Former presidents routinely face a challenge after leaving the White House: what do they do with their suddenly empty schedule? The transition to mundane civilian life can, for some, be a little tricky.
George W. Bush, for example, who famously took up painting, has also hit the lecture circuit with great enthusiasm, delivering hundreds of paid speeches, and earning six-figure sums for hour-long appearances. This has reportedly been his plan for a while – as the Bush/Cheney era wound down, the former president told Robert Draper he hoped to “replenish the ol’ coffers,” by making “ridiculous” amounts of money through paid remarks.
There’s an expectation, though, that some groups should probably be exempt from Bush’s “ridiculous” fees. NBC’s Chris Jansing published this report this morning:
Former President George W. Bush was paid $100,000 to attend a veterans charity gala in Houston in 2012, NBC News has confirmed.And the year before, former first lady Laura Bush received $50,000 for her remarks at a gala event for the same group, Helping a Hero. The nonprofit helps to outfit homes for veterans wounded during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Neither Bill Clinton nor Jimmy Carter, the report added, has ever received a speaking fee for addressing a veterans group.
The group, Helping a Hero, has not publicly complained about the steep Bush speaking fee. On the contrary, the group issued an official statement expressing its appreciation for the former president’s appearance. An ABC News report added that the charity, which also provided Bush with a private jet at a cost of $20,000, was grateful that the former president actually gave the veterans group a discount – Bush usually charges groups more than $100,000.
Not everyone, however, was impressed. The ABC report added:
One of the wounded vets who served on the charity’s board told ABC News he was outraged that his former commander in chief would charge any fee to speak on behalf of men and women he ordered into harm’s way.“For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right,” said former Marine Eddie Wright, who lost both hands in a rocket attack in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.“You sent me to war,” added Wright speaking of the former President. “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.”
The report added that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was the featured speaker at last year’s Helping a Hero charity fundraiser. Gates waved his usual speaking fee and spoke for free.