Tag Archives: book deals

Ethics Q & A On Obama’s Speaking Fees

Former President Barack Obama received a $400,000 speaking fee for an appearance at an A&E Network event  yesterday, just as controversy was building over Obama accepting the same fee to appear at a Wall Street firm’s conference.

What’s going on here?

The ex-President is cashing in, that’s what’s going on here. This has become standard operating procedure for former POTUSes, beginning with Gerald Ford, who was showered with criticism by Democrats and the news media for signing with the William Morris agency and picking up what was at the time considered obscene speaking fees from corporations and foreign governments. Ford’s fees are dwarfed by Obama’s, but then Barack is a much better speaker than the late President Ford was. (Almost anyone is.)

Jimmy Carter showed admirable restraint by not devoting his post-Presidency to enriching himself off of his years in office, but Ronald Reagan took some mega-fees to speak abroad. The Clintons, as we know too well, instantly went from rags to riches by selling their celebrity, an exercise that was especially dubious because Hillary was on the rise. Obama’s speaking fees are just one more step along the cashing-in path that both he and Michelle had already begun traveling with the astounding 65 million dollar deal the couple signed to write their biographies.

Some questions and answers on the ethics of Obama’s payday:

1.  Is Obama ‘s acceptance of all this money ethical?

In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. He set a fee, and someone is willing to pay it. Hillary’s fee was $250,000; if she can get that much for her dry-as-toast delivery as a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, Obama’s a bargain at $400,000. As a private citizen, he has the same right any of us do to sell his books and speeches at whatever the market will bear.

I, for example, get $37.56 for an hour long speech, and am glad to get it..

2. But it isn’t in a vacuum, right?

Right. Obama still has power and influence; he still promises to be a voice in the Democratic party. He’s not exactly a private citizen, and no ex-President is. Taking such a large payment from a Wall Street firm, after all of Obama’s rhetoric (and that of Bernie Sanders, the non-Democrat now being paraded as a leader of the Democratic party) condemning Wall Street has the decided whiff of hypocrisy about it. Not only, that, but as with Hillary Clinton and Bill, the payment of such jaw-dropping amounts for minimal service natural raises questions of pay-offs. Obama’s administration famously sought no criminal sanctions for Wall Street executives despite their  role in what Obama called “driving the economy into a ditch.” How do we know this wasn’t part of an installment payment to Obama for services already rendered, a quid pro quo? We don’t.

It is also hard to make sense out of those fees if they aren’t paying for something more than an hour long speech.

3. So these fees create “the appearance of impropriety?” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Government & Politics, Leadership

Ethics Dunce: ThinkProgress Editor Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani

A Milo protest at UCLA followed by a bomb threat that shut down his speaking appearance.  You'd think they'd want him to have a book published so they could burn it...

A Milo protest at UCLA followed by a bomb threat that shut down his speaking appearance. I’d think they’d want him to have a book published, so they could burn it…

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, an editor at progressive website ThinkProgress, epitomizes a real problem for progressives, and society’s ability to trust them with political power. She, like increasing numbers of others espousing her ideology, believes that citizens expressing opinions she doesn’t agree with should be prevented from doing so.

Her post is titled “We live in a world where white supremacists get lucrative book deals,” and her argument is that the “white supremacist” in question (though he isn’t one), inexplicably popular professional asshole Milo Yiannopoulos, shouldn’t be able to get a book published or be paid for writing it.

Yiannopoulos’s act is that he is forcefully and often obscenely politically incorrect, particularly regarding feminism. If he’s a white supremacist, he’s a very odd one, having a gay partner who is black. Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter, which regards his harassment of a black actress ban-worthy but the harassment of white male conservatives just desserts, and he has also sparked several episodes on campus last year where his scheduled speeches were cancelled by cowardly college administrators after students complained that the threat of his likely comments being made to others caused them to feel “unsafe.”

He got a book deal because he is famous in some circles, a culture war combatant, and a sometimes amusingly inflammatory writer. He got a book deal because enough people are likely to buy his book that his publisher expects to make money. He got a book deal because enough people in a free country want to read what he has to say. Varkiani believes this is scandalous, and if she and her fellow censors had their way, he wouldn’t be able to get paid to speak or write. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights