Conspicuous Wealth and Consummate Hypocrisy
Achieving a luxurious lifestyle is a benefit of capitalism. What's not okay is Barack Obama's rank hypocrisy.
“We’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” —Barack Obama, 2010
As Obama’s post presidential life continues to unfold, we are likely to discover one of two things: how much money is really enough — or how deep progressive hypocrisy goes.
It’s no secret one of the most enduring pillars of the American Left’s political strategy is class warfare. And no one is a bigger target than wealthy Americans. Make that some wealthy Americans, like the Koch brothers. Harry Reid insisted they’re un-American “shadowy billionaires” who “pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system.” Billionaires like Tom Steyer, who donated $100 million to Democrats in 2016, or George Soros, whose far more shadowy political contributions dwarf those of the Koch brothers?
Some “fat cats” are more equal than others.
“Fat cats” is a term Barack Obama used in 2009 to slam Wall Street bankers. “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” he said during an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” That sentiment was certainly not misplaced, considering how many Wall Street bankers remained largely immune from the financial meltdown they precipitated in 2008.
Or partially precipitated. It’s worth remembering that Democrats played a big hand in that meltdown when they threatened banks with punitive measures if they didn’t approve mortgage loans to people with questionable credit.
It’s also worth remembering that until “out-of-touch elitist” Republican candidate Mitt Romney broke his record in 2012, Barack Obama took more campaign contributions from Wall Street than any other presidential candidate in the history of the republic.
Now that he’s no longer president, he’s no longer taking campaign contributions from Wall Street. Instead, he’s getting paid directly. “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,” the NY Post reported in April. “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.”
Again, some fat cats are more equal than others. Moreover the man who railed against “an economy that’s become profoundly unequal” in a 2013 speech, and chastised the top 10% of Americans for taking more than their fair share, has only just begun amassing his share of personal largesse. “With book deals, speaking engagements, and a government pension, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand to earn as much as $242.5 million in the next 15 years, according to data from the Kogod School of Business at American University,” Business Insider reported in February.
Part of that take was $20 million to $45 million The New York Times estimated the Obamas would receive for their White House memoirs. Memoirs that would give them “more than enough to pay the estimated $22,000 monthly rent for the nine-bedroom home they will occupy in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington and foot the bill for flights on private jets,” the paper stated.
Those estimates were far too modest. According to the Financial Times, book publisher Penguin Random House will pay more than $65 million for the global rights to two books written separately by Barack and Michelle. The record-setting price for presidential memoirs, precipitated by an auction, dwarfs the $15 million paid to former president Bill Clinton for his 2004 memoirs “My Life,” and the $10 million George W. Bush made from “Decision Points.”
In a hand-wringing column for The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus wonders if Obama’s “rapaciousness” is “really the image he wants to cultivate — for himself or for fellow Democrats?” Moreover, she asks, “Having left his party in such terrible condition, does he really have to offer opponents ammunition to attack him as hypocritical?”
Apparently Ms. Marcus remains oblivious to the reality that Barack Obama has always been a member in good standing of the “do as I say, not as a I do” group of progressives, all of whom are immune to accusations of hypocrisy.
Fox News has chronicled some of Obama’s image-making, noting that since he left office in January, he has been on “a seemingly endless tour of millionaire and billionaire luxury retreats.”
Luxury travel agency owner Kendra Thornton illuminates the level of lavishness. “These are some of the most luxurious travel destinations in the world,” she explains. “Many of our clients spend tens of thousands of dollars or more to stay at these resorts, which cater to the most discriminating and demanding guests. For example, Necker Island has a nightly price tag of $80,000. Anyone who stays at these properties does so because they want the best of the best.”
Pat Caddell, who was President Jimmy Carter’s adviser, is less than enthused. “I think every time Obama opens his mouth, the fair question is: Which billionaire’s paradise island did he do it from? When is he going to do anything to help people other than enrich himself?” he wondered.
Vanity Fair columnist Michelle Ruiz defended the ex-president, calling the Fox report a “hit piece” before launching into why Obama remains above reproach. “Obama is not as wealthy as Trump, and therein lies the utter hypocrisy of criticizing his post-presidential vacations,” she writes. “It’s pretty rich (no pun intended) to be obsessing over the whereabouts of private citizen Obama when the sitting president of the United States is the proud owner of a gilded penthouse on Fifth Avenue; spent the winter [as] a bona fide snowbird, jetting to Mar-a-Lago at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers; and golfed more in his first three months in office than presidents Obama, Clinton, or George W. Bush. If anyone’s fancy (and tacky, but that’s not the point here), it’s Donald Trump. It raises the question: Why is luxury okay for President Trump but not President Obama?”
Ruiz completely misses the point. In our capitalist system, achieving a luxurious lifestyle is okay for both men, as well as countless others with drive, the willingness to take risks, the entrepreneurial skills, and the ambition to go as far as their abilities take them.
What is not okay is the rank hypocrisy of Obama presenting himself as the arbiter of sufficient wealth — and the definer of “fairness” in achieving it — when there’s no end in sight to his own appetite for luxury, or his highly conspicuous consumption of wealth.
In other words, the class warfare rhetoric that was Obama’s political stock in trade now rings exceedingly hollow. “I’m not sure he’s ever been more out of touch than he is right now,” stated HBO host John Oliver last month.
Not out of touch, John. Out of office, and no longer feeling constrained by political expediency — all the images of “rapaciousness” in the world notwithstanding. Even those political constraints weren’t much, though, as he lived rich and famous while in the White House too. It’s just who Obama is — the consummate hypocrite.