and being able to live a functional life, but it’s not completely impossible, and it can be improved. And, to a large extent, improving this problem has actually become a major life purpose of mine.

              Because I spent so much time writing for an audience of others who may not understand the world in the same way, I honed a skill that I feel has given me a rather unusual perspective on the world that has rarely been expressed: I learned how to write for audiences that think about the world in radically different ways than I do.

              In short, I have a rather unique perspective on the world. It may not be entirely unique, but there aren’t many accounts dealing with experiences like mine. In emotional terms, of all works of fiction I have ever experienced, the one that comes closest to mirroring my own life story is, in fact, Moonlight, which concerns a completely dissimilar form of marginalisation, but still concerns the same kind of struggle with identity and acceptance that marked much of my adult life. I have yet to see one dealing specifically with my kind of experiences; there are certainly stories reflecting the struggles people with my diagnosis deal with, but they don’t fully reflect just how painful our experiences usually are.

              And if you were going to evaluate my writing now on the basis of the time I actively spent writing it, it wouldn’t be that much time. I probably wrote this post in about twenty-five minutes, for example. I have a longer writing that’s around the hundred-page and sixty thousand-word mark that I’ve subjected to heavier revision; I’ve been working on it off and on for about two months, and have probably poured about eighty to a hundred hours of work into it.

              But that would still be the wrong way to assess it, because it’s not coming from merely that eighty hours. It’s coming from the years over which I struggled to come to terms with my existence in a world that communicates in a completely different fashion from mine, and that views introverts in general as fundamentally weird. It’s coming from the time I honed my writing to be able to express myself to people who think and perceive the world differently. It’s coming from experiences of alienation, marginalisation, and suffering that most people don’t have. So that eighty hours, two months, whatever is simply wrong. I wouldn’t have been capable of writing that without my past life experiences, because I wouldn’t have those insights, and I wouldn’t be able to communicate clearly, if I hadn’t had my previous life experiences.

              I hate capitalism overall, but regardless, Obama’s speeches have a value that no one else’s on the planet do, because he has a perspective no one else on the planet has. You can’t discount that. There are perspectives that are almost unique. Sometimes people may be able to learn something from them – particularly from someone like Obama. There are a lot of people who will listen to him, and he’s not the sort of person to make an uncritical speech to high finance. He’s the sort of person who thinks talking to them and trying to persuade them to improve their behaviour might actually work. And you know the crazy part? I don’t even know if he’s wrong. People might listen to him. Especially now, with the current maladministration already making people so nostalgic for his presidency.

            • Murc

              That’s ascribing a philosophy about politics to Obama that doesn’t fit him. He’s a pragmatist, and has been for quite some time. He doesn’t believe in disengaging with those with whom he disagrees, or in theatrical political flamethrowing.

              What that has to do with the matter at hand, I can’t imagine.

              This makes no sense. You are better than this. Obviously, “a person” is too general, because if the speaker already agrees with all of the institution’s political positions, they can’t really be paid off.

              … yes? They can? If they would not speak without the fee, they are, by definition, being paid off. That’s just… that’s how it works.

              Even so: as has been pointed out numerous times in this thread, the fee the financial institution was willing to pay is the going rate for a paid Obama speaking gig.

              Again, what that has to do with anything I don’t know.

              More liberal companies with deep coffers would pay the same rate.

              I would hope a more liberal company would have better sense than to fork over half a million dollars for a guest speaker.

              Your job is to make the case that 1) Obama’s political philosophy is wrong: that he should not engage with people he disagrees with politically,

              I don’t have to make this case at all, because this is a bad case and would be one I disagree with.

              and 2) accepting a fee that is his market value speaking fee and what he would command at, say, Google or Facebook, implies a quid pro quo if he has political disagreements with the organization.

              It does not imply a quid pro quo. It is a quid pro quo. They give him money. He gives them a speech and his presence. That’s an explicit quid pro quo.

              So you believe that 1) Obama is such a whore that he will prostrate himself before Wall Street banks and whisper sweet nothings about deregulation in their ears, tarnishing his legacy,

              I believe no such thing and have not ever made this case.

