This week, plenty of liberals were up in arms over former President Barack Obama’s decision to accept a $400,000 fee for a speech he’ll deliver at a health care conference hosted by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald. Two outspoken Obama allies, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) were not happy with the move, with the former calling it “distasteful” and the latter saying she was “troubled by that.”
Sens. Sanders and Warren, along with others, saw the move as hypocritical given how Obama was such an outspoken critic of Wall Street during his two terms as president. He frequently characterized Wall Street bankers as “fat cats” whose outsized paychecks contributed to the wide gulf between the haves and have-nots in America.
Though he refused to address the speech controversy with his first guest Elizabeth Warren, instead choosing to poke fun at her “Pocahontas” nickname and have her diagnose the Democratic Party’s ills, Maher did bring it up in the “Overtime” segment.
Surprisingly, conservative commentator Tara Setmayer came to the ex-president’s defense, saying, “Personally, as long as he’s not running for office again, I don’t care how much money he makes. If people want to pay him that, it’s a free market value. Who cares.”
Well, Maher does: “But wait a second: the current president is trying to undo all of his Wall Street regulations, and then he goes to Wall Street and takes [money]. Isn’t that what sort of cost Hillary the election? Are those ‘horrible’ speeches she made to Wall Street and she couldn’t release the transcripts of it?”
Hillary’s Wall Street speeches seemed like something of an afterthought by the time Election Day came around, given all the FBI bluster, though Trump did make a point throughout his campaign to hit Hillary on her speeches (“I know the guys at Goldman Sachs…they have total control over Hillary Clinton,” he said)—this despite himself charging up to $1.5 million for speeches, and later appointing six former Goldman Sachs employees to positions within his administration, including Steven Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary), Steve Bannon (chief strategist), Gary Cohn (chief economic advisor), James Donovan (deputy Treasury secretary), and others.
Panelist Rob Reiner didn’t seem to have a problem with the Obama payday. “The difference is: are you in the pocket of Wall Street? And [Hillary] was running for office. He’s not running for anything right now.”
Maher wasn’t buying it. “It kind of looks like: when he’s on our team, we’re OK with it,” said Maher. “You could say that when a guy is president, he’s looking ahead to that $400,000 payday, and he’s not going to get it if, while he’s president, he’s going to do something to piss them off. So isn’t the best thing to do to take your $10 million book deal? Can’t you live off that?”
Actually, Bill, the Obamas signed a joint book deal for over $65 million.