The First Black Post Presidency

Let’s talk about the first black president’s first black post presidency.

For the last eight years, Barack Obama has vexed the Washington DC press. Incredibly charismatic, smart and with great comedic timing — his presidency was something that the press found difficult to latch onto in the way that they had previous administrations. There was no running scandal as there was with the endless whitewater investigations of the Clinton presidency — nor was there a new war, as under George W. Bush, that could sate their appetite for explosive b-roll. In a word, the Obama administration was competent.

It was also headed by a black man.

Every single move Obama made — down to how he decided to dress himself, was scrutinized. Every piece of minutia mattered. This in and of itself was something new — an impression, created by the GOP and sustained by the press that Obama simply didn’t belong. Obama was often cast as an outsider — even among his own caucus. Republicans derided him as “boy,” while racial caricatures — both subversive and overt — permeated every single aspect of his coverage and opposition from Congress on down.

None of that mattered to Obama, however, and it formed the basis of the biggest tension of the press’ relationship with his White House. They could never control Obama’s narrative. The “scandals,” such as they were, were seen by the majority of Americans as manufactured, vacuous or both. Remember Obama’s “apology tour?” Or Benghazi? The innumerable small dramas that inevitably play themselves out across governments couldn’t be turned into larger issues, largely because Obama never took the bait.

Yet even today, they can’t quite quit him.

Obama’s recently announced speeches — and fees for said speeches — have driven the commentariat nuts, and have driven the most liberal of the left to outrage. Bernie Sanders (unreleased tax returns, wife potentially under FBI investigation), suggests he is “troubled” by Obama’s speaking fees. Senator Warren (currently on her own book tour, seemingly to promote her own political ambitions), too, has concerns. Matthew Yglesias of Vox, goes so far as to suggest that “Obama’s $400,000 Wall Street Speaking fee will undermine everything he believes in.”

That’s a bit much, is it not?

In many respects how you feel about Obama’s speaking fees mirror what you think of him as a person, or as a president. For the liberal left commentators or senators — he was never quite good enough — nor stuck it to the bankers as hard as he should have. Obama’s refusal to simply accept his book deal and go home, to them, supports their conclusions about his character and obviates any real successes Obama had during his tenure. For these folks, virtue signaling is paramount. Otherwise, per Matt Yglesias, how will the white middle class understand that Obama really did have their best interests at heart?

Yet these folks don’t make up as large a majority of the country as they like to think, and they aren’t the people whose thoughts Obama has ever concerned himself with. Instead, I would argue, take a look at the democratic base, and how people of color are taking his post presidency. Trevor Noah sums this dynamic up well — “so the first black president must also be the first one to not make money afterwards? No, no, no, no, no, my friend. He can’t be the first of everything. F — k that, and f — k you.”

Throughout, Obama will continue to be Obama. What Yglesias, Sanders and Warren miss, I think, is that for many — Obama will always represent the American dream. A black kid from Hawaii who grew up across the whole of the United States and went on to become president? Who continues to stick it to people who would control and criticize his every move? That’s a kind of a freedom every American wants, whether they’re Black, Hispanic, Asian or white middle class.

There is nothing Obama will do in the course of living his life will change that.