              2) unlike universities and the like, Wall Street firms — and the people who work for them and would pay to attend a private Obama speech — are so insanely ideologically insecure that when they fork out $400k for a speech by a former President, what they really want is for him to offer up meaningless, insincere platitudes that are obviously incongruous with what he actually believes and how he governed, rather than speak to them honestly.

              I think Wall Street firms would like the prestige of being able to say “we got Barack Obama to come to our event.”

              Really? Because my experience with the political celebrities who were paid to come to my campus and speak is that they pretty much never came to waste time singing the praises of the university or other sponsors of the event, and instead came to speak about something they cared about.

              I will admit; I have seen this as well. My university experience is different from yours; often much of the speech would have to do with the good works the college was/is doing, but yes, I’ve seen what you describe.

              Know what I’ve not ever seen? A paid celebrity speaker show up and afflict those who have paid them. That’s… rare.

              Scoring a big name had everything to do with the prestige of the name and being able to say “this person spoke here” (and selling tickets), and nothing whatsoever to do with getting the speaker to give some pointless, canned speech about the greatness of my alma mater.

              Okay? Sure?

              Luckily for us, Obama is not as cynical as you. I like politicians who look for ways to build compromise, plant seeds in the minds of our opponents, and keep lines of communication open.

              Taking money from villains to lend your prestige to their organizations does not do this.

              If I wanted war, I’d be buying guns.

              The hell have you been? Open political war has been upon us for decades. Since before my birth, and I am no longer young. Whether you want it to be here or not is irrelevant to that.

              If you want to criticize Obama for being rich, because you believe no one should be rich, or because you believe he’s overvalued compared to people with similar fortunes, fine. Make that case.

              I’ve not ever set out to do this.

              $400k does not buy them anything but the prestige of being able to hear a former President speak —

              Yes, and it also says that that former President thought that selling his prestige to bad people who are part of a bad organization for money was a good thing to do.

              • veleda_k

                If they would not speak without the fee, they are, by definition, being paid off.

                Murc, I don’t understand what you mean by this bit. If I wouldn’t go to a job without being paid to do so, does that mean I’m being paid off? And if so, how does the phrase have any meaning whatsoever, considering that everyone who has ever worked for a living has been paid off?

          • efgoldman

            The giant check that, without which, he would not otherwise be there, is a big clue.

            Do you watch sports?
            Do you go to blockbuster movies?
            Do you listen to and buy pop star records, or go to their concerts, or even listen on the radio?
            Do you own an Apple product?
            Do you buy best seller books, or even get them from the library?
            Do you pay for the NYT or the WaPo?
            Do you drive a car?
            Do you take trips on airplanes?
            Do you pay a cell phone company, or a cable/internet provider?
            Do you have a bank account?
            Do you have a retirement account?
            Do you buy groceries in a chain supermarket?
            Do you shop on Amazon?
            Do you patronize WalMart, Target, Kohl’s, Staples, Home Depot, Lowes, Walgreen, CVS, Rite Aid….

            If your answer to any of the above is “yes”, you are a hypocrite sellout. Your motives and your word are not to be trusted.

            Unless you have given up all your worldly goods, sit like Gandhi in a loincloth, covered in ashes, you are in no position to criticize Obama, HRC, or anyone else for “making too much money” or who paid them

            • Murc

              If your answer to any of the above is “yes”, you are a hypocrite sellout. Your motives and your word are not to be trusted.

              Missing: logic, relevance, and any sort of coherent case to be made.

              Unless you have given up all your worldly goods, sit like Gandhi in a loincloth, covered in ashes, you are in no position to criticize Obama, HRC, or anyone else for “making too much money” or who paid them

              First of all, yes, I absolutely can criticize people for making too much money. There are levels of wealth that are obscene and would justify a 100% tax rate. There is nothing hypocritical about that at all.

              This is, however, wholly irrelevant, because I am not, and have not, criticized Barack Obama for “making too much money.”

              Second of all, I absolutely can criticize who people who have no need to work choose to accept money from. There is nothing hypocritical about that either.

    • JonH

      “There is an obscenity to paying nine times the average annual US wage for one hour of speech (also some gladhanding before/after).”

      What if Obama sang with Maroon 5 for an hour? Maroon 5 charges $400k-$600k for a private show.

      • sibusisodan

        Firstly, I can’t decide if I want that to happen or not happen more intensely. (“Let me be very clear: she wiiill be looooved….”)

