‘Smirking Chimp’ Satirizes Bush Library

May 15, 2007

This is extremely unlikely to convince anybody of anything that they don’t already believe, but does provide some entertainment . . .

Set In Stone:  Chiselling Away at the Bush Library

by Jaime O’Neill | May 10 2007 – 9:14am | permalink

I said I was looking for a book to read, Laura said you ought to try Camus. I also read three Shakespeares. … I’ve got a eck-a-lec-tic reading list.”
–George W. Bush, interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, New Orleans, La., Aug. 29, 2006

In anticipation of the day when George W. Bush is no longer in office, it is perhaps appropriate to give some thought to the prospect of a George W. Bush Presidential Library. The concept may seem oxymoronic to some. After all, how do we go about building a library for a man who appears so proud of his alienation from printed matter? He boasts of not reading newspapers, and there is little to be found in any of his public statements to suggest a familiarity with any book, whatsoever. The thought of our current president reading, say, Shakespeare, defies imagining. It is difficult to think of him reading Danielle Steele, or John Grisham, let alone the Bard of Avon.

But if the Bush presidency has been about anything, it’s been about breaking free of the fetters of the traditional past. It was the Bush presidency, after all, that did away with the fussy old notion about the U.S. not engaging in unilateral acts of first-strike aggression against sovereign nations. It was George Bush, after all, who redefined a “conservative” as someone who believed in enormous deficits. And it was the Bush administration that accelerated the separation of language from action by constantly saying one thing while meaning another; i.e. “Clear Skies” initiatives, and “No Child Left Behind.”

Given all that, it may turn out that the George W. Bush Presidential Library (or, perhaps, “Liberry”) will be equally surprising in the ways it breaks with tradition, and with meaning.

But one tradition that probably won’t be broken is the time-honored practice of commemorating presidential bon mots by chiseling them in marble. Immortal ideas expressed in the president’s own immortal language.

Consider what might be chiseled in stone over the door to the education wing of the Bush Liberry, for instance. “Is Our Children Learning?” would make a most fitting presidential quote emblazoned above the portal to the Bush Hall of Lurning, a monument to the Bush administration’s heroic struggle to improve American education. Or, if a more timeless quality is required for future visitors to the Bush Liberry, the president’s observation from January 23, 2004, might suffice: “The illiteracy level of our children are appalling.”

more here

Dallas Blog: Another Side on Bush Institute

March 24, 2007

Another Side on Bush Institute
Carolyn Barta
Dallas Blog
March 21, 2007

The SMU faculty discussion over the institute that will accompany the Bush Presidential Library is turning into a “she said, he said” debate. The latest is a “Dear Colleague” letter today from several political science/history professors saying the open letter sent out by a faculty group Tuesday, asking that the institute be totally separated from SMU, contained misrepresentations, unverifiable claims, and unwarranted assumptions. The new letter presents arguments in support of the institute’s connection to SMU, asserting that it will be a boon to intellectual life at SMU.

Continued here.

The Texas Observer blog checks in with an update

February 28, 2007

W, The Library: The Update
Matthew C. Wright
Texas Observer Blog
February 27th, 2007

It’s been a quiet month or so since members of the faculty at Southern Methodist University decided that, maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to let the Current Occupant set up a propaganda mill on campus.

So how is that fight going? “Pretty much everyone seems to have lost interest now that the semester is fully underway,” our sources at the school said this week.

To be expected, I guess, when the faculty doesn’t have a direct seat at the negotiating table with Bush’s site-selection committee. Only SMU president Gerald Turner, a staunch supporter of the library, enjoys that privilege.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t important, riveting, slow-motion drama playing out inside the bureaucracy. Okay, maybe not riveting, but the Faculty Senate is taking what steps it can internally to curb the possible damage Bush’s institute could do.

Continued here (with a nod to the Bush Library Blog as “useful” if not riveting–thanks!)

SMU Discussion of Bush Library and Institute Now Posted

February 20, 2007

SMU journalism students have taped and posted a faculty panel’s extended discussion of the library and institute. The panel consists of History professor Alexis McCrossen, English Professor Dennis Foster, Political Scientist Cal Jillson, and Theatre Professor (and Faculty Senate President) Rhonda Blair. Student comments at an open mike and camera set up in the student center are also very interesting, and show that they have been following the debate closely in some cases, particularly when it comes to the Institute. In general this is a revealing look at a campus full of thoughtful people who are drawing on their expertise and integrating new knowledge and information as quickly as possible.

One thought I did have while listening to this is that the focus of the discussion on the Institute has really let the educational benefits that library supporters claim go unexamined. In some cases these are clearly exaggerated — in January’s faculty meeting, for example, one faculty member stated that this would be “one of the great libraries of the world.” That comment reveals a basic ignorance of what reseach libraries are, and a troubling naivete about the state of SMU’s library system, which is not funded at anywhere near the level necessary for a nationally prominent university. Our DeGolyer library, for example, has leading collections relating to the U.S. West. A generation ago it made as many acquisitions as leading libraries in the field at places like Berkeley and Yale. But over the years the central administration has chipped away at its funding, siphoning the yields from the endowment that came with it to support staff positions. Now it is no longer in the vanguard. This is the kind of resource that makes for an excellent university, and if it and other similar endeavors continue to be neglected, SMU won’t better itself, library or not.

