Obama and General Flynn

Former president Barack Obama and former DIA director General Michael Flynn

Former president Barack Obama and former DIA director General Michael Flynn
Sometimes the irony and hypocrisy of two seemingly unrelated news items is inescapable. Such was the case last week when General Mike Flynn and former President Barack Obama both made headlines because of payments they had received or were about to receive from unethical sources. The concurrent controversies led to heightened investigations of one man, and damage to the credibility of the other.

Flynn served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama from July 2012 until August 2014. Depending upon which account or leaked email you read, he was forced out of the DIA for not playing well with others, for being fast and loose with the truth, and for taking too hard a line against Islamic terrorism. Upon his retirement from active military, Flynn was in demand as a speaker and appeared frequently on cable news shows. Meanwhile his company thrived by providing intelligence for public and private sector clients. In December of 2015, Flynn and other notables (including Green Party candidate Jill Stein) attended a dinner to honor the Russian-owned news outlet, RT. The General also made a speech that night, for which RT reportedly paid him $45,000.

In 2016, Flynn began advising the Trump campaign on military and security matters, and, in the course of his duties, met with numerous world leaders, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisyak. In January of 2017, he was named National Security Advisor to President Trump, but was fired a month later for lying to Vice President Pence about the nature of his discussions with Kisyak. The news media and Democrats on the Hill were convinced that Flynn (and others in the Trump campaign) had made secret deals with Putin, which included Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election in return for Trump lifting sanctions against Russia if he won the White House. Now Congress and the Pentagon are stepping up efforts to investigate if and how General Flynn (who could still be recalled to active military duty) might have broken the law by accepting money from a foreign government without prior authorization. Flynn claims he gave proper notification of his RT speech, but the Pentagon says there’s no indication of that. But Flynn isn’t the only former high level federal employee who’s taking heat for being a paid speaker, he’s just the only one being investigated, and that brings us to our 44th President.

Last week it was disclosed that Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver the key note speech at a supposed health care conference this Fall, and will be paid $400,000 by none other than Cantor Fitzgerald, a major player on Wall Street. That’s about twice what either of the Clinton’s receive for making a speech, and it’s ten times more that what Flynn received for speaking at the RT event. Yet the mainstream media doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal. Only Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have voiced their concern and displeasure at Obama’s decision to accept money from Wall Street. After all, it was President Obama who constantly railed against Wall Street fat cats for their role in causing the 2008 recession, then accepting taxpayer bail outs that were rarely used to make affordable home loans.

In March of 2009, Obama said, “Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayer’s dime is inexcusable…We can’t go back to a culture on Wall Street that says it’s OK to bend or break the rules.”

In September of 2009, he said, “Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences.” And In December of 2009, the President said, “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.”

But the minute Obama leaves office, HE’s the one being helped out by those same fat cats. Aside from the bad optics and hypocrisy, Obama’s new coziness with Wall Street also begs the question, “Is there a reason why the Obama administration never put a single Wall Street executive in jail?” We have no proof that Obama made a quid pro quo deal with Cantor Fitzgerald, just as we have no proof that Mike Flynn made a quid pro quo deal with Putin. Yet it’s Flynn, not Obama, who is under investigation. Somehow the news media has decided that Russia’s alleged leaking of DNC emails is much more important to the American people than Obama accepting money from an industry that he refused to prosecute. But the fact is that Putin had nothing to do with Hillary’s loss, while Wall Street had everything to do with costing millions of people their jobs, homes, and savings.

The one thing that both Flynn and Obama have in common is they will take money from dubious clients, but we can help prevent future bad optics and conflicts of interest by revamping the White House lobbying law. Simply extend the ban on lobbying by former staff to include the President himself, and expand the ban to include acceptance of speaking fees for a period of five years. Of course, any regulation can be circumvented. If the expanded ban were already in place, Cantor Fitzgerald could hire Obama as head of international affairs, and pay him $400,000, and RT could hire Flynn as head of security and pay him $45,000. Still, we should at least make an effort to curtail the obscene fortunes collected by revolving door White House staffers. Otherwise, taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for endless political investigations, while worrying about what deals our President might be making with greedy industrialists that could bring about our next economic crisis.
 
 

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