In the history of mankind, many republics have risen, have flourished for a less or greater time, and then have fallen because their citizens lost the power of governing themselves and thereby of governing their state. TR


The Way Presidents Used to Be

I guess our politicians have always been a little grabby. I mean, it’s power they seek, right? But today, they are also grubby. Grabby and grubby.

How else to label Hillary Clinton’s whining that she exited the White House impoverished and then somehow her husband accumulated $100 million trading off his service in the nation’s most august, hallowed, and powerful office?

Barack Obama and his wife will do the same, I have absolutely no doubt about it.

TrumanWhich brings me to a piece by Peggy Noonan today in the Wall Street Journal about Harry S Truman. It’s not well known, but Truman actually was broke when he left the White House, and not because he had stacked up legal fees defending himself against charges of sexual escapades with the underaged staff.

Unlike today’s politicians, he came to Washington without riches and left the same way.

And his prospects were not great, because his rectitude outweighed his avarice. And because despite being a man of humble means, he was a gentleman of sublime classiness.

From the article:

He didn’t know how he would make a living. His great concern was not to do anything that might exploit or “commercialize” the office he’d just left. He was offered small fortunes to associate himself with real estate companies and other corporations but he turned them down. Mr. McCullough: “His name was not for sale.

He would take no fees for commercial endorsements or for lobbying or writing letters or making phone calls. He would accept no ‘consulting fees.'” Offered a new Toyota as a demonstration of harmonious relations between the U.S. and Japan, he refused: It might look like a product endorsement. Anyway, he believed in American cars.

He tried a few things but eventually became financially secure only five years after leaving office, when he sold some family land that it hurt him to part with. He’d worked it as boy.

We live in a time when politicians relentlessly enrich themselves. We are awed and horrified by the wealth they accumulate, by their use of connections, of money lines built on past and future power. It’s an operation to them. They are worth hundreds of millions. They have houses so fancy the houses have names. They make speeches to banks and universities for a quarter-million dollars and call their fees contributions to their foundations. They are their foundations.

They grab and grub. They never leave. They never go home. They don’t have a “home”: They were born in a place, found a launching pad, and shot themselves into glamour and wealth. They are operators—entitled, assuming. They “stand for the people.” They stand for themselves.

Yes, we live in such a time.

Selflessness is not just a virtue. It leads to policies that remove ego and, as often as possible, political considerations. And those are better policies.

We are forced to abide an age of degeneration and narcissism among our politicians. And because of the crises they have created, we need our old, self-abnegating leaders more today than ever.


35 thoughts on “The Way Presidents Used to Be”

  1. Being poor does not make everyone noble. Not all noble people are poor, some are wealthy, but have personal standards. Being rich does not make you bad. In a way, money is not related to character–and it certainly is not related to what one deserves. So many shallow, ruthless, mean people who “should” be reclaiming used computer boards in the slums of Bangladesh are living in mansions on Silicon Valley. I once had a boss whose bread ALWAYS fell butter side up–and a woman in our office once said, “He sure must have helped a lot of old ladies across the street in his former lives.”

    1. This isn’t about the good/bad of being poor or wealthy. This is about the nexus of power and money. And people who use that power, to make themselves money. Those in government have way too much power, and no oversight, to enrich themselves.

      Our founding fathers always saw the danger when those in power could enrich themselves. They saw morality as that controlling factor (or one of them) and unfortunately that’s gone out of favor.

    2. Well said Star.
      Character is the key word, and an attribute that knows no skin color, nor ethnicity, nor monetary success, nor the lack thereof.

  2. Keith your words should be read in school. That is a part of history that children should know of, and make comparison for themselves.

  3. They think that we are stupid,…maybe we are, or is it lazy ?
    After all, who controls the agenda, us or them ?
    Who controls the constituents in the meetings that they so graciously grant us ?
    Who refuses to answer questions in these meetings.
    They make the laws, we pay their salary.
    I think that it is high time that they realize who is the boss.

    We are being overwhelmed on a daily basis for a reason.
    They want us to shut up and listen to their rhetoric.
    They want us to stick by the time tables that they dictate on these so called ‘open forums’.
    These people should be made to stand there and answer every question until we are finished.

