The present is a tough, emotional place to be right now. The pain and reflection upon our increasingly violent, stratified society, can be summarized neatly in the Boston Marathon bombings that happened early last week. If the ongoing investigation into its genesis, has left you drained, maybe it’s time to take a step farther into the past.
In fact the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which will open later this week, invites the former POTUS’s fellow Americans and other visitors to be transported back to the early aughts The goal being of reassessing some of Dubya’s most disastrous policy decisions. In a New York Times piece entitled, Rewinding History, Bush Museum Lets You Decide, Peter Baker writes: “In a new brick-and-limestone museum, visitors to an interactive theater will be presented with the stark choices that confronted the nation’s 43rd president: invade Iraq or leave Saddam Hussein in power? Deploy federal troops after Hurricane Katrina or rely on local forces? Bail out Wall Street or let the banks fail?”
Folks, this news manages to be thoroughly frustrating, exhausting and yet somehow vindicating all at once. Am I alone inferring that there is an admission here, an acknowledgment that perhaps things could have gone better? You don’t say! This is a far cry from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s contention that there is no “Bush baggage” standing between him and a 2016 Presidential run.
At the same time, it’s hard not to reach for the migraine pills at the contemplation of this: in 2013, the choices of the Bush II regime are up for public discussion and an actual vote. If only that option has existed in 2001. How many lives would be saved, how many resources unwasted, jobs protected and how would the economy look today if we’d been informed and included in policy deliberations? Instead, under the cover of “War on Terror” necessity, most of us were forced to stand by idly as our Constitutional rights were suspended (the disingenuous Patriot Act.) While unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy were doled out alongside the expenses of two armed conflicts. American citizens were left stranded in crisis by an overstrained, disorganized FEMA and its chain of command (Hurricane Katrina).
Interactive museums which afford the opportunity to revisit important historical decisions can be an enjoyable and important educational exercise. However, the prospective entertainment value of this particular museum suffers from the recency effect. The policies of George Bush do not exist in a “long ago in a land far away” vacuum and in many real ways, the country continues to pay for the price for some of the most egregious bungling in recorded antiquity.
And apparently the museum opening does not put a celebratory end to the Bush administration’s attempt to reframe historical events. Right on cue, Baker reports “A six-minute introductory video narrated by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledges disputes over Iraq and interrogation techniques while defending them as efforts to protect the country. ‘If you were in a position of authority on Sept. 11,’ she says, ‘every day after was Sept. 12.’”
Great Condi, except let’s try this once more with feeling: the Iraq war of choice was unrelated in every way to the events of 9/11. Saddam Hussein had nil to do with the devastating terrorist attacks that rocked New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania that fateful day. We had every right to head in Afghanistan to take care of some Al Qaeda business, but your team’s consistent attempts to create justification for the unjustifiable quagmire that Iraq became is a bad rerun very few of us want to watch anymore.
With all this in mind, I am placing the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum very low on my bucket list of travel destinations, perhaps slightly ahead of Antarctica and the Bermuda Triangle. May the Bush legacy be rewarded for another expensive, high tech effort to insist the Emperor is wearing clothes with our collective disregard.