News & Politics

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates Takes Issue With Obama Being Paid for Speeches

President Barack Obama makes remarks during his news conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Lima, Peru, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates is a big fan of former President Barack Obama. He was vocal in his love for the first black president from the start, so that’s no surprise. Yet Coates doesn’t give Obama carte blanche to just do whatever.

During an interview with National Review, Coates took issue with Obama accepting speaking fees.

“I sent him a letter about when he started doing the speeches, when the speech money came out,” Coates argued. “I thought that was bad.”

When asked whether he thought it was bad that Obama was paid, Coates replied, “I thought it was bad, yeah. I thought it was bad, so I just sent a letter.” Coates added, “And I sent the letter because I didn’t want to extend my term as interrogator of Barack Obama … I really did not want to continue with that at all.”

There’s just one problem with that. Weinstein asked the important question: “Do you not accept money for speeches?”

Coates replied, “I do, but I don’t owe my prominence to the democratic process and people investing their hopes and dreams in me, which I think is a little different.” He added: “I just think that you take money from a group of people, and you end up around them quite a bit, and that probably affects your worldview.”

In other words, it’s OK for Coates to be compensated for his time, but Obama shouldn’t.

Look, I’m a capitalist. I’m less bothered by the idea that Obama would accept money for speeches — $400,000 for one speech, according to a report back in September — than I am by the fact that someone is willing to pay to hear Obama talk.

I’m not an Obama fan in the least, but Coates is out of line here. Obama has every right to accept any money offered to him for legal services he wishes to perform. It’s no different than Coates, a man noted for writing non-fiction, for stepping up and accepting money to write a comic book. Some could take serious issue with that, after all. Why should Coates be immune while Obama isn’t?

Yes, Obama is a former president of the United States, but that’s also why he does things like this.

Let’s be honest here. After you’ve been POTUS, what else is there for you to do? What kind of jobs can you get? Keep in mind that the Secret Service gets a say in anything you do, after all, so what are your options?

As a former president, however, people will want to hear your thoughts on various issues. Yes, even Obama’s. They’ll pay good money to hear those thoughts, even.

Why shouldn’t Obama accept? Hell, even if he’s demanding that much, so what? He’ll either get it or he won’t. The market will decide what’s right and wrong in that regard.

No one needs a hypocritical Coates to tell us.