    In a few months, we will have another chance to wrest the liberal control from the congress and turn our Country back toward the road that She needs to be traveling.

    Too many people have thrown their hands up due to the bludgeoning that we see on a daily basis.
    They escape, and sometimes I can’t blame them.

    We can’t give up now.
    We are close to making inroads into fixing our problems.
    Without massive voter fraud that is.

  4. These journalists, pundits, opinionators, whatever, make my hair hurt with their oh,so, delicate tip-toes around what they really mean.

    For Pete’s Sake, say it, Peggy; the Clintons, the Gores, et al, are a set of money-grubbing parasites who are using their name and former public offices to get rich and stay rich.
    Say it out loud, girl; the colleges, the corporations, the associations that are forking over millions to these money-grubbers are just paying it ahead for hopefullly kind financial or regulatory consideration if, and when, the payees are back in power.
    Spit it out, MsNoonan; the publishers who forwarded $14 million to MrsClinton for what they knew would be a dud were just giving in to self-interests and never expected to make a profit from the book’s sales.

    It’s the worse kind of corruption, of slimy cronyism when someone like a former President, or Sec of State is paid unimaginable sums of money for what amounts to a set and formulated speech that means nothing to anyone, or for a book that is being used as an excuse to keep a potential campaign for the Presidency in the public’s eyes.

    1. She probably doesn’t say it, bec this is basically her crowd. She used to be conservative and is trending back–but she also pussyfooted around a ton of Obama missteps. You know what gets me–how pundits say he’s a nice guy personally, but… I don’t think he comes off so nice personally.

  5. President Truman’s impoverishment led Congress to enact a law creating a pension for presidents and providing them money to operate an office in their post-presidency years. Congress should amend that law to take away pension rights if an ex-President has income exceeding a certain amount. The office costs should be capped.

    Congress also should consider establishing a presidential travel allowance, much like the expense allowance, for vacations and fundraising trips. The vacation travel allowance could be something like the cost of three round-trips to Hawaii; this would allow presidents to go home for Christmas, summer vacation and one family emergency per year. Any trip that involved a fund-raising stop would have to be paid in full (or some percentage above 50%) by the DNC or RNC or other political party.

  6. All “politicans” (Dem-Rep) from the US President to the 535 Idiots, A##holes & Criminals that make up the US Congress nowadays are nothing but loser scumbags that could never get a job in the real world.

    Just look at the “work records/background” of: “Barack Hussein Obama”, “Joe Biden”, “Harry Reid”, “Nacy Pelosi” & “John Bohener”… and all the 535 Idiots, Liars, A##holes & Criminals in the “US Congress” (Senate/House) NONE of them could get a REAL JOB.

    1. Are you looping? I believe we have been regaled about the 535 before, Lang. I worked on the Hill and although this wasn’t recent, I bet there are a few decent people there.

  7. That;s the way to riches. Become president and you’re assured a wealth never imagined. The Bush family didn’t need it but the Clintons and Obamas are rapacious beings.

  8. Everybody (E. Warren for one) talks about putting restraints on Wall Street. We really need some politicians who have the fortitude to rein in Washington. I need to wake up, I know I’m dreaming.

    1. IF there were a politician or three who tried to reign in the madness, I’m afraid they would be victims of unfortunate accidents.

  9. The guy on the Five just made a comment that Putin should not be involved in the investigation. I agree. He needs to be told by O and the world back off.
    By the way the writer of his last speech should have used a different word, besides INVESTIGATION!
    I am exhausted by all the scandels, etc. leading to their no where zone of investigating.
    Can anyone think of another word he could have used?

  10. I am afraid that President Reagan started the pay per speech after the Presidency trend. If memory serves me today, Reagan received $ 1 million each for a couple of speeches in Japan right after he left office. He was skewered in the press for it.

    Ford served on various corporate boards after he left office. Nixon made money with infamous David Frost Interviews and books. Johnson did not live too long after he left office but he used his power in the Senate and Presidency to gain his wealth. Johnson was the one who started to use the former trappings of the office to garner favor with Truman and especially Eisenhower for support for Vietnam.

