Former President Barack Obama is under fire from all around for his controversial decision to give a speech at a Wall Street-sponsored health care conference in exchange for nearly half a million dollars, a move with such poor optics that even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) went on the record as opposing it.
It’s not hard to see why: back in 2008, Obama campaigned on a no-nonsense approach to dealing with Wall Street and subsequently blamed greedy bankers for causing the financial crisis. In the years to come, Obama positioned himself as a vanguard in the fight against Wall Street corruption by insisting on strict regulations, increased oversight, and a slew of reforms for big banks.
And in January, days before leaving office, Obama sat down for an interview with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” and appeared unequivocal about his commitment to upholding his values.
“I am not going to Wall Street. The amount of time that I’ll be investing in issues is going to be high. But it’ll be necessarily in a different capacity,” he said, in what would quickly become a bald-faced lie so brazen that it would make Hillary Clinton proud.
So how can Obama justify accepting a $400,000 check from Cantor Fitzgerald, a well-heeled Manhattan investment firm, as payment for a one-hour keynote address? His camp has been quick to paint the lucrative transaction as just part and parcel of his post-presidency life.
“As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision and his record,” said spokesman Eric Schulz in a statement.