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Ex-presidents in the news, then and now

Bill Clinton, God bless him, seems to be doing quite well on the ol' lecture circuit.

Former president Bill Clinton, who came to the White House with modest means and left deeply in debt, has collected nearly $40 million in speaking fees over the past six years, according to interviews and financial disclosure statements filed by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

My friend Mal, like me, is old enough to remember that the news media wasn't always so blasé in its coverage of ex-presidents on profitable speaking tours. He reminded me what the New York Times had to say when a different ex-president, Ronald Wilson Reagan, pocketed $2 million in speaking fees in Japan.

Former Presidents haven’t always comported themselves with dignity after leaving the Oval Office. But none have plunged so blatantly into pure commercialism.

That Reagan. Always plumbing new lows in ex-presidential decorum.

Granted, the New York Times has so far been silent on the matter of Bill Clinton's haul, but let's not jump to any conclusions about media bias just yet. After all, since Bill Clinton is a Democrat, he can be trusted to spend the honoraria responsibly -- on social causes, purchasing offsetting carbon emissions credits, and so forth. It's only bad when a Republican gets that kind of scratch because you know he'll just use it to put arsenic in the drinking water and steal old people's dentures.


Well, heaven forbid that Mal ever be mistaken or overblown on the subject of media bias.. but let's look at some facts from the article.

Last year, according to the article, Clinton gave 352 speeches. Of the $10 million he reportedly "earned" last year, only 20 percent was for personal income.

So that is 352 speeches with 2 million dollars going into Bill Clinton's pocket.

Now.. let's go back to 1989.. when Reagan flew to Japan for nine days and pocketed 2 million dollars for just two speeches.

Now Clinton did make $475,000 once for 2 speeches. However, still, his average personal take last year was $5681 per speech, a lot of money for you and me but less than a Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh could earn. (Also, the article reports that the elder Bush also has received six figure speaking fees.)

Now, no doubt, Reagan also gave speeches where his fee was donated. Still, if Clinton gave two speeches for two million dollars, there would be questions, especially if he did so right after he left office.

PE - thanks for rebutting it better than I was able to. I've got a lot on my mind - I'm closing on a house tomorrow, and I must be slipping :)

That doesn't show that Mal's example is either "mistaken" or "overblown" PE!

The fact is that ALL of the former Presidents in question (Reagan, Clinton and Bush Sr) donated some of their honoraria.

The NY Times clearly held Ronald Reagan to a very different standard than they held Bill Clinton to...and that's a clear indication of bias.

And it's not as though this were a unique example of clear media bias.

The MSM's bias is clear and permeates the news reporting, in the form of editorializing within report - something that should never occur.

It's also clear as to the subject matter they choose to present as news - for instance, the Duke Hoax has been a major news story for nearly a YEAR, while the nearly two month old racially motivated double murder in Knox County, TN has not been covered outside that state.



When the MSM does report on a story, they often editorialize within the story itself, as in MSNBC's calling Europe's projected 2.7% GDP growth for 2006 (they haven't yet grown at near that rate) "ROBUST," while calling America's projected 2.5% GDP growth for 2006 a "soft landing."

That's not only editorializing, it's actually lying, as there is virtually no discernable difference to detect in a 0.2% difference in annual GDP growth.

Certainly 2.7% is not "robust," if 2.5% is disappointing, as in "a soft landing."


If obviously biased print reporters and on-air news casters didn't engage in this kind of consistently Left-wing editorializing within news accounts, such discrepancies couldn't so easily be pointed out.

JMK, I dealt with the specific instance of alleged media bias referenced in the article that Barry posted. What Clinton has been making for his speechmaking is very comparable to what Guilliani or the elder Bush are currently making, each of whom currently can earn six figures for one speech.

If you can find me other retired politicians who made two million dollars for two speeches back in 1989, then you might have a point. Otherwise, most of your response deals with cases not cited in Barry's post.

My response stands, as well as my belief that, if Clinton did what Reagan did so soon after leaving office, that he would have caught hell for it.

PE, that seems like a very arbitrary parameter.

Why is it wrong for some group to pay one person more for a speech than another, even though they have similar credentials?

Perhaps the Japanese saw Reagan as more of a historical figure than either Giuliani or Clinton.

Are you blaming Japan for offering Reagan so much, or Reagan for having the gall to take it?

Should he have either said no to the payment, or donated it all, and if so, why?

It seems the NY Times took Reagan to task over payment for speeches out of office, rather than merely the amount received.

So it's OK to make $500,000 for a speech if you're Clinton or Giuliani, but $1 million per speech is excessive and wrong?

Like I said, it seems like a very arbitrary parameter to me.

Beyond that, Mal used that example to show what he sees as a continuing pattern of media bias.

Everyone who's responded to Mal has claimed that that doesn't show media bias, thus I gave two other examples that I believe even more clearly show a very intense bias - the media calling Europe's projected 2007 economic growth, pegged at 2.7% as "robust," while calling America's projected economic growth for 2007 projected to be 2.5% "a soft landing" - obviously biased semantics...and the difference in reporting between the Duke Hoax (national news) and the very real Knoxville double murder (barely covered outside of local stations).

I've never argued that people don't have a right to their opinions and natural biases, but only that it's wrong to mix factual news reportage with commentary/opinion.

If you accept an amount that is significantly above the norm and that is the first thing you do after leaving office, then that is going to raise questions. The most Clinton has taken ($475K for 2 speeches) is 25% of what Reagan took ($2M for 2 speeches) and that is not accounting for inflation.

We're not talking about what is legal here. Again, according to the article, Clinton last year made the same amount for 352 speeches that Reagan made in his 2 speeches. The charge of media bias implies that they are similar but that the press treated them differently... but, in fact, a truly fair article written today would include both Guilliani and Clinton as Guilliani might be earning more on average than Clinton.

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