Word broke yesterday that former President George W. Bush charged a $100,000 fee to speak at a 2012 benefit gala for the wounded veteran charity Helping a Hero (“Empowering Wounded Heroes, One at a Time”). Former First Lady Laura Bush pocketed $50K for speaking at the 2011 event. The organization also spent $20,000 to book a private jet to fly the president to Houston for the event.
Let’s consider this: a President who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan requires payment to speak at a fundraiser for an organization that’s designed to serve men and women injured in those conflicts.
Meredith Iler, the former chairman of the charity, told ABC News that she thought the deal was a bargain, saying “It was great because he reduced his normal fee of $250,000 down to $100,000.” Politico disagrees, reporting that Bush’s standard speaking fee ranged from $100-$175K during this period.
Marine Eddie Wright, who lost both hands in a rocket attack in Fallujah in 2004, disagrees: “For him to be paid money to raise money for veterans wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right. You sent me to war. I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets. But it’s kind of a slap in the face.
Since President Reagan pioneered the practice, former presidents have cleaned up on the speaking circuit after they’ve left office. President Clinton is rumored to have collected over $100 million in fees, but his office says he “has never received” payment for speaking to a veterans’ group. President Carter often donates his speaking fees to the Carter Center.
Here’s the question: should President Bush request a fee to speak to a charity? Is it somehow worse that the charity supports men and women who fought under his command? Or do we live in a free country where even former presidents have a right to make cash however they see fit? Sound off!