Defenders of Barack Obama’s decision to do things like accept a $400,000 check for a speech to a Wall Street brokerage house argue that the former president might as well cash in — everyone else does.
That was Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s defense of Obama. “People are like why doesn’t he not accept the money? No, f*** that,” Noah said. “So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards? No no no my friend. He can’t be the first of everything! F*** that, and f*** you. Make that money, Obama!”
This argument, while common, is based on historical ignorance. It assumes that presidents have always found a way to leverage their political connections post-presidency to make money from interest groups and wealthy political actors.
But that isn’t the case.
It used to be the norm for presidents to retire to ordinary life after their stint in the White House — just ask Harry Truman.