The media's coverage of Barack Obama's visit to New Zealand has been little more than sycophantic.
TVNZ AND TV3 sent Carolyn Robinson and Patrick Gower on a wild goose chase, namely to hunt for former US President Barack Obama. He was on the golf course at Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay.
Obama is on a private visit and it was signaled well in advance that he would not be talking to the local media during his short stay. Nevertheless that didn't stop TVNZ and TV3 sending their intrepid reporters to stand on a hill (but not together, although they easily could of done) and report on how they both hadn't even got close to Obama. The best that both networks could come up with was some long range grainy shots of Obama's helicopter arriving at the golf course and someone who looked like Obama strolling around said golf course. His golfing partners included John Key and Craig Heatley, one of New Zealand's richest individuals.
With little to report, both Gower and Robinson resorted to humour to fill up the airtime. So there was jokes about fields and cows, none of it particularly amusing. At least the scenery was nice to look at.
Obama flew into New Zealand from Singapore on a private jet and will be speaking to an invited audience tonight which will include the usual corporate business 'leaders' - oh, and some M.Ps . The event is being sponsored by corporate heavyweights Air New Zealand, Westpac and Mastercard. Air New Zealand chief Christopher Luxon says that Obama's visit will be an inspiration for the country's 'leaders of today and tomorrow'. So National Party leader Simon Bridges is obviously looking forward to picking up some pointers from Obama.
But the former president's brand of 'inspiration' doesn't come cheap. His usual speaking fee is reportedly in the region of $US400,000.
Since leaving the White House Obama has been regularly criticised not only for the amount of money he's demanding for his speaking engagements but the kind of audiences he is talking to.
Last year he was attacked for accepting a $400,000 fee for a speech to a Wall Street bank. In 2009, he told CBS: "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street."
The fee was nearly twice the $225,000 that Hillary Clinton received for three speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2015 - speeches that got Clinton into a whole load of trouble during her ill-fated presidential campaign, with Democratic and Republican activists both demanding she release the transcripts.
But Obama has been cashing in on his presidency in the same way that both the Bush and Clinton dynasties did. On top of the considerable revenue he generates on the speaking circuit he and former first lady Michelle Obama have also picked up a fat $60 million collective book deal.
All this prompted Chris Riotta of Newsweek to write last year: “How could it be that Obama, the smooth-talking Democratic candidate in 2008 who slammed Wall Street greed and resonated with the working class in a way his party has since been unable to authentically recreate, is living his post-presidential life like an elitist one percent?”
But this is not so hard to work out. During his time in the White House Obama talked the language of progressive change and got many liberals to believe what he was saying, but he was as much the corporate politician as the widely despised Hillary Clinton. During Obama's 2012 presidential campaign Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone observed:
"Hearing Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity...reminded me that we are back in campaign mode, and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best--play the part of a progressive. He's good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle."
But there will be little, if any, searching examination of Obama's political legacy while the man himself is in the country. On TV3's The AM Show Amanda Gillies informed us that we were into our second day of 'Obamamania'. I assume this is the same as 'Jacindamania' only spelt differently.