Library Journal Article about the Bush Library Blog

April 29, 2007

LJAN Newsmaker Interview: Bush Library Blog Founder and Moderator Benjamin Johnson
Library Journal
April 26, 2007

Without question, blogs have become vital communication tools on campuses-and a good example is the Bush Library Blog, started by Benjamin Johnson, associate professor of history at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. In December 2006, SMU was named the finalist to land the Bush Library and an accompanying policy institute, but many SMU faculty members have since raised serious questions. The Bush Library Blog has proven a vital place for discussion, garnering as many as 1000 hits per day. The Library Journal Academic Newswire (LJAN) caught up with Johnson to discuss the Bush Library process, his own feelings on the library and policy institute, and the role the blog plays in the discussion at SMU.

LJAN: You started the Bush Library Blog and members of the Methodist Church distributed an online petition. Does this say something about how technology is enabling discussion and debate?

BJ: I moderate and started the blog not only to forward my own views on the subject, but also to expedite a wider discussion, which I think neither the SMU administration nor the elected leadership of the Faculty Senate has wanted. A blog is a comparatively low-labor, wide-distribution way of doing this, and I can’t imagine any way offline of accomplishing this. The blog is read by several hundred people a day, sometimes more like 1000, from across the U.S. and multiple other nations, by academics, interested lay people, journalists, congressional staffers, and others. So in some modest sense my experience bears out some of the claims made by Internet boosters about how these new technologies enable communications and networks of information that conventional print sources would not.

Continued here.


SMU Daily Campus: Students take sides in Bush library debate

April 20, 2007

Students take sides in Bush library debate
Gillian McWhirt
SMU Daily Campus
April 20, 2007

SMU has been chosen as the favorite to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, but the campus opinion is far from unified.

“Having the presidential library at SMU will attract people from all over the world to come to the school and examine the documents of the Bush administration. It will bring worldwide recognition to the university,” said SMU alumnus Ryan Kenter.

The controversy over the library is one in a series of controversies during the Bush presidency: the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the Alberto Gonzales firings, just to name a few.

Despite the fact that Dallas is largely Republican, many residents don’t want Bush’s legacy affiliated with their city.

Continued here.


NYT: Bush, on Friendly Turf, Suggests History Will Be Kind to Him

April 20, 2007

Bush, on Friendly Turf, Suggests History Will Be Kind to Him
Jim Rutenberg
The New York Times
April 20, 2007

TIPP CITY, Ohio, April 19 – With his attorney general under fire in Washington and his fight with Congressional Democrats over paying for the war at a stalemate, President Bush came here Wednesday before a friendly audience to give his thinking on Iraq, Congress and the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

“I’ve been in politics long enough to know that polls just go poof at times,” President Bush said on Thursday.

Speaking at a 90-minute, town-hall-style meeting in a high school gymnasium, Mr. Bush said he would not buckle to polls showing opinion cutting against him on a variety of issues, and conveyed his belief that he would be vindicated by history.

Continued here.

Bush’s belief in the vindication of history again reveals why siting the Bush Library Complex at SMU is so important to him and other members of his administration. Perhaps they are unaware of this 2004 poll, fortunately not yet gone “poof, ” of professional historians, in which 81% already ranked his Presidency as a failure. It seems highly unlikely that those opinions would be any more favorable today.


A History Lesson Approved by the White House

April 16, 2007

Thanks to Bush Library Blog fan “Farinata X” for calling my attention to this article from the New Republic. Along with a 2000 article about Texas A & M faculty and entanglements with the Bush people, this is most helpful in suggesting the more unpleasant of possibilities if/when the Bush complex comes to SMU. One of the most frequently-made arguments by supporters of the Library and Instititute, including some of my good friends and respected colleagues, goes something like “if the Bush Institute is going to have any academic credibility, it will have to represent a range of intellectually serious views, articulated by respectable and even prominent journalists and academics in a range of fields.” This is probably true . . . but what if the Bush people don’t want the Institute to have academic credibility, but rather simply to burnish their now-bedraggled reputations? Read this article to find out what that might look like in terms of the writing of history.

Bush’s imperial historian: White Man for the Job
Johann Hari
The New Republic
April 13, 2007

Last month, a little-known British historian named Andrew Roberts was swept into the White House for a three-hour-long hug. He lunched with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, huddled alone with the president in the Oval Office, and was rapturously lauded by him as “great.” Roberts was so fawned over that his wife, Susan Gilchrist, told the London Observer, “I thought I had a crush on him, but it’s nothing like the crush President Bush has on him.”

