The George W. Bush presidential Library opened last week. The reviews were both mixed and predictable:
The New York Times pointed out up front that “[i]f every memoirist is the star of his own story, every president is the hero of his own library,” before going on to say that oh yeah, Bill Clinton did the same thing and Obama probably will, too.
The Washington Post didn’t produce an article per se (not that I found) but did liven the coverage up with a lovely 26-color slide show.
The Houston Chronicle stopped at publishing a total puff piece but still managed to maintain a subtext of “Good Old Boy Elected President, Loves America, Repels Muslim Hordes.”
The Huffington Post even did a piece on Bush’s public outpouring of emotion at the ceremony, but then took the opportunity to say that not everyone shared that view (“Protesters Gather Outside George W. Bush Presidential Library Ceremony.”)
Ultimately I think Jon Stewart and Tim Naftali tapped closest to the vein here with the former’s “Disasterpiece Theater” coverage and the latter’s column, “Presidential Libraries are Educational Centers, Not Shrines.”
It goes without saying that the office of President is a managed position. There are crowds of people telling him the details of what’s going on in every corner of the country and globe, and recommending courses of action to him. Bush was no different, but he may have been the most micro-managed president in American history; I’ll leave that to history to judge (and so far, Uncle Dick Cheney looks like the Acting Guy in Charge, at least regarding foreign policy in the Middle east from 2001-2008.) Additionally, the Bush family has lived for generations surrounded by a great deal of private money which generally gets what it wants. Regardless of the veto power the National Archives has over the content of the Bush Library–over the loud objections of the Bush Foundation–congress has made these very public venues more vulnerable to private money. That’s a reason to be wary of who co-funds them and why.
In any case, read Tim Naftali’s column and know that the Dear Leader syndrome of recent American Presidential politics rolls merrily on.