Thursday, April 27, 2017

Obama Harvests His Presidency

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 The Great House on billionaire Richard Branson's private Caribbean island prior to a devastating 2011 fire (source). It has since been rebuilt (click for tour). Cost to rent: $60,000 per night. Branson recently hosted the Obama family there for a post-presidential getaway.

by Gaius Publius

My words fly up, my deeds remain below.
Words without deeds never to heaven go.

    —Barack, Prince of Denmark, Act III, Scene 3

This is a story I didn't want to produce, but fully expected to. For years I've been writing about Barack Obama and his legacy, the one he wants to have and the one he actually has. In 2013 I listed the four economic items Obama wanted to achieve to complete what he considered his legacy list before his presidency ended:
Privatized “Medicare expansion” (the ACA). Benefits cuts for SS and Medicare. Keystone [pipeline built]. TPP [passed]. If Obama gets these four, he’s a happy man, and in his mind he goes out in glory.
He succeeded on the first; tried and tried and tried on the second; bailed on the third only when forced to by popular opposition; and pulled out all the stops, every last one of them, to pass the fourth in the last months of his last year, even as his chosen Democratic successor, Hillary Clinton, under pressure in the primary, finally came out as opposed. (Obama's chosen DNC chair, Tom Perez, was never opposed, nor was anyone else close to his administration, though Perez doesn't talk about that much these days.)

If it weren't for Tea Party and Freedom Caucus Republicans, he'd have been three for four — Social Security "reform" and TPP would have passed. Obama didn't lose for lack of trying.

Obama's real legacy also includes zero bankers jailed for fraud despite the rampant criminal behavior of Wall Street in the run-up to the 2008 economic devastation. As he told a group of Wall Street CEOs in 2009, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." He was right, and proved an effective shield.

For all of those efforts, those that succeeded (passing ACA, protecting Wall Street CEOs) and those that failed (cuts to SS and Medicare, TPP, Keystone), he fully expected to be granted a "Bill Clinton future" — the big money, the big foundation, the international love and acclaim.

You can read about his fundraising for the foundation here. It's quite a story in its own right. You can hear the international acclaim grow stronger by the day, thanks especially to the serendipitous contrast with his successor, Donald Trump. And now the money is starting to flow.

"Bill Clinton Money" 

Fresh from his vacation on privately-owned Necker Island with billionaire Richard Branson, Obama has just inked his first lucrative speaking deal. The fee: $400,000. The venue: Wall Street.

Mark Hensch at The Hill:
Obama to net $400K for Wall Street speech: report

Former President Obama has agreed to speak at a Wall Street conference for $400,000, according to a new report.

Obama will appear at Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s healthcare conference in September, Fox Business Network first reported Monday.

Fox Business said it confirmed Obama’s appearance with senior members at Cantor, a financial services firm.

Obama will serve as the keynote speaker for one day at the company's event, sources there told Fox Business.
The following is from the underlying Fox Business report by Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz, who broke the story. Note the criticism that looks to us like praise (my emphasis):
When he was president he called them “fat cats,” but now he’s likely thanking them for a huge payday.

Former President Barack Obama, less than 100 days out of office, has agreed to speak at a Wall Street conference run by Cantor Fitzgerald LP, senior people at the firm confirm to FOX Business. His speaking fee will be $400,000, which is nearly twice as much as Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, and the 2016 Democratic Party candidate, charged private businesses for such events. [...]

News of Obama’s speaking deal with Cantor, which had yet to be reported, comes as the former president made on Monday his first public comments since leaving office after an extended vacation. In those comments to college students at the University of Chicago, the president spoke broadly about the need for public service and studiously avoided any mention of the current president, Republican Donald Trump, or how he intends to make a living now that he’s a private citizen.

It’s also likely to be a source of criticism against the former president given Obama’s record of attacks against Wall Street bankers for making huge salaries while average Americans were suffering from the ravages of the 2008 financial crisis. Obama, a progressive Democrat, spoke frequently about Wall Street greed during his eight years as president, and now he’s accepting a speaking fee from the industry he singled out as the main culprit of the banking collapse.
I'll return to the Fox piece in a moment. First, about the timing, compare Obama's first post-presidential days to Bill Clinton's immediate post-presidential trajectory (my emphasis):
On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a bill called the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This law ensured that derivatives could not be regulated, setting the stage for the financial crisis.