At first glance, this isn’t surprising. Roberts’s latest work–A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900–sounds like a standard-issue neocon narrative. As a sequel to Winston Churchill’s famous series, it purports to tell the story of how the “Anglosphere” (Great Britain, the United States, Australia, and friends) saved the world from a slew of totalitarian menaces, from the kaiser to the caliphate. It presents Bush as the logical successor to Churchill–only Bush is, of course, even better.

Yet, beyond this surface sycophancy, there is something darker and more fetid. Bush, Cheney, and–in a recent, glowing cover story–National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud Roberts provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.

more here


Rove, others were warned to save e-mails

April 15, 2007

(via Firedoglake).

Rove, others were warned to save e-mails
Tom Hamburger
The Los Angeles Times
April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON — Karl Rove and other White House employees were cautioned in employee manuals, memos and briefings to carefully save any e-mails that might discuss official matters even if those messages came from private e-mail accounts, the White House disclosed Friday.

Despite these cautions, e-mails from Rove and others discussing official business may have been deleted and are now missing.

Continued here.


RNC Email Scandal, Wide Dissemination of the Debate as Campus Awaits Decision

April 14, 2007

Nothing too dramatic has happened on campus recently, and my sense is that all of the on-campus debate about this has played out — see Steve Sverdlik’s report on the Faculty Senate meeting this week. But there are a few developments of note: The author of the Faculty Senate resolution expressing thanks to those who participated in the on-campus debate has sent me her original resolution (which was heavily amended and then failed). Click here to see it — it’s a nice summary of the ebb and flow of discussion on campus. Off-campus, newspapers in the UK, South Africa, and Australia have picked up the story of the debate, running stories very similar to the recent piece in the Chicago Tribune (so similar that they ought to have given the Trib’s reporter credit). I assume that this is because the tie to the overall politics and reputation of the Bush administration is of interest, as well as the fact that as fellow former British colonies these countries have substantial Methodist churches. Third, the reverberations of the debate within the Methodist Church continue, with a frontal attack of the Institute for Religion and Democracy’s Mark Tooley launching a vehement attack on Bush Institute foe Susanne Johnson on David Horowitz’s online journal.

The controversy over the use of non-government emails by White House staffers, including Karl Rove (who has been heavily involved in the formulation of the Bush complex) has been a leading news story all week. Below I’ve put in some excerpts from and links to some of the more thoughtful coverage, which explicitly links the email scandal to the Presidential Records Act and the question of historical documentation.

Presidential Records Evasion
The Progress Report
April 13, 2007

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) — 44 U.S.C. section 2203 — reads, “Through the implementation of records management controls and other necessary actions, the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure” that the activities of the White House “are adequately documented.” Passed in 1978 by Congress to counteract Richard Nixon’s attempts to seal and destroy some of his papers, the PRA was intended to make Executive Branch leaders accountable by ensuring eventual public access to White House decision-making. In recent weeks, through the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, more evidence has come to light suggesting that senior White House officials have been using political e-mail accounts provided by the Republican National Committee (RNC), apparently (among other reasons) in an effort to evade the PRA.

Mail Saga Gets Fishier
Dan Froomkin
The Washington Post
April 13, 2007

The saga of the missing White House e-mails took a turn from the deeply suspicious to the deeply, darkly suspicious yesterday as Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman disclosed the bizarre response by the Republican National Committee to early indications that consequential White House e-mails — particularly to and from Karl Rove — were being deleted.

From 2001 to 2004, the RNC’s highly unusual “document retention” policy was to intentionally destroy all e-mails that were more than 30 days old. In the summer of 2004, due to “unspecified legal inquiries,” the RNC changed its policy by allowing — but not mandating — the indefinite retention of e-mails sent and received by White House staffers on their RNC accounts. That was just around the time special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation of White House involvement in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity was kicking into high gear.


From The Telegraph: Methodists split over Bush think tank plan

April 13, 2007

Methodists split over Bush think tank plan
Alex Spillius
The Telegraph
April 13, 2007

A bitter dispute has broken out among academics at the Southern Methodist University in Texas over plans to establish an institution based on the ideology of George W Bush.

Southern Methodist University split over Bush think tank
Southern Methodist is Laura Bush’s alma mater

A vocal group of professors opposed to the war in Iraq and the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay has expressed concern that the library and a think tank would adversely affect the reputation of the university and contradict its Christian values.

Continued here.