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Why Would Anyone Pay $400,000 to Hear Barack Obama Speak?

money-dollar-stacks

In this morning’s posting on former President Obama’s $400,000 speech to an investment bank’s annual conference,  I focused on the ethical considerations. The short version: I’m not particularly concerned about this particular instance but have broader concerns about the possibilities. In this post, I focus on the related question: Why would anyone possibly pay $400,000 to have Barack Obama, from whom we’ve all heard quite a lot over the last nine-plus years, give a one-hour talk?

Loren DeYoung Schulman‘s suggestion that he would “be candid with them about the problems he saw they caused / can help fix” strikes me as implausible. Obama does indeed have unique experiences and he’s also an exceptionally bright man. And a terrific public speaker. But he’ll weigh in repeatedly on the problems he sees in the country, with our political system, with Wall Street, and the like for free over the next few months. That’s just inherent in who he is.

Given that Obama isn’t likely to hold high office again and isn’t currently influential with those who do, it’s also improbable that the leadership at Cantor Fitzgerald think they’ll get at least $400,001 worth of influence over policy.

The more likely answer is along the lines of MarkedMan‘s observation in the comments to the previous post: “Booking big name speakers has virtually nothing to do with politics or hoping to influence policy, it’s all about demonstrating just how important your trade show is.”

A previous employer built a substantial amount of its fundraising strategy around attracting powerful and/or big name speakers. We frequently hosted sitting or former heads of state, foreign ministers, ministers of defense, or chiefs of defense for conferences and high-profile speeches. We held an annual awards banquet handing out honors to similar folks, often adding a prominent figure from the business and/or entertainment industry. These proved so successful that we eventually spun that off to three annual awards dinners, under slightly different branding strategies, in Washington, New York, and a major European capital. Doing this ensured that corporate donors would shell out ever-higher prices to sponsor the events and buy up tables to entertain their executives and clients. At the highest levels of sponsorship, there was some expectation of being able to hobnob with the honored dignitaries in a pre-banquet cocktail party.

Presumably, some hoped that this would yield some sort of policy influence through networking. And maybe it did. But, for the most part, I suspect the main lure was simply being able to brag about the tangential association. Even the rich and famous love to have their picture taken with a former president or prime minister, a sitting secretary of state or defense, or a particularly powerful general or admiral.

Obama isn’t going to supply anything close to $400,000 worth of wisdom in his talk. And he’ll bring even less influence over Trump administration policy. But his presence will certainly make attending the conference substantially more desirable and memorable. Whether that’s worth $400,000 I haven’t the foggiest; but presumably the organizers think he will.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I’m going to guess there was something like a bidding war between organizations for the privilege of being the first group that the former President spoke to after leaving office. As you say, this was about prestige and bragging rights on the part of the sponsor (“Hey look at us! We got Obama and you didn’t!”) than anything else.

    As for Obama accepting the money, it’s like a home buyer who is so desperate to make sure they get the house of their dreams that the put in a contract well above asking price. He’d be stupid not to accept it, and Barck Obama is not stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  2. KM says:

    Presumably, some hoped that this would yield some sort of policy influence through networking. And maybe it did. But, for the most part, I suspect the main lure was simply being able to brag about the tangential association. Even the rich and famous love to have their picture taken with a former president or prime minister, a sitting secretary of state or defense, or a particularly powerful general or admiral.

    And?

    Honestly, if someone wants to waste half a million for a photo-op, that’s their business. If it’s their money to waste, then go right ahead. Are they stealing from taxpayers or stockholders? No – ok then. Did they do something illegal or unethical to get that money? No – ok then. Why do we care they just in it for the bragging rights? Isn’t that the whole point of a keynote speaker, hearing from someone famous who’s time is worth more then your whole year? It’s groupie time for the professionals after all.

    Personally, I think its a waste of money but I think $5 coffee is a waste of money. I think it will be a waste when Trump inevitably demands more just so he can brag he brings in more then Obama. The liberal in me thinks of how many soup kitchens could be stocked with that money. Somehow I suspect the conservatives among us are not thinking the same thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Let’s make a different assumption than tribal status. Let’s not assume that Reagan’s million dollar payoff was so the Japanese could feel cool, and let’s not assume Obama’s sweet luchre is about taking selfies with an ex-prez.

