HOW NICE FOR YOU!
OBAMA MODELS A NEW ROLE
It sure is nice to see former President Obama get back into the public arena. As has been widely reported, he and his wife took some time after the inauguration of his successor to wallow in the embrace of a $65 million book deal and hang out with folks for whom $65 million is pocket change. Kite surfing, upscale shopping, and luxury yacht time seemed to fill their days with glee.
Meanwhile, the rest of us were left on our own to adjust to the daily assault on governance and a new world of “alternative facts.” And that was before the bombs started dropping and the bad hair boys, Trump and Kim, began trading nuclear insults.
Then, just when many of us thought that all was lost, Obama flew in from somewhere very cool to save the day. He was going to speak. He would deliver us from evil. Wow, what a piece of crap. Instead, he showed up at the University of Chicago, looking great, and chock full of homily. He wanted us all to know that he was going to engage with the next generation of “leaders,” apparently having decided that the present generation of “leaders” isn’t worth his time or energy.**
He also decided that even talking about current events should be left to others. I suppose that means those of us actually resisting the new administration and its pernicious assault on governance. Apparently, actively confronting social injustice, poverty, climate change denial, and the wretched excesses of the wealthy is off the Obama agenda. He even seems unmoved to attempt to protect the vanishing legacy of his own presidency.
Further, he doesn’t seem too keen on making an effort to encourage an international order that would reduce regional tensions, lessen human suffering, and save some of the generation of sick and hungry children his administration left behind and the successor administration appears hell bent on ignoring. Maybe he expects that, with his help, the next generation of “leaders” will get up to speed quickly to do his work for him.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama emerged from her gilded cocoon to make her initial public splash as a keynote speaker at the American Institute of Architects’ annual convention in Orlando Florida (an architectural mecca). Her wide-ranging discussion seamlessly wove architecture and her new “normal” life into a fine tapestry to the delight of the assembled architects.*** I am not sure how much she got paid for this, but those folks sure seemed to feel like they got their money’s worth. However, many of the rest of us may feel shortchanged.
But it gets better. It now appears that Barrack Obama’s next big gig will take a page from the highly successful Hillary Clinton financial playbook – take a $400,000 waltz down Wall Street. Hearkening back to his message for the “leaders” of tomorrow, Obama apparently wants to make sure that they get a good dose of the hypocrisy that seems central to the supposed “leaders” of today. So, future “leaders,” let Uncle Barrack show you how to grab what you can get whenever you can get it, bank it, and then bank on the rest of us somehow buying into your next cynical message. ****
To be truthful, when I heard that Obama was going to give a $400,000 speech at a “healthcare conference” organized by a Wall Street investment firm, my initial reaction was “fake news.” But like most of what is dubbed “fake news” these days, it turned out to be real news based on real facts. I am not sure why a Wall Street investment firm is having a healthcare conference, but you can be certain that it has nothing to do with ensuring that every individual in the United States has access to meaningful healthcare through a system freed from the private profit incentives that have left millions of Americans without that access.
Barrack will step up to that plate with outstretched hand, a smiling Michelle at his side, to address a bunch of very wealthy folks with great health insurance and investments aplenty in big pharma. He will surely tell them that “a great nation cannot have millions of its citizens without access to meaningful healthcare” and encourage those in attendance to do more. Somewhere in there will be the usual “this is not who we are” refrain followed with that ever-popular closing of “god bless America.”
Exit stage left, deposit check in your bank, and hang your head in shame. Despite popular lore to the contrary, there should be great shame in accepting money from those whose only purpose is to buy and sell influence. That Barrack Obama does not seem to have learned this is in itself a shame. But more importantly, that he should so quickly and effortlessly sell his soul reveals the depth of the problem.
From using public office to sell the Trump brand, to CEO golden parachutes in lieu of jail time, to new and better tax breaks for the wealthy, to yet another successful right-wing fleecing of those in need, it is a grand day to have money in America. It is not clear to me when that parade will end or how it will end, but someday there will a reckoning.
Someday, those who have been fooled and fleeced will come to understand that those with money only act to keep it for themselves and to control the slow trickle of hope necessary to keep the masses at bay. This is an old story. That Obama has so glibly exchanged his audacity of hope for the mendacity of greed is a painful reminder of how far we have to go and how hard the fight will be.
“I’m spending a lot of time thinking: What is the most important thing I can do for my next job?” Obama said. “And what I’m convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues I care about and all kinds of issues I intend to work on, the single-most important thing I can do is to help, in any way I can, prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world.”