It's a well known fact that each of our recent Presidents wants to leave something behind that marks their place in history. Mostly, they focus on their administrations successes and the legacy that they leave behind so that others might learn from them and not repeat any mistakes that they might have committed along the way.
Our current Commander in Chief, George W. Bush is no different and in the coming years ground is going to be broken on the campus of Southern Methodist University in his home state of Texas for a library built in his honor. I know it’s a bit early to speculate on what the contents of the library might be but I thought I might jump the gun a bit and envision what lay in store for one of our most charismatic, thoughtful, and decisive leaders and humans beings ever to roam the planet Earth in all 6,000 years of its existence.
Why don't we start with a guided tour?
When you first enter the library, you'll notice a plaque with both Halliburton and each of the major oil companies corporate logo emblazoned on it. Right next to the plaque is a box marked for donations where you the visitor can deposit your hard earned cash to help those generous companies offset the cost of building and maintaining this tribute to democracy. I didn’t inquire if these donations were tax deductible.
The Presidential Archives Room
Not the most impressive of rooms but when you consider what they had to work with and the Bush Administrations lack of openness with the press and the public in general, they did a pretty good job. Mostly though, it's a collection of Bushisms with a detailed explanation of what the President meant to say at the time and in certain cases, outright denials. Various photographs of cabinet members such as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales adorn the walls while others such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are conspicuously absent. In the center of the room is a life size statue of (I can’t tell if he’s grimacing or grinning) Vice President Dick Cheney with a shotgun cradled in his arms.
The Security Room
Easily the largest room in the entire complex. Currently divided into seven wings, The Security Room boasts a host of pictures and testimonials that are sure to tug at your heartstrings and in the process, bring a tear to your eye. Why don't we take a quick look at what might lie in store?
Uhm, maybe "lie" was poor choice of words. Why don't we take a quick look at what's inside?
The September 11th Wing
The highlight of the whole exhibition. Even though the President went underground for his own safety on that fateful day, he managed to rally the American citizenry a few days later when he actually showed up at Ground Zero and bravely pronounced his arrival to the terrorists. The photographs of him standing bravely next to firefighters and actual rescue workers with bullhorn in hand are the stuff legends are made of.
The Patriot Act Wing
A word of caution, before entering this room be prepared to swear an oath of allegiance, empty the contents of your purse/wallet, submit a DNA sample, leave your cell phones and/or cameras behind for "safekeeping" and the in event of extreme cases, be subjected to a cavity search. Once you've received clearance and are free to enter these hallowed halls, you can actually listen in on private conversations, see other folks e-mails and open up previously sealed envelopes directly from the post office.
A word to the wise, any conversations you have are probably being recorded for posterity sake.
The War on Terror Wing
Stirring video footage of the World Trade Centers collapsing play 24 x 7 right alongside a rather nasty life size picture of Saddam Hussein with a dead baby in one hand, a rifle in the other and a maniacal grin on his face. For those of you who are sticklers for details, you might recall that Saddam had nothing to do with the attacks of that day but since Osama Bin Laden is in hiding, this is the best they can do.
The Department of Homeland Security Wing
A feast for the eyeballs. This room wouldn't be complete were it not a cornucopia of color. Each of the walls and the ceilings are painted in the colors as detailed in the Homeland Security Advisory System. A spotlight shines on the wall alerting the guest as to which color we are in on the day they visit and what the exact terror level or threat of attack is. As if that weren’t enough and maybe in deference to those visitors who might be color blind, a recorded message stating our alert level is repeated every seven minutes and updated as necessary. The message also reminds you to keep anything you’ve taken with you on your possession at all times and to not leave anything unattended.
Weapons of Mass Destruction Wing
During my visit this room was off limits to visitors. When I asked one of the attendants why, they claimed it was still under construction and I was immediately escorted back to the Patriot Act Room by two rather large men wearing black suits and sunglasses to answer some "routine questions".
The War in Iraq Wing
A larger than life photo of President Bush in full flight gear grinning atop an aircraft carrier with a red white and blue banner in the back round proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” was slated to be the highlight of this room however due to unforeseen circumstances, had to be postponed. Instead, in the interest of bipartisanship, the walls are lined with quotes from various politicians from both sides of the aisle expressing their support for the war. Strangely, these were catalogued by year and in 2007 only a faded picture of a haggard looking Senator John McCain remained.
When I asked one of the tour guides what they had in store for the room, they said they have the original picture ready and waiting for when the day comes when we finally free the Iraqi’s and set up a stable democracy in the Middle East. They would not commit to a date.
The Domestic Policy Wing
Sponsored by the top one percent of wage earners in the country, this room pays a stirring tribute to GWB's tax cuts, his crackdown on corporate crime, his plan to re-do Social Security, his dismissal of global warming and the value of stem cell research, his massive overhaul of immigration reform and his penchant for embracing faith based initiatives all the while decrying the need for big government or any government at all. Also of interest but you have to go out of your way to find it is a small documentary piece about FEMA and their heroic response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
There was some more rooms, more like closets actually, that addressed the environment, healthcare and the budget deficit but since they were so small, I didn't feel the need to bother.
Of course, no exhibition of this type would be complete without allowing the visitor to take a little piece of it home with them. In order to allow for that the George W. Bush Souvenir Gift Shop is open during regular visitor hours. Since during my visit I was somewhat strapped for cash, from what I heard the shop is offering bobble head dolls of various loyal Administration officials, Cabinet members and lobbyists at inflated prices. Special orders are accepted for other Republican bobble head dolls such a certain media people and other supporters. As far as Democrats go, only former Democrats Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller are available and only in limited quantities. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery but they can't promise anything.