    Instead, let’s assume the purpose of paying presidents piles o’ cash is to communicate a message to future holders of that office. What would the likely content of that message be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Hell, even I’ve been paid to give speeches or attend an event. I’ve even been dragooned into teaching at a book conference, God help the ‘students.’ I can put a few butts in seats. My wife can put more butts in seats. Suzanne Collins could put a hell of a lot of butts in seats. I doubt anyone gets anything useful from any of us, but the organizers fill the venue, and that’s the whole point. If you’re organizing an event you want to be able to signal seriousness by saying ‘So and so will be keynoting.’

    And really, Republicans who are now turning a blind eye to wholesale violations of the emoluments clause of the US Constitution that they revere so long as it’s the 2d amendment, turning a blind eye to straight up bribery by hostile foreign governments (China) and participating in a cover-up of a hostile foreign power’s (Russia) attacks on our election, need to permanently shut the fwck up.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  5. James Joyner says:

    @KM: I’m not offering a criticism but an explanation. Indeed, in this particular case, I think the explanation obviates most of the obvious criticisms.

    Even when I was criticizing Hillary Clinton for the optics of her accepting large amounts of money to give speeches when it was obvious that she would run for president—and for her husband leveraging her status as sitting Secretary of State to wrangle donations—I fully acknowledged this phenomenon. Even in cases where there’s a real conflict of interest, there’s also a legitimate non-policy-influence value to the speeches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. Guarneri says:

    “The liberal in me thinks of how many soup kitchens could be stocked with that money. Somehow I suspect the conservatives among us are not thinking the same thing.”

    And they realist in me suspects Obama won’t be giving it to soup kitchens. BTW – at which soup kitchen are you working this weekend?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 20

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    All due respect, you think like an employee. You think that money changes hands and thus a boss-employee relationship has been established. When I do paid events I never, ever even ask the organizers what they want me to say. I won’t tell even a middle school principal what I’m going to say. On the few occasions someone has asked to see my Power Point (Keynote, actually) I tell them to fwck off. The people who’ve paid me have zero call on my downstream, that’s just not how this stuff works.

    Obama is worth about 12 million, according to the Google. Plus, the Obamas have a book deal for 65 million – just a wee bit more than I get paid for a book. 400k is nice but it doesn’t buy anything but a speech, some glad-handing, and polite noises about the food. Obama can go anywhere and give speeches, and if he doesn’t give them to one bunch of rich guys he can give it to another for the same price. Guys who have 12 million in the bank, and 65 million coming from Penguin, don’t get bought for 400k.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds:

    All due respect, you think like an employee. You think that money changes hands and thus a boss-employee relationship has been established.

    Lighten up, it’s just a thought experiment. Besides, becoming Obama’s boss doesn’t track with the assumption in our experiment: what message is being communicated to future presidents?

    Any ideas?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  9. CSK says:

    I don’t mean to denigrate the former president, nor indeed anyone who accepts enormous speaking fees, but this isn’t about Obama, nor anything he might say, interesting and entertaining though it might be.

    Among big corporations and other entities that can afford to fling around vast sums of money to pay speakers/entertainers, this is basically a dick-measuring contest. “You got John Kerry in to talk to your group? Ha-ha, WE got Barack Obama. OUR dick is bigger than YOUR dick.”

    About 15 years ago, there was a company in Boston that paid Celine Dion $75,000 to sing the theme from The Titanic at one of their conferences. She arrived, sang the song, picked up her check, and departed. No concert, just the one song. The company also paid for for her chartered flight from and back to Canada, and a room at the Ritz-Carlton in case she wanted to relax there for an hour or so before returning home.

    The point of this was to get the bragging rights. That day, the company had the biggest dick in Boston.

    You know what a “bsd,” is don’t you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    The idea being communicated to future presidents is: once I’m out of office I’m going to give speeches – the only transferable skill a politician has. Obama is 55 and in good health. What do you expect him to do? Pick up a barista shift at Starbucks? All politicians know is how to give speeches and some of them can write. So Obama’s going to give speeches and write.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Cantor is a $10 billion LP with an exceedingly healthy balance sheet.

    Why would they pay (a deductible) $400k for a speech?

