He Sent Soldiers to War and Yet Had No Qualms about Charging $100,000 to Give Speech to Wounded Veterans: Who? President Bush

Former President George W. Bush earned $100,000 for his speech to veterans wounded during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fact that former presidents charge six-figure fees for their speeches is no sensation, but rather the norm in the United States. However, this particular case is pretty controversial because it was George W. Bush’s decision to send American soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, as reported by ABC News, after his presidency ended, he took money for his speech to veterans wounded as a result of his decision.

In 2012, Helping a Hero, a Texas charity, paid $100,000 to Bush, as well as $20,000 to cover the cost of his flight in a private jet. A year earlier, the same charity paid a $50,000 speech fee to Laura Bush, George’s wife.

“It Was Great, Because He Reduced His Normal Fee”

Helping a Hero specializes in providing housing for veterans who lost limbs or suffered other serious injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan. Bush’s appearance at Helping a Hero’s 2012 gala helped raise a record $2.5 million. A year later, without the former president’s presence, the charity managed to raise only $1 million. This is the reason directors of Helping a Hero don’t resent Bush; on the contrary, they are very pleased and grateful.

“It was great because he reduced his normal fee of $250,000 down to $100,000,” Meredith Iler, the former head of Helping a Hero, told ABC News. As later discovered by Politico.com, the former president’s generosity was a little less impressive, as his standard fee is normally between $100,000 and $175,000.

Nevertheless, things seem fine on the surface – Bush offered a considerable discount to the charity and helped to raise much more money than his appearance cost. However, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served during George W. Bush’s second term and during Obama’s first term, appeared at Helping a Hero’s gala last year and didn’t charge a single cent for it.

“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,” commented Eddie Wright, a former Marine, who lost both his hands when fighting Iraqi rebels at Fallujah in 2004. “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.”

Ford Set the Trend and Clinton Is a Record Holder

Although Reagan remains a record holder in the highest speech fee category, the long-distance category’s matchless winner is Bill Clinton, whose private income from speeches and appearances since leaving the White House has reached over $100 million, with a much higher (not fully estimated) profit realized for his charity. Clinton’s standard fee for a speech is $200,000, but he did, on occasions, charge as much as half a million dollars (not for himself, but for his charity).

Clinton’s spokesman assured ABC News that Clinton has never taken money from veterans or charities supporting them. However, Clinton’s career as a speaker has also been criticized, since he accepted offers to appear in Saudi Arabia and Russia, when quite clearly, none of these countries is a champion of democracy or human rights. The former president, though, remains defensive, emphasizing all the good his charity has achieved, even if the money came from controversial sources.

Words of Wisdom? Priceless Advice? No One Expects It

Hillary Clinton, Bill’s wife, the former first lady, senator and former secretary of state, who is currently running for president, has also earned millions for speaking. She hasn’t avoided criticism either for honoraria she accepted, for example, from universities, which would have impacted already high student fees.

It is obvious that people and organizations paying former presidents and other public figures those high fees do not actually expect to hear any exceptionally wise words or priceless advice. Their main aim is to add splendor to events they organize.

George W. Bush, among other ex-occupants of the White House, seems rather average. According to estimates, he earned around $30 million in total for all his public appearances. It is also understandable, since he remains at the top of the rankings for worst presidents, whereas Clinton and Reagan are regarded as the best presidents of the last half-century. Bush’s bravery and willingness to send American kids to war, without ever serving in the army himself, earned him a derogatory nickname of “chicken hawk,” (also applied to Dick Cheney, the former U.S. vice president, and Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense).

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