        Secondly, the point is it’s visceral. Part of my brain just shuts down at money over a large enough amount. It’s all reaction; I don’t necessarily have a considered Scale of Fees that would be acceptable.

        Thirdly, while the market may be functional viewed from within (although that’s questionable if you can spend the same money on either Maroon Five or Obama), it’s detached from the Outside. There is an actual distributional problem of value its a symptom of.

        • pseudalicious

          Let me be very clear: she wiiill be looooved….”)

          this is the best thing i’ve read all week

  • PJ

    Presumably, Citizen Obama would still be consistent with Dem policy if he played by the rules and didn’t attempt to escape those taxes.

    Presumably, this is why we fight for such policy — so that we as a society don’t become dependent on the morality/charity of private individuals for the well being of our people.

    • TopsyJane

      Presumably, Citizen Obama would still be consistent with Dem policy if he played by the rules and didn’t attempt to escape those taxes.

      If that is truly Democratic policy, then there’s something profoundly wrong with it. It’s consistent with Mandelson’s infamous remark about being “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes.” Mandelson has since acknowledged that such a position is indefensible in light of the challenges of globalization and inequality.

      • PJ

        The Democratic party never sold itself as being anti-capitalism.

        • TopsyJane

          Interesting that you’re putting that forward as a justification. The Democratic Party is indeed not anti-capitalist as a matter of policy. But it has been and is capable of doing better, even if you don’t seem to think that’s necessary or desirable.

          • PJ

            Yeah, well, actual socialists don’t hate Franklin Roosevelt for nothing.

            My view is based on actual knowledge of history and a need to keep the Democrats in my head as the tools , not the sole vessels or as extensions of my desire for political change.

            Which means that I, having listened to Barack Obama’s positions and policies as a senator and state legislator, know him to be a very good politician with perfectly anodyne liberal (in the American sense, not the European philosophical history sense) positions who sees private industry as a means for getting various things accomplished and has no desire to collapse it.

            The “better” for him is getting private industry to get pony up some of their exorbitant earnings for public good (through a combination carrot/stick approach) and not be so into destroying it through unregulated products. (This is a sight better than apparently a good portion of the American voting public apparently deserve, who think rich people should just keep everything and not worry about collective well being.)

            Neither of these excludes making money off of it as a private citizen.

            That doesn’t mean that the Democratic party itself cannot be the vehicle for change, but as many people have pointed out, it is a big tent that contains both conservative and leftish elements that need to be reconciled before it becomes more cohesive in pushing for progressive policy.

  • MDrew

    I know the point here wasn’t Comparative Scandalology, but I’d add that the speeches really colored the way the Clinton Foundation was viewed – of and by (and so, people wondered: for?) the very wealthy and elite. Those two things together really created an image problem for her.

    This is not to say that even together they were as big a problem as EMAILZ.

  • Joe_JP

    Looking at the article.

    “Obama’s $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee will undermine everything he believes in”

    Hyperbole. Obama “believes in” a careful approach that involves some interaction with elites and slow, steady change. Him taking the fees, be part of the system so to speak, is part of what he believes in basically. Such avenues will be open; he feels that it is best that ‘our side’ have a seat a them.

    The part about needing a higher standard is different in my view. That very well might be true. Don’t see the need for such high fees (it is partially a matter of scale) and taking it aggravates things overall. Saying he requires transparency including taping/transcripts etc. as suggested in one comment would help. It would set a precedent that can be used to put pressure on others in the future.

    • MDrew

      This is the part of this that I think Dirtbag twitter is doing a pretty good job with right now.

      There apparently remains a good deal of confusion in moderate circles about who and what Barack Obama is.

    • mpavilion

      …yes, to put pressure on other *Democrats* (and Democrats only)! More phony speech scandals that hurt only our side!

      • Joe_JP

        Openness and transparency is something that puts pressure on all sides. Republicans in various ways now accept some disclosure is a necessary part of the process when in the past they would not. And, when they don’t, they will get criticized, again given standards as a whole has increased. Part of the pressure also will be on the institutions doing the paying.

        So, no, I don’t think only one side.

        • mpavilion

          If you say so. I don’t think anyone cares about Republicans speaking for money, or sees any potential ethical lapse when they do it; including/especially Republicans.

