I believe the decision to house a Presidential Library, any Presidential Library, at a major university is a no-brainer, and a real honor for that university.
Presidential Libraries become those places where the legacies of presidents are finally sorted out. Historians come to comb the record, write the histories, that ultimately help us shape our views of what happened in any specific era.
President Bush believes history will exonerate his policies, specifically with respect to the moral justification of the Iraq War. That has not happened yet. I see no likelihood that it will. But I am glad that SMU will house the library that will allow academics to create that full historical picture.
The policy institute is another matter. The idea that an independent think-tank –with a stated goal of continuing to develop the ideas of the Bush Administration, free from the university’s guidance– should be housed on university property is a horrible error on SMU’s part.
Frankly, I am ashamed of it.
So, I love the library, because presidential libraries are a good thing for a university’s academic legacy.
I hate the institute, or “think-tank,” and it makes me embarrassed for SMU and Methodists everywhere.
The presence of the five living presidents is a good example of why I believe this think-tank is such a bad idea. Three of those are Democrats; spanning three separate decades of modern American history. The only Republicans are members of the same family.
In the past six presidential elections, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of them. More than any other measure, more than any other poll, that popular vote indicates where America has been these past twenty years.
That means, de facto, that the policies that will be studied at this “think thank” are clearly out-of-step with the majority of Americans today. Again, further embarrassment that my university will be tied to something so out-of-step with the nation.
So, congratulations to President Bush on the Library. I really do mean that. It’s a great day, if we just leave it there. A great day for him. A great day for SMU. A great day for Dallas.
But the think tank?
I can’t envision a time when I will ever believe it is a good idea.
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