It's Time for Obama to Lead by Example

I opened the Drudge Report several nights ago to a blaring headline reporting that Barack Obama would be purchasing a $30,000 ring for his wife Michelle. Since that report, Obama's handlers have denied the rumor; however, I still wonder where and how it originated. Was there any truth to the story?

The Obamas have never given us a reason to believe that such an extravagance, in the middle of a major recession, is unrealistic. Aside from the soaring rhetoric, the lavish spending throughout the campaign served to highlight the massive egos we know as Barack and Michelle Obama.

While the press went berserk over the money that the RNC spent to clothe Sarah Palin, they could not sing enough praise for the fashion statement that Michelle made when she wore a Narcisso Rodriquez dress the night of the election. Couture on Michelle is acceptable and even commendable while a wardrobe ultimately intended for charity but temporarily worn by Sarah Palin (who customarily buys her clothes at the local Wasilla thrift shop) is turned into a major scandal.

Similarly, President and Mrs. Bush's recent purchase of a home upon their return to Texas made headlines while the questionable transaction involving the Obama's purchase of their mansion through the assistance of convicted felon, Tony Rezko, never entered the mainstream media.

I don't begrudge the Obamas for living in a large home or for purchasing jewelry to celebrate the occasion of pulling the wool over the American electorate's eyes and being elected POTUS at the age of 47 with absolutely no experience. But what I do have a problem with is the holier than thou attitude of which we occasionally get a glimpse when the teleprompter disappears.

We're reminded time and again that Obama gave up a large salary in order to pursue a career in community organizing. But what exactly did he do that was so wonderful for the community? He ran a voter registration project with Project VOTE (a voter mobilization arm of ACORN), ran training sessions for future ACORN leaders and represented ACORN in a lawsuit challenging Illinois State's compliance with motor voter laws. The housing situation in the areas in which he worked is decrepit and run down - a complete failure. All the while he organized himself into a lovely home, sent his kids to private school (despite his lack of support for school vouchers) and earned millions on two autobiographies penned before he hit age 45.

So when Michelle Obama announces to Americans that, "Barack Obama will require you to work," what exactly does she mean? He's made it clear he wants us to share the wealth but his leadership in the role of wealth-sharer is wanting. As Patrick Poole recently wrote on these pages:

"Looking at Obama's charitable giving in since 2000 based on his tax returns, we find that Obama consistently refused to follow his own advice to ‘spread the wealth' when he had the opportunity to do so...When Barack and Michelle Obama could voluntarily give more of their own income and had the means well beyond most Americans to do so, they refused."

In these times of economic distress, CEO's and corporate executives all over the country are foregoing bonuses, and Obama is encouraging more to do so. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Obama said,

"I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, ‘I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times.'"

But Barack Obama is now a CEO himself -- the leader of the free world to be exact -- and with that comes huge responsibility. One of those responsibilities is to provide an example to Americans and to the world. Barack Obama is going to ask Americans to make sacrifices, but he must be prepared to do the same.

The Obama's will be living on taxpayer money for the next four (possibly eight) years. At the end of Obama's term, he will most likely follow in the footsteps of the Clintons and build up a nice little nest egg earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per speaking engagement and writing more autobiographies describing what a wonderful president he was. I believe that it is safe to say that the Obamas are financially set for life. Perhaps he should forgo a portion of his salary in order to share the wealth.

Unfortunately, the Obamas are a far cry from the example that I would hope for a leader. My liberal friends made fun of John McCain's service to the country and praised Obama's community organizing. They made fun of Cindy McCain for having abused drugs earlier in her life (conveniently over-looking Obama's cocaine use) rather than acknowledge her altruism and selfless devotion to needy children across the globe.

And they elected Barack Obama, a leader with broad plans for expanding national community service. But haven't Americans proven perfectly capable of community involvement without the necessity of an Obama administration dictating which are (and directing taxpayer money to) the noble causes. Many Americans enlist in the military (not Obama), join the Peace Corps (not Obama) or donate their hard-earned dollars to charity (until recently, not Obama).

And this year, vast numbers of Americans responded to the entreaties of that truly benevolent cause known as the Barack Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign and turned an everyday community organizer into "the billion dollar candidate."

At a time when we hear about $700 billion bail outs, $1 billion may seem like a pittance, but think about the charities that would benefit from just a tiny percentage of that money as a donation. Does all of the $100 million raised in the last few weeks really need to go to the inauguration? Haven't we seen enough Greek columns for one year? Is it really too much to ask the President-elect to take it down a notch and consider the citizens of the country who have lost jobs, businesses, and their retirement funds?

Companies across the country are foregoing lavish holiday parties. A truly noble gesture by the Obamas would be to tell the millions of adoring fans to stay home for the inauguration because they have chosen to downgrade the festivities, save the taxpayers millions of dollars and donate the campaign's remaining funds to charity. 

For my family, the holiday season is one of giving. Have the Obama's taught Malia and Natasha that life lesson? I wonder. We all know the adage "charity begins at home." Are Malia and Natasha aware that their uncle is living in a hut in Kenya surviving on $1,000 a year? I wonder if they know they have a great-aunt living in Boston on welfare? (Perhaps she is joining them on the holiday vacation in Hawaii!) No wonder Obama wants us to share the wealth. For years he donated less than 1% of his annual income to charity, yet he wants the rest of us to foot the bill to support the world's needy (which include his family members).

Parents, teachers, coaches and the like are expected to teach children through example. Children cannot be expected to learn to do as I say, not as I do. It's time the Obamas began to lead by example and this holiday season is the perfect time to start. Barack Obama can continue to spend money on faux presidential seals and stand behind podiums specially designed for the Office of the President-Elect, but until he understands the true meaning of giving, he will be far from presidential.

Lauri B. Regan is an attorney at a global law firm in New York.
If you experience technical problems, please write to