Peggy Noonan has a nice — and thought-provoking — piece in today’s on-line Wall Street Journal about Harry Truman after his presidency ended entitled “Politics in the Modest Age.” I urge you to read it, but the basic thrust is this: Truman didn’t cash in.
He had been president for almost eight years, had brought World War II to a close, and had presided over the Marshall Plan; he had issued executive orders, launched into the Korean War, and guided the federal government during the first crises of the Cold War. He was an ordinary man who had been a fine President, and after his term ended he tried to go back to an ordinary life. He returned to Missouri and lived with his beloved wife, Bess, highly conscious of not being perceived as trading on his office or his service to the nation.
Contrast Truman’s humble approach 60 years ago to the prevailing approach today, where ex-President and ex-Senators and ex-Cabinet members make millions by giving hour-long speeches, serving on boards, and writing biographies that receive huge advances. The culture of cash goes deep: just yesterday Politico reported that Jay Carney, President Obama’s former press secretary, received a “signing bonus” to join a speakers bureau where he could earn up to $100,000 per speech; he’s entertaining job offers and has hired a Washington, D.C. “super lawyer” to negotiate any deals. What does it tell you when even the President’s flack can leave office and be showered with money?
We could use more Harry Trumans and less money-grubbers in Washington, D.C.