Half a Billion For Swift Boat and "The Pet Goat"
Lest you think such a sum is par for the course, consider that Reagan's library cost a mere $57 million dollars, and that includes storage hangars for both his versions of Air Force 1 and 2, which were decommissioned at the end of his term. The previous high water mark is Clinton's library, which cost $165 million dollars and is designed to look like a giant mobile home jacked up on concrete blocks (I'm not kidding).
This would have been a perfect opportunity to make Clinton look like a spendthrift by comparison, to make his party look good on paper, but W. apparently can't bring himself to do it. Not only does he want to spend half a billion dollars on the thing, but they've already begun evicting people to make room for it. Using eminent domain, no less.
One of the functions of Presidential libraries is to try to make a President's legacy look good after they leave office, but Bush's image is going to need a lot of work. To this end, his plan is explicitly designed to include a new right-wing think tank solely dedicated to figuring out how to continue to advance the neocon agenda after Bush is gone.
I can't imagine that very much of the $500m is going to be spent on books or other documentation, since this most secretive administration in the nation's history is likely to classify nearly everything of interest to scholars and citizens. About the only thing that scholars are likely to be allowed to examine is a single copy of "The Pet Goat" that Bush continued to read on September 11th after the second plane hit. And maybe some White House Christmas cards. The portion of the facility dedicated to making presidential documents available to the public should probably take up about the space of a broom closet.
Other than the function of maintaining public records, many libraries also have a function which gives something back to their community or to the nation. For example, Bush Sr's library endowment includes an entire College of Public Service which is managed by Texas A & M University. Typically the idea seems to be to display exhibits or give back to the nation in such a way as to make a president look good as a side effect. But W. is never that subtle. His plan is not a college, nor a museum, but a think tank of all things. This endowment is designed to see to it that people will remain employed to apologize for this administration's mistakes not only now, but far into the future.
For some time now, I've been looking forward to a future where W. is loathed and held up as an example of what not to do. An inevitable consequence of healing the intensely partisan divide that he created would be for the broad mainstream of both parties to see clearly what he has done to our nation, and hopefully to resolve never to allow ourselves to be so divided and manipulated again. But in order to fulfill their mission, Bush's Presidential Library think tank would have to continue to work to keep the nation as partisan and divided as it can, because the moment that most of America comes together to look at the facts, Bush's "legacy" will go up in a puff of smoke. Therefore, unlike even the most far-right think tanks to date, this one will not have even the most flimsy of other excuses for existing, such as attempting to craft public policy that they think is good for America. They will be openly and completely devoted to keeping partisan hack jobs alive forever, swift-boating our political system for eternity.
In other words, it looks like most of a half a billion dollars is going to be spent through the Presidential Library system, in order to fund yet more right-wing neocon hackery to invent further ways to pervert our national discussion. W. has finally figured out a way to politicize the last remaining institution of American Democracy that was supposed to be above politics.
I, for one, can think of no more fitting tribute for this President.