Barack Obama seems to be enjoying his ex-presidency. Hillary Clinton seems to be anguishing over her ex-candidacy.
In accepting the JFK Profile in Courage award, Obama weighed in on the debate over the law nicknamed for him. But he threaded the needle in not mentioning President Trump by name.
The media would love to cover a Trump-Obama slugfest. And Obama is clearly not going to retire to a quiet existence and paint portraits, as George W. Bush did. But he is said to have appreciated Bush’s policy of not criticizing his successor and plans to follow a modified version, at least for now.
Clinton is following a very different path, speaking out against Trump.
The 44th president noted in his speech that some members of Congress risked losing their seats, and ending their political careers, by voting for ObamaCare.
“It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions ... such courage is still possible, that today's members of Congress regardless of party are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions,” Obama said.
What he’s really saying is that wavering Republican lawmakers should stand up to Trump and their leaders and refuse to gut his health care law, protect people with preexisting conditions and not slash Medicaid. But Obama didn’t even refer to last week’s House vote, framing his argument in a loftier way so he’s not accused of attacking the man who beat his secretary of State.
Obama is taking heat, however, for making money. The New York Times editorial page has whacked him for accepting a big-money speech financed by investment banks:
“Is it a betrayal of that sentiment for the former president to have accepted a reported $400,000 to speak to a Wall Street firm? Perhaps not, but it is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics now joins almost every modern president in cashing in. And it shows surprising tone deafness, more likely to be expected from the billionaires the Obamas have vacationed with these past months than from a president keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent.”
So the Times is asking Obama not to do what every former president this side of Jimmy Carter has done—cash in on the speaking circuit—in service of some higher ideal?
The big Wall Street paydays were a big problem for Hillary because everyone knew she was running again, so corporations could curry favor by throwing six-figure sums at her or her husband. But Obama’s political career is over.
Clinton let a flash of anger show when she tweeted about Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine LePen in France:
“Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world. Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can’t talk about that.)”
Translation: She’s smarting from the harsh coverage of an interview last week in which she took “absolute responsibility” for losing the election but then blamed others: James Comey, Wikileaks, Russian hackers.
Since a Russian-affiliated group hacked Macron’s email—though French media followed a blackout order on the contents—Clinton was taking a whack at Russian hackers, who she believes hurt her badly in 2016.
But she was also saying the media don’t want her to talk about the role of outside players in her loss. What the commentators were actually saying is that Clinton never owned up to her lack of an economic message or her fatal neglect of key Rust Belt states.
If Hillary wants to take on the media, be my guest. At least it will make her Twitter feed more interesting than it was during the campaign.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.