    Because they can …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  12. @michael reynolds:

    It’s been a while since we’ve had a President that young who has left office. Kennedy would have been 51 at the end of a hypothetical 2nd term. Carter was defeated when he was 57 and he managed to find several productive things to do with the intervening 36 years. Clinton was 55 in 2001, and he’s taken advantage of the speaking tour circuit and worked with GHWB and GWB on a couple international relief efforts. Obama could contribute on much the same level, but somehow I doubt President Trump will be asking him to help with anything anytime soon.

    Given that he could be around for another 30 years or more, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Obama in some way in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Obama in some way in the future.

    Based on the program statement for his Library…in a big way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Jay Gischer says:

    Earning $400K for an hour’s work seems to a lot of us who have worked for a living a bit crazy, but i think that says more about the state of inequality in our system than it says about any specific relationship between Obama and Cantor or Obama and Wall Street.

    There’s a logic that says, “If those people don’t hate you, then you aren’t representing me”. I do not endorse that logic. I think that a president who represents me needs to be able to make people squirm. I think that’s a core skill, actually. But if he or she makes them squirm in private and makes progress on issues I care about in a way that let’s them think “Well, that could have been a lot worse” and so they sort of like him or her? That’s the mark of doing it really, really well.

    I think we have a lot of trouble these days figuring out what signals to believe and who to trust.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The idea being communicated to future presidents is: once I’m out of office I’m going to give speeches

    Apparently there’s some confusion over agency: what message is being communicated to future presidents by the person or persons paying the money?

    Obama is immaterial to this, it’s about the payor and the future payee, not the current.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    No one? No one can think of a likely answer to our thought experiment? It’s easy to play folks, just examine the proposition: what message is being communicated to future presidents by making ex-presidents very wealthy? Making it easier to play is that we know what sort of people the payors are: wealthy, powerful people who want to get more wealthy and more powerful.

    Doug! Start us off, James seems shy today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Consider our silence the way we passively / aggressively say “we’re just not interested in encouraging you to set off on yet another lecture. They’re exhausting and, frankly,
    just not much fun to sit through”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  18. MarkedMan says:

    I can only speak to the dynamics of trade shows and i suspect Michael can only speak to book shows, and so can’t speak for this specific speech. But most of the speeches the ex prez give are of the convention/conference/trade show variety. And the industry the organizers of those shows care about is the convention/conference/trade show industry. They aren’t booking exP’s for keynotes to influence policy on what the show happens to be about because they don’t care about those policies. For the big firms they may do a medical device show this week, a machine tool show the next and a printing show after that. Sure, there are all kinds of speakers about industry issues but those are small potatoes and handled by a bunch of committees and special interest groups. When the Med device industry wants to influence politicians they do it through their lobbying groups not with a trade show keynote speaker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. EddieInCA says:

    Like Michael, I’ve been paid to speak at several events. The most I ever got for a speaking engagement was $8K. Why? Because I’ve produced some TV Series that people have liked. I showed up, spoke for an hour, and got an $8K check.

    The organizers paid me that much because I was able to attract enough fanboys to hear me speak. 1000 fanboys at $25 per head means a good profit for the organizers. And I wasn’t even the biggest speaker that event.

    So, based on my small sample, Obama is definitely worth $400K.

    If someone wants to pay it, it means he’s worth it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. al-Alameda says:

    Cantor Fitzgerald is engaging in some branding, advertising, if you will.

    I’d rather be branded as having paid a fee of $400,000 to have a normal and dignified ex-president speak, than having paid $400,000 to have an impulsive and aggressively non-dignified President Donald Trump speak.

    Also, these days national network ads during shows cost $200,000 to $500,000 for 30 seconds or $400,000 to $1,000,000 for a pharmaceutical spot that has a 30 second disclaimer as to why a married 55 year old guy should not use Cialis before he ‘dates’ his 22 year old secretary.

    These days it’s all about the brand, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  21. Senyordave says:

    Trump was paid millions of dollars to endorse ACN, a multi-level marketing firm. I was treasurer at our synagogue when a congregant who was an ACN rep wanted us to go with their “program (it involves finding a group of people who are willing to go with a particular provider for cable, phone, utility or almost any service with regular monthly bills. ACN will negotiate a “preferred” rate and take a cut). She was pretty low in the food chain at ACN so they got some senior people to pitch it and provided the finances. ACN has Trump written all over it, IMO. Classic MLM, the people at the bottom pay a few hundred bucks to represent the, get peanuts while the people higher up reap the big bucks. Think a much worse version of Amway. Our president, a true scam artist in every way possible.

