Former President Barack Obama is garnering criticism for netting a whopping $400,000 for his first major speech since leaving office—a speech to Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald, scheduled to take place in September.
Progressives were deeply disappointed by Obama's approach to Wall Street during his presidency, and many are condemning his lucrative Wall Street speaking fee as an apparent retroactive reward for his administration's soft stance toward the one percent.
While Obama railed against "fat cat bankers" on the campaign trail, during his tenure as president he oversaw the massive bailout for the firms responsible for the 2008 crisis, picked former Wall Street executives for his cabinet, and not a single banker went to jail.
As Aaron Blake writes in the Washington Post, there are many problems with the arrangement:
George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did this, too, as have Hillary Clinton, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. And the more that Wall Street firms give out-of-office presidents and big-name politicians these paydays, the more they become the norm. Other presidents will know that such payments are on the table, and it risks coloring their decisions with regard to Wall Street and special interests.
Which is already happening with Obama, retroactively.
"Whether fair or not, it's not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for [the lack of prosecutions for anybody involved in the financial crisis]. In that way, it's tough on both precedent and Obama's presidency," Blake observes.
Blake and others also point out that Obama himself criticized such arrangements in his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope:
Almost as though Obama explained himself why giving $$$ speeches to banksters is bad https://t.co/IT5RnyawaT
— Jonathan Cohn (@JonathanCohn) April 26, 2017
Moreover, observers note that at a time when Democrats are framing President Donald Trump as an enemy of working people, it seems as though the party wouldn't want the former Democratic president to receive such stunning speaking fees from Wall Street. Indeed, right-wing outlet Fox News appeared to jump at the chance to describe the fee as a "huge payday" for Obama.
Many journalists and commentators also took to Twitter to condemn the speech:
oh just because Obama let Wall Street guys get away with the biggest fraud in history, he shouldn't take $400,000 to give a speech to them?
— sick transit, gloria (@samknight1) April 26, 2017
Since leaving office, Obama has:
-Gone yachting with R. Branson
-Endorsed an investment banker in France
-Taken 400K for a Wall St speech
— Luke Savage (@LukewSavage) April 25, 2017
This is what Obama said literally the same day his $400K Wall Street speech was revealed. The, er, um ... audacity pic.twitter.com/P3hTwOPZ6j
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) April 25, 2017