George W. Bush’s new presidential library at Southern Methodist University was dedicated in a ceremony Thursday. President Obama, along with former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, spoke at the ceremony:
President Obama led the tributes, calling Bush “a good man” who showed strong leadership in the days after the nation was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. “As we walk through this library,” he said, “obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.”
As is customary when the presidents come together to honor one another, the emphasis was on the positive. Missing Thursday were any direct references to the controversies that engulfed Bush’s eight tumultuous years in office, from the decision to invade Iraq to his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina to the financial collapse that occurred on his watch. (Read more about the ceremony here.)
Dan Balz explored the new library and museum, which open to the public Wednesday:
There are twisted girders from the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the bullhorn he used from atop the pile of rubble at Ground Zero in New York, an exact replica of his Oval Office and, yes, even his personal collection of signed baseballs. . .
The 43,620-square-foot museum recalls the controversies of the 43rd president’s eight years in power, starting with the Florida recount in the 2000 election that put him in the White House to the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the U.S. financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.
But the museum touts many other aspects of Bush’s presidency — from passage of the No Child Left Behind Act and the prescription drug benefit to his advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform and the initiative to combat HIV-AIDS in Africa — which the former president and his advisers see as important parts of his legacy. (Continue reading here.)
Post opinion writer Michael Gerson remembers a moment from the 2000 presidential campaign, before Bush’s election:
Bush, campaigning at a town-hall meeting in Gaffney, S.C., got a question demanding to know how he would stop the flow of illegal immigrants. He took the opportunity to remind his rural, conservative audience that “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande” and that as long as “moms and dads” in Mexico couldn’t feed their children at home, they would seek opportunity in America.
Not “illegals.” Moms and dads and children. It was classic Bush: direct, decent, human.
Ezra Klein, however, writes that the former president’s personal qualities do not redeem his policies:
Bush was smart. Plenty of the people around him were smart. But he was a bad president. Presidential scholars rank him 38th — and, remember, there have only been 43 presidents (Barack Obama is the 44th, but his term isn’t up yet). He left office with dismal approval ratings, though he’s since rebounded from unbelievably unpopular to merely unpopular.
In an interview Thursday morning, the former president said he wasn’t interested in public opinion, and was willing to wait for history to judge his tenure. Wednesday night, he discussed oil painting, his newest pursuit. Watch video of the seven best moments of Bush’s presidency at The Fix.