    Bottom line was I did the math and if we had gotten 50 families to switch their bundled service our synagogue would have gotten about $1,100 annually. The people at the top would have gotten about $10,000 a year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. Slugger says:

    I’m in favor of keeping an eye on money flowing to politicians. If someone pays for a Pete Rose autograph or a Picasso squiggle, it doesn’t matter to me. Big wads of money to people with power can effect me directly. I know that sometimes money gets spent on prestige or conspicuous consumption projects, but politicians are human beings. “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. wr says:

    @Ben Wolf: Oh. My. God. We get it. We all get it. We got it the first four hundred times you said it. We are all politely ignoring it because it’s so naive it makes you look stupid.

    No one who reaches the office of President is going to be sitting there thinking “I’d better do the right thing for banks so I can get a lot of money for a speech.”

    What Obama is getting isn’t a reward for services provided. It’s a reward for being famous. It’s the same as Sting getting paid a million bucks to sing at some rich asshole’s daughter’s wedding. He’s getting a ton of money so the asshole in question can say two things: “Look who I got speaking at my conference” and “Look how much I shelled out.”

    So now that someone has acknowledged you, could you knock off the nudge-nudge-wink-wink?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 4

  24. george says:

    How much money do these trade shows generate?

    For instance, in sports like boxing or MMA, the top draws make millions for about a 30 minute appearance (depending on outcome etc); I’m guessing that the promoters make even more so that million dollar purse (or 100 million if you’re Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquioa) is worth it. And as any boxing fan will tell, often the big name fights aren’t particularly interesting in themselves, they’re watched because the fighters are famous (Mayweather-Pacquiao for instance happened when both were well past their prime).

    Maybe the trade shows generate enough revenue that at 400K outlay (small for a top level athlete in some sports) is recovered?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Hey, this is what happens when one industry buys Congress and gets favorable legislation that allows them to siphon off an outsized percentage of money out of the real economy. They’ve got money to burn to keep warm in the winter time. If only there were a major political party that championed parity and a diversified economy so more Americans could share in their country’s great wealth. Oh well. Dont hate the playa–hate the game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  26. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    Hey WR –

    You still in NYC?

    Years ago, when I worked at a film company owned by a guy worth $600 Million, Sting played at our Christmas Party. Sting, at the height of his post-Police heyday (1992), played our Christmas party under a tent in the massive backyard of our owner’s Beverly HIlls estate. I found out later that he was paid $400K for the performance.

    I wonder what $400K in 1993 would equal today?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  27. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Bingo! It’s the same reason some people buy Maseratis or restored Corvettes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: And some of us are passive/aggressively saying “who cares what message is being sent.” As for me, I don’t know what answer Ben Wolf is looking for in this exercise, so I’m out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. teve tory says:

    @EddieInCA: $660k

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Eric Florack says:

    Classic… “Do as I say and not as I do”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  31. Eric Florack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: one does not secure a healthy balance sheet” by making Investments which don’t p”ay off returns. So the question becomes what are they getting out of this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 11

  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    The liberal in me thinks of how many soup kitchens could be stocked with that money.

    To be fair, Cantor engages in an enormous amount of philanthropy, pretty much all of it quietly and without any sort of effort to call attention to itself / use the giving to its own benefit.

    The firm, and Bernie himself while he was alive, always had a history of quiet and substantial giving. What it endured on 9/11 has, in my experience, just served to magnify that history exponentially. The giving since then has ballooned even further, and Fitzies have sort of morphed into unintentional ambassadors by example (how they conduct philanthropy – both as individuals and as a firm – has quietly shamed many of the rest of us to step it up ourselves.)

    So if it wants to write a former president a check for speaking, more power to them. They’re not the bad guys – not by a long shot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    :roll:

    Just STFU already …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Truthfully, it’s an investment. This particular conference serves to put healthcare executives / startups / etc. into the same room with investors. The hoped for outcome? I would think that would be obvious when the org hosting the conference is a fricking investment bank. While they are known for and derive a significant chunk of their income from being bond traders, they also broker investment deals.

    So why would an investment bank pay $400k for a speech? Because doing so puts butts – more specifically butts it can potentially put together in deals that it earns money for brokering – into seats. This is not brain surgery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  35. KM says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    To be fair, Cantor engages in an enormous amount of philanthropy, pretty much all of it quietly and without any sort of effort to call attention to itself / use the giving to its own benefit.

