Last weekend Barack Obama threw himself a “ginormous” 60th birthday party, says Liza Featherstone in Jacobin. The bash was starry – 475 people were invited, including George Clooney and Beyoncé. It was also, given the recent Covid surge, completely tone deaf. As Obama did party prep, the Delta variant was ravaging America. The White House urged citizens to be cautious – so Obama slimmed down his guest list to 200. Needless to say, “the optics of this shindig were not good”.
But it’s no surprise. Obama’s post-presidential career has been “strikingly bereft of public-spiritedness”. For charity work, he built a museum to honour himself, the Obama Presidential Center, which manages to be garish and damaging, taking up “cherished green space” in Chicago. His property portfolio is just as controversial. Not content with an $11.75m mansion in Martha’s Vineyard and an $8.1m pad in DC, he’s developing an “ecological monstrosity in Hawaii”. The planned beach house has a sea wall to protect it from storms. Handy, but illegal, because it disrupts the flow of the ocean. Most ex-presidents are more modest. Carter defended democracy in Venezuela, George HW Bush raised money for Hurricane Katrina and George W Bush became “an amateur painter”. Meanwhile, Obama is cruising around the British Virgin Islands with Richard Branson. But somehow he’s the one who enjoys a liberal “cult of hero worship”.