There is a growing consensus among historians that George W. Bush will someday be seen as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, if not the very worst. I personally think he's neck and neck with James Buchanan, who let the U.S. slide toward civil war between 1857 and 1861. Bush has been so horrible a national "leader" that it would seem as if nothing could save his legacy. But the various right wing deep pockets that are financing the "Bush library" (a contradiction in terms if ever I've heard one) are apparently intending to use it a means of spreading pro-Bush propaganda to try to salvage W's wretchedly bad reputation:
Shortly after Thanksgiving, the New York Daily News reported: "Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas."
The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans.
The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said. [Emphasis added.]
This does not apparently jibe with academic notions of what academia should be about among some academicians at Southern Methodist University. "[C]reating an academic center with a specific goal of boosting the Bush image and agenda strikes many professors as antithetical to a university's academic values," reported Inside Higher Ed last month. SMU's theology department has drafted a letter -- supported by dozens of faculty members -- expressing concern about "two distinct, irreconcilable visions" for the Bush presidential center: a "neutral space" library and a "partisan place" conservative think tank.
Yes, Bush's toads are going to try to spread outright damned lies in support of the worst American president in more than 140 years. We can presume they'll ignore Bush's disgraceful personal history and rotten private conduct. They'll ignore Bush's dropping the ball on the pre-9/11 intelligence and his scared rabbit behavior on that terrible day itself. They'll ignore the lies and cherry-picked intelligence that got us into the Iraq disaster. They'll ignore the monstrous deficits, the swollen debt, the condemnation of the rest of the world, the environmental irresponsibility, the right-wing corruption that saturated Congress and the presidency both, and all the other hallmarks of Bush's incredible malice and incompetence. They will try to substitute mythology for fact and hero worship for cold, hard truth.
But you know something? There are lots of people who hate Bush and his administration as fiercely as I do (and some even more, if you can believe it). We are people who love this country and despise Bush and his minions for doing such terrible harm to it. We read history and we know American politics well. And we will wage the academic war against the right wing lies that will try to make Bush seem like the Second Coming. We will fight these lies relentlessly, tirelessly, and incessantly. We will be heard, and we will prevail. Why?
Because we stand on the side of reality. And one way or another, reality has a nasty habit of always winning in the end.