    Good to know. I suppose its trite to have a kneejerk reaction a la “what about the children?!” to corporate philanthropy but we’re so used to see malevolence instead of benevolence on Wall Street’s part its almost ingrained. Giving comes in many forms – so long as they are doing their share, kudos to them. One don’t need attention to do the right thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. Franklin says:

    Given that Obama isn’t likely to hold high office again and isn’t currently influential with those who do …

    I didn’t comment in the other thread as I gathered my thoughts. You’re correct that Obama isn’t influential with the Trump administration. But I believe he will be very influential in the future, even without holding public office.

    And simply having a conversation with him could very well affect his opinion on a matter, whether it’s completely intentional or not. All that said, this is nothing compared to what happens every day with people who are letting lobbyists write their policy at this very moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    You voted for and support the most corrupt individual ever to be in the White House. You support and defend the Trump crime family. You support and defend a traitor who sells out to foreign hostile powers. You have nothing to say on any subject even remotely related to ethics or legality. So, like @HarvardLaw92, said, STFU.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. al-Alameda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    So why would an investment bank pay $400k for a speech? Because doing so puts butts – more specifically butts it can potentially put together in deals that it earns money for brokering – into seats. This is not brain surgery.

    Dead on.
    This country runs on money, we pride ourselves on valuing all manner of goods and services in the market place, and yet when the market for Obama’s services appears to be $400,000 people pretend to be outraged. Give me a break.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Pch101 says:

    Getting an ex-president to show up at your house communicates to your clients, employees and rivals that you matter. Cheaper than a Super Bowl ad and will probably do more good for your business.

    I have mixed feelings about this. If an ex-president is going to speak to Wall Streeters, then he should charge them full retail — they ain’t a charity. On the other hand, we expect our ex-presidents to also engage in philanthropy, and this sort of activity should be used to indirectly subsidize that philanthropy.

    If Obama were to be only a gun for hire and refrain from supporting some worthy causes, then we would reason to doubt him. Then again, we currently have an unapologetic crooked grifter in the White House, so my standards may be a bit lofty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: I am in New York, and still can’t afford to have Sting sing in my apartment…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    They’re pretty inspirational, to be honest about it. They’ve taken a grievous loss – one that would have destroyed most companies – and turned it into something positive. That Charity Day thing is just amazing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. Ben Wolf says:

    @wr:

    No one who reaches the office of President is going to be sitting there thinking “I’d better do the right thing for banks so I can get a lot of money for a speech.”

    That answer violates the premise of the thought experiment and again focuses on the wrong party. What a president does or does not think is irrelevant here: our experiment is asking what message the payor is attempting to communicate.

    What Obama is getting isn’t a reward for services provided. It’s a reward for being famous.

    Again, you keep focusing on Obama for some reason when we’ve explicitly established our experiment isn’t about Obama. We’re looking at the payor, not the current payee. Your contention that Wall Street considers it a good investment to give people money “just for being famous” should perhaps be passed by.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  43. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Lol, I think you mean your experiment. You got rebuffed; let it go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  44. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    I have a couple of good used Sting Bootleg concert performances I could send you. It’s not the same at all… but… I’m just a people person that way.

    I’ll email you. Headed that way in about four weeks. I’l be staying in the Lower East Side, near Delancy and the Bowery. Hard to believe that’s a happening place now. When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed into the Lower East Side, and no one wanted to go in there anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    They’re not the bad guys – not by a long shot.

    This, times a hundred. And it just goes to show what a master Obama is. So the Repubs are going to wet themselves silly talking about what a sellout he is. And in the meantime the truly tragic/heroic Cantor Fitzgerald 9/11 story is going to get told again. And again. As is the story of their very unusual, generous and serious charitable giving and works. And sure, it won’t change the mind the hardcore Repubs, the Fox News idiots or the Breitbart bigots who comprise those that register as Republican in 2017. But their carping will get quite a few eyerolls from the independents and for people like me, his base, it will only reinforce what a class act he is. Which I admit is silly because he’s basically just giving a speech for a check like 100,000 others on the circuit, but what can I say? I like the guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  46. wr says:

    @Ben Wolf: “Again, you keep focusing on Obama for some reason when we’ve explicitly established our experiment isn’t about Obama.”