Just two months later, on February 5, 2001, Clinton received  $125,000 from Morgan Stanley, in the form of a payment for a speech Clinton gave for the company in New York City.  A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, also in New York.  It turns out, Bill Clinton could make a lot of money, for not very much work.
Notice that just like Clinton, who was fresh off his late December win for Wall Street deregulation, Obama is fresh off his highly focused effort to pass TPP in the final days of his own presidency. Unlike Clinton, who won, Obama ultimately failed, but Obama's win would have been much more monumental than Clinton's. Commodities futures deregulation enriched just one industry, though it did help wreck the whole economy. TPP was truly "NAFTA on steroids," a multi-industry monopoly protection scheme, and nearly everyone in America with real money would have benefited, not just the bankers.

By the way, if you compare Obama's speaking fee with Clinton's early fees, you may notice the price has gone up. (Clinton's later fees grew in line with those prices. In 2015 he was getting $500,000 per speech.) A good example of asset inflation — and that's not sarcasm. Everything the rich are buying these days is rocketing up in price. See "Art and real estate are the new gold, says Blackrock CEO."

Word and Deeds

I quoted Gasparino and Schwartz's piece for a reason. In it you can see the double benefit Obama gets — Wall Street reward money, plus undeserved credit for opposing Wall Street while in office.

Fox, in hitting him for hypocrisy — "given Obama’s record of attacks against Wall Street bankers for making huge salaries while average Americans were suffering from the ravages of the 2008 financial crisis" — actually praises him as an kind of "anti-Wall Street warrior" during his presidency, something (a) he certainly was not, but (b) something he desperately wants to be thought to have been.

After all, you can't retire as a "champion of the people" if you don't at least appear to champion the people. And you can't be internationally loved in your "retirement" years if the world sees you as a quid-pro-quo greed head. Managing how the world sees him will be crucial to Obama's success going forward.

And typical of Obama, the issue is words versus deeds. That "record of attacks" was entirely verbal. Obama's deeds were the opposite of attacks; they were entirely supportive. Which is entirely to be expected given the level of funding Wall Street poured into making and keeping him president in the first place:
Wall Street Responsible For One-Third Of Obama's Campaign Funds

One-third of the Obama re-election campaign's record-breaking second-quarter fundraising came from sources associated with the financial sector, the Washington Post reports.

That percentage is up from the 20% of donations that came from Wall Street donors in 2008, and contradicts reports that a growing Wall Street animosity towards the Obama administration may jeopardize his re-election bid.
And please don't forget that Obama's real legacy, the one involving actual deeds, includes what David Dayen called "the greatest disintegration of black wealth in recent memory." Of that I wrote this:
Occasionally, when there's justice in the world, one is not just branded by the manicured and curated image one tries to project. One is branded instead by what one actually does in the sight of others.

Will Obama see more justice than the millions whose homelessness he caused? I guess that part of the story is still being written.
One can hope. It will be interesting to watch this unfold.

You Get What You Pay For

Bottom line — Wall Street invested millions in Barack Obama's career in 2008 and 2012. That investment paid off over the eight years of his presidency to the tune of billions upon billions in profit and millions upon millions per year in executive compensation and bonuses.

It would not be at all surprising if Wall Street bankers were now saying "thank you" by giving him money he can keep. In fact, it would be entirely surprising if they weren't.

UPDATE: I discussed this issue and post on "The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen," WNHN-FM, progressive radio in New Hampshire. You can listen here; start at 30:00 (or earlier to listen to Garth Brooks sing "It Pays Big Money").

GP
  

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21 Comments:

At 11:07 AM, Blogger VG said...

Thanks for writing this, GP.

I knew from the get-go (when he started his first campaign) that Obama was a flim-flam man. Not many of Obama's adoring fans are able to see the reality, even now.

My take is that the beltway Democrats (or maybe just the Chicago machine) played a long game in bringing Obama to the fore. Starting back with his election to the Senate, or maybe before.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Thanks, VG.