          And I don’t see how you pressure “institutions” by charging them with creating an ethical challenge when they engage (former or present) politicians to speak. Obviously they would disagree with the charge of currying favor, and be insulted (even if the [Democratic] politicians themselves might feel some heat).

          TBF, I agree with Boots Day way upthread that “there’s nothing corrupt or ethically questionable or dodgy in any way about this.”

          • Joe_JP

            I realize the presence of double standards in the world here but this is too pessimistic in my view.

            The caring is a matter of degree, of course, but it isn’t merely “Democrats.” Generally speaking, people don’t care much there. Some do: there is an overall distrust of certain powerful deep pocket elites. In marginal cases at least, Republicans very well can be affected.

            Hillary Clinton was specifically targeted even as a Democrat. Obama? Few really care & if they do it’s partially because they actually respect him a bit more than some other people to the degree they think this will taint.

            The concern here is that big pockets are giving large amounts of money to politicians with the expectations of return and/or providing special access to those with deep pockets. At times, it is done behind the scenes out of public view. I find this somewhat concerning. The concern can be taken too far.

            As to pressure, the institutions want people like Obama there. The institutions will be willing to include some things like more transparency or whatnot in return for that. Now, if you don’t really think that’s important fine, but doesn’t seem unlikely.

  • JonH

    Actually, since it was a conference, IMHO it takes a bit of the taint off. The conference attendees probably had to pay a significant fee to attend. Obama was likely brought in to help attract attendees and their registration fees. Obama’s fee was probably paid out of the registration fees, so any given attendee’s contribution was probably only a thousand bucks or so. Not remotely enough quid for a pro quo.

    Anyway, if the conference wanted Mumford and Sons to perform it’d cost $500k-$700k (at least it would in 2014). Apparently an appearance by “Myth Busters”, presumably the show cast, cost $100k-$150k. Even Creed was asking $100k+. Creed. So $400k isn’t exactly outlandish considering what other people charge.

    I think we can all agree that Obama would be 4 times better than Creed.

    • Rob in CT

      This strikes me as a fair point (the conference bit).

      • Ronan

        You dont think Obama is 4 times better than creed?!

        • I think he would be much more than 4 times better than Creed. And I say this as someone who still thinks their first album wasn’t nearly as bad as people said it was.

  • JonH

    What if Obama spoke to a convention of abusive private prison wardens and guards, and earned $400,000, but there were 40,000 conventioneers and each paid $10 to attend the speech?

    • Ronan

      What if there was a bomb in the convention centre and Obama had to torture a random prison guard to get the code to disarm it?

  • wengler

    If you are waiting for rich people to stop jerking each other off, you are going to be waiting for a very long time.

  • JonH

    “Insist That Obama Be The Change You Wish To See In The World”

    • Ronan

      Seems to be closer to ‘hope that Obama becomes part of the change that you want to see from Ex Presidents’

      • mpavilion

        LOL, the living Democratic ex-Presidents already set an incredibly high standard for ex-Presidents, in terms of public service and civic engagement (I’ll throw almost-President Gore in there, too).

        But not high enough for the self-defeating Purity Patrol, apparently! [<–not directed at anyone specific here, but please allow me this bit of frustrated snark]

        • Ronan

          “<–not directed at anyone specific here, but please allow me this bit of frustrated snark"

          Allowed. I often enjoy a bit of frustrated snark myself (from time to time) ; )

      • JonH

        The language used in reference to Obama is a bit stronger than mere hope.

  • AMK

    This sort of thing absolutely does hurt Dems though, because low-info types we need can’t compartmentalize on policy and so fall hard for the “hypocrisy!!!” attacks.

    Liberal “elites” don’t give a shit because we’re generally not hard up for money and we don’t see a conflict as long as someone holds the right positions on issues and can be reasonably held to them. But the rest of the country does not think that way.

    • Rob in CT

      This is basically my thinking on the matter. Yeah, sure, you may shrug at it (and I’m really not particularly personally worked up about it). But a bunch of other people – people who might swing some elections – may not.

      • PunditusMaximus

        As a left wing Purity Troll, I would be upset if Obama’s fealty to money and status were capable of bothering me after all this time. The man is who he is.

        • PJ

          Congrats on self-awareness!

