Obama remains enormously popular on the left, but he has nonetheless come under fire from progressives who are angered by his decision to accept $400,000 from financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald for a speech at a healthcare conference in September.
The issue has renewed tensions between liberals and mainstream Democrats that emerged during the bitter 2016 primary contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned hard against the influence of money in politics.
Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have both registered their disappointment with Obama, showing that not even the most revered Democrat in the country can escape the populist wrath.
Nina Turner, a former Sanders surrogate, said that it’s time Democrats wrestle with Obama’s legacy, which includes Wall Street executives in top advisory roles and a sharp rise in income inequality.
Turner said that money in politics will be a bellwether issue for liberal candidates in 2018 and beyond as emboldened progressives look to build on Sanders’s insurgent campaign.
“President Obama may not be in politics anymore, but he’s very much a symbol of what Democrats stand for, and so people are disappointed by this,” Turner said.
The former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee came out swinging Tuesday night in defense of former President Barack Obama’s plan to accept $400,000 for a speech to Wall Street in September, urging critics such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to mind their own business.
Warren, a possible presidential candidate in 2020, said she was “troubled” by Obama’s decision, and Sanders, a former Democratic presidential candidate, told CNN it was “not a good idea” and “distasteful.”
After being shown both criticisms during an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired back that “it is none of anyone’s business what someone who is a member of the private sector decides to accept in terms of compensation.”
Wasserman Schultz said that Obama and Clinton, who also faced criticism for paid speeches to Wall Street, both have “pristine” public records. “They both fought back against the big banks, and their practices, and I have every confidence in the service they both provided.”
“With all due respect to anyone who chooses to comment publicly on what Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or anyone earns as a member of the private sector,” she said, “it’s just, like, MYOB — it’s none of your business.”