Arranology

Bush’s Folly: The Presidential Library & Neoconservative Boot Camp/Bordello

with 8 comments


Many of the students and faculty at Mrs President’s alma mater apparently aren’t too thrilled with the idea of having Hubby’s presidential library on campus. A small tempest has arisen, somewhat larger than a teapot but smaller than a breadbox, during which certain views were expressed and swirls of dust raised. I’ve read a couple of short articles (AP and Reuters), heard one radio report (PBS), and seen one tv segment (ABC) dealing with the alleged controversy, and they were all what you might call circumspect – short on detail and as gentle as a llama’s kiss.

The president, who I don’t have to tell you, THINKS BIG when it comes to himself and if money is involved, has raised – I can hardly bear to write the numbers – $$$500 Million $$$, the most money ever spent on a presidential library, to build it and – andyet another neoconservative think tank. In all the news reports, the reason for the discomfort expressed by the dissenters was something along the lines of a fear that the school would be “overshadowed” by the Bush “policy institute”.

Putting aside for the moment the hilariously ironic concept of building a library in honor of a man who not only doesn’t read books but actively scorns their usefulness and announces it publicly, why would the faculty at Southern Methodist University take umbrage at having a Kennedy School of Government-like “policy intitute” on their front door step? Wouldn’t it be a boon? Wouldn’t it attract attention and students and prestige to a school that could use all three? What could there be to object to?

One reason given in the news stories was that it was going to be BIG – BIG BIG BIG, so big that it will dwarf the university itself. Physically. All alone, it will span more than 100 acres (the exact size is being kept secret), which is a problem since many of the acres in question are already occupied by a large condominium and dozens of private homes which would have to be taken by eminent domain. (Um, Republicans are against the seizure of private property by the government, aren’t they?)

Another was the issue of interference in the normal business of educating students. To have a busy, (no doubt) world-renowned center of conservative thinking and (let’s not forget) training ground of the next generation of neoconservatives to carry on the Mission, it was said, might detract from the school’s natural focus. You know – education?

What the reports I saw never said was that nobody (except the potential evictees) really objected to a library or a policy institute. They were objecting – in Texas, mind you – specifically to the fact that it was to be Bush’s library and institute. A sample of concerns raised at a recent meeting with SMU President R Gerald Turner:

  • The institute will conduct research on issues that will be determined by Bush.
  • Many of the questioners wondered whether such a powerful institution on campus will influence the type of research that can be conducted by SMU faculty and whether it will have an impact on the university’s reputation.
  • “We’re worried about a group of people on campus with a lot of money and a lot of power who aren’t concerned for our values as an academy,” Dennis Foster, a professor of English and a faculty senate member said.

Aren’t “concerned”? This is a group of people who sneer at such things. Your “values as an academy”, indeed. Ivory-tower rubbish. And again, from an earlier meeting:

  • [F]aculty members, complaining of being bypassed, are raising sharp questions about the school’s identification with his presidency.
  • About 150 of the university’s 600 faculty members attended the meeting, voicing a range of concerns, particularly on whether the school’s academic freedom and political independence might appear compromised by an association with not only the Bush library but also a museum that would accompany it.
  • “There’s been a lack of transparency from the beginning,” said Tony Pederson of the journalism faculty.

Sounds like W.

In fact, the whole dust-up began with a letter printed on the op-ed page of the student newspaper.

“Asset or albatross?” asked William McElvaney, a retired professor at SMU’s theology school, while last week a letter from staff said Bush associates wanted to “spread the gospel of a presidency that now gets poor marks.”

The letter adds: “The ‘poor marks’ come from those Americans who question the wisdom of certain attitudes and actions of President Bush during his term in office. Among things they’ve so named: erosion of habeas corpus, denial of global warming, disrespect of international treaties, alienation of long-time U.S. allies, environmental predation, disregard for rights of gay persons, a pre-emptive war based on false premises, and other perceived forms of disrespect for the created order and global community.”

Golly, why would a university object to stuff like that?