    • PJ

      Democrats offer to take money from rich people all the time — in the form of progressive taxation, various social welfare programs, regulation.

      It’s not their fault that a bunch of people see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

    • efgoldman

      This sort of thing absolutely does hurt Dems though, because low-info types we need can’t compartmentalize on policy and so fall hard for the “hypocrisy!!!”

      99% of them neither know nor care.

  • PunditusMaximus

    I can’t see any reason why Obama, who explicitly shielded these people from prosecution, should be expected not to collect on the debt they incurred thereby.

    • Ronan

      And so it begins….

      • PunditusMaximus

        You’re just mad that he is proving us right and you don’t want us to be right.

    • nemdam

      I’m sure the only reason Obama didn’t prosecute was so he could make like $1 million dollars on the speaking circuit.

      If this is true, I would be more mad at how low his price was then the fact he accepted a bribe.

    • gccolby

      You’re still ridiculous, but thanks for buttressing my point upthread that, naive and silly though it is to see these speaking fees as quid-pro-quo for services rendered, many people do believe that’s what they are.

      • efgoldman

        many people do believe that’s what they are.

        Define “many people” and then put them in a Venn diagram against actual voters.

    • JonH

      I don’t actually recall Cantor Fitzgerald being mentioned in any of the crash post-mortems.

  • Simple Mind

    As HistoryUnfolding wrote, the system was good to Obama and so he did little in the way of the progressive agenda. And it is clear Obama views these $400k a piece talks as part of the SystemGoodToMe package. We will never again see the modesty of a Truman.

    • PJ

      [Nevermind, too easy.]

    • PunditusMaximus

      I appreciate Truman but I would never say that a retired President should not take on paying work that is in his field. Truman would almost certainly been an excellent corporate board member if he had chosen to take that challenge on.

      • heckblazer

        My recollection is that Truman was only a mediocre haberdasher.

        • wjts

          But a pretty good artillery officer.

  • Morse Code for J

    Oh, JFC.

    We are in our fourth month under a President who is funneling cash to himself by spending his weekends at his properties, enriching businesses from which he has made no attempt to distance himself. He may or may not have received or continue to receive money from foreign sources with the understanding of a criminal or unethical quid pro quo (e.g., laundering stolen state funds). His family members trade openly on his influence to secure economic benefits such as trademarks from foreign governments. More succinctly, Donald Trump is explicitly for sale.

    On the other hand, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have given speeches and written forgettable, self-congratulatory books for money, and it’s not clear that the speaking fees made any difference in how they conducted themselves in or out of office.

    But both sides…actually, no. Fuck this misplaced Caesar’s-wife bullshit.

  • PunditusMaximus

    I am absolutely baffled.

    I had no problem with HRC cashing out. I have absolutely no problem with Obama cashing out. Obama is already rich but that is seriously a ton of money for like no effort.

    Just don’t run for office AFTERWARDS.

    TL;DR: MattY is always wrong.

  • SNF

    My first instinct is that voters don’t actually care that much about ethical lapses or corruption because Donald Trump is president, and his open kleptocracy doesn’t seem to be hurting him.

    But maybe like so much else in politics these days, it’s asymmetrical. Maybe Republicans can be corrupt and voters don’t care, but when Democrats do anything that looks questionable people get upset.

    • gccolby

      The truly exceptional corruption of Donald Trump can be blinding. The take-away message should be that Hillary Clinton was sufficiently hurt by allegations of corruption that were unfair, yes, but sufficient to make her unpopular enough to lose to Trump. And the key argument here is she could have done more to help herself. With more “normal” candidates, this issue should be considered more important, not less.

      • PJ

        No, the key argument here is that Americans voted in droves for a racist, sexist kleptocrat, thereby implying that none of that good government/conflict of interest shit actually matters to them.

        • gccolby

          No, the key argument here is that Americans voted in droves for a racist, sexist kleptocrat, thereby implying that none of that good government/conflict of interest shit actually matters to them.

          Evidence from polling shows conclusively this is wrong, but why let facts get in the way of a good sound bite?

          • PJ

            What polling?

            The polling that says people who tended to vote for Trump were also fearful of things like immigration and black people?

            The fact that actual lower income people voted for HRC instead of Trump?

