Southern Methodist University (SMU) just took another step closer to becoming the home of the new George W Bush Library and Neoconservative Theme Park when University Park, the aptly-named suburb that contains SMU, voted overwhelmingly to sell a public park – Potomac Park – to the university for the complex.
The prospect of the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s being built on the campus of Southern Methodist University received a lift over the weekend when voters in this Dallas suburb passed a proposition that paves the way for the city to sell a piece of parkland to the university.
The ballot proposal — passed on a vote of 1,782 to 420 on Saturday — will allow this city of some 23,000 residents to sell Potomac Park, an undeveloped strip that could prove important to plans for the presidential library. The pioneering Caruth family donated the eight-tenths-of-an-acre parcel in the 1950s to University Park, five miles north of downtown Dallas.
“S.M.U. and University Park have grown and flourished together, and this outcome represents our shared dedication to enhancing the quality of both town and gown,” the university’s president, R. Gerald Turner, said on the city’s Web site.
R Gerald, who is a Bush Booster and unlikely ever to admit it no matter how obvious it becomes, couldn’t be more wrong. One day in the not-nearly-distant-enough future, R Gerald is going to become infamous as the man who single-handedly ruined SMU’s reputation as great university by turning it into a Bush Shrine where only the appropriately worshipful are allowed admittance, a neocon propaganda unit where history will be re-written to absolve and anoint W, and a training ground for would-be theocrats.
When it finally dawns on SMU just exactly what it has let itself in for, R Gerald – who has shepherded this thing from the beginning – will have a name worth approximately a bucket (1) of mud. What with housing the crew who brought us Gitmo, torture, and secret prisons; who murdered habeus corpus, any and all privacy rights once mistakenly believed to have been protected by the Constitution, church\state separation, and the Department of Justice; who corrupted every agency of govt, including the military; who gave the Treasury away to the richest 1% and then told the poor to go piss up a rope; who started an illegal and unnecessary war by telling us a pack of lies and then sent more young men and women to die in the middle of a foreign civil war because it refused to admit it made a mistake; and who will run the Bush Complex as the largest and most gratuitous example of institutionalized historical revisionism the world has seen since Stalin, SMU will be kissing its old-fashioned Methodist values good-bye and embracing Pinochet-style authoritarianism instead. And it will be doing this in the name of “prestige”.
Technically, the acquisition of the park probably isn’t necessary for the complex to go ahead, but emotionally and momentum-wise, it’s the last nail in the coffin of SMU’s independence. The community – still in denial about the imperialist autocrat George W actually is and the profoundly anti-democratic, pro-oligarchic agenda he actually espouses – has given its approval. That’s how the vote will be read, there and elsewhere in the country. There may be more battles and the opposition may even win a few of them but to all intents and purposes the war itself has just been lost.
A damn shame.
Now it’s time to prepare for the next Bush Library war – over access and honest history. Presidential library historian and Professor at the University of Louisville, Benjamin Hufbauer, explains in this post at the Bush Library Blog. After noting that FDR tried to control his legacy from the grave but was shot down by the courts, Hufbauer tells us what makes this situation different.
[W]hat Roosevelt was unable achieve with his secret plan, President George W. Bush has so far been able to attain with his infamous Executive Order 13233. This order allows presidents, their representatives, and even descendants long after a president’s death to control the records in presidential libraries. Although so far only a small number of records have been blocked from release by this order, the potential for the abuse of power exists and will persist. 13233 is contrary to the letter and spirit of the laws that previously governed presidential libraries, which is why it is so important that Congress act to overturn it. If the order stays in place, the George W. Bush Library will be of limited value to historians.
Make that NO value.
Prof Hufbauer goes on to contrast the partisan political plans for the Bush version with its mirror opposite, the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.
When it comes to presidential libraries, it is important not to give in to the worst impulses of presidents and their supporters, for then they may try to create a temple of political propaganda that does not serve the public. It is important to struggle with these issues and remain engaged so that presidential libraries can be created that serve their regions and the nation. And this is possible. I believe the best presidential library in the system at this time is the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The Truman Library has an excellent museum that presents a thought-provoking history of the 1940s and 1950s, it has an archive noted for its accessibility because of the talents of the wonderful archivists who work there, and it has an innovative educational program called The White House Decision Center where students get to play the roles of historical figures in a recreation of the West Wing. Many talents went into remaking the Truman Library over the last twenty years, but one of the most important was former director Larry Hackman. Hackman wanted to make a presidential library that made people think. Once, at a meeting on presidential libraries at Princeton University, Larry Hackman said to me, almost in a whisper, “I don’t like it when people say ‘Truman’s Library,’ or ‘Reagan’s Library.’ It is The Truman Library or The Reagan Library. These institutions are not owned by these individuals or their families.” Or at least they should not be.
That will be the next war – fighting to keep the Complex from becoming what the Bushies want it to become, a center of “political propaganda” and the Home of the Bush Cult.