Bill Maher called bullsh*t on the fact that taxpayers are going to help pay to maintain the library that George W. Bush is using as a propaganda tool to rewrite history.
Maher said, “First of all, there’s 13 of these presidential libraries. I hate all of them. I think they’re ridiculous. They’re presidents. They’re not King Tut. Why do we have to build a mausoleum to them, and it’s taxpayer money, not to build them to maintain them. To maintain the fictions. Listen to this. This is taxpayer money. The Bush Library has something called a Decision Points theatre. It says visitors will be confronted with the stark choices that confronted the nation’s forty third president. One of them is, “Invade Iraq, or leave Saddam Hussein in power?” Who was asking that question? No one. No one. What a bullsh*t rewriting of history. After 9/11, no one went we gotta go after Iraq because they didn’t do it.”
Maher’s right. Presidential libraries are becoming absurdly partisan. However, George W. Bush’s library has taken this to a whole new level, by trying to rewrite history with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. President Obama’s supporters are already raising money for his presidential library, so I think that if the supporters recent and future ex-presidents can raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the library’s construction, they should also be able to raise enough money to cover 100% of its maintenance costs.
If presidential libraries are going to continue to become increasingly partisan, or in George W. Bush’s case, a weapon of mass propaganda, I think that taxpayer funds should not be used to maintain the library. I do disagree with Maher on one point. Because they house the president’s papers and other documents, presidential libraries can be valuable for research purposes. They aren’t useless when used for their intended purpose.
However, it looks like what the Bushies built was some sort of bizarro conservative theme park whose sole purpose is to rewrite the history of the Bush years. I suspect that the Obama people will top what the Bush supporters spent, so as these presidential libraries become more elaborate, they are going to get more expensive to maintain.
The Presidential Library Act of 1955 was amended in 1986 to require libraries over 70,000 square feet in size to maintain trust fund to help offset the cost of maintaining it. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Complex is over 207,000 square feet. Bush set up an endowment of $9.8 billion to help offset some of the library’s operating costs. Notice that taxpayers will still be on the hook for some of the bill.
The message that we should be sending to the ex-presidents is that if you can afford to build it, you can afford to maintain all of it.