            • gccolby

              No, the polling that showed that late deciders (i.e. undecided voters, i.e. the voter demo that still decides elections despite the efforts of some people to argue them out of existence) broke decisively for Trump and that Trump’s behavior is in fact wildly unpopular.

              You’d think Trump had higher favorability ratings and got a bigger share of the popular, based on your analysis that people “don’t care” about this shit. But they DO care, and neither of these things is true! Obviously, Trump was helped along by a complicit media and an undemocratic electoral system. We can and should be loudly critical of all these things, but we should also acknowledge that it’s both in our best interest and the right thing to do for our politicians to avoid even the superficial appearance of grifting. That’s the Republican playbook, yes, and they can keep it to themselves for all I care.

              • PJ

                I am having trouble deciphering what I’m supposed to be convinced by here. Apparently a maniac who made no effort to hide his grift during the entire election process was elected because HRC was the subject of relative nothingburgers that became late-breaking click-bait?

                Look — the fact that Trump was competitive AT ALL should mean something significant. That fact that any Republicans at this point are competitive should prove that all of this ethics/responsible governance shit is a canard.

                • gccolby

                  That fact that any Republicans at this point are competitive should prove that all of this ethics/responsible governance shit is a canard.

                  This argument is wrong both on the facts and morally. Trump. Was. Not. Popular. Less so than Clinton, in fact! He lost the popular vote. By a lot! The Republicans, and perhaps Trump in particular, have structural and undemocratic advantages to reduce their vulnerability on these issues. That doesn’t mean Clinton’s or Obama’s willingness to take huge sums of money for speaking gigs to the corporate elite looks good!

                  And you know what? Even if you were right and this is all just a canard (you’re not, and it isn’t), it’s still wrong! The cynicism on display here is really horrific. This is an area where we can ask our politicians to hold to a higher standard without hurting their electability one bit! Why would we say no to that!?

                • Because then we’re holding our politicians to a standard that Republicans and the media don’t hold theirs to. Republicans don’t care. We’re the only ones that give a shit about things like this, and when we start eating our own we end up with 2000 and 2016.

                  I sympathise with your argument somewhat, to be fair. I’m just tired of it. People are getting deported with Gestapo-like tactics by ICE right now and I can’t really muster the enthusiasm to get mad at a self-made black man getting speaker’s fees. Yes, the fees are ridiculous. But it’s not as if his refusing to collect them would cause them to stop existing or the system that created them to stop existing.

                  As much as I hate the cliché “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” it seems more or less correct here. We should be attacking the system that creates these fees in the first place. Attacking Obama (or any other Democratic politician) for it is applying an incorrect focus. It’s focusing on a symptom, not the root cause. And yes, maybe if Obama refuses these fees, it might inspire a few more people to follow his example. But the system won’t go away by his doing it, just as global warming won’t stop if you drive a Tesla, and he might also be able to say things in these speeches that inspire people to improve their behaviour. There are certainly a lot of people who’d be more willing to listen to him than to me.

                • Spider-Dan

                  ^^^1000x what CassandraLeo said.

                  Allow me to elaborate:

                  This is an area where we can ask our politicians to hold to a higher standard without hurting their electability one bit!

                  Would you say that Bernie’s constant primary drone that Wall Street owned Hillary, followed by Trump’s cynical repetition of it in the general, did not hurt her electability one bit? I certainly wouldn’t.

                  If you want to attack the system and get laws passed that prevent politicians, as a whole, from accepting private money, go nuts! I’m in favor of it. But attacking Democrats over it is all downside and no upside, because Republicans are utterly immune to such attacks. In fact, they don’t even consider it an attack!

                • gccolby

                  Here are my primary points of contention:

                  1. “Republicans/the media don’t care,” is non-responsive. No shit, they don’t care! The GOP is the party of big business. When they cozy up to big business, no one cares because that’s their whole brand. The Dems, on the other hand, present themselves as the party of the little guy. Cozying up to big business, when you’re a Dem, undermines the whole brand. This isn’t complicated. People feel differently about different parties doing the same thing because the parties are positioned differently on these issues.

                  2. The amount of slander that will stick to a Democratic nominee is not actually totally independent of that candidates decisions and actions, despite the relentless claims to the contrary by some people around here. I voted for Clinton in the primary and found the accusations of corruption extremely distasteful, but while they were over the top and unfair, they had actions by both Hillary and Bill they could latch on to.

