Monday, July 17, 2017

Obama Speaking Fees Redux

So, to follow up on my last post, Obama Drunk the Speaking Fees Kool-Aid, which was on my quote that keeps on re-quoting, about a day or so after my double re-quoted quote appeared, it made another appearance, this time on Romper. The piece, by Kenza Moller, isn't dated, so I'm not sure if it appeared on the same day as the others, April 25th, or the next day, April 26th, or on the day it came to my attention, April 27th, but in any event, the title of the article is Why Is Obama Getting Paid For His Speeches? It's Common Practice For Former Presidents.

Okay now, so let's get to it. Here's how the article begins:

President Barack Obama is back from his post-administration vacation visits to Hawaii and French Polynesia, and he's already been busy. He spoke at the University of Chicago on Monday, and he's headed to an awards ceremony in Boston next, followed by a string of private paid speeches both at home and abroad. The former president's new—and reportedly impressive—payroll for these speeches has already drawn criticism from some, and several people are asking why Obama is now getting paid for his speeches.

According to Fox, one of Obama's upcoming speeches, which will reportedly take place at a Wall Street conference put on by Cantor Fitzgerald LP, will earn him a reported $400,000—which is roughly the amount that he would make in an entire year as president. Obama is also intending to give paid speeches in both Europe and the United States, and all of those talks are likely to earn him a pretty penny.

Now, you may remember from my last post that I don't believe that Obama's decision to take a big payday from this major Wall Street firm was the best move, given all that is happening with his successor, and that it tarnishes Obama's own image, which for some is near saintly. So, I give Moller credit for bringing up the fact that Obama's choice is open to criticism:

Some people criticize the idea of former presidents earning money for speaking engagements after vacating the White House, while others see it as their own personal business. According to Politico, Harry Truman once said he had "a very strong feeling about any man, who has the honor of being an occupant of the White House in the greatest job in the history of the world, who would exploit that situation in any way, shape or form."

Still, all in all, Moller takes the same position as Shaw did in my last post, excusing Obama by saying that others have done it before him (which, to my mind, is no excuse at all):

Both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, however, have responded to questions about their speech circuits with a more laissez-faire—and practical—approach, with each citing their needs to "make a living" and "pay the bills." So why not turn their global fame into a speaking gig? As private citizens who are no longer on the presidential payroll (except for receiving an annual pension), it's really their own prerogative.

Obama's new role as a funded speaker is also hardly new territory for anyone who has made waves in politics, either: Obama joins both George H.W. and George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and others in collecting fees for speeches. And according to Fortune, past presidents' inflated prices make perfect sense, economically, since they bring a level of influence to the event that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Okay now, brace yourself, here it comes:

"The speech is kind of secondary to ... just being able to have a big name at your event," Lance Strate, a communications professor at Fordham University, told Fortune in 2015. "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 go again. And now, for the concluding paragraph, and while I don't quite agree with Moller's conclusion, at least there's some acknowledgement that there is cause for criticism regarding this practice:

Just like other former presidents have, Obama is likely to keep drawing criticism for charging for his speeches. However, now that he's no longer tied to politics, there's really no reason he shouldn't be using his private time and expertise in order to craft a new career as a public speaker.

Yes, well, he can craft a new career while showing some discretion and discrimination about who he accepts speaking fees from. Anyway, that my view on what is, after all, a minor matter in the grand scheme of things. And you might think that the story of all this ends here, but not quite, there's still room for one more post, a very significant post indeed, coming up next time!

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