“I found myself spending time with people of means — law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists,” Senator Barack Obama wrote in his book “The Audacity of Hope.” “As a rule, they were smart, interesting people. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale.”
He wrote in 2006: “I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met. I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of … the people that I’d entered public life to serve.”
Is it a betrayal of that sentiment for the former president to have accepted a reported $400,000 to speak to a Wall Street firm? Perhaps not, but it is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics now joins almost every modern president in cashing in. And it shows surprising tone deafness, more likely to be expected from the billionaires the Obamas have vacationed with these past months than from a president keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent.
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, began their post-White House careers with twin book deals reported to be worth as much as $65 million.
Since Gerald Ford enriched himself with speaking fees and board memberships after leaving office, every former president but Jimmy Carter has supped often at the corporate table. It’s not beyond imagining that Mr. Obama could break with a practice whose ills he observed so astutely, and which contributed to the downfall of the Democrat he hoped would cement his legacy. The tens of millions that Hillary Clinton raised from speaking to corporate interests most likely haunts her now — or should.
Eric Schultz, an Obama adviser, said in a statement. “President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record.”
From Mr. Obama’s earliest days in government, he wrestled with what it means to be a representative public servant in an era of purchased influence. He didn’t always make the right decisions, he acknowledged. Now, as he commits to building future American leaders, we have the audacity to hope he’ll set a higher standard for past presidents.
source-nyt,, eric schultz,