                  3. There is actually a big difference between accepting campaign donations from people in finance and taking huge personal paychecks to speak for an hour at fancy corporate events thrown by companies with a rooting interest in policy actions. This difference will be elided by the more obnoxious Sandernista types, but it’s pretty recognizable to most sane people.

                  4. Saying liberal politicians maybe shouldn’t do certain things because it looks bad does not constitute “eating our own.” Even accepting that the buy-in to RW conspiracy theories from some on the left contributed to Clinton’s negatives and her loss doesn’t release Democratic politicians forever more from criticism from the left. We have to be reasonable about it, but lest we forget this is part of why we have primaries in the first place, because there is intra-party disagreement on issues. Those of us who are agreeing with this piece by Yglesias are making the criticism because we think more scrupulous behavior by Democrats will help party unity and reduce our vulnerability in general elections. I reject the idea that the lesson of 2016 is never to criticize a Democrat under any circumstances ever.

                • Spider-Dan

                  In order:

                  1. The idea that accepting money “hurts the whole brand” is only true if the left continues to use it as a point of attack on Democrats. It is a perfectly reasonable and rational response to say, “This is the system we have, and elections cost money. We can work to change the system for everyone, but unilateral disarmament just means more Republicans win.”

                  2. Clinton Rules; everything she’s done is bog-standard. We’ve discussed this at length above.

                  3. The fundamental premise behind why one should not accept money is that it makes one beholden to the interests of those that give the money. I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why accepting money to win elections makes one less beholden than accepting money for personal gain. However, that’s not to say I haven’t heard that argument: it’s the primary principle behind the Citizens United decision, one that most people here would disagree with.

                  4. No one is advocating that we “never criticize a Democrat under any circumstances ever.” I don’t hear anyone saying, “leave Rahm Emanuel alone!” What we’re advocating is that Democrats not engage in friendly fire over an issue that needs to be solved at the systemic level, not the individual level. Think about what the “perfect” Democratic Party would look like under this mantra: one that did not accept any money from corporate interests. This party would get slaughtered in elections across the nation.

                  We need to advocate for changing the rules, not for voluntarily handcuffing our side while the other guys run wild.

                • gccolby

                  Part of “solving this at the systemic level, not the systemic level,” is for individuals to wise up and start saying “no.” This isn’t a population-scale issue. The number of Democratic former high-ranking government officials and ex-presidents who can pull these gigs is actually quite small! “Fix the systemic problem,” is weak tea. Sure, fix the systemic official. In the meantime, say “no thanks.”

                  Claiming that this is about the Clinton Rules is more weak tea straw person nonsense. It’s not wrong because Clinton did, its wrong full stop. That it is, as you say “big standard” is the whole goddamned argument! That’s why it’s a liberal liability, not just a Clinton one.

                  When you keep insisting that this is Clinton Rules (nope, the article cited is arguing for all Dems, Obama in particular to stop doing this) and that it would cripple Dems to not take corporate money (nope, we’ve all said repeatedly that campaign donations are a different matter), it’s hard to believe that you’re really arguing in good faith. The line of attack on “Wall Street donations” originates from the requirement that donors list their occupation. Tally up donations from donors working in the financial services industry, and boom! That’s where you get your “$17.5 in Wall Street donations,” attack line. We all know this is bullshit, and it’s transparently different from having Goldman Sachs cut you a check. That’s why the argument isn’t that no Dems receive “corporate money” ever again. It would also be wrong if GS or whoever had HRC/Obama/whoever out to speak and donated it to any of their political organizations or affiliates. There’s a big difference between a payday for a corporate speaking gig and not specifically-solicited campaign donations. Your contention that we “shouldn’t handcuff ourselves,” is irrelevant. More scruples in post-presidential cashing-in isn’t going to “handcuff” anyone.

                  Anyway I’m done here. You’d think “hey, maybe the former Democratic President should reconsider cashing in with big corporate speaking gigs that look sleazy and hypocritical,” would be an uncontroversial take, but apparently it’s the God-given right of liberals to do the same things conservatives do no matter how bad it looks when we do it.

