News & Politics

What's the Big Deal About Obama Making $400K for Speaking?

President Barack Obama walks up to the podium before speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Anti-capitalist Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have excoriated President Obama for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee on Wall Street. Democrats in general appear to be shocked that their hero has feet of clay and would dirty his hands with dirty money from the super rich.

And Bill Maher tried to compare Obama speaking to Wall Street to Hillary Clinton’s private talks to bankers.

The Hill:

“Are those ‘horrible’ speeches she made to Wall Street and she couldn’t release the transcripts of it?”

Actor and liberal activist Rob Reiner said the comparison isn’t applicable because unlike  with Clinton’s speeches, Obama’s are coming after his political career is entirely over.

“The difference is, ‘Are you in the pocket of Wall Street?’ And [Hillary Clinton] was running for office. He’s not running for anything right now.”

Maher responded that Reiner’s stance seemed hypocritical.

“It kind of looks like, ‘When he’s on our team, we’re okay with it,’ ” said Maher.

“You could say that when a guy is president, he’s looking ahead to that $400,000 payday, and he’s not going to get it if, while he’s president, he’s going to do something to piss them off. So isn’t the best thing to do to take your $10 million book deal? Can’t you live off that?”

Obama landed $65 million for a joint book deal in March, the largest amount ever paid for a presidential memoir.

Earlier in the show, Maher surprisingly did not bring up Obama’s speech while interviewing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading advocate of strict regulations of Wall Street banks.

Warren criticized the speech payout earlier this week, saying she was “troubled” by Obama’s decision.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) went further on Friday, calling the Obama fee “distasteful” and “not a good idea.”

Maher is way, way off base and perhaps off his rocker. Barack Obama was one of the best friends Wall Street has ever had. His financial regulations bill was practically written by Wall Street banks, punishing ordinary brokers for losing money for their clients while allowing big banks to continue their Las Vegas-style gambling with mortgage securities. Another credit shock like the one we experienced in 2008 would precipitate another  credit crunch that would not be so easy to get out from under this time.

But regardless of what he did while president, he’s now out of office. If someone wants to pay the guy a fortune for a 20-minute speech, that’s their problem not ours. It’s not like he’s going to lobby the Trump administration for Wall Street reform. He’s out of politics and if he can get $400K or more per speech, more power to him.

Of course, for a guy who tried to stick it to the rich every chance he got while he was president, it seems a little strange that he should get a pass now while he joins the ranks of the “1%.”