April 22, 2013

Were the Chechen brothers armed to the max, as some new reports have it, and headed for more mayhem? Various accounts make it sound as if they held off the combined forces of law enforcement in a blazing shootout and that the surviving brother still had explosives left to spare, tossing them as he briefly escaped. If so, where did they get all these weapons? Or are these reports overblown — I read  that the brothers had three guns, one of which shot BBs. Whatever their final weapons tally, the Tsarnaev brothers had more than enough; still, it will be important to learn just what weapons and explosives they had and how they acquired them.

Despite the Boston story almost completely filling the news hole, various criticisms of President Obama’s leadership on the gun bill got through last week. But perhaps an even better example of the gap between the president’s strong rhetoric and disappointing results was overshadowed by Boston. Ryan Lizza argued last week that the president’s budget says little and does even less about addressing climate change, an issue the president as repeatedly touted as a top priority of his second term.

Finally, the George W. Bush library opens this week in Dallas, at a cost of $500 million in private funds, and the competition for which state gets to be the home of Barack Obama’s library is well underway with more than three years left in the president’s term. These kinds of ego monuments have been de rigueur for most modern-day presidents, and, like pharaohs, each successive monument seems to become a larger and more grand celebration of its entombed.

One day, if I can convince someone to pay for it, I would like to tour all the presidential libraries and write about them. But for now, I would ask this: Why not make future libraries live online? Why not just clicks and forget the bricks? Museum Web portals are becoming more and more sophisticated, and they can display lots of information in a vibrant and interactive fashion. Indeed, the new Bush library Web site looks promising. And the Web is very good at the very thing George W. says he wants his museum to stimulate: a conversation about the choices facing his presidency and how they were made, based on the best information available at the time.

This could be a rather cool, online game as a matter of fact. Sept. 11 happens; what would you have done, based on what Bush knew? What would have been your known-knowns, your known-unknowns, etc., and how would these have influenced your decisions as president? That could be a lot more stimulating and educational than walking around and passively looking at yet another exhibit of the Oval Office. The Web could take you behind the rope line and allow you to experience more what it’s really like to be president.