    You keep using the word “we.” Who do you imagine is in this with you? Because I count no one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: Yeah, and Hell’s Kitchen and downtown Brooklyn are filling up with mirrored condo skyscrapers…. Let me know when you’re in town.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  48. MarkedMan says:

    @Ben Wolf: speaking at least for me, I’ve made it pretty clear that I think your premise is invalid. I’m pretty darn certain the people who select and pay for high profile speakers like these aren’t trying to send any message to the speakers at all. They are trying to impress their peers.

    The real corruption takes place at the lower levels down and not by paying the ex-officials as speakers. Instead it is to hire them as consultants, who eventually end up going back to their former offices to lobby for their new, private employer. That message is pretty clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  49. Tyrell says:

    I would have to be paid to go hear him talk but that is beside the point. Another question is why would someone pay someone millions of dollars a year to hit or throw a ball.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  50. george says:

    @Tyrell:

    Same reason as people are paid millions of dollars to pretend to be someone else in a movie, or to make sounds on some instrument – entertainment sells, and the people paying make a profit on all of the above, even after the outrageous payments.

    Personally I find it encouraging that people so diverse that different people are entertained (at least to the level of paying for it) for such a wide variety of things, from sport to theater to music to literature to politics … well, you get the idea.

    Though you could argue that it’d better if everyone was actually out there hitting and throwing balls themselves, playing music themselves, writing and acting in plays themselves etc … a cynic might say its just a continuation of paying people to do things we want done but don’t want to do ourselves (like plumbing, for instance).

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  51. Monala says:

    @Senyordave: My husband has foolishly gotten involved in MLM programs in the past, so after some serious discussions, he promised he would always consult me before joining something, and if I said, “No way,” he’d follow that.

    Anyway, prior to Trump’s birther rants, I thought of the man as tacky and ostentatious, but still a savvy business man. In the fall of 2011, a friend wanted my husband to join ACN, and my husband asked if I would join him to sit in on his friend’s presentation (at our house). As soon as Trump’s face came on the screen, I shut it down. By that point, based on his birtherism behavior, I knew that there was nothing trustworthy or honorable about him.

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  52. Rick DeMent says:

    @James Joyner:

    Even when I was criticizing Hillary Clinton for the optics of her accepting large amounts of money to give speeches when it was obvious that she would run for president—and for her husband leveraging her status as sitting Secretary of State to wrangle donations—I fully acknowledged this phenomenon. Even in cases where there’s a real conflict of interest, there’s also a legitimate non-policy-influence value to the speeches.

    What about the optics of policy choices that exactly align precisely with campaign donations? All of this stuff is indistinguishable form a ample common campaign donation. Do you have to jump over a few more hoops to shovel larger amounts with a straight up campaign donation? Sure. But it’s hardly a huge obstacle especially if you have a large extended family like the DeVos clan.

    I have seen more work on the so called “optics problem” of the Clinton and the Obama then I have in the straight up collusion of Scott Pruitt. Cut it out really. if you all have anything that even compares to the obvious criminality of any number of Trump admin officials or close advisers bring it on. But this focus on the “Former” president, or the actions of Clinton when she wasn’t even in office is pointless.

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  53. Eric Florack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: you need a safe zone, snowflake?

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  54. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds: actually, no, I did not. In fact t I am on record as NOT supporting Trump. One proof of many;

    http://bitsblog.theconservativereader.com/2016/07/trump-supporters-its-time-to-start-looking-in-the-mirror/

    The least you could do is have a clue what you’re talking about

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  55. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds: and by the way mr. Reynolds, you are in no way on any level qualified to preach to anyone about supporting selection giving your overt and undying support for Obama and the Clinton cabal

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  56. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    No, just a baseball bat and 5 minutes of nobody watching.

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  57. Eric Florack says:

    I do hope I’m not supposed to be impressed

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  58. Matt says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thanks for that link and the information. I had no idea that Cantor Fitzgerald had done such things. Just looking at the headlines you’d think Obama had taken money from the devil himself.

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  59. Tyrell says:

    @george: Plumbing and repairing cars: now that is who should get paid well, at least more than they get now. And some of them are making a decent pay.

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  60. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    safe zone, snowflake?

    You sure you want to use up so much of your arsenal so quickly?

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