...played a long game in bringing Obama to the fore. Starting back with his election to the Senate, or maybe before.

It started with Bill Clinton rolling him out at the 2004 Democratic convention as the "next Bill Clinton" — the next charismatic neoliberal Democrat, IOW. He was ID'ed by the Clinton machine that far back. I assume he was even privately vetted to make sure his policy preferences matched the need.

GP

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger VG said...

Thanks, GP.

I didn't mention his convention speech because I couldn't remember the details. That came to mind for me, though I didn't connect it with the Clinton machine.

Thanks for filling me in on that.

 
At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Dorothy Reik said...

Obama is going to make the Clintons look like paupers. I never voted for him. Never. Any pol who CHOOSES Chicago as his base of operations.....

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger NonnyO said...

In '07 as each candidate declared whether s/he was against impeachment for Bush and/or Cheney, Obama came out against impeachment, and in a USA Today article from June 28, 2007, the title said it all: "Obama: Impeachment is not acceptable." Once he was elected, of course, his campaign promises to stop the war in Iraq and close Gitmo were never fulfilled. In fact, less than a week after his first oath of office, drones were dropping bombs (a war crime, the thing for I wanted Bush-Cheney impeached). Obama retained the Bushista personnel who carried out their wars, and then Obama expanded the drone bombing to seven countries. That made Obama a war criminal, too. After that he seemed like he wanted his legacy to be that of a "bipartisan compromiser," a term a came to despise because it always signaled his obsequious caving to the Republicans who vowed from the beginning of his presidency never to give him anything he wanted. Instead, his multiple sycophantic compromises made him a Democrat in Name Only because the Republicans always got precisely what they wanted.

Michael Moore was right: 'In 100 years Obama will be noted as America's first black president, and that's it.' Nothing else, because he accomplished almost nothing other than a few social changes, and even ACA was a failure because it was not what We the People wanted in the first place which was a government-run not-for-profit single-payer health insurance: Medicare for All. I don't see why everyone can't be put on Medicare since we pay for it with a payroll deduction and a deduction from our Social Security checks after we retire. Yes, Medicare needs tweaking, like negotiated drug prices and eliminating the corporate insurance for prescription drugs and the drug costs moved to Medicare like what happens with the VA, and dental and optical services need to be added, caps in payments with no co-pays, but essentially Medicare works efficiently. ALL corporations that profit off of the ill health of people need to be kicked out of government. Period.

In any case, Obama's regime was a big fat failure, but until people find out he uses a lot of words, usually grammatically correct, to say absolutely nothing of value, and that continuing the Bushista wars made him a war criminal, they will refuse to acknowledge the facts. He only got the Nobel Peace Prize because he was not Bush; he certainly didn't earn it because he became a war criminal, too.

 
At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obama's real legacy also includes zero bankers jailed for fraud despite the rampant criminal behavior of Wall Street in the run-up to the 2008 economic devastation."

Let's take this apart, Gaius. We have a justice system that demands that people be tried and convicted by a jury, not Presidential fiat. The President cannot order Prosecutions (and thankfully not, otherwise a lot of us would be in hot water in Trump's America). Was there a lot of bad behavior on Wall Street? No doubt. Did any Prosecutor feel that they could make charges stick beyond a reasonable doubt? Clearly not. Is that proof that Obama was lenient on Wall Street? No, it's evidence that the justice functions in a way we would expect... Which is not a courtesy extended to black and brown Americans, but that's another story.

Try and be a bit more critical here. You have a great audience and you squander it with the same kind of bottom-rung horse-shit that attracts Trump voters.

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger VG said...

Nonny O- Excellent comment.

Anon @ 12:32. Yeah, such helpful advice /s. Get your own blog.

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@VG:

I'll think it over, but I know there are jerks like me running around on the comments section.

Sincerely,
Anon@12:32

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger VG said...

Anon @ 12:32

Unfortunately many people here, both jerks and non-jerks, post as "anon". So it's hard to tell who's who.

I pre-empted what ever response GP might have to your comment. I think I was mostly put off by your closing comment. But what you say is worth further discussion, as to the justice system.