Click here to listen.

Discussion Continues Spread into Media, Cyberspace

February 18, 2007

Things on campus seem much less intense now, probably because most discussions are now happening behind closed doors. Consider the last two Faculty Senate meetings — no announcements of the meetings were made to the faculty as a whole, no agendas distributed, no meeting place set, no announcements about the decisions issued, no copy of the resolutions passed provided. And this at what is clearly an important turning point in the history of SMU.

Nonetheless, people across the country and locally continue to take notice and weigh in on things. Nearly 1,000 United Methodists signed a petition calling for the Highland Park United Methodist Church, located right by SMU, to revoke George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s membership unless they “repent” of their violations of United Methodist teachings. I suppose this is the Methodist equivalent of excommunication.

Writing in a United Methodist publication, Perkins School of Theology faculty member acknowledged that the arguments against the Institute were stronger than those against the Library, but insisted that the Institute would still be good for SMU. Another commentator returned attention to the donor base for the library and to the question of what policy measures the Institute would advance. The Communist Party’s newspaper, The People’s Weekly World — whose influence, I suppose one could say, isn’t what it used to be — ran a thorough account of the debate written by a local party member. Should I be surprised that there are real live communists in Dallas — this is the city that the late Molly Ivins once quipped “would have rooted for Goliath.”

In a more humorous vein, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster penned an imaginative preview of what the library exhibit might look like — unlikely to change any minds on the subject, but a great piece of political satire.

And finally, Source Watch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, has established a page for the library.

Debate Rolls on and on . . .

February 7, 2007

Today the Dallas Morning News reported on the University Park hearing. The Daily Campus was dominated by Library-Institute matters. One of my senior colleagues in the history department mounted a vigorous defense of the Institute , concuding that “SMU will not be judged or tarnished by a Bush think tank unless its faculty abandons research for politics and leaves the think tank to play the only research game on the Hilltop. Two students editorialized on behalf of the Library and Institute. A writer identifying herself as a granddaughter, niece and cousin of Methodist ministers urged SMU President R. Gerald Turner not to accept the Library, “[i]n the name of Methodism and in the name of Christianity.” The paper also ran its own story on the University Park hearing.

Beyond SMU and Dallas, the debate was all over the blogosphere. The Daily Kos weighed in on the matter. Another blog, entitled “How the Neocons Stole Freedom,” contrasted the two Methodist petition campaigns. An editorialist from the Institute for Religion and Democracy vigorously backed the Library and Institute, concluding that the debate demonstrates “how the religious and academic left, which are too often unwilling to engage in robust debate, simply want to eradicate any possibility of dissent.”

More Media Coverage as Debate Enters Critical Week

February 4, 2007

The Bush Library-Institute running debate now seems like a normal part of SMU life, and I open my morning papers — The Dallas Morning News and New York Times — with the expectation that I’ll be able to read about SMU in both while sipping my morning coffee. It’s a nice feeling, really.

This weekend has seen some more media coverage. On Friday night my colleague and occasional guest-blogger Kathleen Wellman appeared with political science professor Jim Hollifield on the local public television station to debate the question of the Library and Institute. I thought that SMU and its faculty came off very well on this program — both Wellman and Hollifield were engaged, articulate, and well-informed interlocutors whose concern for the long-term well-being of SMU was apparent. Hollifield stressed the long-term research value of the Library and Institute to SMU, while Wellman focused on questions of access and control of the library’s holdings, and of the partisan nature of the Institute. Hollifield repeated his assertions that much of the faculty opposition is due to partisan antipathy toward Bush, an argument that I find very frustrating. The Bush Institute is conceived of as a partisan institute, and will hire its fellows on the basis of their ability to advance this agenda, not on academic credentials — so to the extent that this debate has partisan tones to it, then that’s the major reason why. Both Wellman and Hollifield seemed to agree that SMU was all the better off for having this debate, and that it was being conducted in an engaged and thoughtful manner.

Today — Sunday afternoon — the debate within the Methodist Church will be the focus of a segment of “State of Belief,” the liberal Air America’s program focusing on religion and politics. The program host will be interviewing the Reverend Andrew Weaver, the organizer of the anti-Library petition. The program should be posted soon enough at http://www.airamerica.com/stateofbelief/.

More attention to the Library-Institute and related issues is forthcoming. The Dallas Morning News has in the works a substantial piece on executive order 13233, the controversial provision that gives former Presidents and their designees in perpetuity enormous control over access to their Presidential papers (entirely outside of the official system for restricting access to potentially dangerous information through classification, though the media and several commentators frequently confound the two). The News is also due to run an editorial by Presidential Library historian Benjamin Hufbauer on the Bush Library-Institute Debate. PBS’s News Hour is considering running a segmen on the debate. The Congressional Quarterly Researcher is planning an entire issue on presidential libraries, and their reporter, like others from the national media, will be in town for Wednesday’s faculty meeting.

On that note, it’s clear that the media attention will continue. Tuesday night at 6:00 at University Park’s city hall there is a hearing about the library, and Wednesday at 3:00 the Faculty Senate will be considering whether or not to hold a referendum on the Institute. Should be an interesting week!