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A Semi-Defense of Bush's Buckraking

TPM and others are having a lot of fun over the fact that George W. Bush is heading out on the motivational speaking circuit. And, I agree that, even when you consider that other politicos such as Colin Powell, Elizabeth Dole, and Rudy Giuliani, have been doing gigs with Zig Ziglar and his ilk for years, there is something kind of undignified about a former president appearing on that stage.

That said, if we assume that all of our former presidents are going to engage in buckraking, isn't Bush's version better than, say, his father's or Bill Clinton's--the latter of whom, as this 2007 WaPo article reports, made two-thirds of the $40 million he collected in speaking fees over the previous six years from foreign sources and the rest from some pretty posh domestic clients:

Foreign clients have included Saudi Arabia's Dabbagh investment firm, which paid $600,000 for two speeches, and China's JingJi Real Estate Development Group, run by a local Communist Party official, which paid $200,000 for a speech. The Mito City Political Research Group, a Japanese political studies center, paid Clinton $400,000 for a 2002 speech about politics.

Besides Goldman Sachs, the two firms that have paid Clinton the most over the past six years are foreign-based. Gold Services International, an event organizer based in Bogota, Colombia, brought Clinton to Latin America in the summer of 2005 for $800,000 in speaking fees. The Power Within, a motivational-speech company in Toronto, paid Clinton $650,000 for speeches in Canada in 2005 and brought him back for an undisclosed sum in 2006. The company was founded by Salim Khoja, a Kenyan immigrant who years earlier was convicted of stock fraud and was barred for life from the brokerage business.

At least Bush's buckraking is sort of populist.* If you want to see him speak, you don't need to work at Goldman. In fact, you--and your entire office, for that matter--can go see him for just $19.

*--Not all of his buckraking has been of the domestic, populist variety.