                • gccolby

                  Argh. Many typos in my last comment (stupid iPhone), so here’s the real final one.

                  1. The idea that accepting money “hurts the whole brand” is only true if the left continues to use it as a point of attack on Democrats. It is a perfectly reasonable and rational response to say, “This is the system we have, and elections cost money. We can work to change the system for everyone, but unilateral disarmament just means more Republicans win.”

                  This is worth quoting because it’s so illustrative of how you’re missing the point. Obama isn’t running for office! The cost of elections is completely irrelevant to the argument anyone has made. “Non-responsive” barely begins to describe this argument.

                  And in fact, because the Dems would like to position themselves as the party of the little guy as opposed to the party of big business, a) you don’t need attacks from the Left for this to look bad, and b) the Left kinda has a point! Not to mention “hey, stop attacking us on hypocrisy from the Left, you’re making us look bad,” is a non-starter. It’s not going to happen. HRC and Obama and future Democratic candidates don’t need to pretend to be anti-capitalism or anything, but as welfare state liberals who think the market economy is a good thing and claim to want to regulate big business, cozying up to those big businesses undermines the “regulation” part. At which point, you’ve got nothing left.

                • Spider-Dan

                  Your argument is that it is morally wrong to accept money from big corporate interests, but you claim there is a distinction between accepting the money as a personal paycheck vs. for your campaign. Given the entire movement against Citizens United – a movement based on the principle that accepting political donations is inherently corrupting – I propose that whatever difference that exists, if any, is too miniscule to be of relevance.

                  As for Obama, the argument you are making and the outcome you want to achieve make his political status irrelevant. To wit:

                  Why should Obama reject corporate payouts?
                  Because it’s immoral and compromises his values.
                  OK, Obama agrees with you and stops taking them.
                  So what does that say about Democrats who are running for office and accept corporate payouts? That they are willing to accept immoral, corrupting payouts as long as it helps them get elected?

                  This is why your framing doesn’t work. We have to change the system, not scapegoat individuals who don’t handicap themselves.

      • gccolby

        The take-away message should be that Hillary Clinton was sufficiently hurt by allegations of corruption that were unfair, yes, but sufficient to make her unpopular enough to lose to Trump.

        I want to acknowledge that is overselling a bit. I don’t mean to say it’s at all clear the Goldman-Sachs speeches were themselves decisive, but they were bad optics and were completely avoidable and foreseeable in a way that the email scandal, for example, wasn’t.

    • xq

      A lot of people have said this in this thread, but I don’t get it. All evidence we have is that Trump had a pretty large negative candidate effect in the election, at least in terms of popular vote, and his approval ratings are far below any other modern president at this stage of their presidency.

      Yes, the open corruption hurts him. Probably. Hard to say for sure. But it’s at least consistent with the evidence.

      • gccolby

        The number of takes that utterly discard his substantial popular vote loss and historic unpopularity is just baffling.

        And the number of people willing to say “fuck it, nothing matters,” is just depressing.

        • PunditusMaximus

          The number of takes that discard his winning of the GOP nomination and gaining 45%+ of the vote are dispiriting.

          And the number of people willing to say “The beatings will continue until morale improves” is depressing.

  • PunditusMaximus

    You don’t hate Mondays; you hate Capitalism.

  • boredtotears

    If there was ever a comment thread at LGM that clarifies the self-satisfied ignorance and insensate stupidity which cost the Democratic party the election–and let’s face it, there is some pretty stiff competition for the title–this is the one.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      welll. aren’t *you* just the cherry on top of the shit sundae

  • DrS

    As far as financial firms go, Cantor Fitzgerald seems alright, based on the standard of financial firms.

    however, given how much democratic constituencies got fucked over by finanicial firms, even under Democratic governance, it’s a bad look.

  • GlennS

    If he turns down the speaking fee what would have been the point in refusing to prosecute Wall Street frauds and misrepresentations that created the Global Financial Crisis? Obama is a young guy and he has a life time of high living including vacations in the Caribbean and South Pacific to pay for.

    • PunditusMaximus

      +1. The reason those of us who care about such things were appalled by HRC’s cashing in is that we thought it was a signal that she might conceivably be as utterly vile as Obama was on this set of issues. Once you’ve gone ahead and been profoundly evil, you may as well cash the damn check.

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