Double Standard on Morning Joe

Over my early morning cup of coffee, I wandered into the most bizarre conversation on Morning Joe between Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and their cadre of regular contributors.

The topic:

Whether or not Hillary Clinton is worth the $200,000 she commands for speeches and whether or not Hillary Clinton showed poor judgment when accepting such paychecks from America’s largest financial institutions. Seriously? This is a topic of debate let alone conversation?

The Facts:

Clinton earned significant income from speaking engagements as reported in her financial disclosure. These earnings came from biotech firms, technology companies, financial institutions, foundations, international boards of trade, healthcare companies, women’s forums, and a variety of other industries. Indeed, Ms. Clinton’s largest payday was not from a financial institution but a biotechnology organization where she earned $335,000.

The Issue:

The concern, according to Joe Scarborough, is that these financial institutions now expect some sort of special treatment from Ms. Clinton. Scarborough backs up this hyperbole by stating that Clinton isn’t worth the $200,000 fee that she is paid and that these institutions don’t really want to hear her perspectives on the global economy or the challenges facing industries across the world.

Of course, Scarborough is right. The only reason these institutions invite women into their hallowed halls is take advantage of them. What could a former Senator and Secretary of State have to offer the all-knowing male brain trust on Wall Street?


The Rub:

Putting aside the ridiculously sexist notion that no woman — not even an accomplished attorney and law professor, former Senator and Secretary of State and life-long human rights advocate — is capable of withstanding the withering stare of these Wall Street men when push comes to shove, it is simply insane to believe that a few speeches at a few hundred thousand dollars is enough to “buy” the President of the United States. Surely, even a female president would demand a higher price for her integrity.

And, what about all the high-priced speeches being given by men? All of whom have the ability to peddle influence of one kind or another. In June 2014,[1] the top ten compensated speakers list included:

1. President William Jefferson Clinton who, according to the Huffington Post, earns between $150,000 and $450,000 per engagement.

2. Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly banked $500,000 for a speech given to a real estate group in China and earned $19 million (most of it in speaking fees) in 2009.

3. Entrepreneur and presidential candidate Donald Trump reportedly receives $1.5 million for real estate advice and his thoughts on business.

4. Mayor Rudy Giuliani reported $9.2 million in earned speaking fees during his 2008 presidential campaign.

5. President George W. Bush charges a reported $150,000 per event.

6. Sir Richard Branson has a $100,000 minimum fee per speech

7. Now defunct Lehman Brothers paid Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan $250,000 for a single speech.

8. Vice President Al Gore earns $100,000 per hour, according to The London Times.

9. Former Secretary of the Treasury and Director of the U.S. National Economic Council Larry Summers booked $2.8 million for 40 speeches in 2009. His largest payday — $150,000 — was courtesy of Goldman Sachs.

10. Governor Sarah Palin charges $100,000 per event and reportedly earned $12 million between 2009 and 2010 for speeches, book proceeds and television appearances.

Hillary Clinton is among the top paid political speakers. Why shouldn’t she be? Her curriculum vitae is as good or better than most of the names on the “top ten list.” Despite Joe Scarborough’s contention that Ms. Clinton’s fee does not represent a fair market rate, the facts tell a different story.

And, that’s the rub. Scarborough, Brzezinski and many in the public continue to hold Hillary Clinton to a higher moral standard than her male counter-parts. In doing so, they undermine her credibility, demean her accomplishments and belittle her capabilities — as well as the credibility, accomplishments, and capabilities of all women.

The Moral Double Standard

So, why all the fuss?

According to the Morning Joe crew (and other pundits), Hillary Clinton accepted these large speaking fees knowing that she was launching a presidential bid only a few months later. The obvious question, again according to Scarborough, Brzezinski and others, “What was she thinking?”

The obvious answer is either that she wasn’t thinking or, if she was thinking, that she was doing a rather poor job of it. Call me a crazy feminist but I suspect she was thinking that she could bank some cash in between public service gigs. I mean if Sarah Palin is pulling down $100,000 per engagement, Hillary Clinton could do at least that well, if not better.

And, what exactly is wrong with leveraging your talents, skills, and accomplishments to earn a living? I haven’t heard much complaining about the earnings of the male candidates, where those earnings came from, or how those earnings might impact their ability to govern.

