By TEMPLE LI
Why do they do it? Why would anyone want to deliberately expose their lives, both personal and professional, to relentless scrutiny and expend the tremendous amount of energy and dedication needed to run for president and, ultimately, to execute the responsibilities of the office?
With Trump, it’s easy. He has plenty of money, a strong dose of narcissism and treats the presidency as an extension of his reality show, “The Apprentice.”
But what about Barrack Obama? Just follow the money. This first-term senator from the State of Illinois rose to stardom when he gave the keynote speech at the 2004 DNC convention and his fortunes, both literally and figuratively, began to change substantially. Although he had written his first book, “Dreams of My Father,” in 1995, his book sales did not take off until after his keynote speech, when he signed in that year a multi-book deal , with a $1.9 million advance for his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” For the Democrat party, he was articulate, interesting and just the right color—an attractive brown—to become a future presidential contender. Although his mother was white and he was raised by his white grandparents, it became convenient for him to identify as black, particularly given the academic benefits it afforded him, including attendance at Harvard. By marrying a black lawyer, Michelle Robinson, it solidified his opportunity to become the first “African American” president of the U.S.
Before his 2004 debut, his financial assets were in four financial funds amounting to $150,000. By 2005 he reported approximately $500,000 in deposit funds. By 2006 he had acquired publically traded assets worth tens of thousands of dollars. His monetary worth grew exponentially as his political career escalated. By the time Barack Obama left the presidential office, his net worth was 30 times more than when he entered the presidency in 2008. Today his estimated net worth is $40 million, although the New York Post puts it at more than $135 million. The Obamas bought a home in Washington, D.C. for $8.1 million and still maintain their home in Chicago, valued at $2.5 million.
Where do the Obamas earn their post-presidential income—from all of the usual suspects, including books, speeches to Wall Street firms, T.V. appearances and a production deal with Netflix. Wow—all meaningful pursuits! How much of this income is given to charity? During his presidency, President Obama contributed approximately $1.1 million to charity, which was a politically wise and an appropriate move. But that was then and now….well, it’s very hard to determine. Apparently, like his democrat predecessor, Obama has established a foundation, which is concentrating on memorializing him through creating the Obama Presidential Center in South Side Chicago. Although the Obamas have donated “some” money toward this project, the foundation is actively soliciting donations from outside contributors.
The Obamas, however, are not all work and no play. They certainly know how to vacation and party—from Hawaii to Indonesia to yachting with friends Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Springsteen.. No wonder they don’t have time to engage in such mundane activities as promoting social justice and human rights, precedents set by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, whose post-presidency has been dedicated to Habitats for Humanity. Meanwhile, while George W. Bush is cycling with disabled Vets, you can find Barack kite surfing with Richard Branson. And all this fun—whose dime is probably paying for it—the taxpayers. In addition to the $200,000 presidential pension, the General Services Administration pays for former presidents’ travel expenses, technically work-related, but in reality the Obamas’ junkets could easily be attributed to Foundation-related work, following in the Clintons’ footsteps. Speaking of the Clintons, in an ABC interview Hillary Clinton said they left the White House in debt. Today their net worth is reported at $75 million.
Why did the Obamas do it? Exchanging less than 20% of your life in public service for a lavish life style, no further responsibilities and a least $40 million in net worth, why wouldn’t they do it?
Temple Li is the news editor for Empire State News, where she frequently authors her own editorials (just because she feels like it). She graduated at the top of her class at a mediocre college, infuriating her professors with her conservative wit and sultry charm. Empire State News allows Ms. Li to make a living, and to have a platform to tell people what she thinks. What could be better than that?