Monday, June 08, 2015

Livin' large on the speakers circuit

By Richard Barry

I've never loved the typical defence of political malfeasance that "they all do it." Anyone who was around for the Watergate scandal is more than familiar with that one. I think a typical response at the time was that though they may all do a lot of things, they don't all do that. Let's make some distinctions, folks. Some things are worse. And, on the other end of the spectrum, some things I just can't manage to give a damn about.

In truth, I've never really understood how it could constitute a major moral failing that the Clintons have received huge sums of money for giving speeches. If someone wants to fork over that kind of cash to hear Bill or Hillary opine about this or that, why should I care?

I know. Having too much money is supposed to be a sign that a politician is out of touch with the experiences and needs of ordinary Americans. And when Democrats have too much money, well, since they like to go on about the plight of the great unwashed, that's just the height of hypocrisy (or some such nonsense).

Let's all agree that anyone taking a serious shot at the presidency has long been out of touch with the experiences and needs of ordinary Americans.

And, once having been president, I'm guessing that a Saturday morning shopping excursion down to Walmart is rarely on the itinerary.

I was not surprised, and would have been surprised if the opposite were true, to learn that former President George W. Bush had taken advantage of the speakers circuit.

Toward the end of his presidency, George W. Bush told Robert Draper, reporting for a book called Dead Certain, that he intended after vacating the Oval Office to “replenish the ol’ coffers.” He said he could make “ridiculous” money on the lecture circuit.

“I don’t know what my dad gets, but it’s more than 50, 75” thousand dollars a speech, he said.

“Clinton’s making a lot of money,” he added.

As critics over the years have chided Bill Clinton and also his wife for the industriousness with which they have pursued opportunities to get paid a lot of money in this manner, Bush, too, has been doing exactly what he said he would be doing.

POLITICO says that "Bush has given at least 200 paid speeches and probably many more, typically pocketing $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance. The part-time work, which rarely requires more than an hour on stage, has earned him tens of millions of dollars."

 Now that we know this I am sure Republicans everywhere will begin to cut the Clintons some slack. Right?

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  • The speaking thing is a big deal only in so much as it is part of a larger system of legal corruption. I'm with you: I don't care about it. The issue is just a way for partisans to yell at each other when they have nothing substantial to talk about.

    I've found the "They all do it!" argument to be the last refuge of conservatives. I can quickly get most conservatives to admit that their "side" is corrupt and incompetent. But then they rush for this get-out-of-jail-free card to end the debate so that they can go back home, flip on Fox News, and bathe in the warm waters of certainty, unmolested.

    Ornstein and Mann talked about this tendency on the part of journalists in their last book. They said that given that the Democrats -- being human and thus imperfect -- will always provide enough corruption and incompetence to allow this false equivalence.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:56 PM  

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