WHAT'S THE STORY
FIRST it was former US president Bill Clinton. Then came Hollywood film stars George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Now Scots businessman and philanthropist Tom Hunter has managed to persuade the newest ex-president of the US, Barack Obama, to make his first visit to Scotland to raise money for charity.
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Funds raised will be shared between Hunter’s own charitable organisation and the Obama Foundation, set up by the ex-president and his wife, Michelle.
Guests at a £5000-per-table dinner in Edinburgh will be the audience for what could be Obama’s first major address since he left office.
He is expected to focus on the work of his foundation rather than use the opportunity to refute recent claims by his successor Donald Trump that the White House spied on him during the election campaign.
Hunter said he was “really chuffed” Obama had agreed to come.
“We’re always looking for really inspiring speakers to come along to Scotland, and really inspire and inform,” he said. “We are both truly proud and delighted to be hosting the 44th president of the United States in Scotland at this event.
“From the South Side of Chicago to the White House has been an epic, historic journey and it will be a true honour to hear that story from the man who made that journey.”
Hunter added: “President Obama loves his music, so we’re getting some interesting guests.”
PAR FOR THE COURSE?
A GOLF aficionado, it’s likely that Obama has been tempted over by Scotland’s world famous courses but he may also wish to find out more about running a charitable foundation.
Set up in 2014, the Obama Foundation is in its infancy while Hunter’s has a long and successful track record with projects all over the world. Since it was established in 1998, it has donated in excess of £50m to support educational and entrepreneurial projects in Scotland and abroad.
The Obama Foundation, on the other hand, is just getting going and its aim of “carrying on the great, unfinished project of renewal and global progress” sounds simultaneously grandiose and woolly.
It does however have the immediate objective of building the Obama Presidential Centre on Chicago’s South Side. This will include a library holding the Presidential archives and a museum focusing on the Obama Presidency and “issues of our time”.
The website says the foundation will also run nonprofit programmes across the city, the United States, and the world.
WHAT ELSE ARE THEY DOING?
In the meantime, the Obamas say they will stay in Washington DC until their youngest daughter is finished high school.
Despite being so close to the White House, Obama has so far kept a low profile politically despite provocation from Trump. The former president is believed to be irritated at the allegation that Trump Tower was spied on during the recent presidential campaign but has left it to the FBI to dismiss it as unfounded.
Trump has needled Obama further by blaming him for the “mess” he says he left which includes “jobs pouring out of the country” and “major problems” in North Korea and the Middle East.
The Republicans under Trump have also lined up to unravel many of Obama’s achievements during office and the attempt to dismantle his cherished health care law provoked him into issuing a statement urging Republicans not to destroy it.
Apart from that he has largely kept out of the fray although Democrats have clamoured for him to capitalise on his popularity, which remains unusually high for a former president.
WHAT ABOUT MICHELLE?
IT is possible Trump’s presidency may push Obama into political action he originally intended to avoid but at the moment it is the former First Lady who is spending most time in the US capital. She has a team of four although aides say it is still her family who are her priority.
“She’s got one daughter to get off to college, another is a sophomore in high school. All of that comes first,” said Tina Tchen, her former White House chief of staff. “Now she will also be working on the book and still keeping up her engagement with the community as she always has.”
She has made some public appearances, notably to state schools in Washington DC in mainly minority areas. In contrast Melania Trump, the new First Lady, has taken part in very few public events so far.
Michelle Obama also appeared to take a swipe at Trump’s immigration policies when she praised one school’s programme for new immigrants.
“She’s deliberate. She likes to be strategic,” said Jocelyn Frye, her first White House policy director. “She doesn’t just do stuff by the seat of her pants.”
Neither, it would appear, does Obama. It will be interesting to see if he feels ready to criticise Trump when he arrives in Scotland next month.
It is certainly unlikely that he will play either of Trump’s Scottish golf courses.