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Re the criticism of this @12:32: "Obama's real legacy also includes zero bankers jailed for fraud despite the rampant criminal behavior of Wall Street in the run-up to the 2008 economic devastation."

The President appoints an Attorney General from a white shoes Wall Street law firm who does zero prosecutions and Obama does zero about it. The evidence of fraud is everywhere (see David Dayen's book Chain of Title, for just one place), yet no execs are prosecuted. As Bill Black, who was an aggressive clean-up regulator after the S&L crisis (for which many were prosecuted and jailed), has often said, the lack of prosecutions now compared to then is astonishing; evidence of corruption.

GP

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Gadfly said...

I know Obama was flim-flam, too. That's why I voted Green.

 
At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 12:32

So your position is that a president, after taking the oath of office, may not speak with the Attorney General he/she appointed?

John Puma

 
At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like Barry feels he no longer needs to hide being a lying Wall St toady. It's not like he has a legacy to defend anymore. Except for the one where it will be a long time before anyone again trusts a black Democrat with the Presidency.

 
At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GP and VG, not only a long game wrt the principal, a long game wrt congresswhores. Wall street donates obscenely to both DxCCs as well as the DNC and Pelosi's and scummer's superpacs. They know, as we all should, that the deeds of Clinton and obamanation are actually those of the entirety of the democrap party. Go back and see the senate/house tallys for CFMA, GLBA, telecom dereg, welfare tire fire and all the trade-related bullshit.

12:32, GP's reply was all you should need. However, I'll add that there were several reputable reports that obamanation had vowed to the finance lobbies that he would not prosecute anyone. period. And this vow preceded his public excoriations of those criminals and their enterprises for their crimes and other perfidy. He then named a wall street lobbyist as AG. After his years of service, NOT prosecuting anyone, he returned to work for the same law/lobbying outfit for a nice 8-figures per.

GP, I only wish you'd have posted this language wrt the obamanation admin before he finished. I started posting this stuff right after he won in 2008 and started naming wall street and corrupt corporate whores to fill out his cabinet, staff and teams.

I also wish you'd have reviewed his history with a slimy asshole named Tony Rezko, a principal in the Daly machine in IL, and how he helped usher obamanation up the escalator from posing as a "community organizer" to posing as a democrat in the white house. Noting at this point that his close association with the odiously corrupt Clintons has that familiar stench to it that says "too little too late too fucking bad". All we needed was there in 2004 when he gave that Oscar-worthy performance at the D convention. But nobody saw. Nobody sees. Nobody even looks.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Daro said...

I got on a chat for about 10 minutes before I was banned. Turned out to be a room of Clintonistas and they didn't like the disrespectful tone I took with Her Majesty. But Obama comments were just fine. And I realise, for all her defects, Hillary actually has a bigger legacy of fans than Obama. He's yesterday's man and people just don't mention him. I suppose people see Hillary partly as a victim. And if I want to be generous, that can be true. She didn't ask for all of Bill's womanizing or Republican screeching or the irrational hate. But Obama has no excuses. He just played everyone for a sucker. NonnyO was right about Michael Moore being right. Obama will be remembered for being the 1st Black President and that's it.

 
At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compared to what he could have and should have accomplished, Obama will go down as the second worst president since World War II. By this standard Bill Clinton is the worst because he was more competent in getting his Republican (neoliberal) agenda passed. I know that Reagan and the Bushes were bad but they were Republicans and expected to be bad.

At a crucial moment the country needed a great President. We elected Obama, an eloquent charlatan who sold his soul to Wall Street and the wealthy. As a consequence, Trump is his legacy. If Obama had a conscience he would have trouble sleeping at night.

 
At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:30 you make a good point.

Is a great president one who does great things? Is that greatness magnified by how troubled the times are when he/she does great things? Lincoln and FDR fit here as the 2 greatest IMO. Teddy is in the mix. And I'm going to get arguments for this, but Nixon also did a lot of good things at a time when they NEEDED to be done (EPA...)

Or can a great president be the one that serves in good times and doesn't get in the way? Eisenhower?