Then a bunch of Methodist ministers had to throw in their 2 cents’ worth by getting up some petition thing.

The petition, on a newly created Web site, http://www.protectsmu.orgexternal link, says that “as United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate.”

“Methodists have a long history of social conscience, so questions about the conduct of this president are very concerning,” said one of the petition’s organizers, the Rev. Andrew J. Weaver of New York, who graduated from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology.

Nosy Parkers. Who asked them?

Meanwhile, the NY Sun takes note of those potential evictees I mentioned. They’re suing. Why? Because, in the best tradition of the Bush Family (think “Texas Rangers Stadium”), “the school has improperly seized local homes in order to secure land for the proposed library site”.

Amid increasing outrage among Republicans over the use of eminent domain and other coercive measures to obtain private property for public projects, a case in Dallas County’s 134th Civil District Court, which is set to begin on Tuesday, will determine whether the university violated its legal obligations to local homeowners in an effort to secure the land currently occupied by the University Gardens condominium complex, a potential library site.”They’re taking my home,” said Gary Vodicka, one of the litigants and a University Gardens owner and resident, yesterday.

***

Mr. Vodicka’s lawsuit, filed in the fall, seeks to prevent the university, which officially bought the property in mid-December but issued vacate notices last spring, from destroying the condominiums by declaring the university’s actions in obtaining the property to be illegal.

According to Mr. Vodicka, who is also a Dallas-based litigation attorney, SMU has progressively stacked the board of University Gardens with university employees since around four years ago, and the board has since failed to perform maintenance on the complex. At the same time, the school has been purchasing units in University Gardens, and according to an SMU “fact sheet” about the land deal, the school owned 93% of the complex’s 347 units when “SMU moved that the property be declared obsolete and put up for sale.”

Mr. Vodicka said the board’s failure to maintain the complex was part of a comprehensive tactic used by SMU to drive owners out of University Gardens. The school has used the building for student housing and, Mr. Vodicka said, told tenants their property values would go down owing to the increased noise, greater traffic, and greater exposure to crime and vandalism that would likely result from student use – even as Mr. Vodicka says condos have been purchased by SMU for progressively higher per-square-foot prices.

Ultimately, SMU commissioned a study saying the cost of performing necessary upgrades to the complex would be $12 million, an expense that obliterated justifications for the condominiums’ continued existence.

The lawsuit alleges that these tactics, as well as an alleged violation of the Univeristy Gardens bylaws in order to put the complex up for sale, mean the land deal was illegitimate and that a jury should recognize the remaining independent owners’ rights to keep their homes.

“To acquire the land to build the Bush Library they have breached numerous legal obligations, they’ve intimidated, misrepresented things, kicked old people out of their homes,” said Mr. Vodicka, who owns four units in the complex. “It’s amazing to see how ruthless a Christian university can be.”

It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? What a perfect illustration of Bushian tactics – and an equally perfect illustration of the anger and even disgust experienced by anybody who runs afoul of them.

The Bush Library (possibly the first library in the world to have no books) and Policy Institute for the Training of Junior League Neoconservative Attack Dogs is going to be built, and it is going to be built at SMU, no matter what it costs, who gets hurt, or what it does to the university’s reputation.

And so it goes.

Written by Mick

January 26, 2007 at 6:02 am

8 Responses

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  1. February 2, 2007

    Bishops speak out against Bush Library, Think Tank at SMU and Vow to Push Forward

    Today the organizers of a United Methodist Church petition urging Southern Methodist University (SMU) not to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum, and Institute released early results of their petition drive and vowed to continue with the drive.

    “We now have as signatories fourteen Bishops in the United Methodist Church, the past President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, two Superintendents in the British Methodist Church, over 600 United Methodist clergy, and more than nine thousand members of churches from across the United States and Canada,” said the Reverend Andrew Weaver, the SMU alum who organized the petition.

