A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Hillary Rodham Clinton was getting $200,000 a speech. (Go here, for example.) My reaction was: Well, it’s a free country, and I’m a free-marketeer. And if someone wants to pay HRC 200 grand for a speech, fine. I think it’s a little weird, though: I don’t believe I have ever heard her say anything interesting — and she’s been on the public stage since about 1991. Also, I don’t believe she can be relied on to tell the truth.
Well, here’s another reaction, or thought: People used to condemn politicians and other public servants for “cashing in.” As a rule, this condemnation came when those cashing in were Republicans.
Bill Clinton has become a zillionaire, right? And Al Gore has become a mega-zillionaire. Have they cashed in? Is Hillary Clinton cashing in?
I remember the great furor — the storm of condemnation — when Ronald Reagan took $2 million for two speeches in Japan. This was about nine months after he left the White House. An old Reaganaut said that the money was meant to be “the Reagans’ retirement fund.”
A little Googling gives me this article from People: “Eight Days in Japan Earn Ron and Nancy $2 Million — Now That’s Reaganomics.” You can imagine how the article went. “Was it appropriate, critics asked, for a former President to cash in on his White House luster so blatantly?” The magazine found a professor to say, “The founding fathers — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison — would have been stunned that an occupant of the highest office in this land turned it into bucks.”
And here is something from the Los Angeles Times: “Reagan’s Fall From Grace: The $2-Million Japan Tour, Nancy’s Vengeful Memoirs and Legal Battles Over the Iran-Contra Affair Have Made His Retirement Anything but Restful.” Again, the article went just as you’d expect: “For the Great Communicator, whose standing plunged when he accepted the speaking honorarium from Japan’s Fujisankei communications conglomerate last October, the main impression to be overcome is that he has been inappropriately cashing in on his eight-year presidency.”
The 1980s — i.e., the Reagan years — were routinely called a “Decade of Greed.” That was the great and constant term, from the media, academia, and Hollywood: “Decade of Greed.” They had to say this, because they couldn’t say that Reaganite economic policies weren’t successful. They couldn’t say that unemployment didn’t plunge or that growth wasn’t spurred — so they had to call those years a “Decade of Greed.”
Oddly enough, the 1990s, which were also good — thanks largely to the tech boom — were not called a “Decade of Greed.”
Googling around, I noticed a headline over a George Will column from January 1992: “In Reagan’s Decade of ‘Greed,’ Charitable Giving Soared to New Heights.” Oh, yes.
The world tires of conservatives’ complaints about double standards in the media. I understand this. But I tire of the double standards themselves.
Seeing as we’re walking down Memory Lane, a little bit, let me tell you this: A lot of conservatives say, “I can’t believe that Barack Obama is president.” I know what they mean. But even more, I can’t believe that Joe Biden is vice president, and that John Kerry is secretary of state.
I’m sure I know why. Obama had been in public life for about two seconds before the people, in their wisdom, elected him president. He had been in the Senate for four years. He had not left much of an impression, at least on me.
But Biden and Kerry? I can’t remember a time without them, really. They have been in the Senate forever — or, they had been. And they were wrong about virtually everything, in my opinion. The Cold War, they got spectacularly wrong. “Reaganomics.” I could go on and on. Biden was just kind of goofy, and occasionally nasty, but Kerry, it seemed to me, was a committed leftist: He was emotionally pro-Sandinista, in my judgment.
So, marvel if you will that Barack Obama is president. The staggering thing, to me, is that Kerry is secretary of state, and that Biden is vice president. Elections are a reflection of a people (in a democracy). This is unnerving.
Hell, given that Biden and Kerry are there, I’m surprised that Chris Dodd doesn’t hold some high position! Why not bring back Ron Dellums?