How about one who leads his party in a direction of decency? HST? LBJ?

What sets the likes of Reagan, bushbaby, Clinton and obamanation apart, in the opposite light, is their substantive reforms making life harder for the masses at times that did not so indicate. Also, they normalized their predecessors' evil at a time when they had both opportunity and mandate to reverse it.

By almost all possible measures, obamanation belongs in our bottom 5 or so presidents. He had a mandate BIGGER than FDR had in '32 and, though nice promises were made, he did nothing but evil with it.

And note that for both the Clinton and obamanation admins, the democrap party were both enablers and collaborators with that expansion of evil.

And it should be observed that we've had a very long and very consistent run of truly awful presidents after Carter, who was ineffective if well-meaning. It is not bad luck or happenstance that this is so. Money and stupidity won in 1980; money was repaid with massive tax cuts for the money providing even more money with which to buy government; and that's exactly what happened.

Money bought government; money has bought the degradation of education creating the 3 most ignorant and stupid generations... and it's getting worse; money destroyed the journalistic integrity of the media; money has evolved a CEO caste of pure sociopaths; Money has bought and politicized the judiciary; money buys policy; money is now starting to buy social policy even when it has no effect on the money's other pursuits.

Voters? dumber than ever before and evil approaching our racist reconstruction level.

The orange-utang *IS* the legacy of all of this, and obamanation certainly did nothing to alter that vector. But neither have the democrap party nor voters.
The orange-utang became inevitable when Reagan won re-election instead of being unseated by a good democrat... and when the democrats autocorrupted in response to Reagan's victories.

Next? you can follow that vector yourself by reviewing history in Italy, Germany, Russia and several other societies where these same conditions occurred.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger samuel glover said...

What makes a "great" president is always good yakfest material. But when it comes to influential presidents, it seems to be a sad reality that Bush the Lesser will cast a longer shadow over the 21st Century than anyone likely to follow him. You can be influential as an epic fuck-up; ask Czar Nicky.

As for Obama, hell, already it's almost like he was never there. He did get the Iran deal off the ground -- to my mind his most important accomplishment. He didn't gratuitously wreck functioning public services, which is pretty much the sum of the Republicans approach to "governing". His party is a totally empty husk; there simply is no such thing as an "Obama Democrat" to pick up the reins. It's no surprise at all that he's cashing in. Who didn't expect that within weeks of his exit?

Don't think that Dems are done with the ersatz "politics" of Obama. As 2020 approaches and Dems slowly begin to realize that they still stand for absolutely nothing, expect their "strategists" to turn to Michelle Obama, or perhaps Oprah Winfrey. Deep down they still believe that celebrity can paper over their dead imaginiations and ingrained cowardice. The worst thing is that maybe they're right.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Anon @3:30 wrote: Compared to what he could have and should have accomplished, Obama will go down as the second worst president since World War II.

Amen to that. Obama came into office with FDR's House, FDR's Senate, and FDR's mandate for change in a time of economic collapse — then squandered it all as the next neoliberal, privatizing, pro-austerity president. I don't think we'll see that combination again; certainly not in a situation that has actual available solutions (as opposed to mere adaptations).

Just that alone is unforgivable, as I see it.

GP

 
At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GP, well said. But it wasn't just economic collapse.

He not only refused to reform banking (because the last D prez created it and they gave him 10s of millions for campaigns and since?) and refused to jail anyone for 10s of TRILLIONS in fraud.

But he also succeeded an admin that committed odious war crimes. They arbitrarily invaded a nation that was no threat and had done nothing aggressive; they forged "evidence" (AL tubes, WMDs, yellowcake...); they institutionalized kidnapping and torture; used banned weapons (WP); started conducting extrajudicial murders using drones; and employed thousands of mercenaries to augment our own military. note: it's almost sure that they did the Anthrax thing before the war as another pretext to blame Saddam for something he didn't do.

Obamanation not only refused to remedy any of these, he expanded many of them with special mention of drone murders.

cheney/bush/Rumsfeld are war criminals and should be hung. But obamanation, by many measures, is a BIGGER war criminal.

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DingleBarry : 0B$CENE.

 

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