    The petition, http://www.protectSMU.org, has been online for less than two weeks. Its organizers argue that Bush’s legacy is incompatible with the values of Methodism and thus that his Library, Museum, and Institute should not be housed on SMU’s campus. Bishop C. Joseph Sprague condemned the administration, stating that. “Bush violated United Methodist teachings when he initiated a pre-emptive, first- strike war, contrary to Just War criteria, when he pursued policies that reward the rich, while punishing the poor and he further sneered at church teaching by condoning the torture of prisoners. Add to these callous and arrogant acts the fact that he presided over more capital punishment executions (state-sanctioned murder is condemned by our church) than any governor in this nation’s history, and it becomes abundantly clear why a G.W. Bush Library should not be housed on United Methodist Church property. The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles call all United Methodists to social holiness. This petition reflects our church’s tradition that all United Methodists are to be held accountable for our personal and institutional behavior.”

    Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to The United Methodist Church. Petition organizers believe that association with this president through his proposed $500 million library, museum, and institute will reflect poorly upon Methodism worldwide. They invite all people of faith who honor the good name of Methodism and our Christian heritage to sign our petition at http://www.protectSMU.org.

    “The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy.” said Bishop William Boyd Grove. “The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment and health care. SMU is a university of the church, and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries. Its Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way”.

    “We’ve had an outpouring of support so far,” said Rev. Weaver, “from those who don’t wish to have their beloved church associated with a man who has authorized torture and a lie-based war of aggression against the people of Iraq. The comments on the petition are a modern epistle to the church and the 45 million Methodists worldwide, pleading for justice.”

    Contacts:

    Bishop Joseph C. Sprague

    740-845-0518

    cjosephsprague@sbcglobal.net

    Bishop William Boyd Grove,

    304-344-1384

    wboydgrove@aol.com

    Bishop Susan Murch Morrison

    302-227-4097

    ogn509@aol.com

    Bishop C. Dale White

    401-847-3419

    cdwhite12@cox.net

    Rev. Andrew J. Weaver

    212-920-9296

    Aweaver747@aol.com

    ——————————————————————-

    Highlights from the comments on http://www.protectSMU.org:

    5977
    Elizabeth Cote
    As a great granddaughter of Bishop A. Frank Smith, and a daughter of an SMU graduate, I oppose allowing a George W. Bush library at the Southern Methodist University campus. The mission and standards of SMU are in complete opposition to the motives and ethics of his presidency, and as such, a library honoring his tenure leading the country has no place at Southern Methodist University.

    + + + + + + + + + +

    6762
    KATHRYN PROTHRO
    Great-granddaughter and Granddaughter of Perkins-Prothro family, Wichita Falls, Texas. Member of Methodist church since confirmation in 1971. Current membership at FUMC, Ft. Worth TX, but inactive. Attending St. Andrews Methodist and Custer Road in Plano, Texas [Perkins family of Perkins school of theology gave 30 producing oil wells to found the seminary at SMU]

    + + + + + + + + + +

    7544
    Gania Demaree Trotter
    4th generation Methodist. Great, great grandfather was know as the Mountain Bishop of Kentucky,(George Daniel Demaree); my grandparents were Methodist missionaries to Japan.1897 to 1936. Rev. T.W.B. Demaree and his wife Gania Holland Demaree. My son-in-law is a United Methodist Minister at First United Methodist, Burbank California. I am married to a Methodist minister, Dr. F. Thomas Trotter, former General Secretary of the Board of Higher Education. I have served as Director of Development at Claremont School of Theology and Alaska Pacific University, during my husband’s tenure as President of those institutions. Prior to that I served as Minister of Music at Anaheim, and Claremont Methodist Churches.

    + + + + + + + + + +

    7692
    Louise M. Tate
    Both my parents graduated from SMU. Both my father’s brother (Willis Tate) and my mother’s grandfather (Bishop Boaz) are past Presidents of SMU. I am very glad to see and sign this petition.

    + + + + + + + + + +

    7903
    Laurence Wareing
    President Bush showed little interest in engaging with his denomination when embarking on the war with the war Iraq. Speaking as a British Methodist and allumnus of SMU, I believe that it would be insulting to worldwide Methodism for his name to be commemorated by a United Methodist foundation now.