Is that because we don’t expect men to behave morally? Indeed, that just might be the case. We unconsciously associate higher moral standards with women because of their role as caregivers.[2] And, studies agree that women are more trustworthy and less prone to corruption than men. But, whether or not this is because of their gender or because of the lack of opportunity to participate in the all-male networks that foster corruption is still unclear.

Weather or not women are less prone to corruption, holding women to a higher moral standard than we hold men is inexcusable.

We don’t criticize Donald Trump for being a billionaire. We don’t question whether or not he is “worth” $1.5 million per speech. And, we don’t suggest that his business dealings could put him in a compromising position should he become the President of the United States. We don’t do these things because we don’t expect him to be moral. We give him, and most men, a pass.

Mika Brzezinski gave Joe Scarborough a pass this morning when he claimed Hillary Clinton wasn’t worth her $200,000 speaking fee, suggested the only reason institutions would pay such a fee is to gain improper influence over her, and implying that because Ms. Clinton already has a net worth of $100 million she ought to leave the speaking fees on the table. Ms. Brzezinski advanced some of these same ideas as well. Ironic given that Ms. Brzezinski is simultaneously telling women to not only know their value but to demand it.

For the record, Forbes reports Hillary Clinton’s net worth at $45 million not $100 million. It also reports Donald Trump’s net worth at $4.5 billion. Mr. Trump earns $1.5 million per speech compared to Ms. Clinton’s $200,000.

While the majority of the discussion around Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees centers on her ability to separate her financial ties to “big banks” from her responsibilities as President, the science tells us that these worries over possible corruption are, in fact, mitigated by Ms. Clinton’s womanhood. Hillary Clinton — by virtue of her membership in the ultimate special interest group of women — is less likely than her male opponents to be corrupted by interactions with other special interest groups.

Sorry, Joe.

Womanhood Is the Differentiator Despite the Double Standard

I’m not afraid to say that I support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. I think being a woman is an advantage — all other things being equal. Women are stronger at leading diverse workforces and at leading diverse populations. The United States is increasingly diverse. Our world is obviously diverse and its citizens rightfully demand that we respect their diversity. Women understand this in ways that men do not.

And, there are other ways that female participation in government make electing a woman president a no-brainer:

· Peace and security will be possible only when women are fully engaged in the peace process

· Environmental stewardship can become a global value only when women are engaged as leaders in government, business, and academia

· Human rights can be fully realized — regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity — only when women share the mantle of leadership

· Corporate greed and excess can be tamed only when women rise in equal measure with men to C-Suites and Boardrooms

· Economic stability is possible only when we close the gap between the way men and women engage with and experience work

· Equal rights can be achieved only when the disadvantaged and underrepresented are included in the legislative and judicial processes

· Purposeful work and fulfilling lives are possible only when we break the vicious cycle of harder, longer, and poorly compensated work

· Empathy is possible only if we work to restore the balance between the arts and sciences in our schools and in our cultures

· Solutions to the world’s hardest problems — like poverty, diminishing natural resources, and human equality and dignity — are possible only when we bring together the government, business, and civil society

· Impactful leadership exists only when a leader is prepared to make decisions based on the next seven generations and not the next election cycle

I’m voting for Hilary Clinton because her womanhood makes it more likely that she will strive for these goals and her experience makes it more likely that she will achieve them. And, I just don’t care how much money she made from speaking engage

[1] ABC News published a list in July 2014 listing the following top paid speakers: Donald Trump ($1.5 million per speech), Hillary Clinton ($200 thousand per speech), Bill Clinton ($200 thousand per speech), Tim Geithner ($200 thousand be speech), Ben Bernanke ($200-$400 thousand per speech), George W. Bush ($150 thousand per speech), Condoleezza Rice ($150 thousand per speech), Larry Summers ($135 thousand per speech), Al Gore ($100 thousand per speech), Sarah Palin ($100 thousand per speech).

[2] Some scholars suggest that women and men relate to corruption differently due to differences in risk-taking behavior. Women are less risk averse — even in professional settings — because of their care-giving roles at home. Laboratory corruption experiments confirm this hypothesis. Of course, it is also possible that women simply are not included in the all-male networks where corruption opportunities arise.

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