After returning from well-deserved vacation, former President Obama may really have struck a sour note. Only months after leaving office, he has joined the Wall Street big-speaking-fee club. For a $400,000 fee from Wall Street investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, Obama agreed to deliver a keynote speech at an annual health care conference the investment firm runs.
In response to this news the longtime critic of the outsized influence big money plays in politics, Senator Elizabeth Warren, didn’t mince words. She said: “I was troubled by that. The influence of dollars on this place is what scares me. I think it ultimately threatens democracy.”
But it seems former press secretary Josh Earnest (a paid MSNBC contributor since this March) is quick to defend his former boss and was quite dismissive of any objections. Earnest recalled that Obama’s closeness to Wall Street had been brought up before, and it “didn’t in any way limit his ability to put in place the toughest reforms of Wall Street that we had seen in multiple generations.” I seem to remember many people thought President Obama and congressional reforms weren’t all that tough on Wall Street.
He will not be running again but the optics of the most well-known Democrat accepting sizable speaking fees from a giant investment firm can’t be helpful in luring back blue-collar voters — even in the face of the ethically challenged Trump gang. And it’s an unfortunate footnote to the recent unity tour DNC Chairman Perez and failed presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders just completed.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations against big banks, greed, and financial excess are now ancient history. The huge speaking fees from Wall Street banks Hillary Clinton received over the years had a negative impact on her campaign — Sanders turned it into a major issue in the primary. But that too appears to be swirling down the memory hole. So, other than Senator Warren, which Democrats will speak-up now? But good for Senator Warren — the smart money says she persists.