The same day the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FBI‘s Clinton e-mail investigation was released, the grumpy, Trump-obsessed Acting New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, announced her suit against the Trump family foundation alleging “persistent illegal conduct.” At a glance, the charges seem to amount to what the IRS calls self-dealing – in common parlance a conflict of interest involving what are called “disqualified persons” (in this case that term refers to Donald Trump and other members of his family—namely the people who created and run the charitable foundation). My cynicism at the timing of the latter was dispelled, at least for a while, by a heartwarming e-mail I also received that day from, coincidentally, the head of the Obama Foundation.
Casting the Net
Mr. David Simas, whom the Washington Post describes as “President Obama’s top political aide since early 2014,” now runs Barack and Michelle Obama’s post-presidential foundation, which is already bringing transformative benefits to the citizens of Chicago. He shared with me and other members of the “Team” as he likes to call us, some personal pre-Fathers’ Day sentiments:
“It’s been more than 40 years, but I can remember, very clearly, sitting in the living room of our two-bedroom home in Taunton, Massachusetts, watching my father watch the news.
Afterward, we would have conversations about what we saw. My father taught me that it is our sacred duty as citizens to care about the policies and institutions that shape our communities — and, in turn, to step up and help shape them ourselves…
We all have someone who instilled in us the fundamentals of good citizenship — maybe a father, a grandfather, a mentor, or a friend. Ahead of Father’s Day, we want to hear about yours.
Tell us about that person who helped shape you as an active leader in your community — and we’ll be sharing your stories in the days to come.
I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life and had a lot of incredible mentors along the way. But most importantly, I’m still that kid from Taunton, Massachusetts… grateful for what [my parents] taught me about being an active participant in our community — and our democracy.
I suspect you feel the same way about someone — and I can’t wait to hear your stories.
These stories, after all, have the ability to inspire millions more.”
How nice, I thought, maybe I should send them something about the cute little old ladies in tricorn hats I encountered at a Tea party rally gamely rapping The Bill of Rights, but then I remembered somewhere encountering sentiments vaguely similar to Mr. Simas’ that rekindled my cynicism.
Recently announced was the formation of “Higher Ground Productions,” a vehicle through which Barack and Michelle Obama will produce programs for Netflix. These programs will, naturally, not be overtly political, but instead, according to Mr. Obama, endeavor to “cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.” Mr. Obama goes on to remember how “one of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience…That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix.”
In fact, by responding to his call for “stories,” all of us on Mr. Simas’ “Team” can now partner with the Obamas and Netflix, though the compensation scale will be decidedly asymmetrical.
Of course, busy world leaders like the Obamas could not, while they were doing all that inspired moving and shaking, jot down the names and contact information of every one of the fascinating visionaries they met who would now be suitable fodder for Higher Ground Productions’ Netflix shows. Likewise, Barack and Michelle and their busy minions can’t be expected to put in dreary hours sifting through the rap sheets and internet videos of all of the Trump Resisters, anti-pipeline crusaders, Southern heritage de-programmers, female Boy Scouts, omnigender public restroom activists and other inspirational figures currently toiling away “highlighting the issues and themes the president pursued during his eight years in office.”
Fortunately, through the good offices of the Obama Foundation, now engaged citizens for whom a progressive natural beeswax cooperative was there when they needed candles ASAP for a midnight Anti-White Supremacy vigil or college grads who were rescued from a dreary major in Telecommunications Engineering by an inspiring professor who opened their eyes to the world-changing potential of a shift to Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice Studies, can now finally give back. They can make the change agent who reached out and infused their lives with new meaning a Netflix star, and at the same time do a little to help augment the retirement income of the most incandescently brilliant couple ever to grace the White House.
A charitable foundation solicits and screens story ideas that can be fed to a multi-million dollar enterprise run by disqualified persons who are in the streaming video “content” business. Great work if you can get it—just don’t do it in New York State.