Monday, April 29, 2013

Bush's Shrine

"All In" with Chris Hayes, The Bush Administration

   Last Wednesday one acting president and four former presidents got together in one place, the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of the Southern Methodist University, in University Park, which is a suburb of Dallas, which is also in Texas.
   “In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition,” George W Bush said. “Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right, polls rise and fall, supporters come and go. But in the end leaders are defined by the convictions that they hold. And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom.”
   I guess what one can make out of all of that ideological gobbledy gook is that his guiding principle during his time in office was to force his idea of freedom on others whether they wanted it or not, like we did in Iraq, and are  currently doing in Afghanistan.  
   I hope the people of those two nations, those that are still alive, appreciate all that we’ve done for them.
   By the way, during the opening ceremony two words were never mentioned by anyone. Iraq, and Afghanistan.
   Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” spent last Thursday touring the “library,” and found no mention of those two words. 
   How odd.
   It’s almost like Mr Bush doesn’t want to remind the folks who come to visit that he was responsible for starting those two wars, one that was unnecessary due to the fact that the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan at the time before the war were perfectly willing to either try Osama bin Laden, or turn him over to the U.S. if the U.S provided evidence that bin Laden was implicated in the attacks of 9/11 (but Bush didn’t want to do that. It was politically untenable, and the other thing... he really wanted to go to war), and that the Iraqi invasion was based on false, purposely contrived intelligence.
   “I told President Obama,” Bill Clinton said at the opening, “that this was the latest, grandest example of the eternal struggle of former presidents to rewrite history.”
   I believe old Bill was trying to be clever. Too clever.
   Awkward, polite laughter followed his remark, but I don’t understand what was funny.
   The “library and museum” cost $250 million dollars. Thankfully, these presidential “libraries” are not paid for with tax payer funds, although I’m sure that if  Bush could have figured out a way to legally use tax payer funds to pay for it he would have. Why? Because then Bush wouldn’t have had to go begging to his fat cat buddies for the cash, although I’m sure they were eager to give it up in order to maintain their illusion that Bush was a good... no scratch that, a great president, worthy of their efforts, attention, and money.
   There are currently 22 of the things. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia (where my cousin Kathy lives. Hi Kathy! (under construction)), the John Quincy Adams (you know, the guy Anthony Hopkins portrayed in “Amistad”) Stone Library in Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts, The Abraham Lincoln (you know, that guy Daniel Day Lewis portrayed in “Lincoln”)  Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, the Ulysses S. Grant (you know, that guy Roy Engel and Kevin Kline (I’ll stop soon, I promise) portrayed in the “Wild Wild West”) Presidential Library in Starkville, Mississippi, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton, Ohio, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Virginia,  the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, the  Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester, Boston, which is in Massachusetts, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, Gerald Ford has two of them (I don’t know why), the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
   The National Archives and Records Administration operates 13 of them (14 when the George W. Bush Presidential Center opens to the public on Wednesday).
   It works like this: the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 encouraged presidents to donate their papers and other stuff back to the government who would guarantee their preservation and future availability to the public (up until 1978 the government considered presidential papers and their other stuff as the President’s property, to do with as they wished). The government does not pay for the construction of the library. The President and his people must find the funds for that from private donors. But after it’s built the National Archives and Records Administration takes it over for operation and maintenance. Guess who funds the National Archives and Records Administration? We do. Taxpayers do. To the tune of about 75 million a year to maintain these "libraries."
   Sequester that, Congress!
   FDR began the whole thing when he donated his personal and presidential papers to the federal government in 1939, as well as some land at his estate in Hyde Park, while his buddies created a non-profit corporation to build a library to put all that stuff in so people could look at it. That wild man Harry Truman decided to do the same thing (although he didn’t have as much money as Roosevelt), and then Congress got it’s big face into the situation, hence the Libraries Act.
   They did it again in 1978 with the Presidential Records Act which took all of the President’s and Vice President’s papers and stuff away from them after they left office and gave them to the federal government, or as the Act stipulates, gave them to the public, wherein the public could look and fondle them as much as they wanted.
   And what better place to do that then a nice expensive library and museum? 
   As you might tell, I’m not a big fan of these “libraries,” as they aren’t really libraries at all, but monuments to these men, like the Egyptian Pyramids, or as Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” aptly put it, “These are shrines. They are theme parks of adoration. They are what you would expect to see in a dictatorship where public worship of a head of state is mandatory.”
   He says that right here:
   Did you catch that about the library’s ability to restrict access to files, Emails, and documents, even though the Presidential Libraries Act was passed in part  to guarantee the public’s access, and is also subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Lawrence sites Anthony Clark’s article in Salon magazine in which he states officials within the Bush library can virtually hold up processing of information requests indefinitely, or at least until 2021, and possibly longer.
   I guess, as Bush himself and his supporters have consistently maintained, history will decide the final determination of the success or failure of Bush’s years in office. I have no doubt that will be true. However if Bush’s cronies at the library withhold vital information that historians will use to make those determinations, it indeed will take a while.
   But that’s alright. We already know enough about George W. Bush.
   My God, he’s even admitted it.

To be continued.

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