    + + + + + + + + + +

    7909
    Rev Judith I Maizel-Long
    Presbyter of the British Methodist Church I protest the implied approval of the policies and actions of the Bush Presidency on the world stage, which would be a reasonable deduction from establishing a Bush Presidential Library at the Southern Methodist University. The arrogant actions of the US government in the irregular detentions of prisoners at Guantanamo, torturing suspects in secret prisons outside US territory is contrary to key clauses of the US Constitution and Christian understandings of the proper treatment of prisoners. US policy in Iraq has made life untenable for Christian Communities across the Middle East, from Turkey to Pakistan. In many cases these Christian communities go back nearly 2000 years, far predating the USA and indeed the UK as political entities. The policies of the Bush Presidency are contradictory to Wesleyan theology and the teachings of the Wesleys about human dignity and the purposes of human life.

    andrew weaver

    February 4, 2007 at 2:21 am

  2. Thanks for adding this, Andrew. It does seem that the Bush Gang doesn’t have much of a shame reflex, don’t it?

    Mick

    February 4, 2007 at 3:14 am

  3. Get a life. All of you are a bunch of losers. Do something with your life, like GET A JOB. The Bush library and Bush public policy center are coming to SMU, like it or not. It will be built and there will be a neo con policy center. All your protests are worthless. So get a job losers.
    Thank God the top people at SMU are smart enough to open the Bush library and wont listen to losers and unimportant people who do not matter like you people.

    jeff

    February 14, 2007 at 12:56 am

  4. There speaks the voice of the Bush People: 5th grade schoolyard sentiments expressed in 5th grade language free from fact but heavy on the name-calling.

    Well, pal, if you don’t mind that a great university will have its reputation destroyed by having yet another neocon propaganda unit dominating its campus, if it doesn’t bother you that an institution supposedly dedicated to fact and learning is going to be turned into a haven for lies, misdirection, manipulation, distortion, and the wholesale re-writing of history to make one spoiled brat look good, then it’s no skin off my nose. I don’t live in Texas – you couldn’t make me no matter what you offered – I’m not an SMU alumnus, and I don’t really give a rat’s ass if Bush adds one more hysterical neocon anti-think tank to the US landscape. It’s already littered with them thanks to Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors, Exxon/Mobile and dozens of other oligarchs (you can look that word up). One more isn’t going to make all that much difference.

    But I should think the faculty would care. And the students, present and future. And Methodists – who, as Andrew points out, generally disapprove of torture and pre-emptive wars and corruption and stuff like that as a matter of both faith and principle.

    But never mind. I realize that’s all too complicated for you to grasp, and Bush Babies like you hate complicated stuff. You’re all about knuckling under to authority because then you don’t have to think, just obey, which is a lot easier and which in your case is probably just as well because “thinking” is clearly something for which you are not equipped.

    PS I have a job. So do all those other people listed above. I suspect that if anyone named on this page isn’t working, it’s you.

    Get a new brain. The one you have doesn’t work very well.

    Mick

    February 14, 2007 at 9:59 am

  5. [...] under the press’ radar (but then, one could legitimately wonder, what isn’t?), what I characterized as a “tempest…somewhat larger than a teapot but smaller than a breadbox” last [...]

  6. I have returned my diploma to the president of SMU. I hope this protest will encourage other alumni who are disgusted by the idea of a Bush library and “think tank” at our alma mater to follow suit. If those associated with the university who have jobs at stake are brave enough to speak up, all the more should those of us who can’t be intimidated be willing to join with them.

    Marilyn Trent

    April 30, 2007 at 9:46 am

  7. [...] to what arguments pushed the members to this decision but it’s a not-unreasonable guess that the meritorius objections of its opponents, the standard Bush/Cheney heavy-handed bullying, and the standard Bush corruption scenario [...]

  8. [...] first “met” Rev Weaver when he commented on a post I’d written condemning the Bush Library proposed for the Southern Methodist University campus and reporting on [...]


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