From the Dallas Observer: W. and Us

Jim Schutze is the editor and columnist of Dallas’ main “alternative” weekly. In general I find his columns alternatively hilarious, maddening, insightful, and arrogant. This one is superb — he has a real feel for how universities work, and for the gravity of the issues surrounding the Bush Institute. His conclusion that the Bush Institute may become “the emblem of SMU and of this city,” and his reasons why this may be deeply problematic, are terrifically well-put.

W. and Us
Jim Schutze
Dallas Observer
February 8, 2007

If we had the equivalent of a national sport just for Dallas, it would be “Tip-toe ‘Round the Elephant.” I do get why everybody debating the Bush library at SMU does it. The people against the library don’t want to get drawn off their base into an argument they can’t win. The people in favor of the library think the elephant is either a planter or a very large suitcase.

But it’s an elephant. The Iraq war.

Continued here.

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2 Responses to From the Dallas Observer: W. and Us

  1. Maarja Krusten says:

    I’ve been following with interest all of the academic and nonacademic commentary, such as that by Mr. Schutze, about the Bush Presidential Library and SMU. And wondering how closely the White House has been following what is being said in the blogosphere and in print. Do you all think Mr. Bush and his advisors now are more convinced or less convinced than they were last fall that they are correct to pursue a Library and Institute package at SMU?

    Obviously, Presidents don’t always look at these issues the way academics or political commentators do. I mentioned in an earlier posting that Richard Nixon thought that historians would not give him a fair shake because he believed they mostly were liberals. According to an article in the New York Times article in 2001, President George W. Bush reportedly said he would not use a personal e-mail account in the White House as the information in it would be too vulnerable. The President explained to his friends and family: “‘My lawyers tell me that all correspondence by e-mail is subject to open record requests,’ Mr. Bush wrote. . . . ‘Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace.'” (New York Times, March 17, 2001) The Times failed to note that under the Presidential Records Act, purely personal communications by Bush most likely would be protected from inappropriate disclosure.

    I then found Mr. Bush’s use of the term “out to embarrass” in connection with “open record requests” to be interesting. Having listened to thousands of hours of Richard Nixon’s White House tapes over the course of my 14 year career at the National Archives, I tend to focus on the human side of Presidents. I view them as human beings operating in a workplace, albeit with greater responsibilities than the rest of us. I once asked scholars on H-Diplo, an H-net discussion group, if they could sit down and talk to George Bush about history, what affirmative arguments would they make about the need to handle primary source records properly. Unfortunately, not a single historian replied to my query so I wasn’t able to trigger the debate I had hoped for!

    Submitted from home at 8:09 A.M. Eastern time

  2. Editor says:

    Thank you for your comments here. What i find most ironic is the stated desire to preserve Bush’s email privacy, while the federal government has engaged in a massive illegal program of domestic surveillance of ordinary Americans’ email and Web communications.

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