Ambushing the Bush Legacy
Naomi Schaefer Riley
Wall Street Journal
January 19, 2007
In an interview Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” President Bush told Scott Pelley that he is “not the kind of guy who sits here and says ‘Oh gosh, I’m worried about my legacy.’ I’m more worried about making the right decisions to protect the United States of America.”
It’s a noble sentiment, but with less than two years left in his presidency, Mr. Bush and his supporters do have to make some decisions about his legacy, or at least where it will be housed.
In December, the committee charged with selecting a location for W’s presidential library announced that it had narrowed down the candidates from three to one, eliminating Baylor University and the University of Dallas in favor of Southern Methodist University, Laura Bush’s alma mater. The proposed library will include, in addition to presidential papers and artifacts, a public-policy institute to further “domestic and international goals.” Among the goals mentioned by the selection committee are “compassionate conservatism, the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world and defeating terrorism.”
It all sounds quite worthy, but certain members of the SMU faculty did not react well to the news of their campus’s selection. In an op-ed article for the college newspaper, two professors from the university’s theology school asked: “Do we want SMU to benefit financially from a legacy of massive violence, destruction and death brought about by the Bush presidency in dismissal of broad international opinion?”
A letter sent to SMU’s president last week, signed by 68 current and past members of the faculty, echoed this theme. It expressed concern about “certain actions and attitudes of President Bush during his term in office,” including (draw a deep breath here): “the erosion of habeas corpus, denial of global warming, disrespect of international treaties, alienation of longtime U.S. allies, environmental predation, disregard for the rights of gay persons, a pre-emptive war based on false premises and other perceived forms of disrespect for the created order and the global community.”
Which raises the question: Why would Mr. Bush want to have anything to do with such hostile–not to mention graceless and cliché-obsessed–people? Why not look elsewhere for his library’s site? Admittedly the professors who signed the letter make up less than 10% of SMU’s faculty. But presidential libraries inevitably bring a degree of prominence, even prestige, to the universities that host them. Why should Mr. Bush and his friends give SMU the satisfaction? One can easily imagine Cindy Sheehan parading around the university grounds for years to come with hordes of sociology professors and student activists following her.