Friday, January 27, 2017

Whither Obama?

So, I know many of us are missing Barack Obama more and more every day, and he did say he was taking an extended, and well earned vacation. And he also said that when he gets back to work, he wants to help the Democrats do better in local and statewide politics, a badly needed effort, to be sure.

But this post looks back to an item that appeared right before the 2016 presidential election, courtesy of the UK's Independent. Dated November 4, 2016, the title of the article is, How much money could Barack Obama earn after leaving the White House? And it is followed by a subtitle that says, Mr Obama will receive an annual pension of $203,700. And it is always important to acknowledge the author, which in this case is Matt Payton. So, you know the drill, you can click on the title of the article to read it on the newspaper's website, or stick around are read it here.

The article is more or less informational, starting off with the following:

Barack Obama leaves the White House, the third President in a row to have spent two full terms as commander-in-chief.

Before winning the the 2008 Presidential election, he served three years in the US Senate (2005 to 2008) and seven years in the Illinois State Senate (1997-2004).

Following nearly 20 years in public office, there has been much speculation in regards to his post-Presidential career.

Regarding the next few years, Mr Obama has stated he will remain in Washington DC until his youngest daughter, Sasha, finishes high school.

As standard, every former US President since 1958 receive a pension, with Mr Obama set to receive $203,700 (£162,798) per annum.

Other than his repeated intention to play more golf, the 55-year-old leader of the free world has a number of options:

At this point, the article moves into a speculative mode, listing six possibilities, starting with the following:

1. The political memoir

A traditional first project of former Presidents looking to sculpt their own legacy.

Bill Clinton reportedly received a $10 million (£7.9 million) advance for his presidential memoirs with George W. Bush allegedly receiving $7 million (£5.6 million) for his memoir, Decision Points.

Mr Obama already made millions with his two previous memoirs Dreams of My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006).

Publishers have described his presidential memoirs as the most hotly anticipated with advances estimated between $25 million (£19.9 million) and $45 million (£35.9 million), reports The New York Times.

I think we can pretty much count on this one, given Obama's intellectual acuity, track record in publishing, and communication skills. Next up we have a topic familiar to longtime readers of this blog:

2. Lecture circuit

Another popular post-Presidency side-line, former White House residents can net millions making paid speeches at universities and corporate venues across the world.

While his father, President George H.W. Bush reportedly earns $10,000 (£7,990) per speech, George W. Bush earns between $100,000 (£79,900) to $175,000 (£139,840) per appearance.

Bill Clinton was reportedly paid $225,000 (£179,795) for an appearance in February 2014, reports Fortune. Communications professor at Fordham University, Lance Strate said: "The speech is kind of secondary to… just being able to have a big name at your event.

"It might get reported on some form of TV or cable news, which further adds to the prestige and the publicity of the event."
So, there I am, being quoted, and actually this is another case of being re-quoted, a quote in an older article being used in a new article. In fact, I have a whole history on this subject, and you can see it unfold via my previous blog posts, first Giant Speaking Fees-Fi-Fo-Fum, then Of Fees, Futility, and Mike Huckabee, and A Fortune in Speakers' Fees, and then Long-Shot Candidates in the Marketplace, and its follow-up, Why Run & Other Answers to Political Questions. Funny how something small like that just keeps echoing and re-echoing around the digital canyon.

All right then, that's how this article came to my attention, as you might have guessed. But while we're at it, let's see what else comes up on the list, shall we? And the next item demonstrates, if nothing else, that someone doesn't know how to count, as it's mislabeled number 2, and far be it from me to change the quote and correct it:

2. Buy a sports team

President Obama has mentioned his dream of part-owning an NBA basketball franchise⏤his first sporting love. The advance for his memoirs could make this a realistic proposition.

He told GQ last year: "I have fantasized about being able to put together a team and how much fun that would be. I think it’d be terrific."

His predecessor, George W. Bush had owned a stake in the Major League Baseball team, the Texas Rangers, before selling up in 1998 for a cool $14.9 million.

Considering he made an initial $606,000 investment in 1989, that's a decent level of profit.
Maybe the mistake in numbering was due to the farfetched quality of this item? Whatever the reason, the misnumbering continues, as we move on to the fourth item:

3. College professorship

The hottest contender for his post-Presidential career, Mr Obama has spoken frequently about returning to teach law at College.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Mr Obama said: "I love the law, intellectually. I love nutting out these problems, wrestling with these arguments.

"I love teaching. I miss the classroom and engaging with students."

As to where, there are three obvious choices; Columbia where he was an undergraduate political science major, Harvard where he graduated from law school or the University of Chicago where he taught previously.

Columbia is seen as the front runner after the college's president said at the 2015 convocation he was looking forward to "welcoming back our most famous alumnus... in 2017."

Mr Obama would not be the first politician to return to academia, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice returned to Stanford University as a politics professor.

At some of the wealthiest and most prestigious American colleges, top professors can earn six figure salaries⏤tempting enough for a former President?
Also, former Vice-President Al Gore taught at Columbia after losing the 2000 presidential election. Speaking on behalf of my profession, I do have to say that Obama's sentiments are admirable, and I bet he's dynamite in the classroom. Of course, this option seems to be more in line with the intellectualism of recent Democratic presidents, as opposed to the Republicans. Not that it has to be that way, although the ivory tower does lean a bit towards the left, making it a context more conducive to liberals than conservatives. But maybe there's some reluctance on the part of folks on the right to have their views challenged and tested? Anyway, the fifth item is also an option that seems to go with a particular political inclination:

4. Social Activism

Probably the least remunerative option but one that holds attraction to both Barack and Michelle Obama.

After graduating from Columbia, Mr Obama spent three years as a community organiser in Chicago.

Both have stated they are committed to their grassroots initiatives such as My Brother's Keeper⏤a mentoring programme for young minority men.

And finally, something that probably would not have been considered as an option until the Clintons:

5. Public office

Mr Obama has made it very clear that neither he nor his wife would ever seek public office after leaving the White House.

He recently said: She will never run for office, she is as talented and brilliant a person as there is, and I could not be prouder of her, but Michelle does not have the patience or the inclination to actually be a candidate herself.

"That’s one y’all can take to the bank.”

The First Lady has categorically backed these sentiments despite groundswell support for her to enter frontline politics.

Mrs Obama said at the South by Southwest festival in March: "I will not run for president. No, nope, not going to do it.

“There is so much that I can do outside of the White House… without the constraints, the lights and the cameras, the partisanship.

"There’s a potential that my voice can be heard by many people that can’t hear me now because I’m Michelle Obama the First Lady, and I want to be able to impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way."
And as much as many of us may admire Michelle Obama, and regard her as having strong potential were she to enter the political arena, dynastic politics is generally not the best thing for democratic government. Growing up, there was this longing for another Kennedy, and while Teddy matured into an excellent elder statesman, his directionless flirtations with running for president were not helpful. His brother Bobby might have been a great one, there is no way of knowing. But John Quincy Adams was not one of the good ones. As for Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, they were fifth cousins, so they don't count. And of course I'd rather have seen Hillary Clinton as president, and for that matter Jeb Bush, but as a basic principle, we are better off without any kind of political aristocracy.

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