I’m afraid that the Statesman is behind the curve on this. The editorial board acknowledges the presence of the Bush Institute, which is conceived of as a partisan, advocacy-oriented think-tank, rather than a school like the LBJ school (as SMU originally proposed to the Bush people, as a matter of fact), but doesn’t dwell on how different this is than the LBJ library, or on its possible effects on the public reputation and internal governance of SMU. The concerns about secrecy and Bush’s excecutive order giving Presidents and their designees in perpetuity the right to unilaterally assert executive privilige to keep documents off-limits are mentioned, but their impacts on the research value of the library are unaddressed. And, of great importance to me as an SMU faculty member, the article ignores the institutional effects of bringing in such a large and well-funded operation to our small university — remember, we’re much smaller than any of the universities that have Presidential libraries.
Bush legacy should be planted at SMU
January 27, 2007
When American historians years from now study this period of U.S. life, the dominant figure will be President George W. Bush and the central issue will be the war in Iraq. And they will go to Dallas to study his presidency – if his presidential library, museum and political institute are built at Southern Methodist University, Bush’s apparent top choice, though the decision is not final.
But some on the SMU faculty and in the Methodist Church object. Some worry about parking or having tourists disturb an academic setting.
The strongest criticism, though, comes from those who intensely disapprove of Bush’s policies, particularly his decision to invade and occupy Iraq. Any presidential library is, in part, a monument to an ego, and some in the SMU and Methodist worlds can’t stomach the idea that the campus would house a monument to this particular ego, or his conservative politics.
Yet it would be a mistake for SMU to refuse the Bush library, the museum or the political institute – which no doubt will bend right in its views – that will come with it. But the president and his successors should be as wise in their handling of his legacy, as President Johnson and his have been.