    The Bush family came from money. So, they are not as focused on gaining wealth. Does either have a foundation like the Clinton’s? The Clinton’s and Obama’s are taking and going to push it as far as they can. The foundations are a new way to shakedown corporate America. The Clinton’s have done a superb job of shaking them down. Corporate America could have stiffed the Clinton Foundation but with Hillary still out there as Senator, Secretary Of State and now possible 2016 candidate she remained a veiled or direct threat if they did not give him a $350,000 per speech fee. Now that Hillary is considering a run in 2016 they are now paying her upfront to stay on her good side. I view it as a upfront or down payment bribe. Hillary will shake down as many as she can and I believe she will announce that she will not run and stiff these groups. She will state she was paid for a speech and that was in the past.

    Did anyone else read her contract with Buffalo University? The Clinton Foundation received the “Net” amount of speech payment. The question is of the $250,000 received how much will get to the foundation. We will never know but they do not release such detailed info. They pay for all the travel expenses, pay Hillary and still give money to the foundation and live within the contract. They could have paid the foundation directly and the foundation could have paid all the expenses and kept the difference. The way the contract is written the agent receives $250 K pays 20K for direct expenses leaving a balance of 230k. The agency gets 10 percent or $25k leaving a balance of $205k. Hillary could take $ 200k and the foundation get $5k. The university and the public thinks Hillary is giving all that money to her foundation, yeah right…………..

    1. President Reagan charged the $1 million fee for his speeches in Japan after he left office because he did not allow ‘We The People’ to pay for his security detail on the trip. The fees he got for speaking took care of that.

    2. I agree with you that Hillary Clinton will not run, but she will try to rake in as much cash as she can with those veiled threats. There are probably as many Democrats as us who deep-down don’t want the Clintons back in real power. Once she announces that she isn’t running, maybe the well will dry up.

  11. I am listening to Fox making comparing Power’s comments than compared them to O’s comments on the plane being shot down by a MISSILE.
    She was very firm on Russia. O was weak as usual with his comments of including Russia and Ukraine in one breath, instead coming down on Russia’s ugly involvement.
    By the way God Bless the American passenger and all the other people on that plane.

  12. This is one of the best blog entries I have read on this site. Kudos to Peggy Noonan and Keith. It has long bothered me how the “ruling class” can pursue this type of dirty cash both in and post political office. The Clinton’s didn’t invent the game, but they are absolutely laying down the blueprint for Dear Leader Obama to perfect it. Disturbing.

  13. BO never wanted to President. It’s corny. He’s too cool, but he’s such a saint that he accepted the job because it was a distasteful, but necessary step, to get power and put his agenda in place.

    Now that it’s not worked out so well, he has resigned and spends his time raising funds and playing golf.

    Am I wrong?

    1. What was hard to believe was O heard about this from Putin. I would like to know if Putin called him or if O called Putin.
      My point is if Putin called yesterday at that time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin timed it just right so he could tell O about it.

      1. I agree. That would be a Putin trick. Can you imagine the laughter after he hung up the phone? Made the American think he was sharing with him like a buddy.

  14. Obama doesn’t even sing for his supper. He’s too busy campaigning for his golden parachute – the multi-billion $$ OFA pension fund. He gets to spend every dime of it as long as it is not for personal use. Easy peasy!

  15. Peggy’s aqua marine diatribe was beautiful. It reminded me of a fellow I loved to listen to as a young man. Paul Harvey.
    Read it again with his signature style in mind.

    To victory, we go marching.

  16. “Barack Obama and his wife will do the same, I have absolutely no doubt about it.” Maybe these two greedy communists will cash in after Dictator Obama skulks out of the White House or maybe, just maybe this country will come to its senses and Dictator Obama and the First Entitlement Queen will actually be brought to justice for the many felonies that they have committed during Obama’s ruinous dictatorship and they will spend the rest of their misbegotten lives in a federal prison. Hope springs eternal.

  17. Keith, “The Way Presidents Used to be” was so beautiful and it really brought tears to my eyes the way you wrote it, and about President Truman. These politicians today are so different, they are selfish and thoughtless and mean-spirited and they don’t hide their greed or their lack of respect, such as the Clintons and of course, the Obamas will do the same.The celebrity life-style and they talk about the 1% ? Grabby and grubby.

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