Long known for her reticence in testifying under oath, retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton let it be known yesterday that her first move after taking a break from public service will be to hit the speaking circuit.
According to the Harry Walker Agency, which books and manages speaking tours for celebrities and former politicians worldwide, Mrs. Clinton has signed exclusively with that agency for her future speaking engagements, which the Huffington Post projects that she will deliver for fees in the six-figure range. (In fairness to the former First Lady, some of the proceeds will go to the Harry Walker Agency and Politico reports that she may speak for no fee at all on behalf of causes she supports and that she will, of course, as good political manners require, donate some of the filthy lucre to charity.)
In taking this step, Mrs. Clinton follows in the footsteps of her husband Bill, who after becoming the first-ever elected U. S. president to be impeached (Andrew Johnson assumed the office upon Lincoln’s assassination, and Richard Nixon resigned before the House could vote on articles of impeachment), also took to the speaking circuit and is represented by the Walker agency. Despite having had his law license suspended for five years for lying under oath in the Paula Jones lawsuit, the former President has nonetheless had what HuffPo understatedly calls “a lucrative career on the speaking circuit” since leaving the White House, earning an estimated $89 million in speaking fees over the past ten years, including $13.4 million in 2011 alone.
To be sure, this sort of thing is a bipartisan phenomenon. Among many others of both major U. S. political parties, the Walker agency also represents former Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, and Republican strategist Karl Rove. Even Ronald Reagan jetted off to Japan to give a $2 million speech shortly after retiring from the Presidency and before succumbing totally to Alzheimer’s.
Yet there is still something unseemly about all this wealth being heaped on former “public servants,” especially those who receive a public pension, office support from the taxpayers, and Secret Service protection for life – as well as for those widely rumored to be seeking further (and higher) political office – when the nation is awash in public debt and the government keeps hiking taxes on non-celebrity Americans.
Progressives famously want to redistribute wealth from the top to the bottom of the income scale, and both the First Amendment and market principles prohibit us from outlawing public speaking for money. But wouldn’t it be nice and give slightly less offense to taxpayers if more high profile politicians simply followed the examples of Harry Truman, a Democrat, who retired to his back porch after leaving the Presidency, and former Republican President George W. Bush, who despite the criticism and abuse heaped on him while in office, claimed he owed his successor his silence?