Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 by the Boston Globe
Scraping to Fill the Shelves of the Bush Library
by Derrick Z. Jackson
In the Texas competition for the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the city of Irving promises $50 million in hotel tax revenue on behalf of the University of Dallas. Baylor University President John Lilley says, ''We'll raise whatever is required." Southern Methodist University may trump that with pedigree. Alumnae include Laura Bush and confidantes Karen Hughes and Harriet Miers. Vice President Dick Cheney was a SMU trustee when he ran Halliburton.
The visible connections allow SMU President Gerald Turner to say, ''We would prefer just to work at it without a lot of visibility." Even so, SMU's point man to get the library, Thomas Barry, admits, ''It's kind of an exciting thing, no matter what your politics are. The times are so rather unique given the Bush administration and the story would be an interesting one to tell."
Bush himself is already telling the story that will be told. In January, he told CBS's Bob Schieffer, ''I would like to leave behind a legacy or a think tank, a place for people to talk about freedom and liberty and the de Tocqueville model, what de Tocqueville saw in America."
The joke will be on the winner. If this library is stocked the way Bush stuck it to the people, this is going to be the most empty $200 million library in the world. It will be unique because the most interesting story of the Bush administration is how it did as much as possible without visibility.
A Bush library would indeed represent a lot of what Alexis de Tocqueville observed in ''Democracy in America," the first volume of which was published in 1835. But it would be the part where de Tocqueville said, if ''a man by chance takes it into his head to consult no other propriety than his particular opinion . . . and afterwards disorder of mores and misery are not slow to be introduced into his household, one must not be surprised."
It is hard to see what you would display behind glass other than a Texas Rangers baseball from Bush's days as a part owner of the team. Certainly the curators would not dare display the flight suit Bush wore on the USS Abraham Lincoln on ''Mission Accomplished" Day, when he declared combat operations over in Iraq, only to see the occupation become mission impossible.
Most presidential libraries have continuous multimedia centers, but what videos would this one show? Not the tapes where Cheney says, ''There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." Not Colin Powell's presentation on Saddam's alleged weapons at the United Nations where he said, ''Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions." Not that great post-invasion assertion by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about finding the weapons of mass destruction: ''We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
Lots of libraries have a rare-manuscript section. This one at best would feature redacted manuscripts, such as: the 2003 Environmental Protection Agency report about global warming where the administration deleted the part that pinned warming on cars and industry; the 2003 Health and Human Services report on healthcare to people of color that deleted the words ''disparities" and ''inequality" from a first draft; and the Department of Justice report on perceptions of racism on its staff where half of the 186 pages were blacked out. Don't even think about notes from Cheney's Energy Task Force.
In all fairness, we should grant Bush some wall space for photos that show him being the face of resolve in the immediate days after 9/11. But we also know for sure that we will see no photos of Abu Ghraib, no touching thanks from either the family of Pat Tillman or the surviving relatives of the at least 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed in our invasion and occupation.
De Tocqueville wrote that ''there is a prodigious force in the expression of the will of a whole people. When it is uncovered in broad daylight, the very imagination of those who would wish to struggle against it is overwhelmed." In the Bush library, you will certainly see no monuments to his struggles against the will of the people, not to the hanging chads of 2000, nor to his claim that he has the authority to ignore more than 750 laws that have been passed since 2000, a fact recently uncovered by the Globe.
Most libraries have books. The last one on the shelves of Bush's will be one from de Tocqueville.
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